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Standard English (often shortened to S.E. within linguistic circles) is a term generally applied to a form of the English language that is thought to be[How to reference and link to summary or text] normative for educated native speakers. It encompasses grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and to some degree pronunciation.

Multiple definitions

There are no official rules for "Standard English" because, unlike some other languages, English does not have a linguistic governance body such as the Académie française or Dansk Sprognævn to establish usage.

The English language, although originating in England, is now spoken as a first language in many countries of the world, each of which has developed one or more "national standards" of pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and spelling.

As the result of historical migrations of English-speaking populations and colonization, the predominant use of English as the international language of trade and commerce (lingua franca), English has also become the most widely used second language,[1] and is therefore subject to alteration by non-native speakers. Numerous "non-native dialects" are developing their own standards – those, for example, of English language publications published in countries where English is generally learned as a foreign language.[How to reference and link to summary or text] In countries where English is either not a native language or is not widely spoken, another country's variant might be considered "standard", often that of England or the United States.

The effects of local native languages on the creation of creoles or pidgins have contributed the evolution of the many local and regional varieties of English.


The article English grammar explains the complex grammar of Standard English. There are many grammatical variations in the many local dialects of English, but in formal written English and the "standard" dialects of English-speaking countries worldwide, the fundamental grammar is generally the same, in spite of several minor regional differences (e.g. "in hospital" vs. "in the hospital" or "wait in line" vs. "wait on line"). There remain several open disputes in English grammar, often representing changes in usage over time.


The definitions of words (such as lift vs. elevator), idioms, and slang may vary considerably from country to country. With a few instances where confusion is possible (such as pants, which means "trousers" in American English but "underwear" in British English), most vocabulary words are the same or mutually intelligible.

Further information: American and British English differences


In the United States, General American is usually considered to be "standard" or "accentless", and is generally heard in the national media. In the United Kingdom, Received Pronunciation (RP) is sometimes considered "standard" or "proper", but many regional accents are heard on the British Broadcasting Corporation. Most countries adopt a variant of one of these accents or a local national accent as the "standard" pronunciation.

Some people consider local accents to be acceptable in formal contexts, but Trudgill believes that "Standard English is a dialect that differs from the others in that it has greater prestige, does not have an associated accent and does not form part of a dialect continuum".[citations needed]


Main article: English orthography

With rare exceptions, national "standard" dialects use either American or British spellings, or a mixture of the two (such as in Canadian English). British spellings usually dominate in Commonwealth countries.

Further information: American and British English spelling differences

See also

  • American and British English differences
  • International English
  • Formal written English
  • Modern English
  • Nonstandard English


  • Wright, Laura (2000). The Development of Standard English, 1300 - 1800: Theories, descriptions, conflicts, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Crowley, Tony (2003). Standard English and the Politics of Language, 2nd, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Mugglestone, Lynda (2006). The Oxford History of English, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Bex, Tony; Richard J. Watts (1999). Standard English: The widening debate, Routledge.
  • Crystal, David (2006). The Fight for English: How language pundits ate, shot and left, Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 019920764X.
  • Coulmas, Florian; Richard J. Watts (2006). Sociolinguistics: The study of speaker's choices, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Gramley, Stephan; Kurt-Michael Pätzold (2004). A survey of Modern English, London: Routledg.
  • Hudson, Richard A. (1996). Sociolinguistics, 2nd, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Freeborn, Dennis (2006). From Old English to Standard English: A Course Book in Language Variations Across Time, 3rd, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Hickey, Raymond (2004). Legacies of Colonial English, Essen University: Cambridge University Press.
  • Jayne C. Harder, Thomas Sheridan: A Chapter in the Saga of Standard English, American Speech, Vol. 52, No. 1/2 (Spring - Summer, 1977), pp. 65-75.

External links


  • Durkin, Philip. (OED Etymologist) "Global English", Oxford English Dictionary, 2007. Accessed 2007-11-07.

Template:English dialects by continent

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