Standard English

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Standard English (SE) is whatever form of the English language is accepted as a national norm in any English-speaking country.[1] It encompasses grammar, vocabulary and spelling. In the British Isles, particularly in England and Wales, it is often associated with: the "Received Pronunciation" accent (there are several variants of the accent) and UKSE (United Kingdom Standard English), which refers to grammar and vocabulary. In Scotland the standard is Scottish Standard English. In the United States it is generally associated with the General American accent and in Australia with General Australian.[2]

Multiple definitions[edit]

Although Standard English is generally the most formal version of the language, a range of registers exists within Standard English, as is often seen when comparing a newspaper article with an academic paper, for example. A distinction also should be drawn between spoken and written standards. Spoken standards are traditionally looser than their written counterparts, and quicker to accept new grammatical forms and vocabulary. The various geographical varieties form a generally accepted set of rules, often those established by grammarians of the 18th century.[3]

English originated in England during the Anglo-Saxon period, and is now spoken as a first or second language in many countries of the world, many of which have developed one or more "national standards". English is the first language of the majority of the population in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas and Barbados and is an official language in many others, including; India, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa and Nigeria.

As the result of historical migrations of English-speaking populations and colonization, and the predominant use of English as the international language of trade and commerce (lingua franca), English has also become the most widely used second language.[4] In countries where English is not either a native language or is not widely spoken, a non-native variant (typically English English or North American English) might be considered "standard" for teaching purposes.[5]


Main article: English grammar

Although the Standard Englishes of the various Anglophone countries are very similar, nonetheless, often minor grammatical differences occur between them. In American and Australian English, for example, "sunk" and "shrunk" as past tense forms of "sink" and "shrink" are beginning to become acceptable as standard forms, whereas standard British English still insists on "sank" and "shrank".[6] In South African English, the deletion of verbal complements is becoming common. This phenomenon sees the objects of transitive verbs being omitted: "Did you get?", "You can put in the box".[7] This kind of construction is not standard in most other forms of standard English.



Main article: English orthography

With rare exceptions, Standard Englishes use either American or British spelling systems, or a mixture of the two (such as in Canadian English and Australian English spelling). British spellings usually dominate in Commonwealth countries.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thorne 1997
  2. ^ Smith 1996
  3. ^ Smith 1996
  4. ^ "Oxford Dictionaries Online". Retrieved 2013-06-15. 
  5. ^ Trudgill and Hannah, International English, pp. 1-2.
  6. ^ Burridge and Kortmann 2008
  7. ^ Mesthrie 2008


  • Bex, Tony; Richard J. Watts (1999). Standard English: The widening debate. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-19162-9. 
  • Blake, N. F. 1996. "A History of the English Language" (Basingstoke: Palgrave)
  • Burridge, Kate and Bernd Kortmann (eds). 2008. "Varieties of English: vol 3, The Pacific and Australasia" (Berlin and NY: Mouton de Gruyter)
  • Coulmas, Florian; Richard J. Watts (2006). Sociolinguistics: The study of speaker's choices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-83606-9. 
  • Crowley, Tony (2003). Standard English and the Politics of Language (2nd ed.). Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-99035-8. 
  • Crystal, David (2006). The Fight for English: How language pundits ate, shot and left. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-920764-X. 
  • Crystal, David. 1997. "A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics" 4th ed. (Oxford: Blackwell)
  • Durkin, Philip. "Global English", Oxford English Dictionary, 2007. Accessed 2007-11-07.
  • Freeborn, Dennis (2006). From Old English to Standard English: A Course Book in Language Variations Across Time (3rd ed.). Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-9880-9. 
  • Gorlach, Manfred. 1997. "The Linguistic History of English" (Basingstoke: Macmillan)
  • Gramley, Stephan; Kurt-Michael Pätzold (2004). A survey of Modern English. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-04957-1. 
  • Harder, Jayne C., Thomas Sheridan: A Chapter in the Saga of Standard English, American Speech, Vol. 52, No. 1/2 (Spring - Summer, 1977), pp. 65–75.
  • Hickey, Raymond (2004). Legacies of Colonial English. Essen University: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-83020-6. 
  • Hudson, Richard A. (1996). Sociolinguistics (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56514-6. 
  • Kortmann, Bernd and Clive Upton (eds). 2008. "Varieties of English: vol 1, The British Isles" (Berlin and NY: Mouton de Gruyter)
  • Mesthrie, Rajend (ed). 2008. "Varieties of English: vol 4, Africa, South and Southeast Asia" (Berlin and NY: Mouton de Gruyter)
  • Mugglestone, Lynda (2006). The Oxford History of English. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-924931-8. 
  • Schneider, Edgar W. (ed). 2008. "Varieties of English: vol 2, The Americas and the Caribbean" (Berlin and NY: Mouton de Gruyter)
  • Smith, Jeremy. 1996. "An Historical Study of English: Function, Form and Change" (London: Routledge)
  • Thorne, Sarah. 1997. "Mastering Advanced English Language" (Basingstoke: Macmillan)
  • Wright, Laura (2000). The Development of Standard English, 1300 - 1800: Theories, descriptions, conflicts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-77114-5. 

External links[edit]