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A system of communication through the use of speech, a collection of sounds understood by a group of people to have the same meaning.

Literacy Tradition

A language that is written as well as spoken.

Official Language

The language adopted for use by the government for the conduct of business and publication of documents.


A regional variety of a language distinguished by vocabulary, spelling, and pronunciation.

Standard Language

The form of a language used for official government business, education, and mass communications.

British Received Pronunciation (BRP)

The dialect of English associated with upper-class Britons living in the London area and now considered standard in the United Kingdom.


A boundary that separates regions in which different language usages predominate.

Language Family

A collection of languages related to each other through a common ancestor long before recorded history.

Language Branch

A collection of languages related through a common ancestor that existed several thousand years ago. Differences are not as extensive or as old as with language families, and archaeological evidence can confirm that the branches derived from the same family.

Language Group

A collection of languages within a branch that share a common origin in the relatively recent past and display relatively few differences in grammar and vocabulary.

Vulgar Latin

A form of Latin used in daily conversation by ancient Romans, as opposed to the standard dialect, which was used for official documents.

Creole or Creolized Language

A language that results from the mixing of a colonizer's language with the indigenous language of the people being dominated.


The system of writing used in China and other East Asian countries in which each symbol represents an idea or a concept rather than a specific sound, as is the case with letters in English.

Extinct Language

A language that was once used by people in daily activities but is no longer used.

Isolated Language

A language that is unrelated to any other languages and therefore not attached to any language family.

Lingua Franca

A language mutually understood and commonly used in trade by people who have different native languages.

Pidgin Language

A form of speech that adopts a simplified grammar and limited vocabulary of a lingua franca, used for communications among speakers of two different languages.


Dialect spoken by some African-Americans.


A term used by the French for English words that have entered the French language, a combination of francais and anglais, the French words for "French" and "English".


Combination of Spanish and English, spoken by Hispanic-Americans.

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