Printable Version
Pronunciation: -sê-lekt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: The least prestigious variety of language in an area or region, the antonym of acrolect, the most prestigious language variety.

Notes: The politically and economically weakest dialect becomes the basilect, and often vanishes beneath the pressures of the acrolect. The various varieties of Gaelic have become basilects in their regions because they do not offer the political and economic advantages of the acrolect, English. If you want to get ahead in a region with competing dialects or languages, you usually have to acquire the acrolect and lose the basilect.

In Play: The dialect of Brooklyn, New York, is often considered the basilect and the English of TV announcers, the acrolect. Many Southerners consider their dialect a basilect and try to acquire some northern variety of speech. Both are dialects that we laugh at, the dialects of comedies. In Jamaica, Jamaican Creole is the basilect and Jamaican English, the acrolect.

Word History: The basi in today's word was taken from Latin and Greek basis "foundation, base", implying something at the bottom. Lect goes back to the oldest root we have for "speak", *Ieg-/*log-, which also seems to have meant "gather". We find it in lecture, lexicon (leg-s-icon) and Greek logos "word, idea", the basis of the names of many sciences, such as biology, theology, sociology. But we also get it in Latin lignum "firewood", something that was, in those days, gathered, and Greek legein, which means both "speak" and "gather". (Today's Good Word was among those gathered by M. Henri Day, a senior Lexiterian in our ever-growing Alpha Agora.)

Dr. Goodword,

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