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Dialect vs. Vernacular: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 13, 2024
A dialect is a regional or social variation of a language, while vernacular refers to everyday, non-standard language spoken by ordinary people.

Key Differences

Dialects are subsets of a language, characterized by variations in vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar, typically influenced by geographical regions or social groups. In contrast, vernacular is the everyday language spoken by ordinary people, often differing from the standard or official language of a region. It embodies the cultural and social identity of a community and is less formal than the standard language.
A dialect can encompass a wide range of speech varieties, including regional dialects that reflect the geographical area of the speakers, and sociolects, which are dialects associated with a particular social class or group. Vernacular, on the other hand, is more about the everyday, colloquial language used in informal contexts. It's the language of common discourse, often disregarding the formal rules of grammar and vocabulary that govern the standard language.
Dialects often have a rich history and can evolve into distinct languages over time. They are important in studying the linguistic evolution and cultural interactions of a region. Vernacular, conversely, is dynamic and continually evolves with cultural trends and social changes. It's more flexible and adaptive, often absorbing slang, colloquialisms, and even jargon from various sources.
Understanding dialects is crucial for linguists in mapping linguistic variations and historical language development. Vernacular, while often overlooked in formal linguistic studies, provides valuable insights into the contemporary usage and living evolution of a language. It reflects real-life communication, often serving as a repository for the cultural and social nuances of a community.
In essence, while dialects provide a structured framework for understanding variations within a language, vernacular captures the essence of everyday, spontaneous speech. Both are essential in understanding the full spectrum of human language and communication.

Comparison Chart


A regional or social variation of a language.
Everyday, non-standard language of ordinary people.


Can be formal or informal, depending on context.
Generally informal and casual.

Grammar and Vocabulary

Has distinct grammatical and vocabulary features.
May include slang and non-standard grammar.


Used by specific groups or in certain regions.
Used widely in everyday conversation.

Cultural Significance

Reflects historical and cultural identity of a group.
Captures contemporary social and cultural trends.

Dialect and Vernacular Definitions


Dialect refers to language differences attributed to geographic or social factors.
Her dialect had a distinctive Bostonian accent.


Vernacular is the non-standard speech not bound by formal rules.
The poet used local vernacular to add authenticity.


Dialect can denote a language considered a lesser variant of a dominant language.
The Sicilian dialect has been influenced by various conquerors.


Vernacular refers to everyday language, distinct from literary or formal language.
She expressed herself best in her native vernacular.


Dialect is a regional linguistic variation, often with unique pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.
In the Southern dialect, 'y'all' is a common plural pronoun.


Vernacular is the language spoken by the ordinary people in a particular region.
The novel was written in the vernacular of rural Georgia.


Dialect encompasses variations in language among speakers of the same language.
The Yorkshire dialect is known for its unique sayings.


Vernacular encompasses the everyday language including slang and idiomatic expressions.
The vernacular of teenagers is often hard for adults to understand.


Dialect is a specific form of a language distinguished by vocabulary, pronunciation, or grammar.
His dialect was rich with regional idioms.


Vernacular is the common, colloquial language of a group or region.
His speech was rich with urban vernacular.


A regional or social variety of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary, especially a variety of speech differing from the standard literary language or speech pattern of the culture in which it exists
Cockney is a dialect of English.


The everyday language spoken by a people as distinguished from the literary language.


A variety of such everyday language specific to a social group or region
The vernaculars of New York City.


What is a dialect?

A regional or social variation of a language with unique features.

Can dialect and vernacular overlap?

Yes, in some cases, vernacular speech may also be a regional dialect.

Does vernacular change over time?

Yes, it evolves with cultural and social trends.

Is dialect always geographically based?

Mostly, but it can also reflect social or cultural groups.

What defines vernacular?

Vernacular is the everyday language spoken by ordinary people, often non-standard.

Do dialects have their own grammar rules?

Yes, they can have distinct grammar and vocabulary.

Are dialects considered official languages?

Not usually; they are variations of a main language.

How do dialects form?

Through geographical, social, and historical influences on a language.

Can learning a dialect be as important as learning a language?

In certain cultural or social contexts, yes.

Can vernacular include slang?

Yes, it often incorporates slang and colloquial expressions.

Is vernacular always informal?

Mostly, but it can be formalized in certain contexts, like literature.

Is it easier to learn a dialect or vernacular?

It varies, depending on one's linguistic background and exposure.

Is vernacular important for cultural identity?

Absolutely, it reflects the everyday life and culture of a community.

Is vernacular used in literature?

Yes, particularly in works aiming to reflect real-life speech and culture.

Can someone speak more than one dialect?

Yes, especially in multilingual regions or among different social groups.

Does vernacular vary within the same language?

Yes, it can vary significantly across regions and groups.

Does vernacular reflect social changes?

Yes, it's a dynamic reflection of contemporary society.

Do dialects have a written form?

Some do, but many are primarily spoken.

Are dialects mutually intelligible?

Often, but not always, depending on how distinct they are.

Can vernacular influence official languages?

Yes, elements of vernacular often get adopted into the standard language.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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