Standard English is often considered a prestigious dialect due to its widespread use in education, broadcasting, and print media. Yet, despite its name, Standard English isn’t bound by a singular accent or pronunciation. However, it does possess certain tendencies that distinguish it from other regional and non-standard varieties.
Firstly, the avoidance of non-standard grammar is a key attribute of Standard English. For example, double negatives (“I don’t need no help”) and habitual ‘be’ (“We be going”) seen in some dialects aren’t typically part of Standard English. This preference is not a value judgment on other dialects, but an adherence to a uniform set of grammatical rules for clarity and consistency in communication.
Another aspect lies in the realm of pronunciation. Standard English generally avoids the use of regional accents that carry strong local influences. While the Received Pronunciation (RP) accent, traditionally associated with Standard English in the UK, has evolved and is no longer the dominant accent, strong regional accents which might impact comprehensibility are typically avoided in contexts where Standard English is used.
It’s crucial to note that even though Standard English might steer clear of certain regional pronunciations, its speakers can and often do possess a variety of accents. The Australian, American, and British accents, for instance, can all be used while speaking Standard English. Thus, the avoidance of specific accents doesn’t equate to accent-less speech, but to a pronunciation style that aids mutual understanding.
Standard English also often avoids the use of local slang, colloquial phrases, and idioms tied to specific regions or cultures. This abstention helps to prevent confusion and miscommunication among those unfamiliar with these terms. Yet, as language evolves, some colloquial phrases and regional words do make their way into Standard English.
Finally, understanding the idea of Standard English necessitates understanding what it is not – it is not ‘better’ English, but a standardized form that enables understanding across different English-speaking populations. Avoidance of certain speech patterns, accents, or dialectal features is not to devalue them, but to maintain clarity and consistency in certain contexts. It’s also important to foster an appreciation for the richness and diversity of non-standard English varieties. They carry unique cultural histories and identities and are just as worthy of respect.
In essence, Standard English primarily serves as a tool for clarity in communication, ensuring that the speaker can be understood by a wide range of English-speaking individuals across different regions. The variety in English is what makes it beautiful, and understanding this variety, including the purpose and place of Standard English, is crucial in appreciating the language as a whole.