Is English more homogenized than many other languages?

Rassilon

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,691
UK
Nah.

The media exposes us to a limited spectrum of dialects, creating the appearance of an homogenised language.

Historically in comedies, whenever someone has a strong regional dialect it’s often played for laughs, to demean then or imply they are stupid or backward. I think this has been quite damaging.
 

Croc Man

Member
Oct 27, 2017
501
I don't know that I'd call English more homogenized than modern French either. French dialects such as they were in Europe are largely dead languages, France's centralized state and education system has thoroughly standardized the French language over the past 150 years. Where you see French dialects are mostly in Africa, where you get standard French as a formal language alongside more mixed languages.
From my understanding there's resistance in using English words too. Whereas the English language is happy to take words from anywhere.
 

Cocolina

Member
Oct 28, 2017
3,822
The English language is a mishmash of every culture the Angles have had any interaction with, from either migration or conquest, and has some of the loosest grammar structures of any language which makes it easy to pick up.
 

JangleLuke

Member
Oct 4, 2018
364
Despite the fact that most people couldn't speak it, Italian has a much longer literally tradition than most languages though. Apparently Dante's Divine Comedy (written in the 1300s) is fairly easy to read for modern Italians.
I'm from Florence and this is partly true.

The fact is The Commedia has a gradual increase in complexity from the first book to the last (which is very neat from an artistic and narrative point of view, but a nightmare for students all over Italy).
The Inferno is kind of readable, the themes are pretty grounded, the difficulty comes more from obscure historical references.
From The Purgatory onward things get fairly more complicated, I can from personal experience say that some parts are a nightmare to translate and comprehend in modern Italian, things in general get a lot more metaphorical.
The Paradiso is pretty much unreadable, Dante himself (for narrative reasons) says he has a hard time comprehending what's going on, everything is hazy and the vocabulary is insanely difficult.

All of this coming from someone whose dialect is the closest to the book.
 

papermoon

The Fallen
Oct 27, 2017
869
If English is indeed more homogenized than many other languages, why? Did the worldwide spread of English-language media have a heavy standardizing effect on the language, or has English been relatively homogenized for longer?
No, not at all. If someone watches a lot of English-language media from one or two countries only - like the U.S. and the U.K., they may get that impression. But the opposite is true. Because of its spread throughout the world and the masses of different populations that speak it, English has the most diverse and numerous "versions" or dialects. Peoples throughout Africa, Asia, the Americas (including dozens of countries which are not the U.S. or Canada) speak "English" as one of their primary languages, and their English can be drastically different from the English most of us hear in popular media.
 

Tygre

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,276
Chesire, UK
Haud yer wheesht. Tek yersel tae Glasgae an hah yersel a wee chah, ya scunner.

Dinnae ya ken? Hense ter yer heath an bile yer heid.
 

Oreiller

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,542
I mean, have you ever been to Scotland or Liverpool? I'm still not convinced scousers actually speaker english.
 

papermoon

The Fallen
Oct 27, 2017
869
Haud yer wheesht. Tek yersel tae Glasgae an hah yersel a wee chah, ya scunner.

Dinnae ya ken? Hense ter yer heath an bile yer heid.
(___________). Take yourself to Glasgow and have yourself a wee chat, you scunner.

Do you think you can? (__________) and bow your head.
I don't think I got even half of that right. This reminds me of how much I enjoy reading English that's written out phonetically in regional dialects or vernacular.
 

gerg

Member
Oct 25, 2017
142
There's also the fact that the regional languages that are still spoken in France (e.g. Alsatian, Occitan, Corsican...) aren't actually dialects of French.
I've always been interested in actually hearing Provencale, and looking it up on the internet it's pretty easy to attest that, although it shares some features with French, it is definitely not French!
 

Gakidou

Member
Oct 30, 2017
1,195
pip pip cheerio fish & chips
Anyone gonna mention caribbean english?

Scottish is easy peasy to me compared to following proper caribbean dialects. I know for a fact they put on like a more mainstream dialect when they talk directly to white people like me :#)

ps: the hot fuzz clip is westcountry accent. The farmer guy is totally exaggerated though but the intermediary guy speaks the language of my hometown :>
 

LL_Decitrig

Member
Oct 27, 2017
8,890
Sunderland
I tend to read/hear things about other languages suggesting they have different dialects that are not mutually intelligible with each other, but there seem to be very few or no cases like this in English. Someone who only understands English might have difficulty envisioning the concept of dialects with deeper divisions between them.

Like, from what I've heard, the difference between the dialects of Chinese are like the difference between Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. And I heard the situation is the same with Arabic. The difference between Latin American Spanish and European Spanish is apparently so great that games have to be localized for each individual one. I even hear that there are different forms of French within France itself.

Sure people speak English differently in different regions, but we don't even call them dialects, but rather accents. The main differences between those accents are in pronunciation. A person from Texas should still be able to have a conversation with someone from Scotland. There was that one recent news story about those two British politicians in parliament who couldn't understand each other, but that's certainly not common.

I guess it all depends on the difference between a dialect and a language. Some people like to say that a language is just a dialect with an army. The only case of the muddy distinction I can think of in English is the classification of Scots (not Scottish English, but Scots). It has its own standardized system supposedly, but if you parse the text enough it's still possible for a native English speaker to comprehend Scots.

If English is indeed more homogenized than many other languages, why? Did the worldwide spread of English-language media have a heavy standardizing effect on the language, or has English been relatively homogenized for longer?
I don't recognise the language I speak in this description. Dialects such as Geordie and Govan are barely intelligible to other speakers of English. Some West Indian forms of English are something between a creole and a dialect. Much of the English written on this very forum is quite difficult for me to follow, partly because of my advanced age (language evolves more rapidly than you might think) and partly because I lack a background in which Spanish is a secondary language, or I'm not following certain subcultures.
 

papermoon

The Fallen
Oct 27, 2017
869
Anyone gonna mention caribbean english?

Scottish is easy peasy to me compared to following proper caribbean dialects. I know for a fact they put on like a more mainstream dialect when they talk directly to white people like me :#)

ps: the hot fuzz clip is westcountry accent. The farmer guy is totally exaggerated though but the intermediary guy speaks the language of my hometown :>
I didn’t mention it directly, but it’s the region I most had in mind when I listed English in the Americas beyond the U.S. and Canada.

Also, thinking about stuff I’ve read written out phonetically in regional English vernacular, the book I most had in mind was one of my favorites from childhood: Escape to Last Man Peak by Jean D’Costa, which takes place in Jamaica.
 

S-Wind

Member
Nov 4, 2017
696
I tend to read/hear things about other languages suggesting they have different dialects that are not mutually intelligible with each other, but there seem to be very few or no cases like this in English. Someone who only understands English might have difficulty envisioning the concept of dialects with deeper divisions between them.

Like, from what I've heard, the difference between the dialects of Chinese are like the difference between Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. conversation with someone from Scotland. There was that one recent news story about those two British politicians in parliament who couldn't understand each other, but that's certainly not common.

I guess it all for longer?
I tend to read/hear things about other languages suggesting they have different dialects that are not mutually intelligible with each other, but there seem to be very few or no cases like this in English. Someone who only understands English might have difficulty envisioning the concept of dialects with deeper divisions between them.

Like, from what I've heard, the difference between the dialects of Chinese are like the difference between Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian.
The differences between the various dialects of Chinese are FAR FAR FAR GREATER than the differences between the Romance Languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, etc.)!

Mandarin and Cantonese are mutually unintelligible. Cantonese has more tones than Mandarin does - both are tonal languages.

Given that Cantonese and Mandarin are called "dialects" of Chinese, it makes me laugh that
French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, etc. are called "languages" - it think they should be called dialects of Latin.
 

LL_Decitrig

Member
Oct 27, 2017
8,890
Sunderland
The differences between the various dialects of Chinese are FAR FAR FAR GREATER than the differences between the Romance Languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, etc.)!

Mandarin and Cantonese are mutually unintelligible. Cantonese has more tones than Mandarin does - both are tonal languages.

Given that Cantonese and Mandarin are called "dialects" of Chinese, it makes me laugh that
French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, etc. are called "languages" - it think they should be called dialects of Latin.
It's a mistake to class Cantonese and Mandarin as dialects. They're distinct languages that share a common writing system.
 

Torpedo Vegas

Member
Oct 27, 2017
6,444
Lexington, KY
I don't know.

I live in Kentucky and when some of these people start coming in from up in the mountains in eastern Kentucky, I swear they are speaking another language.
 

King_Moc

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,615
I only work 30 miles from my house and people have different words for some things than they do where I live.
 

wholahay

Member
Dec 18, 2017
165
Sup y'all. I have a master's in sociolinguistics.

Obviously people in here have suggested as much already, but language vs. dialect (vs. accent) is primarily a sociopolitical distinction, not a technical one. Linguists tend to use "variety" to skirt around that debate. In terms of varieties of English being homogeneous: not especially or anything! English is, in spite of the media apparatus that broadcasts it to every corner of the planet, still diversifying, and rapidly. Even just within the United States, African American English is a massive, flourishing variety with its own phonology and a very distinct set of syntactic and morphological rules. If there is one remarkable thing about English here, it's that it has a very consistent consonant inventory across varieties in a way that a lot of languages don't. Our phonetic variation is generally restricted to vowels, which helps English speakers understand each other.

We also have to think about this diachronically (across time). Many varieties of English, especially American varieties and global Englishes, came into existence relatively recently, so they haven't had as much chance to diverge. It's not at all impossible that some varieties may continue to change to such an extent that they'll begin to lose their intelligibility to non-speakers. (And yes, naturally you can give it a thousand years or so and end up with entirely new languages a la Latin--it's the linguistic circle of life, baby!)
 
Last edited:
Oct 26, 2017
1,855
Homogenized? English is a completely insane language, that's what it is.

Pronounce these words and then tell me it's in any way homogenized.

Thou
Tough
Although
Thought
Through
Threw
True