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Standard and Non-standard variants of the English language.


Summer: 2010

North South University

Md. Aftab uddin chowdhury

English 570: History of the English language.

Id No: 0920726055

Ms. Maleka Sarwar

Date: 17th August, 2010

                           Standard and Non-standard variants of the English language


        Language is the most important medium of exchange our thoughts, emotions, desires, and feelings to express. Basically language is the vocal representations of an arrangement of sounds. The sounds formulated from the mouth with the help of numerous organic articulators to convey the meaningful messages. It is scientifically proved that primarily language was spoken. Anthropologists watch language as a form of cultural conduct, and sociologists think language is a social interaction between the people of the society. On the other hand philosophers watch language as a clarification of human knowledge. But the linguists regard language as an intricate circumstance which is scientifically studied.

         According to Sapir “Language is a primarily human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions, and desires by means of a system of voluntarily produced symbols.’’

sapir, language, 1921.

           Now today there are 7358 languages exist in the world. Respectively they have distinct structure. Scholars are still seeking to discover the origin and development of these languages. Some linguists believe that about all languages have one origin, have come from one singular language. Actually they do work to prove the hypothetical genetic relationship between the existence languages. And on the other side some linguists have confidence to say that all languages did not originate from one language but have originated from one more languages and finally developed these languages from different places in the world. So this is a controversial documentation and still unsolved. Throughout the middle ages many people thought all languages came from Biblical Hebrew.

           No one knows all the reasons why languages change, but they continue to do so as long as people speak them. In a few cases, the changes can be explained. For example, words are added to a vocabulary to refer to new ideas or objects between speakers of different languages may cause words from one language to enter another language. Another significant is language has a propensity to transform from complication to easiness and extent to accuracy.

          Since my topic is Standard and non-standard variants of the language, so I can start by differentiating a dialect from a language. Standard language is accepted by its speaker as a symbol of nationhood (of political and cultural identity) or is designated by government for official use. Non-standard language or dialect is a variation of a language used by a particular group of speakers. It differs in pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary from the standard language. Some times it is difficult to establish the relationship between the two different linguistic communities whether they speak the different languages or the dialect of the same language. There is a test which the linguists use to define the standard and non-standard languages. It is mutual intelligibility, if two speakers can not understand one another then the linguists easily identify that they are speaking two different languages. Mutual intelligibility helps the speaker to understand to each other of the same language. On the other hand, the English of London, the English of Cape Town, the English of Sydney and the English of Miami certify the dialect of same language. Another most important feature is idiolect; the specific linguistic system of a particular speaker of a language speaks his or her own idiolect.

         Language variation is the study of those features of a language that differ systematically as we compare different groups of speakers or the same speaker in different situations rather than comparing features of two different languages. Language variation studies regional varieties of the same language, like the natives English speaker of Mississippi and natives of Massachusetts. Social varieties of the same language, like the upper middle class New Yorker’s English and the lower working class New Yorker’s English. And stylistic varieties of the same language, like how a speaker uses language during a job interview and during a casual conversation with a close friend.

         Standard English emerged as such over the centuries by virtue of the political and cultural importance of London. Basically the Standard language is based upon what was in earlier times the speech of the upper classes at court or living in the capital. In America and Australian English, for example, ‘sunk’ and ‘shrunk’ as past tense forms of ‘sink’ and ‘shrink’ are beginning to become acceptable as standard forms, where as standard insists on ‘sank’ and ‘shrank’. This kind of construction is non-standard in most other forms of Standard English.

           Let’s now look at three types of variation with in a language: Regional varieties of a language result from a number of political, cultural, geographical factors. Now take a look at a representative sampling of some of the lexical and phonological dialect characteristics,

Regional Lexical Variation

      Following are the two main regional dialects in the United States. This example resulted because the region was colonized by settlers from different parts of England, who then migrated west, rather than north and south. Political and ecclesiastical divisions also contribute to regional dialect differences.

Northern U. S            Southern U. S

Pail                                        bucket

Bag                                         sack

       Lexical differences also exist between British and American English are so numerous that here are some examples given below.

American English                  British English

Photo                                                 Snap

Pedestrian underpass                 subway

Exit                                                       way out

Regional phonological variation

           A phrase like, that idea is crazy. Note that idea ends with a vowel and the word is begins with a vowel. For a speaker whose dialect contains the ‘linking[r]’ feature, this phrase would be pronounced as if idea ended in an [r] idear. The speaker of this dialect has a rule in their phonological systems which insert an [r] between a word ending in a vowel and another word beginning with a vowel. That idea sounds crazy, since there are no vowel sequences between words and the sounds begins with a consonant; the rule would not insert the ‘linking [r]’in the phrase.

Social variation

            This field is concerned with the interrelationship between the language of a group and its social characteristics, for example, working class New Yorkers ‘drop their post-vocalic [r],’in words like forty-four more often than middle class New Yorkers do. Another important judgment is that listeners judge a speaker according to characteristics of the speaker’s dialect. For example, some one says I ain’t working this afternoon, may be judged as socially inferior to another person who says I ‘m not working this afternoon. So the question rises to interest in Standard and Nonstandard dialects. It is not simple matter to define the difference between a standard and non-standard variety of language. It is important to understand that identifying a dialect as standard or nonstandard is a sociological judgment, not a linguistic one. All dialects of all natural languages are rule governed and systematic.

Stylistic variation

         Stylistic variation is most essential part of linguistic feature that can vary from one person to another. We can look at stylistic variation that is systematic variations in the language of any one speaker, depending upon the occasion and the participants in the interchange. Linguistic style is a matter of what is appropriate. For example, a speaker can use ‘thank you for your consideration’ in the formal situation, on the other side in more informal correspondence, the same speaker may use ‘thanks for your time’.

         In the above discussion I have wanted to show the standard and non-standard variants of the language very clearly. It can help us to know about the signification of variants of the English language.



Aitchison, jean. 1991. Linguistics: an introduction. Hodder & Stouton, London.

Lyons, john. 1972. Language and linguistics. Cambridge university press,


Parker, Frank & Riley, Kathrine. 1994. Linguistics for non-linguists: a primer with

exercise. Allyn and Bacon, U.S.A.


  1. dtheherring
    dtheherringSupporter said:

    I agree with aftab!!! David

    2 years ago
    • Roland Petrov
      Roland PetrovSupporter said:

      You do what?!

      11 months ago
      • dtheherring
        dtheherringSupporter said:

        It’s a while back, but I think I was being…ironic?

        11 months ago
  2. Des Lindo
    Des LindoSupporter said:

    As a person with over forty years of study in linguistics, I have to ask: What’s your point? That language changes? Of course it does. Now Just try to keep up, or forgedda bout it.

    1 year ago
    • Writer no longer with us said:

      Gotta agree with Des here, innit?

      1 year ago
    • Roland Petrov
      Roland PetrovSupporter said:

      Good for you, Lindo; you see things for what they are.

      11 months ago
  3. Writer no longer with us said:

    Your references are two decades out of date.
    There is no such thing as standardised English.

    12 months ago
    • Roland Petrov
      Roland PetrovSupporter said:

      As English is obviously not his first language, should we sock it to him or cut him some slack?

      11 months ago
  4. Roland Petrov
    Roland PetrovSupporter said:

    Commenting like this on your own work? Have you no shame?

    11 months ago
  5. renton26 said:

    even though his references are 2 decades out of date but STILL, we might not know that it could help a student researching the internet out of it., just like me . . . thanks aftab !! i understood it well.,!! :)

    11 months ago
    • Roland Petrov
      Roland PetrovSupporter said:

      So you’re renton26 too, you louse. Get off this otherwise fine site. You’re garbage.

      11 months ago
  6. Iconoclast
    Iconoclast said:

    “Since my topic is Standard and non-standard variants of the language, so I can start by differentiating a dialect from a language.” You should be a butcher, you’d be good at it. You already stated what your topic is in the Intro, just say “I will start by differentiating a dialect from a language as it relates to Standard and non-standard English.”

    Your conclusion also concludes that you need to take the class over. I don’t care if you’re an ESL student or what I’m going to rate you the same as a native speaker.

    In the above discussion I have wanted (you’re screwing up tense so bad it hurts) to show the standard and non-standard variants of the language very clearly (redundant). It can [help us to know] (what are you a third grader? You get dinged for that in elementary school) about the signification (signifi-what? Did you really just make up a word?) of variants of the English language.


    “In the above discussion I aimed to clearly display the standard and non-standard English variants. Achieving proper comprehension of these themes can help us understand the SIGNIFICANCE of variants of the language.”

    11 months ago
  7. WordDoodler
    WordDoodlerSupporter said:

    Oh dear. Is this piece of ridiculous writing still on the site and listed as most read? How many bots does this person use? And on this rubbish? You should at least apply them to a work worthwhile of attention.

    11 months ago
  8. justa335
    justa335 said:

    Hmm, I think I shall name my next work: “The Best and Most Complete Definitive Study of the English Language in the Last Two Centuries.” :)

    11 months ago
  9. Maffi
    MaffiSupporter said:

    Has it become ‘most read’ because it is a good example of how NOT to do it.

    3 months ago
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