Ethnic dialects in North American English

Charles Boberg

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of English

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199922765
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Ethnic dialects in North American English

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  • Linguistics
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  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics


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A well-known principle of sociolinguistics is that languages reflect the people who speak them: social divisions result in associated differences in linguistic behavior. One of the main divisions is ethnic: North American English includes a wide range of ethnic dialects, or ethnolects, such as African American and Latino English, in addition to the 'standard' varieties associated with people of British and, later, European ethnic ancestry. This article focuses on the main types and most important studies of ethnic variation in North American English, with a special emphasis on subtler examples of ethnolectal variation among groups of European origin. It argues that the history of English in North America should be viewed not only in terms of its linear, language-internal development from British inputs in the seventeenth century, but also in terms of its contact with other North American languages, since these interfaces have played a crucial role in producing the unique varieties of English currently spoken in North America.

Keywords: linguistics; English; sociolinguistics; historical linguistics; dialects; ethnolects; variation; English; North America; African American; Latino English

Article.  4523 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Sociolinguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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