Difference Between Dialect and Language (With Table)

Human communication is possible because many languages are spoken all around the world. People often talk about various languages, but never get into the root concept of this communication. When the terms dialect and language are mentioned together, people tend to consider them as the same thing. However, dialect and language carry their distinct and significant meanings.

Dialect vs Language

The main difference between dialect and language is that a dialect is a method of communication used by only a religion, a social group of people, or a society. On the other hand, language is a method of communication that is widely used and represented by a country.

Dialect is a method of communication and is a form of language which is used by only a particular group of people including various religions, political parties, urban areas, social groups, etc. Since a dialect is not that diversified globally, most dialects are only and not written.

Language is the method of human communication comprised of the use of words in a well-structured and conventional way. Languages are used globally by countries and large communities. Since languages are diversified globally, they can be both spoken and written. It is also easy to translate something from one language to another.

Comparison Table Between Dialect and Language

Parameters of ComparisonDialectLanguage
DefinitionA form of language.A method of communication.
TypesStandard dialects and Non-standard dialectsSpoken language and Written language.
IntelligibilityMutually intelligible.Not mutually intelligible.
Cultural ConnectionsSignifies a particular religion or a social and cultural group.doesn’t signify shared cultural experiences.
ExpressionMostly spoken and not written.Can be both spoken and written.

What is Dialect?

The term Dialect was originated in the 16th Century from Ancient Greek. Dialect is a method of communication and is a form of language used by a group of people specified by religion, political party, cultural group, and historical urban area, etc. More than one dialect can also be formed from one language. Since most dialects are not globally recognized, they are only spoken and not recognized by dictionaries.

The features that distinguish dialects from each other or languages are vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and accent. However, the dialects that cannot be written are only distinguished by pronunciation and accent. Almost all the dialects of the same language are mutually intelligible. Over the generations, as the language changed, their dialects also evolved. This is also a factor of various dialects from the same language. Some common dialects include Southern English, Black English, and Hillbilly English, etc.

There are two types of dialects:

  • Standard Dialect: This is the type of dialect that is recognized by institutions such as government bodies or designations.
  • Non-standard Dialect: This is the type of dialect that has historically not been recognized by a government body. In simpler words, all dialects which are not standard dialects are considered non-standard dialects.

What is Language?

The term language was originated from French. Language is a method of communication comprised of the use of words in a well-structured and conventional way. Languages are globally recognized hence, all the languages can be both spoken and written. Languages of the same family can never be mutually intelligible. The study of languages is called linguistics.

Some commonly spoken languages include English, Mandarin, French, etc. The language to communicate originated from emotions and thoughts. There are about 5000 to 7000 languages spoken around the world. Out of all the languages, Sanskrit is known as ‘the mother of all languages’ and Tamil is the oldest language. Languages are of two types including spoken language and written language.

According to linguistics, languages are classified into two kinds:

  • Genealogical Linguistics: Two languages are considered genetically related if both of them are originated from a common ancestral language. For example, Spanish and Italian are both originated from Latin, and hence, they are genetically related.
  • Typological Linguistics: This classification groups the languages based on their structural similarities. Chinese and Vietnamese are two such languages.

Learning languages is considered more valuable than dialects as languages are globally recognized in dictionaries. Languages represent some nations and are considered as a means of unity among people.

Main Differences Between Dialect and Language

  1. Dialects of the same language are mutually intelligible whereas languages do not.
  2. Speakers of two dialects of the same language can understand each other whereas speakers of two languages cannot.
  3. Dialects can create religious differences in a nation whereas languages unite the nation.
  4. Dialects are not recognized in dictionaries, grammar, etc., whereas languages are globally recognized.
  5. Two dialects can share overlapping cultural history while two distinct languages can not.


Languages and dialects can be tricky to differentiate. Dialect is one of the 12 variations of the language. Considering that dialects are originated from languages only, the distinction between them often seems negligible. In the real world, the differences between the two are blurred. For example, Portuguese and Spanish are two different languages yet it is easy for a person who understands Portuguese to also understand common Spanish sentences too and vice versa.

When it comes to a particular dialect of a language, the knowledge, and understanding of the language is simply more valuable as it allows an individual to communicate with people speaking that particular language as languages are spoken by a large number of people. Dialects, however, are specific to a group of people only. Two dialects can be originated from one language and the two might not have any history of cultural connection. For example, English speakers of the United States and that of Africa have no cultural connections but they can easily communicate with each other.

Also, it is easier to convert something from one language to another whereas such a task is difficult for dialects. The boundaries between dialects and languages are too blurred to understand the difference as there are many dialects and even more languages.


  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/9781405166256.ch7
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=xmMQAwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=dialect&ots=8TaBLfTnWW&sig=2YRdhwYYHIM7PysVr5wQ1NxMXjQ

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