Standard spoken English: What is it?

I’m intrigued by Mr P’s mention of the term “standard spoken English”. He hasn’t yet given a clear definition of what he means by that term, but he has excluded the use of “if I have/get chance…” over “if I have/get the/a chance…” from his view of what is standard spoken English.

I wonder, what do you all think the term “standard spoken English” means and would you, as Mr P did, exclude the above? And these, would you exclude from spoken standard English’s borders?

-Things going well, are they?
-He won’t be late I don’t think.
-She about six foot tall.
-Jamie, he’s got a new hat.
-He’s got a new hat, Jamie.
-There’s a hairy thing on the green stuff.
-Dave coffee?
-He got killed.
-I was worried I was going to lose it and I did almost.
-You know which one I mean probably.
-A friend of mine, his uncle had the taxi firm when we had the wedding.
-Do you know erm you know where the erm go over to er go over erm where the fire station is not the one that white white…

Is it that no one here, not even Mr P, knows what “standard spoken English” is?

Something to chew on:


The term ‘standard grammar’ is most typically associated with written language,
and is usually considered to be characteristic of the recurrent usage of adult,
educated native speakers of a language. Standard grammar ideally reveals no
particular regional bias. Thus ‘Standard British English’ grammar consists of items
and forms that are found in the written usage of adult educated native speakers
from Wales, Scotland and England and those Northern Irish users who consider
themselves part of the British English speech community.

The typical sources of evidence for standard usage are literary texts, quality
journalism, academic and professional writing, etc. Standard grammar is given the
status of the official record of educated usage by being written down in grammar
books and taught in schools and universities.

Spoken transcripts often have frequent occurrences of items and structures
considered incorrect according to the norms of standard written English. However,
many such forms are frequently and routinely used by adult, educated native speakers.

Examples of such structures are split infinitives (e.g. We decided to immediately sell it),
double negation (e.g. He won’t be late I don’t think, as compared to I don’t think he will
be late), singular nouns after plural measurement expressions (e.g. He’s about six foot
tall), the use of contracted forms such as gonna (going to), wanna (want to), and so on.

Standard spoken English grammar will therefore be different from standard
written English grammar in many respects if we consider ‘standard’ to be a
description of the recurrent spoken usage of adult native speakers. What may be
considered ‘non-standard’ in writing may well be ‘standard’ in speech.
Speech and writing are not independent. Although some forms of spoken
grammar do not appear in writing (unless in written dialogues), there is
considerable overlap and there is an increasing range of forms appearing in
informal written texts which previously were only considered acceptable in
speech. In 120 the presence of typically spoken grammatical forms contexts as emails and internet chat-room exchanges is discussed.

From: The Cambridge Grammar of English (GCE)

Taking this bit from the above extract:

“Thus ‘Standard British English’ grammar consists of items and forms that are found in the written usage of adult educated native speakers from Wales, Scotland and England and those Northern Irish users who consider themselves part of the British English speech community.”

Could anyone tell me what, if anything, seems uneducated about the users of English in these extracts?

  1. [color=blue]In the build-up to the event, the St Catharine’s students will be learning the principles of Arabic chant, in particular the “Ison” - the drone which hums underneath the central melody. The Lebanese choristers will also have chance to practice the English tradition. By putting them side by side, the two choirs will try to tease out the similarities and see how easily each tradition adapts to coping with the other.

  1. “England football captain Beckham, speaking from his home in Spain, revealed he did not get chance to see the game as he was with his Real Madrid team-mates.” … engl23.xml

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yeah, there’s so much slang (said slang is used differently in different socioeconomic groups, at that) in the English language that it’s not too easy to “standardize” speech.

Heck, obvious grammatical errors are prevalent here in the spoken slang of the South – “ain’t” is a famous one.

“Suite” is commonly pronounced “suit” down here, which is dangnabbit WRONG!

There are many others.

It would take an incredibly long time for us to bring all dialects together and “standardize” English speech. That, or we’d just need a very large tent to cover all of the spoken content the different dialects offer.

How is that a grammatical error?

“ain’t” is not acceptable in formal writing.

Ah. So, more precisely, it is an error in one register of a certain sociolect, right?

Any comments?

Torsten, do you still feel the same way you did 4 years ago?

Sat Dec 18, 2004 10:56 am Standard English


“Ain’t” is somewhat commonly used in some places and understood everywhere in America… but it’s also known to be incorrect formal usage.


Most of the time, many of us don’t speak the way we write – we are far more informal in our speech than we are in our prose.

I might say to you, “Wassup, homegirl?”

I would never use either of those words in a paper. Well maybe “homegirl”, but that would be a stretch.

I still don’t think that there is just one standard of spoken English. Instead, people just speak and use English and there are linguists, language professors and other professionals who analyze the language and classify it into styles, dialects, standards, registers, etc. I think we can learn a lot from their research and publications but I doubt that their work has much influence on the way people speak English. The English language has a life of its own so trying to come up with a definition of the term “standard spoken English” is an ongoing task. It’s a bit like trying to define the terms “culture” or “fashion”.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: An Asian puppet show[YSaerTTEW443543]

So would you also say that there’s no such thing as “standard English”, whether written or spoken?

Hi all

“Standard” is of course a term that has been thrown around since the dawn of the age of trying to get English down in some way. Firstly the American dictionaries, and then the British. These two versions of English determining the original grammar rules.

“Standard” spoken English depends on what you are equating it with;

the ongoing debate of “International” English
Standard British
Standard American

AE and BE are the two predominately taught forms of English, this is due to the fact that the respective countries invest a lot in the production of material, courses and teacher training in these versions. As well as the history of the cultures.
This history and the connotations associated with it can understandably get certain reactions from speakers of a version that does not fall into this category. But the counter argument could be until there is a market shift, how can this be changed. And who should take up the gauntlet (challenge to change it).

Each contains a certain “standard” spoken form. In British English this has been equated with RP, BBC English and all the different terms given to this “posh” ; ) English. The movement in the UK has shifted to accents, for many reasons, that a “standard” pronunciation has not the predominance in the education system it had. However there is an accepted notion that a removal of your accent is a “standardization” and should be used in certain business fields, i.e. International banking. This dilution of your accent to a clearer pronunciation is the nearest standard we have.

As for AE, will leave it to an American to give her/ his take on that.

Within teaching there are two very interesting points;

A “standard” speech with removal of dialect and accent should be taught or at least learners made aware how to adjust their pronunciation to this.

If the above is not adopted, then then the responsibility would lie with the learner to expose themselves to all versions, accents, dialects, just in case he comes into contact with these.

So where is the balance, and how many learners would be willing to invest their time in doing the latter?

Should the language you speak be communicable?
I could speak like folks from my old neck of the woods (one cow village), but few would understand me. So I have adjusted my accent, and still do depending on my audience.

Is not the endeavour of learning a language to communicate?

Can we seriously adopt a removal of the discussion of any “standard”, if we wish to be communicable?

cheers stew.t.

This is the standard English in Malaysia (well, at least the common way Malaysians interact using English with each other) that was forwarded by a friend thru email.

I know it says British English VS Malaysian English, but I think they sound like polite English.

I hope no British citizens will be offended. Because of our history, we have certain inclination to British English. And above all, I think the email was created for fun. :smiley:

I can see so many ‘lah’ or ‘la’ or ‘ah’ in your examples. Is Malaysian English mixed with some Chinese exclamations?

Actually Haihao, ‘lah’ is a Malay exclamation. It’s very similar to ‘yo’ in Japanese. My guess is, this kind of language is created because the Chinese wanted to assimilate with the Malays when they speak to us. It also happened to the standard Malay language which is the official language of Malaysia. All full sentences are simplified and spoken with the Chinese intonation/accent. I think some expressions are very hard to understand unless you have the chance to listen to Malaysians speak them. We Malays understand it fine and we use it when we speak English with Malaysian Chinese. Among Malays we speak our own dialects but it pretty much depends on the family background. If the parents were educated overseas (English spoken country, usually England or Australia), it is most likely the children converse in English in their everyday lives. It also depends on the schools they attend.

I see. Thank you, Nina. BTW, what does your Nagano life look like, lah? :smiley:

Let me rephrase that.

I see. Thank you-orr Nina. BTW, how is your Nagano life, ah?

So so, I’d say. :wink:

Good-orr! BTW, maybe ‘yasashii nikoniko Papa ha mo~tto suki!’ or ‘nikoniko shiteiru yasashii Papa ha mo~tto suki!’ would be better. :slight_smile:

Why do you prefer ‘nikoniko’ as a verb and not an adverb in that sentence? I can’t see the difference. :oops: