Posted by: jrendleshort | July 28, 2009

Standard language

I finished the lecture talking about standard language and what it might mean. I mentioned that it was a social construct, and that it is not  just that the standard form is ‘better’ or ‘more logical’ than non-standard forms.  I suppose as native speakers we all have intuitive views about what constitutes the standard. But even so, it is not always clear. GIven that the standard is so important (I’ve just been looking at the following webpage ) we need to think about how languages become the standard and (given that languages are vital living things) who keeps on deciding what counts as the standard.



  1. Hi everyone

    I went to linguistic library today and found a book called Sociolinguistics by R.A.Hudson (1980). In chapter 2, section 2.2.2, it explains how non-standard varieties become ‘Standard languages.’ It was pointed out by the author that ‘Standard languages’ develop from ‘direct and deliberate’ social intervention. It is further explained that one particular variety can become a standard language through a process of 1) ‘Selection’ 2) ‘Codification’ 3) ‘Elaboration of function’ and 4) ‘Acceptance’.

    It is explained that a particular variety must have been chosen as a standard language as a result of ‘political or commercial’ importance. Then, an academy must have modified ‘written dictionaries and grammar books’ in order for everyone to agree on what is right or wrong, and for which the citizen will learn to use the correct forms. Next, the selected variety is used for all functions associated with ‘central government’ such as in parliament, law courts, educational and scientific documents, where new terms are added and ‘new conventions for using existing forms’ developed. Finally, as a result, the population will accept this particular variety as ‘the national language’. Thus, this ‘standard language’ is used as a ‘unifying force for the state’, ‘as a symbol of its independence of other states’, and ‘as a marker of its difference from other states’

  2. I agree with Nai’s comment that social, economic and political factors influence or even determine the standardization of a language. Milroy states that “standardisation is motivated in the first place by various social, political and commercial needs and is promoted in various ways, including the use of the writing system, which is relatively easily standardized” (1991:6)

    Milroys says that the facts that the language is used as the “official language, used by government”, “codified in dictionaries, and grammar books”, and “appealed to as the norm in the educational system” give the language ‘legitimacy’ over the other varieties and make it ‘potentially accessible to all citizens’ (1991:50).This accelerate the socialisation of the language to the other parts of the state as well as to the speakers of other varieties.

    Talking about who decides that a language is a standard or non-standard, I guess it is the government who decides whether a language is to be called standard or non-standard as it is a political rather than linguistic decision.

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