eye dialect

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From eye + dialect. By analogy with eye rhyme. First used by George P. Krapp in The English Language in America (1925) in reference to written dialogue that uses nonstandard spelling but doesn't indicate an unusual pronunciation.


eye dialect (countable and uncountable, plural eye dialects)


women → wimmin
said → sed
listen → lissen

  1. (uncountable) Nonstandard spellings which, although they indicate a standard pronunciation, are deliberately used by an author to indicate that the speaker's regular use of language is nonstandard or dialectal.
    • 1942 October, James Nathan Tidwell "Mark Twain's Representation of Negro Speech" American Speech (Duke University Press) Vol. 17, No. 3 pp.174–176 [at p.174]:
      He shows his linguistic sense by using ‘eye dialect’ in only five words: ben (been), b’fo’ (first syllable), han’s, wuz, and um. By not re-spelling words for eye dialect, Twain makes Jim's conversation easy reading. Only about one-third of the words are re-spelled at all, and nearly all of these indicate some variation from Standard English—low colloquial, Southern American, or Negro.
    • 1986 E. A. Levenston and Gabriela Sonnenschein. "The translation of point-of-view in fictional narrative." Interlingual and Intercultural Communication: Discourse and Cognition in Translation and Second Language Acquisition Studies. (Tübingen: Narr) pp.49–59 [at p.57]:
      Particularly interesting is the use of eye-dialect, e.g. spelling "for" as" fer", to suggest that the speaker is ill-educated, even though the pronunciations indicated by such spellings are common to educated speakers.
    • 2004 Kirk Hazen and Ellen Fluharty "Defining Appalachian English." in Linguistic diversity in the South: Changing codes, practices, and ideology [Southern Anthropological Society proceedings, Volume 37: University of Georgia Press] pp.50–65 [at p.52]:
      The strip relies heavily on nonstandard spelling (e.g., "propitty" for "property") and eye dialect (e.g., yore for your) to indicate the educational attainment of its characters.
  2. (more broadly) nonstandard spelling which indicates nonstandard pronunciation.
  3. (countable) A set of such nonstandard spellings, collectively used to reflect a certain form of speech.

Related terms[edit]


(nonstandard spelling which indicates nonstandard pronunciation): literary dialect, dialect spelling, dialect respelling

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