From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
A dialect continuum means a large geographical area, over which the spoken language differs only slightly between areas that are geographically close, but with mutual intelegibility steadily decreasing as the distances become greater. Dialects separated by great geographical distances may not be mutually comprehensible. According to the Ausbausprache - Abstandsprache - Dachsprache paradigm, these dialects can be considered Abstandsprachen (i.e., as stand-alone languages). However, they can be seen as dialects of a single language, provided that a common standard language, through which communication is possible, exists. Such a situation is called Diglossia.
The Romance languages of Portugal, Spain, France and Italy are often cited as an example of this, although the intermediate dialects are tending toward extinction. The many dialects making up German, Dutch, and Afrikaans are another example. They form a single dialect continuum, with three recognized literary standards. Although Dutch and German are not readily mutually intelligible, there are numerous transitional dialects that are.
Similar things happens between a creole language lacking prestige and its more prestigious relative. For example, Gullah, Black Vernacular English and American English. A certain speaker can glide on the continuum depending of the subject and the context.