Language variation implies that there are language varieties.

One language may vary from another in aspects such as phonology, grammar, semantic and syntax.

Even within a language there are variations.

Two variations are:

Variation according to users (Dialect).

Variation according to use (Register).


Dialect refers to variation of language according to users. This may be due to one’s region of origin, their social class or their unique way of using language.

  • Therefore dialect is language variation according to certain characteristics of its users.


Among the factors for variation of language are:


When people living in one area get split to live in distant areas they will develop different features that may differentiate them. E.g. pronunciation of words


Within the same society people would differ on their use of the same language caused by their social classes like educational level and so forth.

So an educated person will differ from uneducated one on the way they use language.


Each person has his/her unique use of language. Things like voice quality, pause, rhythm etc differentiate a person from other users of the same language.


This could be connected to regional differences in that one of the dispersed groups could come into contact with other language(s) that will influence its pronunciation, vocabulary etc


People of different age have different language habits.  For instance the youth tend to use slang which is less preferred by elders


People who do different jobs have different language styles. For instance lawyers use complex sentences and difficult vocabulary which may not be used by teachers.


Regional Dialects

Regional dialects are the ones that identify themselves by the places in which they are found. For example West African English is different from Australian English.

The systematic study of regional dialects is known as Dialectology.

The demarcating lines separating areas speaking different dialects are called Isoglesses.

Social Dialect (sociolect)

This is the dialect that results from the social classes existing in the society. E.g. between the educated and non-educated, the rich and the poor etc.

Also there are differences caused by jargons that differentiate people according to their occupations etc.

Idiolect (Individuality)

Is an individual way of using language that differentiates one from other speakers of the same language; e.g. the voice quality, pitch and rhythm. Such qualities may help one to recognise the speaker even without seeing him/her.

  • British English and Standard American English are examples of English language dialects. Here are some of linguistic differences between British and American English.

BRITISH ENGLISH                                           AMERICAN ENGLISH

  • Spelling Differences (orthography)

Favour                                                                                            favor

Labour                                                                                            labor

Centre                                                                                            center

Litre                                                                                                liter

Theatre                                                                                          theater

Tyre                                                                                                tire

Programme                                                                                   program

Defence                                                                                         defense

Catalogue                                                                                      catalog

  • Pronunciation

Hereunder are some of words pronounced differently

Schedule             /      ∫edᵹu:l                           /                               /  skedᵹu:l                 /

News                   /      nju:z                           /                               /     nu:z                     /

Produce              /     prɒdᵹu:z                     /                               /   prɒdu:z                  /

  • Vocabulary (lexicon)


Maize                                                                                             corn

Lorry                                                                                               truck

Railway                                                                                           railroad

Chemist                                                                                           dentist

Sitting room                                                                                   living room                                                                                           lift                                                                                                   elevator

Petrol                                                                                               gas

Dustbin                                                                                            garbage can

Side walk                                                                                         path

  • Grammar
  • Repetition of  the subject ‘one’                                       no repetition of subject ‘one ‘                                                                                            E.g. one cannot succeed unless one works hard

                                                                                        Eg. One cannot succeed unless he/she works hard

  • The use of ‘from’ after different in BrE                   The use of ‘than’ after different in                         AmE    E.g. Your book is different from mine (BrE)   Your book is different than mine (AmE)
  • The use of only one form for the past tense and past participle of some words like “forget” in BrE while in AmE there are two forms. (forget forgot  forgot BrE)  (forget,  forgot   forgotten AmE).

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