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Ethnolect is a variety of a language associated with a certain ethnic or cultural subgroup. An ethnolect may be a distinguishing mark of social identity, both within the group and for outsiders. The term combines the concepts of an ethnic group and dialect.

The term was first used to describe the monolingual English of descendants of European immigrants in Buffalo, New York.[1][better source needed]

The idea of an ethnolect relates to linguistic variation and to ethnic identity. According to Joshua Fishman, a sociologist of language, the processes of language standardization and nationalism in modern societies make links between language and ethnicity salient to users.[2]

Ethnicity can affect linguistic variation in ways that reflect a social dimension of language usage. The way in which ethnic groups interact with one another shapes their usage of language. Dialects may be defined by phonological, syntactic and lexical variation. Such linguistic difference may be important as social markers for a particular ethnic group.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Carlock, Elizabeth; Wölck, Wolfgang (1981). "A method for isolating diagnostic linguistic variables: The Buffalo ethnolects experiment". In David Sankoff and Henrietta Cedergren. Variation Omnibus. Edmonton: Linguistic Research. pp. 17–24. 
  2. ^ a b Fishman, Joshua (1997). "Language and ethnicity: The view from within". In Florian Coulmas. The Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. 327–343.