Still :-) mostly -- McWhorter on "standard English"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Thu Jan 14 19:15:01 UTC 2010

If there are several "standard Englishes", I might argue that that
just reinforces my skepticism -- they presumably come from several
groups of actual speakers.

As for Matt Gordon's comment about standard English having been
"consciously constructed", isn't everyone's language constructed,
from hearing and reading others?  Or are "unconsciously constructed"
languages somehow better, more real, than "consciously constructed"
ones?  What portions of my learned standard English speech was
consciously constructed, and what portions unconsciously constructed?

(Just a little water in the engine's gasoline -- although I know
there's a better metaphor around; I just can't bring it forth.  Not
"grease for the wheels", but the converse.)


At 1/14/2010 01:16 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>The received wisdom in my day was that "no one speaks standard English,
>though many write it."
>But that depends on what you mean by "standard English."  Usually it is
>regarded as a written standard, with idiosyncracies of spelling and grammar
>weeded out.
>If you consider "standard English" to apply to speech, whose dialect do you
>The BBC used to have lofty and restricted standards, as did the British
>educational system, but their effect on Americans was to simply to make
>British broadcasters and Conservative politicians sound like experts or
>Speaking as both expert *and* snob, I find this application of "standard
>English"  misleading at the very least, unless you believe that old-time
>Tories and BBC news readers should be, on whatever curious
>principle, the standard-bearers of the English language.
> > "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> >
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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