the reader to grammar books. Yet even educated upper-class speakers in the mid- twentieth century could use non-standard forms, in a country still with rigid class boundaries. An example is the former Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan’s use of it don’t (Wardhaugh 1999: 149), continuing the non-standard, but privileged norm we saw in Tom Brown’s Schooldays . More recent definitions of Standard English intended for a popular market maintain the idea that it can be defined with reference to speech; thus: ‘Standard English is that form of the English language which is spoken by the generality of cultured people in Great Britain’ (Phythian 1993: 180, quoting the Shorter Oxford Dictionary ). For Phythian, a distinction should be made between ‘Standard English’ and ‘colloquialism’, which he defines as ‘informal Standard English, [consisting] of a vocabulary and, occasionally, a syntax … which are appropriate to familiar conversation … Colloquialisms, in time, may be promoted to the status of Standard English …’ (Phythian 1993: 180). Phythian clearly singles out features of spoken grammar (though he does not given any examples) as being distinct from Standard English, though still acceptable since they are future candidates for inclusion. Ayto (1995), however, accepts that there is both written and spoken Standard English, and cites the use of bust for ‘broken’ as appropriate in speech but probably not in writing (p. 279). He also accepts I didn’t use to like eggs as the spoken alternative to I used not to like eggs , which he recommends for written usage (pp. 279-80). Ayto’s features of ‘spoken Standard English’ closely correspond to Phythian’s ‘colloquialisms’. Ayto’s view is very close to that of Trudgill (1999b: 120), who accepts as Standard English informal usages such as The old man was bloody knackered after his long trip . However, Trudgill expands the definition by accommodating constructions which are typical of oral production, as in There was this man, and he’d got this gun … (p. 121). He argues that the use of this as an indefinite is to be seen as a feature of colloquial style, not related to the standard- non-standard dimension. A counterargument to Trudgill is that indefinite this is probably not widely used by Standard English speakers, though here we see a conflict between spoken norms and a ‘standard language ideology’ based on writing – to which we turn now. Cheshire explores the specific and complex relationship between the grammars of written and spoken Standard English in detail (1999; Cheshire and Stein 1997). In her 1999 article, she appears to make two overarching claims in relation to spoken Standard English. The first is that much descriptive and theoretical work on Standard English is based on intuitions that are more firmly grounded in written norms than in speech. This is so for three reasons. First, academic linguists have intense contact with Standard English, particularly in its written form (p. 131).
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- Winter '17
- Standard English