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What is a Dialect vs Accent

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

We often hear the word ‘dialect’ thrown around with ‘language’. But what is it exactly? We break it down in this post.

Is a dialect a different language? No, it’s actually a different version of one language. While languages apply to broad geographic areas, dialects are versions of the same language across specific regions. For example, English is a language spoken across the world, but there are versions/dialects of it that are slightly different from each other, such as American English, British English, and Caribbean English. Dialects usually differ from one another in specific vocabulary, ways of saying something, or figures of speech that are unique to a certain region of speakers. For example, elevators (American term) are called lifts in Britain.

What’s the difference between a language, dialect and accent?

Speakers of different dialects can usually understand each other, whereas speakers of different languages cannot. An accent is related to how someone pronounces words when they say something; it is phonological. An accent can come from a dialect (i.e. a British English accent), way of speaking, or first or second language (i.e. ESL). In other words, accents are the product of languages and dialects.

dialect vs accent

Canadian Dialects

We have dialects within Canada! Both as a country as a whole (the Canadian dialect of English) and versions of English that are unique to specific Canadian regions.

Speakers of almost all Canadian regions engage in something called ‘Canadian Raising’. This is where the stereotype that Canadians pronounce ‘about’ something more like ‘a boot’ comes from. Even this word sounds a little different when speakers from Toronto, Western Canada, the Prairies and Atlantic provinces say it.

dialect definition

Here are some examples of vocabulary that is unique to Canadian English:

  • Washroom (vs bathroom, toilet)

  • Knapsack (vs backpack)

  • Runners (vs sneakers)

Canada is such a big country that there are also many dialects across Canada as a result of geographic distance between groups of populations. Some of these are listed in the chart below.


So how does this relate to us at Andalusia Speech Therapy?

Speech Language Pathologists work with different dialects all the time! They can help individuals identify aspects of a dialect that may be different from their own or adapt their speech to fit the dialect of their community, in services like accent modification. In certain situations, speaking the dialect of the majority may help the individual be more confident speech and be understood more clearly and easily. But know that accents are nothing to be ashamed of, they just relate the diverse history of a person! If you want to know more about our speech therapy services, get in touch!

To learn more about dialects, check out the following sources for our article: :


Andalusia Speech Therapy has multiple clinics across Ontario and offers virtual therapy to anywhere in the world. Contact us more for information.

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