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Old 06-16-2019, 07:39 PM
Sleel is offline
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Japan
Posts: 2,836
Originally Posted by Jonathan Chance View Post
This has always intrigued me, actually. We’re talking about a place with maybe a third to half the square mileage of Texas. Yet there’s about a million differently identifiable accents. On their best day Americans might be able to spot five or six ‘so-called’ American accents. It’s like we could spot the difference - and have it have meaning - between Charleston, Columbia and Greenville accents here in South Carolina. It’s bewildering to me.
Take a look at the Wikipedia entry on sociolinguistics:

[Sociolinguistics] also studies how language varieties differ between groups separated by certain social variables (e.g., ethnicity, religion, status, gender, level of education, age, etc.) and how creation and adherence to these rules is used to categorize individuals in social or socioeconomic classes. As the usage of a language varies from place to place, language usage also varies among social classes, and it is these sociolects that sociolinguistics studies.
And some of the questions/example problems at the bottom of this ThoughtCo. article for some insight into why there are so many dialects in such a relatively small area. It’s probably a good idea to follow links that talk about the difference between accent and dialect.

The TLDR version is, dialects develop when there are divisions between groups of people. These could be physical (mountains and rivers, oceans, plain old distance), ideological (borders between countries, in-group/out-group), or social (class, prestige, peer group).

It takes time for an identifiable dialect to form. In the UK, there have been groups of people with really different linguistic influences living in more or less the same place for a very long time compared to the US (literally thousands of years in some areas of Great Britian, less than 200 in many cases for the predominantly European groups that took over in the Western and Central US states).


About variations in the way individuals speak: The divisions between dialects are always somewhat fluid, and often people will “code-switch” or change the way they speak according to the situation and the listener. Dialects become less fluid when speakers identify more strongly with a group, and more fluid when there are benefits/penalties for fitting in or standing out from a group.