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See discussions, stats, and author profiles for this publication at: Standard English, RP and the standard-non- standard relationship Article · January 2006 CITATIONS 9 READS 425 1 author: Paul Kerswill The University of York 36 PUBLICATIONS 1,301 CITATIONS SEE PROFILE All content following this page was uploaded by Paul Kerswill on 27 October 2014. The user has requested enhancement of the downloaded file.
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- 1 - Kerswill, Paul (2006). RP, Standard English and the standard/non-standard relationship. In David Britain (ed.) Language in the British Isles (2nd edn.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Standard English, RP and the standard–non-standard relationship Paul Kerswill Department of Linguistics and English Language Lancaster University 1. ‘Standard English’ and spoken English as opposing norms: a demonstration The populations of the British Isles have a varied, and often strained relationship with the language with which they have to engage every day in print and in the spoken media. This is the language through which they are (almost) all educated, and which, many of them are persuaded, is both correct and, in an absolute sense, good. Some are at ease with this language, others struggle to master it. A few turn their backs on it. This bald characterisation of the multiple relationships between language users and Standard English is intended to highlight, not only the diversity of the sociolinguistic set-ups throughout the islands, but also the wide range of beliefs, opinions and responses relating to the notion of ‘Standard English’ on the part of educators, policy makers and professional linguists, as well as, of course, those millions who do not belong to any of these groups. This chapter will address, first, how ‘Standard English’ and ‘Received Pronunciation’ (RP) have been conceptualised by those who have an academic, professional or policy-maker’s interest in them. Second, the chapter will deal with the nature of the ‘variety space’ which is said to be bounded by Standard English and RP on one side and by ‘non-standard’, ‘vernacular’ speech on the other. As we shall see later, the standard–non-standard dimension is closely related to the distinction between written and spoken language. But let us begin with an illustration of how norms involving standard/written English interact with norms of spoken or non-standard usage. Sixteen adult non-linguistically trained speakers of British English were asked to perform a task judging the ‘use in spoken English’ of the following sentences: 1. He and I are going shopping 2. I and he are going shopping 3. Him and me are going shopping 4. Me and him are going shopping For their judgements, respondents could choose between: ‘Normal and natural’, ‘OK, but perhaps something a bit odd’, ‘OK, but rather odd’, ‘Very odd’, and ‘Virtually impossible’. The rationale for the task was as follows. English insists on nominative forms in subject positions (such as I , he
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