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  1. #1
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    Default Challenge against Standard English

    English is undoubtedly the number one international language. The English language, in its spread around the world, has taken on many different forms. There have emerged quite a few varieties of English: Chinglish, Singlish, Black English, to name a few. Under the influence of globalisation, these new forms of English tend to exert a bigger influence on native speakers' English. What do you think of this challenge against the notion of Standard English?

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Challenge against Standard English

    I think that those categories are somewhat questionable; lumping many varieties and strands into a single term ('Black English') and mixing regional variants with second language without distinguishing them is debatable categorisation. Also, while there will be changes in English as a result, I think that there is an unproven assumption that overemphasises their impact. Most native speakers of English quite simply don't have that much contact with, say, Chinglish, so where is the influence?

    Japan has been the second-largest economy in the world, but its impact on English has largely been confined to adding a number of words to the vocabulary (tsunami, sushi, etc). The concept of a monolithic single standard has long been questioned or ignored, as seen in the acceptance of regional variants of usage, spelling, etc.

    The impact of globalisation has been overestimated IMO- people can go to their supermarket and buy products from all over the world in complete silence, blissfully unaware of how people speak English on the other side of the world. People doing the trading will be affected and this might move into the wider speech community, but most consumers can carry on regardless.

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    Default Re: Challenge against Standard English

    Thank you, Tdol.

    Language change indeed is a very slow process. ‘Vertical change’ (change through time) within a language itself takes a very long time and is hardly perceptible (except in words). When it comes to ‘horizontal change’ (one language influencing another), there is the additional issue of patriotism, that is, native speakers of any language, to some extent, feel like defending their mother tongue, resisting the ‘invasion’ of other languages. For example, the French have always been keen on preserving the ‘purity’ of their language. But it is undeniable that language change under the influence of other languages is inevitable, and is happening at a faster speed, especially in this world of rapid innovations and various exchanges accelerated by globalisation. What you cited as an example makes sense – people can do a lot of things without speaking – but that is PASSIVE communication. We are living in a world where global communication is unblocked by open-mindedness, supported by advanced technological developments, and promoted by the desire to understand each other. It’s not just in the trade, business sectors, but it spreads to culture, and covers a wide range of people’s daily life.

    I have to admit that those categories were improper, as Chinglish/Singlish and Black English are of different levels. What I intended to discuss is an emerging, identifiable variety of English spoken by people whose native language is a whole lot different from English. It happens not only in words, but also in phrasal, syntactical levels. To be more specific, take the example of Chinglish. To prove the influence of Chinese on English, I’ll use the classic example of ‘long time no see’. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, it is ‘a jocular imitation of broken English originated in the Pidgin English used in Chinese and Western exchange.’ 200 years later, it has become a widely accepted expression and is regarded as genuine English by most native English speakers. Though there are still some people who doubt the validity of it as Standard English, people (both native and non-native) can rest assure and use it without looking stupid. Then what else, besides ‘long time no see’?

    Over here in China there has been a heated discussion about Chinglish, especially after the Beijing Olympics, and with the coming of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. Some think it’s simply wrong, vulgar, disgraceful, while some regard it as creative, beautiful and amusing. Put aside Chinese people’s attitude towards Chinglish, how do native English speakers like Chinglish? Are they willing to accept and use those Chinglish expressions? According to a survey I was involved in, a certain forms of Chinglish do enjoy a higher acceptance rate. For example, ‘people mountain people sea’ (meaning a big crowd), ‘Walking Street’ (Pedestrian Street),‘Give me face.’ (Show me some respect.), ‘to have a look see’, etc. (It should be noted that the exact origins of many of the expressions are hard to locate. Similar phrasal/syntactical ‘rules’ may be found in languages other than Chinese. But it’s a fact that many Chinese are making such utterances under the influence of the Chinese language.) Initially they might be parodies of non-native speakers, but as they become catchphrases among native speakers, they show a tendency to be regarded as standard. Or in other words, they are on the way of becoming standard.

    And it should be noted that I am not talking of a change within decades, it probably takes years, even centuries. It took ‘long time no see’ about 200 years, and it might take as long, or even longer for those expressions to be widely accepted/used by native English speakers.

    So in my opinion, this challenge against Standard English is not completely presumptuous, and the role globalisation plays in this process of language inter-assimilation should not be overlooked.

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    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: Challenge against Standard English

    A very interesting question, Mrs. Irons.

    I think learners' Englishes (a blanket term of course covering many varieties) are an important sociolinguistic reality, which can hardly fail to exert some influence on native-speaker varieties in the long term, and which deserve further study. It is interesting for me teaching at a rather international university, where the "lingua franca" in many research departments is English, to see how speakers from many parts of the world seem to converge on a form of English with recognizable traits, distinct from British or American English but giving the impression (to me as a casual observer) of generating norms of its own.

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    Default Re: Challenge against Standard English

    Glad to read your reply. Thank you.

    Could you give some specific examples? Then we might be able to have a case-study-wise discussion about this?

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    Default Re: Challenge against Standard English

    I also feel sure the separation of varieties of English is sythetic and artificial. My Jamaican friends, for instance, have assured me that they have always viewed Creole as English, and standard English as the same language with a more dressed-up-for-Sunday word choice.

    One variety of English is not in competition with any other, nor does one type exclude another, even in the same community.

    In fact, I think the flexibility and multi-polar nature of English is one of its strengths, rather than any sort of fragmentation.

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    Default Re: Challenge against Standard English

    I think there are very good reasons for the notion of Standard English. If people are learning English so that they can communicate globally, they are almost certainly not going to choose Jamaican Creole as a model, even though it might be English.

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    Default Re: Challenge against Standard English

    I recommend studying English among a large "standard" speaking group as well, but I did mean that it is the flexibility and adaptibility of English that has made it so useful a koine, rather than the opposite -- that its multi-faceted nature somehow diminshes it as a candidate.

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    Default Re: Challenge against Standard English

    One of the 4 great lies instilled in all Chinese learners of English is that they must MASTER English and another is that CHINGLISH is no good.

    If you want to know more about the various Englishes, read China EFL: The 4 Great Lies.

    China Holistic English

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    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: Challenge against Standard English

    I wouldn't call it a lie - different students have different needs.

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