Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
- Wikipedia mentions a notion of dialect as tied to geography, as opposed to sociolect, ethnolect and lect. This would appear to be something of a back-formation, but as long as it's actually in use (particularly in the literature), it should be fine.
- As the original entry noted, there is a political distinction between "language" and "dialect" that only mostly coincides with the linguistic one.
- In other situations, dialect means "non-standard dialect", "sub-standard dialect", by comparison to a societally blessed "standard", the "sub-" designation based on the notion (itself a product of ignorance) that those who are not properly indoctrinated in the standard dialect are necessarily less intelligent or otherwise inferior to those who have been properly indoctrinated. In this view, only non-standard speakers speak a dialect (or have an accent).
- Related to this, there is an (uncountable ?) sense of "dialect" as meaning "some unspecified non-standard dialect". E.g., "I am prepared to believe that many black women spoke in dialect and that many, being uneducated, also spoke bad English." (Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South, ISBN 080784232X, p. 33) (note the intriguing distinction between "dialect" and "bad English").
There may be other shades of meaning, particularly in technical contexts, as the notion itself has very likely evolved over time. -dmh 16:45, 28 October 2005 (UTC)