THE STANDARD ENGLISH DEBATE
For the purposes of this course, the basic V terms will be used as follows (see the course in Sociolinguistics):
variety A blanket term replacing language, dialect, code.
variation (think/tink, dont know/dunno, tomahto/tomayto). The production and use of variants, allowing semantic effects or identification of a social/regional location.
variants Each of the terms entering into variation.
variables Factors that vary. In sociolinguistics, variables are either linguistic (e.g. rhotic / non-rhotic) or social (e.g. age, sex, class, drunkenness, writing).
The use of the term variety is thus supposed to silence a lot of debates about the status of languages and dialects. Consider, for example, the following:
A language is a dialect with an army and a navy.
The common core of our grammar book
Compare this with what we find in our standard grammar book, by Greenbaum and Quirk, or Quirk and Greenbaum (depending on your edition). External students are required to read the first chapter of the grammar. The following are phrases from that chapter:
Quirk: ...what we ordinarily mean by English is a common core or nucleus which is realized only in the different forms of the language that we actually hear or read....
...the common core dominates all the varieties...
...however esoteric or remote a variety may be, it has running through it a set of grammatical or other characteristics that are common to all...
1. Is this core common to all and only to varieties of English?
2. How many characteristics are needed in order to be dominated by the common core?
Quirk admits that varieties can be based on region, education, subject, medium, attitude, or interference. In this course we will be considering varieties based on region, medium, and specialized subject matter.
Region: dialects become so distinct that we regard them as different languages This has not happened with the dialects of English (unlike Dutch, German, Danish...). Regional variation is mainly in phonology.
Education: Major polarity: uneducated speech is regional; educated is a form of English that cuts across dialectal boundaries (i.e. standard?). ... BBC English, network English...= standard English...
The degree of acceptance of a single standard of English throughout the world [...] is a truly remarkable phenomenon.... There is a tendency towards even greater uniformity, e.g. in spelling. Development of RP because of boarding schools in the last century (i.e. non-regional).
Subject matter: Code-switching (code-switching tends not to happen for regional or educational varieties).
Attitude: ...it is useful to pursue the notion of the common core here, so that we can acknowledge a neutral or unmarked variety of English....
Interference: From other languages: I am here since Thursday. (Are these still English?)
Our approach in this book is to keep our sights firmly fixed on the COMMON CORE which constitutes the major part [??] of any variety of English, however specialized, and without which fluency in any variety at a higher level than a parrot is impossible.
The standard thus dominates, allows people to speak, underlies (like langue), defines limits (category of interferences)... and yet is closely associated with one particular variety?
Compare Quirks position with the following:
Standard English: A widely used term that resists easy definition but is used as if most educated people nonetheless know precisely what it refers to. (McArthur 1982: 982)
What are the origins of this standard?
Here we look at the video: Story of English 1, mins 10-20 (Public School, BBC, Quirk, decolonization, Kachru).
The Standard English Debate (see Graddol, pp. 25ff.) External students are required to read Quirks text (pp. 37-40):
Quirk, in a lecture in Japan in 1988, argues against the 1988 Kingman report, which posited that childrens capacity to use English effectively can and should be fostered by exposure to the varieties of the English language and that any notion of correct or incorrect use of language is an affront to personal liberty. ... liberation linguistics
With non-British students, teachers cannot reject the notion of correct or incorrect English.... The institutions duty is to teach Standard English.
But what happens with children of immigrants? Argument by Goldstein: In New York, children from Spanish-speaking homes identify more with Black children and so should be taught Black English... (we will see this in the Labov/Bernstein debate in Sociolinguistics).
Quirk is worried about how this argument will be received overseas: If the centre starts taking such an active interest in varieties, this will happen in the rest of the world: the legitimacy of Malaysian English, Filipino English, Hong Kong English, Nigerian English, Indian English:
No one would quarrel with this provided there was agreement within each country that it was true, or even that there was a determined policy to make it true... Most people in authority want real English.
Teachers in India and Nigeria where the English of the teachers themselves inevitably bears the stamp of locally acquired deviation from the standard language (You are knowing my father, isnt it?).
Problem: People learn English not just to speak within their own country but to speak to the world.
It is neither liberal nor liberating to permit learners to settle for lower standards than the best, and it is a travesty of liberalism to tolerate low standards which will lock the least fortunate into the least rewarding careers.
Read the example of the English teacher in Madrid (p. 39).
I gently explained about Standard English being the norm by which we taught and made judgements.
(who is we??)
DISCUSS QUIRKS POSITION
His main argument is against the view that non-native Englishes can be used as models for teaching and communication; learners of English need a standard native variety in order to communicate internationally.
RESPONSES TO QUIRK:
Torkil Christensen (1992): Quirk has misread sociolinguistics; there is no clean distinction between native and non-native speakers.
Paul Christophersen (1990): Heterogeneity of native and non-native speakers means that Quirk does not have any evidence to draw conclusions concerning millions of people.
Kachru (1991): Non-native use of language may be valid even when purpose-specific. Quirk has no real argument against the development of new national standards. Quirk adopts the ideology of deficit linguistics, the view that certain varieties of language (normally those associated with working-class or minority groups) are inherently inferior to others.
Kachrus further points:
- International English is frequently used for communication between non-natives.
- English is often a standard of intra-national communication (e.g. in India).
- It is thus one language in speakers repertoires, so that speakers can individually change varieties.
- It is no longer possible for all learners to be in touch with native speakers.
- In general, Quirk takes no account of sociolinguistic realities.
Tripathi (1992): Both Quirk and Kachru support the imperialistic relation English maintains with other languages.
Compare this with Crystal, p. 113:
An international standard may arrive when:
1) A current variety is adopted by international institutions (... American English).
2) Varieties merge into a new one (... Euro-English).
3) A fresh variety could be created (... nuclear English).
(Note that the common core is usually the written language. Diversity is much more apparent in spoken language.)
Task for external students
In one page of beautiful common-core English, discuss the following questions. To be emailed to your teacher in one weeks time:
- Should native varieties be the only standards?
- Should national standards be developed in India, Nigeria, Malaysia, etc.?
- Should English be standardised so as to become the only international language?
- Should your Australian teacher be teaching you Australian English?
- Would you answer these questions the same way if we were talking about Spanish or Catalan?