The Who, What, and How of Standard English
What is Standard English? It is the variety of English that is generally acknowledged as the model for the speech and writing of educated speakers. People who speak Standard English are often understood by people who speak different dialects. In recent years, however, the term has more often been used to distinguish the speech and writing of middle-class educated speakers' from the speech of other groups who use non-standard English.
One example of nonstandard English that is used by some people is the placing of double negatives in a sentence. For example, There ain't no more milk in the refrigerator. "When you know a language, you know the sounds, the words, and the rules for their combination (From kin and Rodman 93)." In Standard English you must know the "rules" for forming sentences.
Grammar is essential in Standard English. The history of our language is unique and interesting. It began about 600 AD with the several different tribes. These tribes were called the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. We can divide our language the history of our language into three periods: Old English, Middle English, and Modern English.
Old English runs for the seventh century to 1100 with influences from Norse. Middle English runs form 1000 to 1450 with influences from French. Modern English runs from the 1700's to present. During the 16 th and 17 th century, the prescriptive grammarians developed a basis for Standard English. Recent developments on the English language included the development of the dictionary and the invention of "English Grammar." Another product of the eighteenth century was the invention of "English Grammer." As English came to replace Latin as the language of scholarship, it was felt that one should also be able to control and dissect it, parse, and analyze it, as one could Latin. What happened in practice was that the gramm ical description that applied to Latin was removed and superimposed on English (Roberts 113).
There are advantages and disadvantages to Standard English. One advantage of Standard English is that no matter what dialect you speak, you can have a common ground with Standard English. The media uses Standard English so that different dialects and types of English can understand what is being said. "Black English differs from Standard English not only in its sound but also in its structure (Seymour 341)." People who do not speak "Black English" will be able to understand someone who does speak "Black English." Ken Perkins shows a great example of Black English in his essay.
In Black English you might say, "Wassup, Brad?" to ask how are you. In Standard English you would say, "How are you today" (Perkins 365). One disadvantage of Standard English is that people might think that you are "selling out" If you speak in Standard English in a small community where everyone speaks in dialect you will be looked at differently. Uneducated people might assume that you think you are better than everyone else because you speak properly. "In its most general sense, prescriptivism is the view that one variety of language has an inherently higher value that others, and that this ought to be imposed on the whole of the speech community (Crystal 116)." No matter how it is interpreted, however, Standard English in this sense should not be regarded as being necessarily being always correct, since there are many different kinds of languages or dialects. Through our collective language sense, some may be thought beautiful and some ugly, some may live and some may die; but it is all English and it belongs to everyone - to those of us who wish to be careful with it and those who don't care (MacNeil 334).
Standard English is used mostly by the media, schools, and the government. Thus, while the term can serve a useful descriptive purpose providing the context makes its meaning clear.