What is Standard English?


Defining Standard English

- Since the 1980's, the notion of 'standard' has come to debate.
- There has been debate in devising of an acceptable curriculum for English in primary and secondary education. 
- Standard English is a variety of English, with distinctive combinations of linguistic features. 
- Some people call it a 'dialect' of English 
- Has no local base
- Carries most prestige within a country
- English that people chose will become the standard in the community
- 'The English used by the powerful' James Sledd
- Used in leading institutions like the government, law courts and the media.
- Widely understood but not widely used
- Only a minority actually use it when they talk, others when they're at work or in a professional encironment
- Speak a variety of regional English 
- 'BBC English' or 'the Queen's English' perceived as 'pure' Standard English

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World Standard English

  • A totally unifrom, regionally neutral and unarguably prestigious variety does not yet exist
  • New Zealanders do not want to sound like Australians
  • Canadians do not want to be 'Americans' 
  • Americanisms are perceived as a danger signal except in America
  • All other countries can be grouped into those who follow American English and those who follow British English
  • US spellings are becoming increasingly widespread. 
  • Lexical distinctiveness can be seen between US and UK English
  • Question of prestige is not easy to determine
  • It will take time before the world sees a consensus
  • Early 1980's there was a want to develop a 'nuclear' kind of English 
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Conflict between Internationalism and Identity

  • The current growth spurt in the language has a history of less than 40 years.
  • UN membership has more than doubled since 1960
  • Growth in the world population from 2.5 thousand million to 5.6 thousand million
  • Internationalism - Nation looks out from itself at the world as a whole and defines its needs in relation to that.
  • Identity - a nation looks at the structure of its society, the psychology of its people and tries to define its needs in relation to its sense of national identity. 
  • Internationalism implies intelligibilty 
  • Internationalism demands an agreed standard
  • Identity implies individuality
  • if a nation wishes to preserve its uniqueness or establish its presence, then it must find aus of expressing its difference from the rest of the world
  • Flags, symbols, uniforms and other symbols would have its place
  • A nation variety of an international language will define them.
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Drive for Intelligibility

  • Pressure for international intelligibility is very strong and may now be unstoppable
  • International travel, satellite broadcasting, world press and telivision, world stock markets, multinational corporations, intergovernmental agencies and many other institutions have guaranteed a situation of daily contact for hundreds of million of English Speakers who together represent every major variety.
  • Historical loyalties have been largely replaced by pragmatic, ulitarian reasoning. 
  • British English is used to sell goods and services while American English may be needed too.
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Drive for Identity

  • Pressure to foster a national identity is very strong
  • The 1990s had seen no reduction in the number of conflicts which involve regions trying to establish their independence. 
  • When English is in close contact with other languages it will adopt some of the characteristics of those languages
  • This can lead to a major local variety in language
  • In South African English, Apartheid and impala have become part of the general English language while dorp (small town/village) and bredie (type of stew) have not as there is already an equivilent. 
  • Mrs Indira Ghandi was propted to write to her Ministry of Education to complain of falling standards of English in India. 
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