ASK DOCTOR DOROTHY PASTENSE FULLSTOP

Lyn Allado asks: What is typical English?

Simple. It's Standard English. 

Yes, I know, so you're now going to ask me, what is Standard English?

Standard English is the language that agrees on what is regarded as normal usage, that is, those norms that have been widely accepted in dictionaries and grammar books, and rules that are generally understood by everyone. These are the ‘rules’ that are in place, particularly for written purposes, for education, government and science.

But Standard English was not a result of policy or planning. It evolved, particularly after the introduction of the printing press to England by William Caxton in the 15th century. When printing the first texts, Caxton had to select a variety of English suitable for use, so he set into motion the first stage of standardising the language by choosing the variants of what was known as the East Midlands dialect, which was also spoken widely around London. So even though this form was used only in one part of the country, it would become the national norm: printing could now produce identical material for anywhere in the country and it would be to a standard that would be read by people everywhere. Standard English has developed from this form. It was the shift from Middle English to the Modern English that has evolved into what we’re using today.

In fact, over the years, English has developed further as a result of social and economic changes and is continuing to do so, mainly thanks to the internet, texting and the wonderfully wide and varied world of social media.

It’s fair to say that most native speakers use English more-or-less correctly, in that they use it to express themselves when speaking in a way that listeners would understand, even if it isn’t always Standard, or even typical, English.

You can learn more about how the English language developed in our brief history feature: just click on the link below.

Ask Doctor Dot Fullstop   A Brief History of the English language   Home

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