It means "rough speech" in French, and it denotes the dialect of a region's common people as opposed to the dialect of its upper classes. What word is it?
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According to the Oxford English Dictionary: "French scholars distinguish dialects as the particular forms presented by a language in different regions, so long as there does not exist a common written language. When a common language has become established as the medium of general literature, the dialects lose their literary standing and become patois."
Does the word vernacular mean the same as patois?
[Mootguy: Any language that is particular to a place is that place's vernacular, so a patois is, thus, a type of vernacular.]
If you want to explore the distinction between patois, argot, vernacular, lingua franca, etc., check out the Online Dictionary of Language Terminology at:
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If you meet people who have emigrated from Jamaica or other places in the West Indies, they will tell you that they speak " Patois" which is a unique combination of English and other languages with lots of abbreviated words and a lilting pronunciation. It's a kind of short hand. In other countries it is called Creole. In the Cape Verde Islands it is called Crio.
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