Is there a word in linguistics that means conversion from one dialect to another dialect?

In most sources in which I've looked¹, the word "translation" only means conversion of one language to another language. In some sources², the definition given is broad enough to where it could be used in such a way; however, in none of them is the word "dialect" or any such "-lect" derivative (e.g. ideolect, sociolect, ethnolect, etc.) mentioned in such a way.

So my questions are thus:

  1. Is there a word meaning conversion from one dialect to another dialect of the same language?

  2. Is there a word meaning conversion from a dialect of one language to a dialect of another language?

  3. Can the word translate mean this type of conversion?

I also jumped to translate in the "related terms" tool on the right-hand side of the OED and looked at other trans- words that I didn't recognise, but I couldn't discover a word that meant this.

¹ These Wikipedia articles:

² These (probably more reliable) webpages (I put the relevant text is bold):

  • Translate, Oxford English Dictionary (OED): {Subscription required}

pt. I, sec. 1, def. a:To bear, convey, or remove from one person, place or condition to another; to transfer, transport

pt. II, sec. 2, def. a: also, to express in other words, to paraphrase. (The chief current sense.)

pt. II, sec. 2, def. b: to make a version from one language or form of words into another.

pt. I, sec. 1, def. a: to bear, remove, or change from one place, state, form, or appearance to another

pt. I, sec. 2, def. b: to transfer or turn from one set of symbols into another

[This is sometimes transliteration, true, but oftentimes the differences between dialects lie in their spelling (e.g. US vs UK spellings), so in these cases it can be considered both.]

pt. I, sec. 2, def. c: to express in different terms and especially different words

[Since you can convert to different dialects just by changing a few letters (see above about pt. 1, sec. 2, def. b), I'd like to point out that I'm looking for a word that refers to all conversions of this type, not just at the level of words. Basically, we're talking just a word that means conversion from dialect to dialect, with no orthographic size specified.]

  • 2
    In software development, localization can involve converting phrases in the same language to those favored in different areas.
    – stevesliva
    Jul 25, 2015 at 4:05
  • 1
    To my mind, translation is a good word for this. And what if the only ways humans spoke were using what we now call different "dialects" of English (or Chinese or...). Wouldn't we in that case call those different "languages", as they would be the only differences? Doesn't "dialect" come into the light only by way of there being very different degrees of similarity? And then there are surely lumpers and splitters when it comes to linguistics, just as there are when it comes to evolutionary biology, no? IOW, "language" is relative, no?
    – Drew
    Jul 25, 2015 at 4:24
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    The distinction between dialect and language is arbitrary and fluid-- I'm reminded of the quote a language is a dialect with an army.
    – Barmar
    Jul 27, 2015 at 6:57
  • @stevesliva: Interesting idea. However, that term doesn't mean as such in linguistics. In fact, it's not even a word in linguistics. The closest one could come to that word in language AFAIK is in the sphere of international business, in which it's the opposite of globalisation. Jul 28, 2015 at 0:23
  • @Drew: Just because something is relative doesn't mean trends cannot be identified or concepts be formulated. Jul 28, 2015 at 0:24

4 Answers 4


I don't think that there is a specific word for this, but you could use interpret here.

To translate from one language into another.


The words of that dialect were interpreted in this one.

And yes, you could use translate for this purpose.

  • Hmm... I really don't like to use translate for that purpose, but yes I guess it could. That would still make sense. And yes, interpreted could work; although I suppose it would also depend a lot on context: if you're talking about interpreting something for someone from one dialect to another (e.g. explaining to a USAian that fish and chips in UK dialects means fish and French fries in USAian dialects), you could use it, but you'd have to be careful not to confuse it with other usages of that word. Jul 28, 2015 at 0:45

(1) I would use the word render (render dialect A into dialect B) to get around that problem. It has the advantage of carrying the meaning of "to translate" while having a broader sense of casting something/someone into a particular mode.

(2) Wouldn't this be simply translation? As long as you're doing it between languages, it shouldn't matter whether you're moving between the standard languages or some smaller subsets.

(3) Did you mean the type of conversion referred to in question 2?

  • (1) That is a good word. Thank you so much! (2) Hu... True. I didn't think of it like that. (3) I meant both. However, due to what you pointed out regarding #2, I guess now I'll say #1 is what it should refer to. Jul 28, 2015 at 0:41

This seems to match the idea of "code-switching" in linguistics.

Linguistics . the alternating or mixed use of two or more languages, especially within the same discourse:


  • 2
    please elaborate
    – JJJ
    Apr 24, 2019 at 1:50
  • 1
    Hi Kristine, glad to have you here. We general eschew brief, contextless answers. Could you please take a few minutes to color the answer a bit more, and maybe provide what you think is an ideal link, on this topic? Apr 24, 2019 at 13:54

"Code switching" is the term used for why some people quickly move from one dialect to another--but that's more about sociology than linguistics.

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