An isogloss is the geographical boundary or delineation of a certain linguistic feature, e.g. the pronunciation of a vowel, the meaning of a word, or use of some syntactic feature. Major dialects are typically demarcated by whole bundles of isoglosses, e.g. the Benrath line that distinguishes High German from the other West Germanic languages; or the La Spezia-Rimini Line which divides the Northern Italian dialects from Central ones. Undoubtedly, the largest well-known isogloss is the Centum-Satem isogloss, which traditionally separates the Indo-European languages into two distinct categories.

A major isogloss in American English has been identified as the North-Midland isogloss, which demarcates numerous linguistic features, including the Northern Cities vowel shift: regions north of the line (including western New York; Cleveland, Ohio; lower Michigan; northern Illinois; and eastern Wisconsin) are subject to the shift and regions south of the line (including Pennsylvania, central and southern Ohio, and most of Indiana) are not.

The name is inspired by contour lines or isopleths such as isobar, etc.; however, the isogloss separates rather than connects points of equal language (perhaps one could say it connects points of indefinite language).

See also

* Benrath line
* Centum-Satem isogloss
* Dialect
* Dialectology
* Dialect continuum

External links

* [ An example of an isogloss in Southern England] .
* " [ Beyond the Isogloss: The Isograph in Dialect Topography] :" A discussion of the shortcomings and oversimplifications of using isoglosses.
* " [ On Some Acoustic Correlates of Isoglossy] ," a humorous analysis of Russian isoglossy.


*Chambers, J.K. and Peter Trudgill (1999) Dialectology (2nd Edition). Cambridge University Press.

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  • isogloss — [ī′sō glôs΄, ī′səglôs΄] n. [< ISO + Gr glōssa, tongue, speech: see GLOSS2] Linguis. 1. a line of demarcation between regions differing in a particular feature of language, as on a point of pronunciation, vocabulary, etc. 2. such a line… …   English World dictionary

  • isogloss — noun Etymology: International Scientific Vocabulary is + Greek glōssa language more at gloss Date: 1925 1. a boundary line between places or regions that differ in a particular linguistic feature 2. a line on a map representing an isogloss •… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • isogloss — isoglossal, adj. /uy seuh glos , glaws /, n. (in the study of the geographical distribution of dialects) a line on a map marking the limits of an area within which a feature of speech occurs, as the use of a particular word or pronunciation. [ <… …   Universalium

  • isogloss — noun /ˈaɪsəʊ̆ɡlɒs/ A line indicating the geographical boundaries of a linguistic feature on a map …   Wiktionary

  • isogloss — line connecting points of similar regional dialect Contour Lines …   Phrontistery dictionary

  • isogloss — [ ʌɪsə(ʊ)glɒs] noun Linguistics a line on a map marking an area having a distinct linguistic feature. Origin early 20th cent.: from iso + Gk glōssa tongue, word …   English new terms dictionary

  • isogloss — iso·gloss …   English syllables

  • isogloss — i•so•gloss [[t]ˈaɪ səˌglɒs, ˌglɔs[/t]] n. ling. (in the study of the geographical distribution of dialects) a line on a map marking the limits of an area within which a feature of speech occurs, as the use of a particular word or pronunciation •… …   From formal English to slang

  • isogloss — /ˈaɪsəglɒs/ (say uysuhglos) noun an imaginary line separating two localities which differ in some feature of their speech. {iso + Greek glossa word, speech, tongue} …   Australian English dictionary

  • isogloss —   n. a line of a dialect map delimiting localities in which some feature of speech is found. isoglossal, a …   Dictionary of difficult words

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