In an English-speaking country, Standard English (SE) is the variety of English that has undergone substantial regularisation and is associated with formal schooling, language assessment, and official print publications, such as public service announcements and newspapers of record, etc. The term "Standard" refers to the regularisation of the grammar, spelling, usages of the language, and not to minimal desirability or interchangeability (e.g. a standard measure). There are substantial differences among the language varieties that countries of the Anglosphere identify as "standard English"; in England and Wales, the term Standard English identifies British English, the Received Pronunciation accent, and the grammar and vocabulary of United Kingdom Standard English (UKSE). In Scotland, the variety is Scottish Standard English; in the United States, the General American variety is the spoken standard; and in Australia, the standard English is General Australian. Sociologically, as the standard language of the nation, Standard English is generally associated with education and sociolinguistic prestige, but is not inherently superior to other dialects of English used by an Anglophone society.
Although a standard English is generally used in public and official communications and settings, there is a range of registers (stylistic levels), such as those for journalism (print, television, internet) and for academic publishing (monographs, academic papers, internet). The distinction among registers also exists between the spoken and the written forms of SE, which are characterised by degrees of formality; therefore, Standard English is distinct from formal English, because it features stylistic variations, ranging from casual to formal. Furthermore, the usage codes of nonstandard dialects (vernacular language) are less stabilized than the codifications of Standard English, and thus more readily accept and integrate new vocabulary and grammatical forms. Functionally, the national varieties of SE are characterized by generally accepted rules, often grammars established by linguistic prescription in the 18th century.
English originated in England during the Anglo-Saxon period, and is now spoken as a first or second language in many countries of the world, many of which have developed one or more "national standards" (though this does not refer to published standards documents, but to frequency of consistent usage). English is the first language of the majority of the population in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Republic of Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas and Barbados and is an official language in many others, including India, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa and Nigeria; each country has a standard English with a grammar, spelling and pronunciation particular to the local culture.
As the result of colonisation and historical migrations of English-speaking populations, and the predominant use of English as the international language of trade and commerce (a lingua franca), English has also become the most widely used second language. Countries in which English is neither indigenous nor widely spoken as an additional language may import a variety of English via instructional materials (typically English English or North American English) and thus considered it "standard" for teaching and assessment purposes. Typically, British English is taught as standard across Europe, the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia, and American English is taught as standard across Latin America and East Asia. This does, however, vary between regions and individual teachers. In some areas a pidgin or creole language blends English with one or more native languages.
Although the standard Englishes of the anglophone countries are similar, there are minor grammatical differences and divergences of vocabulary among the varieties. In American and Australian English, for example, "sunk" and "shrunk" as past-tense forms of "sink" and "shrink" are acceptable as standard forms, whereas standard British English retains the past-tense forms of "sank" and "shrank". In South African English, the deletion of verbal complements is becoming common. This phenomenon sees the objects of transitive verbs being omitted: "Did you get?", "You can put in the box". This kind of construction is infrequent in most other standardized varieties of English.
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With rare exceptions, Standard Englishes use either American or British spelling systems, or a mixture of the two (such as in Australian English, Canadian English, and Indian English spelling). British spellings usually dominate in Commonwealth countries.
- Standard language
- Comparison of American and British English
- International English
- Internet linguistics
- Modern English
- World Englishes
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