Standard English is a Myth

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John McWhorter is a writer and an English professor at Columbia University. He also has a doctorate in Linguistic. In his book, Word on the Street: Debunking the Myth of a “Pure” Standard English, He talks about how old English has evolved to Middle and now Modern English over the centuries. Language is changing not from just slang but the structure and mixture of different languages. Dialects are being made from language change. Standard English and nonstandard dialects both changes alike from an identical source. We won’t recognize this source as English, and historical coincidence is the reason standard dialects are accepted because nonstandard dialects are not unsound. So, there is no correct way of properly speaking English itself.

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To begin with, languages discard and create sounds. We dropped endings that were gendered and now use gender neutral endings. For example, we took off the –m in whom and use who now. The order of which we arrange words have evolved. In, old English everything seem so backwards but now we speak forward. An example he used was the Lord’s Prayer. Furthermore, they used to use thou for one person, and you for more than two people. Up until the 17th century, people stop doing that and came up with other words. He talks about how most people use singin’ instead of singing (I barely see the difference).

Standard English dialect frowns upon other dialects because many people use it unlike the other dialects. English itself is a bundle of dialects. There is, American English, British English, and Canadian English. Plus, throughout regions in the United States people speak English so differently (Jersey accent vs. New York accent). Jamaican patois is English, but most people view it as broken English.

Additionally, there is about 5,000 language spoken in this world. Many countries would have more than 100 languages spoken but would have one or two official language. For example, Nigeria have 250 languages spoken but surprisingly their official language is English. Moreover, Americans find people who speaks more than one language very fascinating. This is because most Americans speak English. In the past, Americans ban Native Americans from speaking their native tongue, and after the wars they frown upon some countries’ language such as, Germany. To, this day many Americans feel like English is the only language that should be spoken in America.

There is West African influence in many creole languages. Due, to the slave trade, a variety of Africans were place in Caribbean islands where they integrated their West African dialects to create creole languages. Creole is a tricky language; there is no clear way to break it down into English because the context could be totally different from what is being said. Creole can be spoken incorrectly itself and native speakers can detect your accent if not pronounced correctly.

Overall, McWhorter views language as a mixture of dialects that is forever evolving, and that cannot affect basic logic.

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Standard English is a Myth. (2021, Dec 30). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from
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