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A standard language (also standard dialect, standardized dialect, or standardised dialect) is a particular variety of a language that has prestige within a speech community. Although it will often be originally based on the language of a particular geographical area, such as a capital city or cultural centre, a standard cuts across regional linguistic boundaries to become a general means of communication. The standard will usually be institutionalised, often by being given legal status, and then used as the norm in mass media, education, and other social institutions. [1]

A standard written language is sometimes termed by the German word Schriftsprache.



The creation of a prescriptive standard language, derives from the national (cultural, political, social) cohesion requiring an agreed, standardized tongue. Generally, standard languages usually are established upon:

Standard languages

Arabic comprises many varieties (many mutually unintelligible[citation needed]), that are considered a single language, because the standard Arabic register, Modern Standard Arabic, is generally intelligible to all speakers. It is based upon modified Classical Arabic, the language of the Qur'an, the contemporary refined vernacular of Muhammad’s time, the 7th century CE.

Spoken Chinese (simplified Chinese: 汉语; traditional Chinese: 漢語) comprises many fangyan (Chinese: 方言; “regional speech”), or varieties, the primary spoken variants are (i) Mandarin, (ii) Wu, (iii) Cantonese, and (iv) Min. These language varieties are not mutually intelligible, thus why the English linguistic usage “dialect” is inaccurate, given it also denotes mutual intelligibility. Among the varieties, Standard Mandarin is the official language of the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), and the Republic of Singapore. This standard language Chinese is named Putonghua (普通话, “common speech”) in the PRC, Guoyu (國語, “national language”) in Taiwan, and Huayu (华语, “Chinese language”) in Singapore. Standard Mandarin pronunciation derives from the Beijing dialect of Mandarin Chinese, and the grammar and syntax are based upon modern vernacular Chinese.

In British English, the standard, known as Standard English (SE) is historically based on the language of the medieval English court of Chancery. [2] The late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the establishment of this standard as the norm of "polite" society, that is to say of the upper classes.[3] The spoken standard has come to be seen as a mark of good education and social prestige.[4] Although often associated with the RP accent, SE can be spoken with any accent.[5]

The dialects of American English vary throughout the US, but the General American accent the unofficial standard language for being accentless; it is based on Midwestern English, and the Omaha, Nebraska, accent is the approximate mean.[citation needed]

Language distribution: The standard languages of Norway by municipality.      Nynorsk     Bokmål

The basic structure and words of standard Finnish (yleiskieli) are mostly based upon the dialects of Western Finland, because Mikael Agricola, who codified the written language in the sixteenth century was from Turku, the regional centre of the time. Finnish was developed to integrate all of the nation’s dialects, and so yield a logical language for proper written communication. One aim was national unification, in accordance to the nationalistic principle; the second aim was linguistic regularity and consistency, even if contradicting general colloquial usage, e.g. in Standard Finnish, ruoka becomes ruoan, and the pronunciation is ruuan.

Parisian French is the standard in French literature.

Standard German was developed for several centuries, during which time writers tried to write in a way intelligible to the greatest number of readers and speakers, thus, until about 1800, Standard German was mostly a written language. In that time, northern Germany spoke Low German dialects much different from Standard German. Later, the Northern pronunciation of written German became considered as the universal standard; in Hanover, because of that adoption, the local dialect disappeared.

Two standardized registers of the Hindustani language have legal status India: Standard Hindi (one of 23 co-official national languages) and Urdu (Pakistan’s official tongue), resultantly, Hindustani often called “Hindi-Urdu”.

Standard Italian derives from the city speech of Florence and the regional speech of Tuscany: the Florentine influence upon early Italian literature (e.g. Divine Comedy) established that dialect as base for the standard language of Italy.

In Norwegian there are two parallel standard languages: (i) Bokmål (partly derived from the local pronunciation of Danish, when Denmark ruled Norway), (ii) Nynorsk (comparatively derived from Norwegian dialects).

Portuguese has two official written standards, (i) Brazilian Portuguese (used chiefly in Brazil) and (ii) European Portuguese (used in Portugal and Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and São Tomé and Príncipe). The written standards slightly differ in spelling and vocabulary, and are legally regulated. Unlike the written language, however, there is no spoken-Portuguese official standard, but the European Portuguese reference pronunciation is the educated speech of Lisbon.

In Brazil, actors and journalists usually adopt an unofficial, but de facto, spoken standard Portuguese, originally derived from the middle-class dialect of Rio de Janeiro, but that now comprehends educated urban pronunciations from the different speech communities in the southeast. In that standard, <s> represents the phoneme /s/ when it appears at the end of a syllable (whereas in Rio de Janeiro this represents /ʃ/) the rhotic consonant spelled <r> is pronounced [x] in the same situation (whereas in São Paulo this is usually an alveolar trill). European and African dialects have differing realizations of /ʁ/ than Brazilian dialects, with the former using [ʁ] and [r] and the latter using [x], [h], or [χ].[6] Between vowels, <r> represents /ɾ/ for most dialects.

In Spain, Standard Spanish is based upon the speech of educated speakers from Castile and León. In Argentina and Uruguay the Spanish standard is based on the local dialects of Buenos Aires and Montevideo. This is known as Rioplatense Spanish (“River Plate Spanish”), distinguishable, from other standard Spanishes, by the greater use of the voseo.

List of standard languages and regulators

language standard register regulator non-standard dialects
Mandarin Chinese Standard Mandarin, Vernacular Chinese National Languages Committee Mandarin dialects
English Standard English Non-regulated English dialects
Hindustani (Hindi languages) Khariboli (Standard Hindi, Urdu) Central Hindi Directorate, National Language Authority of Pakistan Hindi dialects
Arabic Standard Arabic the Qur'an, several Arabic Academies Arabic dialects
Dutch Standard Dutch Dutch Language Union, Nederlandse Taalunie Dutch dialects
Afrikaans Standard Afrikaans Language commission, Die Taalkommissie Afrikaans dialects
Spanish Standard Spanish Real Academia Española, Association of Spanish Language Academies Spanish dialects
Portuguese Standard Portuguese International Portuguese Language Institute, Community of Portuguese Language Countries Portuguese dialects
German Standard German, Swiss Standard German Rat für deutsche Rechtschreibung German dialects
French Standard French Académie française, Office québécois de la langue française, Council for the Development of French in Louisiana French dialects
Norwegian Nynorsk, Bokmål Norwegian Language Council Norwegian dialects
Swedish Standard Swedish Swedish Language Council, Svenska språkbyrån Swedish dialects
Modern Greek Standard Modern Greek official introduction under Constantine Karamanlis in 1976 Modern Greek dialects

See also


  1. ^ Crystal 1997
  2. ^ Smith 1996
  3. ^ Blake 1996
  4. ^ Baugh and Cable, 2002
  5. ^ [#smith1996|Smith, 1996]]
  6. ^ Mateus, Maria Helena & d'Andrade, Ernesto (2000) The Phonology of Portuguese ISBN 0-19-823581-X (Excerpt from Google Books)


  • Baugh, Albert C. and Thomas Cable. 2002. "A History of the English Language" fifth ed. (London: Routledge)
  • Blake, N. F. 1996. "A History of the English Language" (Basingstoke: Palgrave)
  • Crystal, David. 1997. "A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics" 4th ed. (Oxford: Blackwell)
  • Smith, Jeremy. 1996. "An Historical Study of English: Function, Form and Change" (London: Routledge)


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