Standard English Debate

Topics: English language, Dialect, American English Pages: 11 (3784 words) Published: February 24, 2012

Since ages, people communicate between one another with language. Language is a system of communication whereby people use it as a tool to deliver and receive information. In view of English has been the most powerful language nowadays, people tend to question what Standard English is and which Standard English to be used by everybody; Standard British English or Standard American English or any other standard.

1. What is Standard English Debate?

To know what Standard English is, people need to know from where it has been derived and why it is chosen as the standard variety that people prefer to use. It is originated from the south-east Midlands areas. This is due to the fact that the variety of these places which are London, Oxford and Cambridge have already achieved the aspects of learning, politics and commerce successfully (Thomas, 2000). They have these advantages as people from there have the influence and power. So their dialect has been chosen as the standard language. It relates with the words and grammar as being mentioned by Wright (2000);

…process of standardization should also involve lexis, morphology, syntax and pragmatic.

(Wright, 2000, p.2)

The expertises have argued upon how it has been selected but the process of making it standardized requires grammatical rules and standard vocabularies. People have their own dialect as it will portray their own identity and culture. To differentiate Standard English and non-standard English, it is necessary to refer them with the dialect and not the accent (pronunciation) as it has been discussed through the derivation of the variety. It is not easy to define what Standard English is as the dialect has been the major tool for everyone to talk in different situation. As an illustration, for a Kelantanese in Malaysia, the standard Malay language will not be used if a person wants to talk to his or her friends and family members unless he or she is talking to her lecturer (the superior) or writing a project report. This is because the person wants to maintain his or her identity and culture. The person will use his or her normal dialect (Kelantanese dialect) as that is their mother tongue. However, the use of standard Malay language (Bahasa Melayu) cannot be neglected as that is the language used in every formal context. Hence, same goes to English language as the speakers of this language come from various regions which of course have various dialects depending on one’s culture.

In English, multiple negation or also known as double negative had been used by people until the seventeenth century as being mentioned by Milroy and Milroy (Thomas, 2000). It is the usage of more than one negative word in an expression and was considered unacceptable by the end of the eighteenth century as it is seen as illogical, for example the phrase; ‘I didn’t say nothing’ which actually means ‘I said something’. People from high social class are less likely used this multiple negation as they know this will show which social class a person is from and what level of language competency that he or she has. This shows that non-standard English has been used in dialogue form and is capable to be a powerful tool to reveal one’s character traits or social and regional differences as the following extract:

I was a trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

"'All right, then, I'll go to hell'--and tore it up."

(Twain, 1884)

Based on the extract, it is understood that whenever people are talking like the example given in a particular context somehow to certain extend, people would recognize who the speaker is, his norms and social class. It sounds like a person who might be incompetent in using the language.

Hence, what is actually...

Bibliography: Hart, G,. (2007). What is Standard English? Retrieved on October 4, 2009, from
McCarthy, M. & O’Dell, F. (1999). English Vocabulary in Use Upper- Intermediate & Advanced. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
Nordquist, R., (2009). Standard English. Retrieved on October 4, 2009, from
Nordquist, R., (2009). Standard American English. Retrieved on October 4, 2009, from
Nordquist, R., (2009). Standard British English. Retrieved on October 4, 2009, from
Standard English. Retrieved on September 16, 2009 from
Thomas, L. & Wareing, S. (2000). Language, Society and Power. London: Routledge.
Trudgill, P. 1999. Standard English: why it isn’t. Retrieved on September 16, 2009 from
Twain, M., (1884). The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Wright, L., (2000). The Development of Standard English. Retrieved on October 4, 2009, from
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