Standard English (SE, also standardized English, sometimes capitalized) refers to whatever dialect (variety) of English language is used as the national norm – standard language – in an English-speaking country, especially as the language for public and formal usage. In England and Wales, the term standard English is associated with British English, the Received Pronunciation accent, and the United Kingdom Standard English (UKSE) grammar and vocabulary. In Scotland, the standard dialect is Scottish Standard English; in the United States, the General American the standard variety spoken in that country; and in Australia the national standard is called General Australian English. By itself, standard English can also refer to that which is generally accepted by speakers of all standardized Englishes.
Although a standard English is generally the most formal version of the language, a range of registers exists within any standardized English, as is often seen when comparing a newspaper article with an academic paper, for example. A distinction also may be drawn between spoken and written usage. Spoken dialects are 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.
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" (though this does not refer to published standards documents, but to frequency of consistent usage). 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 colonisation and historical migrations of English-speaking populations, and the predominant use of English as the international language of trade and commerce (a lingua franca), English has also become the most widely used second language. In countries where English is neither a native language nor widely spoken, a non-native variant (typically English English or North American English) might be considered "standard" for teaching purposes. In some areas a pidgin or creole language, blending English with one or more native languages.
Although the standard Englishes of the various anglophone countries are very similar, often there are minor grammatical differences between them, as well as numerous vocabulary divergences. 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". 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". This kind of construction is not standard in most other standardized forms of English.
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With rare exceptions, Standard Englishes use either American or British spelling systems, or a mixture of the two (such as in Australian English, Canadian English, and Indian English spelling). British spellings usually dominate in Commonwealth countries.
- Comparison of American and British English
- International English
- Internet linguistics
- Modern English
- World Englishes
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