STANDARD ENGLISH: WHAT IT ISN’T by Peter Trudgill.
What is the central contention of the essay?
Trudgill is arguing against the idea that Standard English is a language, style, accent or register.
He later argues that Standard English is a dialect.
What examples does the author use?
Trudgill argues that language cannot be defined, only characterised. He uses the example of the chinese language. I.e. How can chinese be defined, we can only describe what the language is.
When arguing that Standard English is not a style he uses the following example.
“The old man was bloody knackered after his long trip”. This is clearly Standard English. Does a Standard English speaker suddenly switch from Standard English as soon as they start swearing. He argues that Standard English is no different from any other variety of language and therefore speakers of Standard English have a full range of styles open to them, just as speakers of other varieties do and can swear and use sland like anybody else.
Trudgill looks outside the English Speaking world. In Luxembourg, Limburg and the Netherlands, a visit to a respective town hall to discuss political problems with the mayor will not elicit a switch to Standard German or Dutch etc. but produce styles of greater formality. Stylistic switching appears within dialects and not between them.
What other theorists does the author use?
Chambers and Trudgill (1997) – English can be described as consisting of an autonomous standardised variety together with all the non standard varieties which are heteronomous with respect to it.
Trudgill and Cheshire (1989) – Only 9%-12% of the population of Britain speak Standard English with some form of regional accent.
Giles (1973) – Formal styles are employed in situations which are formal, and informal styles are employed in social situations which are informal. Which is not to say, however, that speakers are ‘sociolinguistic automata’ who respond blindly to the particular degree of formality of a particular social situation.
Labov (1972) – There is no such thing as a single style speaker although it is obviously also the case that the repertoire of styles available to individual speakers will be a reflection of their social experiences, and in many cases, also their education.
Stein and Quirk (1995) – Argue that Standard English is not a social class dialect because the Sun, a British newspaper with a largely working class readership, is written in Standard English..
Quotationss from the text
“The answer is, at least most British sociolinguists are agreed” – Referring to more than one sociolinguists supports his own view that Standard English is a dialect.
“Standard English is thus not the English Language but simply one variety of it”.
“It should be noted that this is indeed a characterisation rather than a strict definition – Language varieties do not readily lend themselves to definition as such”.