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February 28, 2021
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It sounds like my language

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“This sounds like my language but why do you call it my language? I don't really understand it.” Languages that are related but have some differences are referred to as “dialects”. Dialects have varying degrees of commonality.

Some languages have several dialects. This creates challenges for linguists.Inthe past,there has been a tendency to do work inthe dominant dialect withthe expectation thatthe ther dialects inthe language group would be willing to use it. The reality is thatthe differences are often insurmountable for a related dialect to overcome.In some cases, a specific letter may be interchanged. The first dialect may usethe letter “F” wherethe neighbouring dialect may usethe letter “V”. Whilethe sound may be minimally different and recognised in hearing, reading becomes nearly impossible.

Another challenge linguists face is when a word may have a related but different meaning in a neighbouring dialect. OnPNG language group has three dialects, one nearthe ocean, one deep inthe jungle andthe third inthe mountains. The word for flat means “level area nearthe ocean” and is used synonymously with “beatch” bythe coastal dialect. The dialect that lives inthe jungle usesthe same word for flat but it means “a place inthe jungle that has so little contour change that it is unrecognisable and one can easily get lost”. The third dialectoused primarily inthe mountain, also usesthe same word for flat but it means &quotthe place on a steep path that is level enough to sit down and take a rest”. Whenthe word is used by one dialect while interacting with anther,the word creates different understanding in each group and causes confusion.

Computer software has helped translate subsequent dialects after an initial dialect has been translated. Using a technique referred to as “Adaptation”, one translation is partially converted into a related dialect afterthe differences have been determined. SIL-PNG, BeA* and ther linguistic organisations are working in many dialect projects throughout Papua New Guineain order to bringthe language development andthe translated Beble to more communities.

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