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What makes a language... a language? - Martin Hilpert


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Outside of China, Mandarin and Cantonese are often referred to as Chinese dialects, despite being even more dissimilar than Spanish and Italian. On the other hand, speakers of Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, which are three distinct languages, can usually communicate with each other in their native tongues. So, when is speech considered a dialect versus a language? Martin Hilpert investigates.

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Earth School is an immersive learning adventure to celebrate our planet, and understand what we need to do to save it. Now more than ever, we need to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis, and turn these ideas into action. Each lesson in Earth School has been selected to help you build an understanding of how our planet works and exactly what it’s going to take to save it. Complete quizzes to build a custom learning library, and complete 30 lessons to get a certificate. Visit Earth School.

Meet The Creators

  • Video created by TED-Ed
  • Lesson Plan created by Earth School Partners
Additional Resources for you to Explore
You can find out a lot more about language on my YouTube channel. The videos are meant for university students, but I try to design them in such a way that they are accessible to everyone. Here, I just highlight three videos that my viewers have found particularly useful: 1. If you're interested in dialects, you will like this video on sociolinguistics, which expands on the topics that were covered in this Ted-Ed lesson. 2. I created a series of videos on varieties of English around the world. 3. More generally, if you are interested in linguistics and you are thinking about studying it at university, there is a video with a few thoughts on that here.

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Customize This Lesson

Create and share a new lesson based on this one.

About Earth School

Earth School is an immersive learning adventure to celebrate our planet, and understand what we need to do to save it. Now more than ever, we need to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis, and turn these ideas into action. Each lesson in Earth School has been selected to help you build an understanding of how our planet works and exactly what it’s going to take to save it. Complete quizzes to build a custom learning library, and complete 30 lessons to get a certificate. Visit Earth School.

Meet The Creators

  • Video created by TED-Ed
  • Lesson Plan created by Earth School Partners