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Combination of topo- (place) +‎ -lect ([language] variety). Attested since the 1960s, but rare until its introduction by sinologist Victor Mair in 1991 to distinguish Chinese 方言 (fāngyán) from English dialect.[1]


topolect (plural topolects)

  1. (linguistics, sociolinguistics) The speech form, variety (lect) of a particular place or region.
    • 1964, University of South Florida Language Quarterly, 2, page iii:
      We can then establish and name further categories by means of the word "group" and the prefix "sub-", thus obtaining SUBDIALECT ("Untermundart") between topolect and dialect, DIALECT GROUP ("Mundartengruppe") between dialect and language, SUBFAMILY ("Unterfamilie") between language and family,
    • 1985, Jewish Language Review, 5:155:
      The degree to which Yahudic lects differ from coterritorial non-Jewish lects varies spatially, chronologically, stylistically, and idiolectically (for this reason it is important to study each Yahudic topolect together with its coterritorial Arabic topolect if it has one).
    Synonyms: geolect, regiolect, regionalect
  2. (linguistics) A regional variety of Chinese; especially a lect other than Standard Mandarin.
    • 2007, Samuel Cole, “Learning Putonghua as an adult: a study of four Hong Kong teachers' experiences”, in The University of Hong Kong (Thesis)[2], archived from the original on 2 June 2018:
      Imminent Chinese linguist Zhou Youguang has said that everyone’s mother tongue is a topolect, whereas China’s standard spoken language has long been the “teacher tongue.”
    Synonyms: fangyan, regionalect


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Victor Mair (September, 1991), “What Is a Chinese “Dialect/Topolect”? Reflections on Some Key Sino-English Linguistic Terms”, in Sino-Platonic Papers[1], volume 29, archived from the original on 10 May 2018, retrieved 26 November 2016