Standard English Explained

Standard English (often shortened to S.E. within linguistic circles) refers to whatever form of the English language is accepted as a national norm in an Anglophone 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 the United States it is generally associated with the "General American" accent, and in Australia with General Australian.[2] Unlike the case of other standard languages, however, there is no official or central regulating body defining Standard English.

Multiple definitions

Although Standard English is generally the most formal version of the language, there exists a range of registers 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 of S.E. more or less adhere in their written form to a generally-accepted set of rules, often those established by grammarians of the eighteenth 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, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and Jamaica, and is an official language in many others.

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 either not a native language or is not widely spoken, a native variant (typically English English or North American English) might be considered "standard" for teaching purposes.[5]


The article English grammar describes the grammar of English.

Although the Standard Englishes of the various Anglophone countries are very similar, there are nonetheless often minor grammatical differences 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 White 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 non-standard in most other forms of standard English.


A common feature of spoken Australian English is the use of hypocoristic words, which are formed by either shortening or the addition of a particular ending, or by a combination of these two processes. Examples are "G'day" (good day), "medico" (medical practitioner), "blockie" (someone farming a block of land), "ump" (umpire).


See 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


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) Crystal, David. 1997. "A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics" 4th ed. (Oxford: Blackwell) Gorlach, Manfred. 1997. "The Linguistic History of English" (Basingstoke: Macmillan) 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) 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)

External links

Notes and References

  1. [#thorne1997|Thorne 1997]
  2. [#smith1996|Smith 1996]
  3. [#smith1996|Smith 1996]
  5. Trudgill and Hannah, International English, pp. 1-2.
  6. [#varieties3|Burridge and Kortmann 2008]
  7. [#varieties4|Mesthrie 2008]