Despite the fact that English is considered one language, there are many regional varieties called dialects spoken all over the world. Although these dialects are mutually intelligible by English speakers, they are quite different. For example, British English is markedly different than American English. British speakers pronounce words differently and use a different vocabulary. Some words and phrases have different meanings in American English versus British English. One example is the word “bathroom.” If an American were to ask where the bathroom is in a British home, they might be sent to a room with a bath and no toilet, which is probably not what the American wanted. The two dialects may even differ in grammar in some cases. For example, “gotten” is considered correct in American English, but in British English, “got” is used.
Dialects do not merely differ according to country, however. Within a single country, there may be many dialects. In the United States, one can usually tell if a person is from the South, East, West, or Midwest based on the way that they speak. There are regional dialects within states and even within cities as well. Every dialect has its own phonological and syntactic patterns, as well as some unique vocabulary.
Analyzing dialects can be difficult due to the fact that is it hard to transcribe the pronunciation of an individual dialect because English is not spelled the same way it is pronounced. Furthermore, one person’s interpretation of spelling a dialect might not match up with another’s, so the reader might not “hear” the dialect properly. Regardless, written versions of dialects are essential to discussing dialectical differences.
Sometimes when an author wants to emphasize the fact that a character speaks differently than the other, he or she will attempt to write the character’s speech phonetically. This can be quite frustrating for the reader, as any literature student who has struggled through Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights without a good annotated copy will understand. One character, Joseph, speaks in the Yorkshire dialect and can be difficult to understand at times if one is unfamiliar with his dialect. Looking at Joseph’s speech more closely should make understanding the Yorkshire dialect a bit easier, however.
'What are ye for?' he shouted. 'T' maister's down i' t' fowld. Go round by th' end o' t' laith, if ye went to spake to him.'
'Is there nobody inside to open the door?' I hallooed, responsively.
'There's nobbut t' missis; and shoo'll not oppen 't an ye mak' yer flaysome dins till neeght.'
'Why? Cannot you tell her whom I am, eh, Joseph?'
'Nor-ne me! I'll hae no hend wi't,' muttered the head, vanishing (“Understanding Joseph’s Speech” 1).
'Tak' these in to t' maister, lad,' he said, 'and bide there. I's gang up to my own rahm. This hoile's neither mensful nor seemly for us: we mun side out and seearch another (“Understanding Joseph’s Speech” 3).'