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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > David Crystal – Standard and Non-Standard English    

David Crystal – Standard and Non-Standard English



almaz
United Kingdom

David Crystal – Standard and Non-Standard English
 
Further to a couple of animated discussions we�ve had here recently on what the term non-standard English means, I�d like to leave this brief video clip on the subject from my old mentor, the very wonderful Professor David Crystal.
 
 
And before anyone whines chimes in with "but we should teach only the standard!", I�m aware of that � I�ve been doing it for more years than I care to remember. That�s not the issue; just listen to Professor Crystal...
 
Oh, and the voice-to-text subtitling is quite interesting too. 
 
 

21 Jul 2015      





cunliffe
United Kingdom

Well, at the risk of whining, I �ll hazard a reply. In fact, I �ll just pose a question or two. What did your man speak in? I wonder why? Because standard English is the means of communication. He realises that and gives a little half-hearted doff of his cap in recognition though the effort really costs him. �I �m doing my best at the moment. � Dialects are local, of course. I am a Geordie and my accent is Geordie and I am proud. So what? Nobody wants to debate whether that dialect (under threat btw from media this and that) is on a par with standard English. It�s just ... a bit different. We have many Norse words (so we were told when we were kids). Here�s an example. �I�m going home� =  �A�m gannin yem.� Wonderful. However, language is power and standard English is right up there: embrace it. Dialects are one great thing; sub-standard English (AAAH, run for the hills, almaz, I said it), quite another. Double negatives? The most daftest? He told you and I? Yuck, just sloppy. Call it non-standard and laud it if you like, though. 
A question for you, Alex. Are you a cultural relativist as well as a linguistic one? I�m betting on yes, you are. 

22 Jul 2015     



almaz
United Kingdom

Sorry, Lynne, but acknowledging that a non-standard dialect is as linguistically relevant as a standard dialect has nothing to do with personal preference. Here �s a quote from a recent interview with the grammarian and Professor of Linguistics at Edinburgh University, Geoffrey Pullum:
 
“Other, non-standard English dialects aren’t bad or inferior. Saying that African American vernacular English [a dialect which uses double negatives/negative concord] is Standard English with ignorant mistakes is as stupid as thinking that Dutch is just standard Berlin German with ignorant mistakes.”
 
 
Oh, and you �ve lost your bet. 

22 Jul 2015     



cunliffe
United Kingdom

Hi Alex, I wasn �t making any personal preferences, just stating that some dialects are different to standard English neither inferior nor superior and I gave an example of my own dialect. The difference is that it �s local. Standard English is an international means of communication. 
I �ve been in seminars where eminent professors are bending over themselves backwards to confer status on various vernaculars and people buy their books. To be honest, they are patronising. 
I don �t like the language your professor Pullum uses, actually. Disagree with his blanket statement and you are �stupid. �
You were quite rude to someone recently who made a simple spelling error that half the English nation makes. You ought to stick to your �anything goes � line as that seems to be what you are espousing. 

I�m pleasantly surprised to lose my bet. Cultural relativist, no. Linguistic relativist? Oh yes.

22 Jul 2015     



almaz
United Kingdom

Oh yes, I remember being "rude" to someone who seemed to think that a non-standard dialect was a "deviation". This is how rude I was:
 
You can, of course, deviate from standard spelling, although, to be fair, I �ve heard that so many people use the "definately" misspelling nowadays that it may one day enter the dictionaries as an acceptable variant of "definitely". 
 
 
I �ll have to go and sit in a dark corner and recite 15 Hail Chomskys now. But did you notice that I was acknowledging that it was a common error? It was just ironic that someone who talked about "deviation" didn �t realise he was doing it himself. Personally, I couldn �t give a tinker �s if he spelled it with three f �s.
And I �m not too sure if "linguistic relativist" means what you think it means 😊 � although I admit I was nearly seduced by the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis when I was younger.

22 Jul 2015     



Gi2gi
Georgia

almaz, although I have decided not to respond to any of your comments, you are overreacting now, which makes me feel I ought to make this note, and then I will try to avoid responding to your having sex with terms and words. 
 
Look at the definition of the word "deviation" and you will be surprised to know that it has a lot to do with "non-standardness"
 
 
departure from a standard or norm.
 
 
Anything that varies from the accepted norm or standard is called a deviation. It is common in math and science, but it can refer to anything that differs from the expected 
 
I am sorry to conclude that, to use your own words, "you do not know anything" about what you are trying to prove (Or should I have said "you do not know nothing", to make you and your professor happy. )

Good-bye now. 

Giorgi

22 Jul 2015     



cunliffe
United Kingdom

It was a low blow but I had had enough and felt we were just going in circles. 
 
How did you change your avatar? I uploaded my new picture on Sunday and still no change. I wonder if I did something wrong. Oh well. Have a nice day, you all. 
 

22 Jul 2015     



almaz
United Kingdom

I had the same problem myself with the avatar, Lynne. Oddly enough, the change happened almost immediately on my iPad, but took several days for it to appear on my Mac. I have no idea why...

22 Jul 2015     



cunliffe
United Kingdom

Hey presto, I �m back as me! There will be more about the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, don �t worry on that score! Once I have read it. 

Edit: I am putting something of this back. I am nothing like the cultural imperialist I think almaz would like to paint, so for anybody reading this, I am posting the link almaz referred to. I simply harmlessly (or so I thought) answered a member�s question, stating that double negatives make a positive in English. Almaz jumped to defend this usage. I had no real desire to debate whether all languages/dialects/patois/ etc are equally complex, equally valid or whatever. What I had in mind were school kids who were getting it �wrong�. Next time a member asks a question on a point of grammar, I will have to put a proviso: �Of course, I am just referring to standard English.� 

http://www.eslprintables.com/forum/topic.asp?id=49332

22 Jul 2015     



ueslteacher
Ukraine

Thanks for the video, Alex!
If I get it correctly, the professor is trying to point out that dialects are rather a sign of richness of the language than something unnatural and inferior.
I �m all for teaching standard English at school as an academic language, a language of business communication, plus spoken English. IMHO Dialects have to be addressed at university at the philological department where the language is a subject of scientific research. I do agree that if certain dialects are present in a literary work which is part of the curriculum, there has to be some research into the relevant dialect and students have to be familiarised with its most prominent features as well as why the author uses it.
 
P.S. Sorry, Alex, irony is mistaken for rudeness here sometimes. I �ve noticed it about myself that when I feel insecure about some issue, I will often interpret irony as mockery (which is not a pleasant thing and I think you�ll agree there�s a fine line between the two:)  

22 Jul 2015     



almaz
United Kingdom

Believe it or not, Lynne, I care very much about spelling, grammar and punctuation when I teach, and, like you and everyone else here, what I teach is the dialect form known as Standard British English � which can be understood from Dublin to Delhi. I also care very much about the English language as a whole and I hate to see the many dialects of English being dismissed as being inferior or wrong. "Sloppy English" is a whole nother kettle of gherkins.
EDIT: Whoops! The post I was responding to seems to have been ruthlessly pruned. There�s nothing left of it, in fact.
 
Sophia, you �ve more or less put your finger on it, but I might add that David Crystal is pointing out that the standard as used in the media and in academic settings is primarily written and that, globally, only a tiny minority (I think he mentions the figure 5%) regularly speak what would be unambiguously recognised as Standard English. And thank you for reminding me that I can be a smartalecky pain sometimes :)  I tend to forget that some of our more er...thin-skinned colleagues don �t always appreciate my occasionally ponderous attempts at humour.

22 Jul 2015     

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