Standards in English

Authored by: Lionel Wee

The Routledge Handbook of English Language Studies

Print publication date:  June  2018
Online publication date:  July  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138913455
eBook ISBN: 9781351001724
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter investigates the notion of standard Englishes. It begins by addressing the questions ‘What is standard English’ and ‘Why does it matter?’ The chapter then introduces a conceptual distinction between an ontologically naïve approach to standard English, on the one hand, and one that is ontologically curious. Whereas the former tends to treat standard English as a product, the latter focuses on the social and political processes that stabilize specific language practices as indexical of a certain kind of personhood. Standardizing then emerges as an ongoing ideological process that is aimed at introducing uniformity. From this, it becomes clear that standard English is one dialect among many others, albeit one that has been elevated in terms of prestige and one where variation has been reduced. The role of actors in shaping, contesting and negotiating what it means to be a speaker of standard English is thus emphasized. The chapter ends by offering, as an important direction for future investigation, a possible way of theorizing the issues raised from the ontologically curious perspective: the Deleuzian notion of assemblage.

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