Flashcards for Language and Culture
Topic 2:  What is Language?
(13 cards)

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Copyright © 2004 by Dennis O'Neil. All rights reserved.

The term for sounds or things which have meaning given to them by the users. The meaning can not be discovered by mere sensory examination of their forms. They are abstractions created by people.


The most important kind of human symbolic communication system. (Hint: all societies have such a communication system even though they may be illiterate.)


A term referring broadly to patterned verbal behavior used by humans.


A specific set of rules for generating speech.


A variant form of a language. (Hint: it usually sounds somewhat different.)


A dialect associated with a geographically isolated speech community. An example is the Texas in contrast to the Midwestern American dialect.

regional dialect

A dialect spoken by a speech community that is socially isolated from others. These kinds of dialects are mostly based on class, ethnicity, gender, age, or particular social situations. “Black English” in North America is an example.

social dialect

The term for a simplified, makeshift language that develops to fulfill the communication needs of people who have no language in common but who need to occasionally interact for commercial and other reasons. Such languages combine a limited amount of the vocabulary and grammar of the different languages. People who use these makeshift languages also speak their own native language.


The linguistic term for what Chinook was. (Hint: it was used by Indians from different cultures on the Northwest Coast of North America to communicate with each other.)


The general term for a pidgin language that has become the mother tongue of a population. In Haiti, for example, a French-African pidgin became this sort of language. It is spoken in that nation today by the majority of the population as their principle or only language.


The phenomenon in which different dialects of a language or different languages are spoken by a person in different social situations. People who do this may quickly switch back and forth between dialects or languages, depending on the person they are talking to at the time.


The linguistic term for what Gullah was. (Hint: it was used on the outer banks of Georgia and South Carolina by former African slaves. It evolved from a form of pidgin English.)


The term for a common social dialect spoken by many African Americans.

Black English or Ebonics