What’s the difference between a language and a dialect?
The answer is not as clear-cut as you might think. Let’s look at the different ways to determine the difference between a dialect and a language, and how they stack up in the real world.
The most obvious way to distinguish a language from a dialect is by looking at mutual intelligibility. Sure, Americans and Brits have their linguistic differences, but we can usually understand each other. We speak the same language, after all.
Seems like it should be cut and dry, right? Dialects are regional variations of a single language that are still close enough that speakers can understand each other.
But not so fast!
Yiddish scholar Max Weinreich was known to say “A language is a dialect with an army and a navy.” And in fact, there are plenty of examples of “languages” that are mutually intelligible being classified as separate languages for political reasons (and vice versa). Read more