A well-known musician once said, ” Realistically, English is a universal language; it’s the number one language… for communicating with the rest of the world. ” English is the most widely used language in the history of the world. In 2015, there were sixty-seven sovereign states and twenty-seven nonsovereign entities where English was an official language. Additionally, many country’s subdivisions have declared English an official language at the local or regional level. Despite being the most widely used language in the world, English varies from country to country, and even from region to region!
Each variety of English has its own set of rules and guidelines, as a result, a universal standard had to be proposed (The History of English: Origins and Uses). Standard American English (SAE), is the one variety of English that is more widely used and accepted than others in the United States. Standard American English is the common language of educated professionals and is understood by people across different geographical regions, educational backgrounds, and ethnic and racial associations (KU General Education Literacy Rubric).
The language used, standard (formal) and nonstandard (informal), will vary depending on the audience, purpose, and occasion; the main differences between standard and nonstandard English are in sentence structure, word choice and tone (The History of English: Origins and Uses), additionally, nonstandard English varies from culture to culture. When speaking at a dignified occasion, such as a banquet or a dedication ceremony, it would be apt to use standard, or formal English. An additional example of where standard English is suitable is in writing, especially in business letters, tests, and reports.
Nonstandard, or informal, English is used in everyday conversation at home, school, work, and recreation (The History of English: Origins and Uses). Nonstandard English is also utilized in personal letters and journal entries. But, how does an audience tell the difference between standard and nonstandard English? The first way to tell the difference between standard and nonstandard English is in sentence structure. In standard English, sentences tend to be longer and more complex, whereas, in nonstandard English, sentence structure is short and simple.
The second way to tell the difference between standard and nonstandard English is through word choice. Standard English uses precise, often technical and scientific words( The History of English: Origins and Uses). Nonstandard English employs words that appear in everyday conversation, like colloquialisms and slang. Colloquialisms are spoken or written words and phrases that are informal in diction or style of expression, in other words, the informal words and phrases of conversational language (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language; The History of English: Origins and Uses).
A common example of nonstandard, colloquial English is the use of a singular verb with a plural subject: “They was important” or a singular subject with a plural verb: ” She write poetry”( Kaplan University Writing Center). Slang is the nonstandard vocabulary of a given culture, made up of newly conceived words or old words used in unconventional ways (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language; The History of English: Origins and Uses). Unlike colloquialisms, slang words generally have a short lifespan. The third and final way standard and nonstandard English differ is through tone.
A tone is the particular or relative pitch of a word, phrase, or sentence. In a formal dinner for an important government official, the language used would contrast the language used at a birthday party. Instead of using a conversational tone, the speaker would use a serious and dignified tone, to convey the importance of the situation. Tone also can mean the general character or attitude of a piece of writing (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language). So, depending on the situation, a piece of writing will either use language heard in everyday conversation or formal English.
Although standard and nonstandard English vary in numerous ways, it is imperative to remember that nonstandard does not mean bad or incorrect English. Nonstandard simply means language that is inappropriate in situations where standard English is expected (The History of English: Origins and Uses). In literature, nonstandard forms are used as a powerful tool to reveal character traits or social and regional differences (Writing in Nonstandard English). Nonstandard American English varies from culture to culture because Americans originated from many different cultures, which creates numerous ethnic dialects.
The most widely used ethnic dialects are African American Vernacular English and the Hispanic, or Chicano, English of many people from Cuba, Mexico, Central America, and Puerto Rico (The History of English: Origins and Uses). African-American Vernacular English( AAVE), is a variety of American English spoken by many African Americans. AfricanAmerican Vernacular English originated in the slave plantations of the American South, and it shares a number of phonological and grammatical features with Southern dialects of American English (Nordquist, Richard).
Contributing to the evolution of American English was the migration of blacks from the South after the Civil War to urban areas of the North. They took their Southern speech patterns with them, including all of the linguistic forms that had been incorporated into the grammatical structure of speech among slaves. Unlike most white immigrants to urban centers, who eventually adopted local dialects, blacks generally remained isolated in impoverished ghettos and as a result retained their dialect. This physical isolation contributed to linguistic isolation and the maintenance of African American vernacular English (AAVE).
The retention of unique linguistic forms, racism and educational apartheid have since led to numerous misconceptions of this dialect (Out of the Mouths of Slaves: African American Language and Educational Malpractice). One word that came into the English language through the Black dialect is chigger, also known as a harvest mite or flea. Hispanic Vernacular English is a nonstandard variety of the English language influenced by the Spanish language and spoken as a native dialect by both bilingual and monolingual speakers (Nordquist, Richard). Chicano, or Hispanic, English… is alive and well in Los Angeles, among other places.
It is a dialect in its own right. separate both from Spanish and from other local varieties of English such as California Anglo-English (CAE) or AfricanAmerican English (AAE). It is changing, as all dialects do, but shows no signs of being abandoned by the community as a whole in favor of more standard varieties of English. … Chicano English can vary on a continuum from less to more standard, and from less to more influenced by other dialects, and it encompasses a wide range of stylistic options (Chicano English in Context). Like African-American Vernacular English, the Hispanic dialect has contributed words to the English language.
One example is the taco, a tortilla folded around a filling, as of ground meat, or cheese (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language). The English language is majorly influenced by the nonstandard, ethnic dialects of African and Central American nations. Ethnic dialects, like the African American vernacular and the Hispanic, or Chicano, vernacular, have contributed many words to the English language. Nonstandard English is not bad or incorrect English, nonstandard simply means language that is inappropriate in situations where standard English is expected.
Standard American English is the common language of educated professionals and is understood by people across different geographical regions, educational backgrounds, and ethnic and racial associations (KU General Education Literacy Rubric). Standard American English and Nonstandard American English differ in sentence structure, word choice, and tone; the use of formal and informal English will vary depending on the audience, purpose, and occasion. The English language is constantly changing, so in order master the appropriate usage, speakers and writers have to adjust, adapt, and revise what they have learned.