Open main menu

A nonstandard dialect or vernacular dialect[1][2] is a dialect that does not have the institutional support or sanction that a standard dialect has.

Like any dialect, a nonstandard dialect has an internally coherent system of grammar; it may be associated with a particular set of vocabulary; and spoken using a variety of accents, styles, and registers.[3] As American linguist John McWhorter describes about a number of dialects spoken in the American South in earlier U.S. history, including older African American Vernacular English, "the often nonstandard speech of Southern white planters, nonstandard British dialects of indentured servants, and West Indian patois, [...] were nonstandard but not substandard."[4] In other words, describing a dialect as "nonstandard" is not intended to imply that the dialect is incorrect, less logical, or otherwise inferior, just that it is not the socially perceived norm or mainstream for public speech, though it might be ascribed with such stigmatizing qualities as a result of socially-induced post-hoc rationalization.[5] In fact, linguists consider all nonstandard dialects to be grammatically full-fledged varieties of a language. Conversely, even some prestige dialects may be regarded as nonstandard.

As a border-case, a nonstandard dialect may even have its own written form, although it is then to be assumed that the orthography is unstable and/or unsanctioned, and that it is not orderly supported by governmental or educational institutions. When used in quotes and as a contrastive feature in literature, the term eye dialect may be used for nonstandard phonemic spelling.

It is uncommon in written texts unless the text is dialect poetry, etc.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Fodde Melis (2002), p. 36
  2. ^ Wolfram & Schilling-Estes (1998), p. 13–16
  3. ^ Trudgill, Peter (1999). "Standard English: what it isn't". In Bex, T.; Watts, R.J. (eds.). Standard English: The Widening Debate. London: Routledge. pp. 117–128. Archived from the original on 21 March 2009.
  4. ^ McWhorter (2001), p. 152
  5. ^ Mesthrie (1994), p. 182


  • Wolfram, Walt; Schilling-Estes, Natalie (1998). American English: dialects and variation. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.
  • McWhorter, John H. (2001). Word on the Street: Debunking the Myth of a "Pure" Standard English. Basic Books.
  • Fodde Melis, Luisanna (2002). Race, Ethnicity and Dialects: Language Policy and Ethnic Minorities in the United States. FrancoAngeli. ISBN 9788846439123.
  • Mesthrie, Rajend (1994). Standardisation and variation in South African English. pp. 181–201. Retrieved 2019-05-16.
  • Fasold, Ralph (2006) "The politics of language." In R.W. Fasold and J. Connor-Linton (eds) An Introduction to Language and Linguistics. pp. 371-400. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.