In both verbal and written language, one often comes across different terms distinguishing the kinds of languages and vocabularies existing outside the standard, formal expression. May these be associated with ethnology, style or register, it is worth an attempt to decode and classify the different denominations which stand for specific ideas of language use.
A dialect is a way of speaking which is regionally specific or determined by social factors.
A vernacular is a native language or dialect, as opposed to another tongue also in use, such as Modern Greek compared to its language of origin, Ancient Greek. Alternatively, a vernacular is a dialect itself as compared to a standard language (though it should be remembered that a standard language is simply a dialect or combination of dialects that has come to predominate).
Jargon is a body of words and phrases that apply to a specific activity or profession. For instance, individuals occupied in the field of medicine or law are likely to employ specific terms when referring to procedures and materials integral to their pursuit, mainly for the sake of precision. The same applies in other fields of endeavour, such as art and sports, to name a few. However, when employed to an excessive degree, or among individuals who do not share the same procedural knowledge, jargon may as well inhibit rather than facilitate communication.
This term loosely refers to the speech of a particular community or group. In this sense, one could suggest that it is synonymous to jargon, though much more vague in its usage.
An argot is a language primarily developed to disguise conversation, originally because of a criminal enterprise, though the term is also used loosely to refer to informal jargon.
Anything that is not employed in formal writing or conversation is a colloquialism. Colloquial language is often related to different geographical areas, with various terms employed only in specific regions.
A vocabulary of terms employed in a specific subculture is slang. These are either newly invented terms or words already in use, whose meanings are adapted to new senses. In any case, the use of slang conveys a subculture’s desire to differ from the established, mainstream linguistic expression and often disguise — or exclude others from — their conversations.
Pidgin is a simplified form of language arising from the efforts of people speaking different languages to communicate. These languages generally develop to facilitate trade between people without a common tongue. In time, pidgins often evolve into creoles.
A creole is a more sophisticated development of a pidgin, derived from two or more parent languages and used by people as a native language.
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue. Although pidgins and creoles often function as lingua francas, many such languages are neither pidgins nor creoles. Moreover, whereas a vernacular language is used as a native language in a single speaker community, a lingua franca may be used as a second language for communication between groups. For example, English is a vernacular in the United Kingdom, but is used as a lingua franca in the Philippines.
For more information on the languages we work with, please vist our languages page.