Standard language


Standard language

A standard language (also standard dialect, standardized dialect, or standardised dialect) is a particular variety of a language that has been given either legal or quasi-legal status. As it is usually the form promoted in schools and the media, it is usually considered by speakers of the language to be more "correct" in some sense than other dialects.

Usually, but not always, based on the tongue of a capital city, a standard language is defined by the selection of certain regional and class markers, and the rejection of others. This is the version of a language that is typically taught to learners of the language as a foreign language, and most texts written in that language follow its spelling and grammar norms.

A standard written language is sometimes termed by the German word "Schriftsprache".

Features

Some of the features that identify a standard language include:

* A recognized dictionary or group of dictionaries which embody a standardized spelling and vocabulary;
* A recognized grammar which records the forms, rules and structures of the language, and which commends some forms and castigates others;
* A standard system of pronunciation, which is considered "educated" or "proper" speech by the speakers, and which is considered free from regional marking;
* An institution promoting the use of the language and given some authority in defining the norms of its use, such as the Académie française or the Royal Spanish Academy;
* Statutes or constitutions giving that language an official legal status in a country's system of law;
* The use of the language in public life, such as in the work of courts and legislatures;
* A of literature;
* Translations of important sacred texts such as the Bible into that language, which are considered to be authoritative by their believers;
* The teaching of the language's standards of grammar and spelling in schools;
* The selection of this particular dialect of a language as being especially appropriate to be taught to learners of foreign languages.

The creation of a standard language represents the triumph of a certain variety of linguistic prescription; its selection means that the speech of areas with features that vary from the standard so upheld are devalued or "deprecated." This means that in some countries, the selection of a standard language is a social and political issue. The act of seeking to define a language standard can be an act of nationalism or support of political devolution.

Examples

In Norwegian, for example, two parallel standard languages exist, one called "Bokmål", based partly on the local pronunciation of Danish back when Norway was ruled by Denmark; and a second, called "Nynorsk", based on a comparison of different Norwegian dialects. While Italian contains dialects that vary from each other even more than the two versions of Norwegian do, there remains a single standard Italian; curiously, standard Italian is not based on the speech of the capital, Rome, but on the speech of Florence and the surrounding province of Tuscany: the massive influence Florentines had on early Italian literature (the "Divine Comedy" of Dante Alighieri is the greatest example) caused Italian to standardize around that dialect. In Spain, in theory Standard Spanish is likewise not based on the speech of Madrid, but on the one by educated speakers from more northerly areas like Castile and León. In Argentina and Uruguay the Spanish standard is based on the local dialects of Buenos Aires and Montevideo. This is known as Rioplatense Spanish, distinguishable from other standards of Spanish by the greater use of the voseo.

Standard German is not based on a specific city or region but was developed over a process of several hundred years, in which writers tried to write in a way that was understood in the largest area. Until about 1800 Standard German was almost entirely a written language. In this time, people in northern Germany, who spoke Low German dialects very different from Standard German, learnt it almost like a foreign language. Later the Northern pronunciation was considered standard and spread southward; in some regions (such as around Hanover) the local dialect completely died out.

The basic structure and words in standard Finnish ("yleiskieli") are largely based on Western Finnish dialects. One reason is that Mikael Agricola, who conceived the written language in the 1500s, was from Turku, the regional centre at the time. However, the language was consciously developed further to become a fusion of dialects and a "logical" language for "proper" written text. One aim was national unification, in accordance to the nationalistic principle. Another was regularity and consistency, even if it goes against the general usage. For example, "ruoka" becomes "ruoan" in standard language, when the pronunciation is usually "ruuan".

The Chinese language comprises a wide variety of spoken variants known as "fangyan" (Chinese: _zh. 方言). Among all the variants, Standard Mandarin has official status as the standard spoken form of the Chinese language in the People's Republic of China (PRC), the Republic of China (ROC) the Republic of Singapore. This standard form is named as "Putonghua" ( _zh. 普通话, "lit." common speech) by the PRC, "Guoyu" ( _zh. 國語), "lit." national language) by the ROC, and "Huayu" ( _zh. 华语, "lit." Chinese language) by Singapore. Pronunciations of Standard Mandarin is based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin Chinese, while grammar and syntax is based on modern vernacular Chinese.

The Arabic language contains many varieties, many of them mutually unintelligible, but they are treated as a single language as the standard register of Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic, is generally mutually intelligible with all dialects. It is not based on the dialect of any specific region but rather that of a specific time period: Classical Arabic, the language of the Qur'an, which is the refined form of the vernacular in the time of Muhammad (7th century CE), with modifications.

In South Asia, two standardized dialects of the Hindustani language are given official status: Hindi, one of the official languages of India (in addition to 22 other official languages); and Urdu, the official national language of Pakistan as well as an official regional language in India. As a result, Hindustani is often referred to as "Hindi-Urdu."

Portuguese has two official written standards, respectively Brazilian Portuguese (used chiefly in Brazil) and European Portuguese (used in Portugal and its former African colonies, e.g. Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and São Tomé and Príncipe). The two written standards differ slightly in spelling and vocabulary and are regulated by law in their respective jurisdictions. Contrary to the written language however, there is no universally accepted or officially recognized standard for spoken Portuguese. The educated speech of Lisbon serves as a reference though for the proper pronunciation of European Portuguese. In Brazil, actors and journalists of national radio stations and TV channels usually adopt an unofficial standard for spoken Portuguese which becomes a "de facto" standard; this used to be the urban middle-class dialect of the city of Rio de Janeiro, but today it can be considered a mix of different educated urban southeastern pronunciations. In this standard, represents the phoneme IPA|/s/ when it appears at the end of a syllable (while in Rio de Janeiro this represents IPA|/ʃ/) the rhotic consonant spelled is pronounced IPA| [x] in the same situation (while in São Paulo this is usually an alveolar trill). European and African dialects have differing realizations of IPA|/ʁ/ than Brazilian dialects, with the former using IPA| [ʁ] and IPA| [r] and the latter using IPA| [x] , IPA| [h] , or IPA| [χ] . [Mateus, Maria Helena & d'Andrade, Ernesto (2000) "The Phonology of Portuguese" ISBN 0-19-823581-X [http://fds.oup.com/www.oup.co.uk/pdf/0-19-823581-X.pdf (Excerpt from Google Books)] ] Between vowels, represents IPA|/ɾ/ for most dialects.

Other standard languages present fewer complicating factors. The pre-eminence of Parisian French has reigned largely unchallenged throughout the history of recent French literature. In British English, the standard Received Pronunciation is based on the language of the upper classes in the London area, and is based on the sociolect that comes out of the British private boarding schools.

In the United States, there are variations of American English throughout but the General American accent is considered unofficially standard because it is perceived as accentless by most Americans; it is based on Midwestern English and is closest to the accent of Omaha, Nebraska.

While the United States federal government has no official language, many U.S. states and territories have designated English as the official state language, and six jurisdictions (Louisiana, New Mexico, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa) recognize English as an additional language. The Northern Mariana Islands are officially trilingual.

List of standard languages and regulators

See also

* Official language
* National language
* Literary language
* Classical language
* Ausbausprache
* Dialect continuum
* Pluricentric language
* Orthography
* Koiné language

References


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