Usually, language is considered as a “code” that must be deciphered by children and new users, but it is also used as a “system of social communication”, mainly to establish power, create group affiliations and identity. However, there are many rules, signs and different forms of each language that must be conventionally accepted. Language is also composed of spoken, manual or written symbols by means of which humans beings express themselves. In the English language, for example, there is a huge difference between standard and non-standard forms, therefore these tend to be seen as negative or, in some cases positive, elements of a language whether it is based on a linguist or non-linguist opinion. In this essay, I will explore the main causes for negative attitudes towards non-standard forms of language, in particular in English. Firstly, non-standard English (or nonstandard English) is the use of English language, especially regarding grammar, but also introduces other elements of a language that are considered by convention to be sub-standard or not suitable to certain contexts.
However, “it is important to understand that identifying a language as standard or non-standard is a sociological judgment, not a linguistic one.” (F. Parker and K. Riley, Linguistics for Non-Linguists.
Allyn and Bacon, 1994). In other words, it does not mean that it cannot be used and even experts of the standard language may at a certain point “fall” into non-standard language depending on the context mainly because it is about cultural identity, history, and pride. Another main reason is the language evolution and continuous changes that allowed certain contractions such us “isn’t” to be accepted in speech and informally written registers, rather than abbreviations as “wanna” for “want to” or “gonna” for “going to” that are still not approved in all sorts of written language.One of the main forms of non-standard language is slang. Its use became popular, particularly, in jazz, pop, rock, rap, but also in films where, for example, international audiences are expecting to hear “I have to go now” instead of “I gotta go now”.
Other examples, could be “I ain’t never done nothing like that” whereas numerous negations are not acceptable in Standard English but are common in certain areas such as Cockney. However, Standard English speakers contest that two negative create a positive as they would say “I have never done anything”. Another example is “We’re waiting of it coming in”, the phrasal verb “waiting for” is part of Standard English but “waiting of” is common in Newcastle dialect, even though the meaning is the same. This is to show the difference between standard and non-standard forms of language.
Similarly, communicating by text message is part of the routine for most young adults. It is usually associated with an abbreviation, atypical spelling style and it is called “textese”. In a study has been conducted that 97% of people own a mobile phone (Enhanced Media Metrics, 2013) and those who spend longest on their phones each day are young adults between 18 and 24 years with text messaging the most common activity (Exact Target, 2015). All of the abbreviations, respellings and symbols that make up this writing style are called “textisms”. They include shortened spellings such as “txt” for “text”, letter and number homophones e.
g. “c u 2n8” for “see you tonight” and the inclusion of symbols such as kisses “xxx” or emoticons “J”. Users tend to create feelings of intimacy despite being physically apart, to emphasise being part of a particular social group and to facilitate relationship depth. In addition, people could express their identity, including their gender, through the language style they use.
For example, females tend to use more expressive textisms such as emoticons compared to males. However, when someone speaks with a different accent, what attitudes could be held about the pronunciation? As language is a powerful communication tool, people tend to have very strong attitudes about the way languages are spoken and words are pronounced. In some communities, these attitudes can be viewed either positively or negatively as it reveals features such as regional, educational and social backgrounds. This is why, often, students reproduce English in a non-standard accent, their speech may be misunderstood or even viewed negatively. Indeed, some non-linguists make use of non-standard English as a “culture”, as they recognize themselves different from others by approaching another way of communicating. For example, teenagers in London tend to use their own terms that not many would understand and they are not even recognized in Standard English. This is because they see it as part of their identity and they usually strongly agree on the value of these forms of language as they say there is no reason why we should change ourselves to satisfy a society’s point of view.
On the other hand, according to the linguist David Crystal “You need to learn Standard English grammar forms, especially when you write, if you want to be a part of the wider community”. In addition, he also identified Standard English as the most “prestige” variety of language in the country where some people have a high standing rather than other whether it derives from social class, material success, political strength or educational background. The language used by these become the standard within their type of society. In the words of one US linguist, SE is “the English used by the powerful” (James Sledd). Usually, adult members of the community value the prestige related to Standard English, and this is why they feel motivated to recommend it as an educational target.
Finally, after analysing the concept of non- standard forms of language and whether it is acceptable to use it according to David Crystal and non-linguists, I would conclude by emphasizing on the pertinence of the context in which the form of language is used. It is almost impossible to use textese, dialects or slang language in big institutions such as universities, courts or hospitals as the language has to be clear and widely understood. On the other hand, it would be fair for people to use non-standard forms of language to identify themselves differently