Standard English: The Widening Debate

By Tony Bex; Richard J. Watts | Go to book overview

11

CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER: FALLING STANDARDS IN THE STANDARD ENGLISH DEBATE

Tony Crowley

And so the standard English debate rumbles on. What seems to me to be the contribution made by this collection of essays is that it highlights two enduring features of the arguments around the term and concept. First, the confusions around the term itself, difficulties which have dogged it since its first recorded use. Second, the fact that this is not simply a linguistic debate, but one which is immersed in, and has had significant impact upon, larger social and political questions. In order to set out my own views I will consider a work which I consider to be confused, confusing and pernicious: John Honey’s Language is Power (1997). I have chosen Honey’s work on the grounds that it is a good example of a particular approach to the Standard English question, and that Honey is a frequent contributor to the debates around it. 1

There are two significant confusions around the phrase ‘Standard English’: that around ‘standard’ and that relating to ‘English’. With regard to ‘standard’, it is still evidently a word which shifts in its meaning between ‘uniformity’ and ‘level of excellence’. I will return to this elision and its political implications later. In respect of ‘English’ in the phrase, its ambiguity lies in the failure to distinguish between speech and writing. I will show the problems caused by these confusions by looking at Honey’s text.

On page 1 of Language is Power Honey defines the problematic term: ‘By standard English I mean the language in which this book is written, which is evidently the same form of English used in books and newspapers all over the world.’ This is clear: standard English is the medium of writing in the English language, grammatically stable and codified. And in fact this is the definition of the term used by its first recorded (1858) coiners, the lexicographers of the New/Oxford English Dictionary. On page 3 of Language is Power, however, we are informed that ‘standard English can be spoken in any accent of English, though in practice it is seldom (indeed perhaps never) spoken in the broadest forms of regional accent’. This is a quite different use of the

-271-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Standard English: The Widening Debate
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 312

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.