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Standard language

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Title: Standard language  
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Subject: Linguistic insecurity, Sociolinguistics, Urdu, Literary language, Chinese language
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Standard language

A standard language (also standard dialect or standardized dialect) is a language description in grammars and dictionaries and encoded in such reference works.[1] Typically, varieties that become standardized are the local dialects spoken in the centers of commerce and government, where a need arises for a variety that will serve more than local needs. A standard language can be either pluricentric[2] (e.g. English, German, Serbo-Croatian, French, Portuguese and Spanish)[3] or monocentric (e.g. Icelandic, Italian,[4] Japanese,[5] and Russian[5]).[6] A standard written language is sometimes termed by the German word Schriftsprache.


  • Characteristics 1
  • List of standard languages and regulators 2
  • Examples 3
    • Arabic 3.1
    • Chinese 3.2
    • English 3.3
    • Filipino 3.4
    • Finnish 3.5
    • French 3.6
    • German 3.7
    • Greek 3.8
    • Hindi 3.9
    • Irish 3.10
    • Italian 3.11
    • Latin 3.12
    • Malay 3.13
    • Manchu 3.14
    • Mongolian 3.15
    • Norwegian 3.16
    • Portuguese 3.17
    • Serbo-Croatian 3.18
    • Somali 3.19
    • Spanish 3.20
    • Tibetan 3.21
    • Uzbek and Uyghur 3.22
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6


The only requirement for a variety to be standard is that it can frequently be used in public places or public discourse.[1] The creation of a prescriptive standard language derives from a desire for national (cultural, political, and social) cohesion with this considered as requiring an agreed-upon, standardized language variety. Standard languages commonly feature:

List of standard languages and regulators

Language Standard register Regulator Non-standard dialects
Arabic Pluricentric Standard Arabic The Quran; several Arabic language academies spoken Arabic
Afrikaans Standard Afrikaans Die Taalkommissie Afrikaans dialects
Basque Standard Basque Euskaltzaindia Basque dialects
Dutch Standard Dutch Nederlandse Taalunie Dutch dialects
Danish Rigsdansk Dansk Sprognævn Danish dialects
Catalan Standard Catalan, Standard Valencian Institut d'Estudis Catalans, Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua Catalan dialects
Chinese Standard Chinese National Language Regulating Committee (PRC), National Languages Committee (ROC/Taiwan), Promote Mandarin Council (Singapore) Varieties of Chinese, Mandarin dialects (Beijing, Taiwanese, Singaporean, Malaysian, Philippine)
Persian Pluricentric Standard Persian (Standard Iranian Persian (based on Tehrani dialect), Standard Dari (Afghan Persian), and Standard Tajik) Academy of Persian Language and Literature Persian dialects
French Pluricentric Standard French (African Standard French, Belgian Standard French, Cambodian Standard French, Canadian Standard French, Lao Standard French, French Standard French, Swiss Standard French, and Vietnamese Standard French (most Standard French dialects, except Belgian, Canadian, and Swiss, are all based on French Standard French)) Académie française, Office québécois de la langue française, Council for the Development of French in Louisiana Varieties of French
German Pluricentric Standard German (Austrian Standard German, German Standard German and Swiss Standard German) Rat für deutsche Rechtschreibung German dialects
Irish An Caighdeán Oifigiúil Foras na Gaeilge Connacht Irish, Munster Irish and Ulster Irish
Italian Standard Italian Accademia della Crusca Regional Italian
Korean Pluricentric Standard Korean (South Korean standard and North Korean standard The National Institute of the Korean Language, The Language Research Institute of Social Science Korean dialects
Modern Greek Standard Modern Greek official introduction under Constantine Karamanlis in 1976 Varieties of Modern Greek
Hindustani language (Hindi and Urdu) Pluricentric Standard Hindustani (Hindi Standard Hindustani and Urdu Standard Hindustani) Central Hindi Directorate, National Language Authority of Pakistan Hindi language belt
Macedonian Standard Macedonian Institute for Macedonian language "Krste Misirkov" Macedonian dialects
Malay Pluricentric Standard Malay (as a national language in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore; as a regional language in Indonesia), Malaysian language, and Indonesian language (Bahasa Indonesia yang Baik dan Benar) Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (for the Malay language in Malaysia and Brunei), Badan Pengembangan dan Pembinaan Bahasa (for the Indonesian language), Majlis Bahasa Brunei–Indonesia–Malaysia Malayan languages
Norwegian Nynorsk, Bokmål Språkrådet Norwegian dialects
Polish Standard Polish Polish Language Council Polish dialects
Portuguese Pluricentric Standard Portuguese (Brazilian Standard Portuguese and European Standard Portuguese) Academia das Ciências de Lisboa, Classe de Letras, Academia Brasileira de Letras Portuguese dialects
Serbo-Croatian Pluricentric Standard Serbo-Croatian (Bosnian Standard Serbo-Croatian, Croatian Standard Serbo-Croatian, Montenegrin Standard Serbo-Croatian, and Serbian Standard Serbo-Croatian) University of Sarajevo, Zagreb, Podgorica, and Belgrade; Matica hrvatska and Matica srpska South Serbian dialects (Torlakian) and West Croatian dialects (Kajkavian and Čakavian)
Slovenian Standard Slovenian Slovene Academy of Sciences and Arts Slovene dialects, Prekmurje Slovene, Resian dialect
Somali Standard Somali Regional Somali Language Academy Somali languages
Spanish Pluricentric Standard Spanish (Pluricentric American Standard Spanish, Canarian Standard Spanish, and European Standard Spanish) Real Academia Española, Association of Spanish Language Academies Spanish dialects and varieties
Swahili Standard Swahili based on the Kiunguja dialect (Zanzibar) the Inter-Territorial Language Committee Mombasa dialect, others
Swedish Standard Swedish Swedish Language Council, Svenska språkbyrån Swedish dialects



Arabic comprises many varieties (many of which are mutually unintelligible) which are considered a single language because the standardized register of Arabic, called Literary Arabic (or, misleadingly, Modern Standard Arabic), is generally intelligible to literate speakers. It is based on simplified Classical Arabic, the language of the Quran, which dates from the 7th century CE.


The Chinese language (漢語) comprises a wide variety of spoken forms, which are known as fangyan (方言, “regional speech”). The major spoken variants are (i) Mandarin, (ii) Wu, (iii) Yue, and (iv) Min. These spoken variants are not mutually intelligible, so referring to them by the English term “dialect” is inaccurate, since this generally denotes mutual intelligibility. Standard Chinese is based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin, and is the official language of the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), and Republic of Singapore. It is called Putonghua (普通话, “common speech”) in the PRC, Guoyu (國語, “national language”) in Taiwan, and Huayu (华语, “Chinese language”) in Singapore. Classical Chinese previously served as the written standard before being replaced by written vernacular Chinese spoken according to Standard Mandarin pronounciation.

The Chinese language also enjoys official status in Hong Kong (together with English) and in Macau (together with Portuguese). However, Standard Mandarin is not widely spoken in these territories. The majority of the population speaks, and often writes, Cantonese.


In British English the standard, known as Standard English (SE), is historically based on the language of the medieval English court of Chancery.[8] 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.[9] The spoken standard has come to be seen as a mark of good education and social prestige.[10] Although often associated with the RP accent, SE can be spoken with any accent.[11]

The dialects of American English vary throughout the US, but the General American accent is the unofficial standard language for being considered accentless; it is based on Midwestern English, distributed within an isogloss area encompassing parts of Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois, excluding the Chicago area.


Filipino is the standardised form of the Manila dialect of Tagalog, and is an official language of the Philippines. Most regions of the Philippines have a different Philippine language as their first language, but all Filipinos learn Tagalog in school. Tagalog is thus used as the lingua franca. National television is almost exclusively in Tagalog. National printed media are sometimes in Tagalog but more often in English.


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 over 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.


The Standard form of Modern Greek is based on the Southern dialects; these dialects are spoken mainly in the Peloponnese, the Ionian Islands, Attica, Crete and the Cyclades.[12] However the Northerners call this dialect, and the Standard form, 'Atheneika' which means 'the Athens dialect'. This form is also official in Cyprus, where people speak a South-Eastern dialect (dialects spoken in the Dodecanese and Cyprus), Cypriot Greek.


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”.[13]


An Caighdeán Oifigiúil ("The Official Standard"), often shortened to An Caighdeán, is official standard of the Irish language. It is taught in most schools in Ireland, though with strong influences from local dialects. It was first published by the translators in Dáil Éireann in the 1950s.[14] As of September 2013,[15] the first major revision of the Caighdeán Oifigiúil is available, both online[16] and in print.[17] Among the changes to be found in the revised version are, for example, various attempts to bring the recommendations of the Caighdeán closer to the spoken dialect of Gaeltacht speakers,[18] including allowing further use of the nominative case where the genitive would historically have been found.[19]


Standard Italian derives from Tuscan, specifically from its Florentine variety: the Florentine influence upon early Italian literature established that dialect as base for the standard language of Italy. In particular Italian became the language of culture for all the people of Italy, thanks to the prestige of the masterpieces of Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarca, Giovanni Boccaccio, Niccolò Machiavelli and Francesco Guicciardini. It would later become the official language of all the Italian states, and after the Italian unification it became the national language of the Kingdom of Italy.[20] Modern Standard Italian's lexicon has been deeply influenced by almost all regional languages of Italy while its received pronunciation (known as Pronuncia Fiorentina Emendata, Amended Florentine Pronunciation) is based on the accent of Romanesco (Rome's dialect); these are the reasons why Standard Italian can't be considered identical to Tuscan.[21]


Classical Latin was the literary standard dialect of Latin spoken by higher socioeconomic classes, as opposed to the Vulgar Latin which is the generic term of the colloquial sociolects of Latin spoken across the Roman Empire by uneducated and less-educated classes. The Latin brought by Roman soldiers to Gaul, Iberia, or Dacia was not identical to the Latin of Cicero, and differed from it in vocabulary, syntax, and grammar.[22] Some literary works with low-register language from the Classical Latin period give a glimpse into the world of early Vulgar Latin. The works of Plautus and Terence, being comedies with many characters who were slaves, preserve some early basilectal Latin features, as does the recorded speech of the freedmen in the Cena Trimalchionis by Petronius Arbiter. At the third Council of Tours in 813, priests were ordered to preach in the vernacular language — either in the rustica lingua romanica (Vulgar Latin), or in the Germanic vernaculars — since the common people could no longer understand formal Latin. Catholic Church continued to use Latin at present, and the name of the form of Latin is named Ecclesiastical Latin which is regarded a modernized standard dialect of Latin based on simplified Classical Latin with some lexical variations, a simplified syntax in some cases, and, commonly, an Italianized pronunciation.

Language distribution: The official form of written Norwegian by municipality in Norway. Red: Bokmål. Blue: New Norwegian. Grey: Neutral (neither form is official, usually because of a fairly even number of users or lack of political decisions over the matter).


The Malay language exists in a Classical variety, and modern standard variety and several vernacular dialects.


Standard Manchu was based on the language spoken by the Jianzhou Jurchens during Nurhaci's time, while other unwritten Manchu dialects such as that of Aigun and Sanjiazi were also spoken in addition to the related Xibe language.


Clear script.

The Mongolian language, based on Khalkha Mongolian, now serves as the high register in Mongolia itself while in Inner Mongolia a standard Mongolian based on Chakhar Mongolian serves as the high register for all Mongols in China. The Buryat language has been turned into a standard literary form itself in Russia.


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, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Macau, 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 encompasses educated urban pronunciations from the different speech communities in the southeast. In that standard, 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 is pronounced [h] in the same situation (whereas in São Paulo this is usually an alveolar flap or 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].[23] Between vowels, represents /ɾ/ for most dialects.


Four standard variants of the pluricentric Serbo-Croatian are spoken in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro.[24] They all have the same dialect basis (Štokavian).[13][25] These variants do differ slightly, as is the case with other pluricentric languages.[13][26] The differences between the variants do not hinder mutual intelligibility and do not undermine the integrity of the system as a whole.[27][28][29] Compared to the differences between the variants of English, German, French, Spanish, or Portuguese, the distinctions between the variants of Serbo-Croatian are less significant.[30] Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro in their constitution have all named the language differently.[31]


In Somalia, Northern Somali (or North-Central Somali) forms the basis for Standard Somali,[32] particularly the Mudug dialect of the northern Darod clan. Northern Central Somali has frequently been used by famous Somali poets as well as the political elite, and thus has the most prestige among other Somali dialects.[33]


In Spain, Standard Spanish is based partly upon the speech of educated speakers from Madrid, but mainly upon the literary language. 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 Spanish dialects, by the greater use of the voseo. Like Rioplatense Spanish, all Standard Spanish dialects in all Latin America, United States, and Canary Islands are related to Andalusian Spanish. In Colombia, the dialect of Bogotá ("Rolo") is valued across Latin America for its clear pronunciation.[34]


Classical Tibetan was the high register used universally by all Tibetans while the various mutually unintelligible Tibetic languages serve as the low register vernacular, like Central Tibetan language in Ü-Tsang (Tibet proper), Khams Tibetan in Kham, Amdo Tibetan in Amdo, Ladakhi language in Ladakh, and Dzongkha in Bhutan. Classical Tibetan was used for official and religious purposes, such as in Tibetan Buddhist religious texts like the Tibetan Buddhist canon and taught and learned in monasteries and schools in Tibetan Buddhist regions.

Now Standard Tibetan, based on the Lhasa dialect, serves as the high register in China. In Bhutan, the Tibetan Dzongkha language has been standarized and replaced Classical Tibetan for official purposes and education, in Ladakh, the standard official language learned are now the unrelated languages Hindi-Urdu and English, and in Baltistan, the Tibetan Balti language serves as the low register while the unrelated Urdu language is the official language.

Uzbek and Uyghur

The Turkic Chagatai language served as the high register literary standard for Central Asian Turkic peoples, while the vernacular low register languages were the Uzbek language and Eastern Turki (Modern Uyghur). The Soviet Union abolished Chagatai as the literary standard and had the Uzbek language standarized as a literary language, and the Taranchi dialect of Ili was chosen as the literary standard for Modern Uyghur, while other dialects like the Kashgar and Turpan dialects continue to be spoken.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Finegan, Edward (2007). Language: Its Structure and Use (5th ed.). Boston, MA, USA: Thomson Wadsworth. p. 14.  
  2. ^ Clyne 1992
  3. ^  
  4. ^ Italian language.
  5. ^ a b Clyne 1992, p. 3.
  6. ^ Daneš, František (1988). "Herausbildung und Reform von Standardsprachen" [Development and Reform of Standard Languages]. In Ammon, Ulrich; Dittmar, Norbert; Mattheier, Klaus J. Sociolinguistics: An International Handbook of the Science of Language and Society II. Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft 3.2. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. p. 1507.  
  7. ^ a b c Vahid, Ranjbar (2008). The standard language of Kurdish. Iran: Naqd-hall. 
  8. ^ Smith 1996
  9. ^ Blake 1996
  10. ^ Baugh and Cable, 2002
  11. ^ Smith, 1996
  12. ^ Horrocks, Geoffrey (1997): Greek: A history of the language and its speakers. London: Longman. Ch.17.
  13. ^ a b c Blum, Daniel (2002). Sprache und Politik : Sprachpolitik und Sprachnationalismus in der Republik Indien und dem sozialistischen Jugoslawien (1945-1991) [Language and Policy: Language Policy and Linguistic Nationalism in the Republic of India and the Socialist Yugoslavia (1945-1991)]. Beiträge zur Südasienforschung ; vol. 192 (in German). Würzburg: Ergon. p. 200.  
  14. ^ "Beginners' Blas". BBC. June 2005. Retrieved 18 March 2011. 
  15. ^ Niamh Ní Shúilleabháin (2012-08-02). "Caighdeán Athbhreithnithe don Ghaeilge". (in Gaeilge, [ga]). Retrieved 2012-08-02. 
  16. ^ "An Caighdeán Oifigiúil—Caighdeán Athbhreithnithe" (PDF) (in Gaeilge, [ga]). Seirbhís Thithe an Oireachtais. January 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-02. 
  17. ^ "Foilseacháin Rialtais / Government Publications—Don tSeachtain dar críoch 25 Iúil 2012 / For the week ended 25 July 2012" (PDF) (in Gaeilge, [ie]; English, [en]). Rialtas na hÉireann. 27 July 2012. p. 2. Retrieved 2012-08-02. M67B Gramadach na Gaeilge 9781406425766 390 10.00 
  18. ^ Vivian Uíbh Eachach, ed. (January 2012). An Caighdeán Oifigiúil—Caighdeán Athbhreithnithe (in Gaeilge, [ga]). Seirbhís Thithe an Oireachtais. p. 7. Rinneadh iarracht ar leith san athbhreithniú seo foirmeacha agus leaganacha atá ar fáil go tréan sa chaint sna mórchanúintí a áireamh sa Chaighdeán Oifigiúil Athbhreithnithe sa tslí is go mbraithfeadh an gnáthchainteoir mórchanúna go bhfuil na príomhghnéithe den chanúint sin aitheanta sa Chaighdeán Oifigiúil agus, mar sin, gur gaire don ghnáthchaint an Caighdeán Oifigiúil anois ná mar a bhíodh. 
  19. ^ Vivian Uíbh Eachach, ed. (January 2012). An Caighdeán Oifigiúil—Caighdeán Athbhreithnithe (PDF) (in Gaeilge, [ga]). Seirbhís Thithe an Oireachtais. p. 7. Retrieved 2012-08-02. Triaileadh, mar shampla, aitheantas a thabhairt don leathnú atá ag teacht ar úsáid fhoirm an ainmnigh in ionad an ghinidigh sa chaint. 
  20. ^ A Brief History of the Italian Language by Cory Crawford.
  21. ^ La pronuncia italiana (Italian).
  22. ^ L. R. Palmer The Latin Language (repr. Univ. Oklahoma 1988, ISBN 0-8061-2136-X)
  23. ^ Mateus, Maria Helena & d'Andrade, Ernesto (2000) The Phonology of Portuguese ISBN 0-19-823581-X (Excerpt from Google Books)
  24. ^  
  25. ^  
  26. ^  
  27. ^ Pohl, Hans-Dieter (1996). "Serbokroatisch - Rückblick und Ausblick" [Serbo-Croatian – Looking backward and forward]. In Ohnheiser, Ingeborg. Wechselbeziehungen zwischen slawischen Sprachen, Literaturen und Kulturen in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart : Akten der Tagung aus Anlaß des 25jährigen Bestehens des Instituts für Slawistik an der Universität Innsbruck, Innsbruck, 25. - 27. Mai 1995. Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft, Slavica aenipontana ; vol. 4 (in German). Innsbruck: Non Lieu. pp. 214, 219.  
  28. ^  
  29. ^ Kafadar, Enisa (2009). "Bosnisch, Kroatisch, Serbisch – Wie spricht man eigentlich in Bosnien-Herzegowina?" [Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian – How do people really speak in Bosnia-Herzegovina?]. In Henn-Memmesheimer, Beate; Franz, Joachim. Die Ordnung des Standard und die Differenzierung der Diskurse; Teil 1 (in German). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. p. 103.  
  30. ^ Thomas, Paul-Louis (2003). "Le serbo-croate (bosniaque, croate, monténégrin, serbe): de l’étude d’une langue à l’identité des langues" [Serbo-Croatian (Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, Serbian): from the study of a language to the identity of languages]. Revue des études slaves (in French) 74 (2-3): 314.  
  31. ^  
  32. ^ Dalby (1998:571)
  33. ^ Saeed (1999:5)
  34. ^


  • Ammon, Ulrich (1995). Die deutsche Sprache in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz: das Problem der nationalen Varietäten [German Language in Germany, Austria and Switzerland: The Problem of National Varieties] (in German). Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter. p. 575.  
  • 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)
  • Joseph, John E. 1987. Eloquence and Power: The Rise of Language Standards and Standard Languages (London: Frances Pinter; New York: Basil Blackwell)
  • Smith, Jeremy. 1996. An Historical Study of English: Function, Form and Change (London: Routledge)
  • Stewart, William A (1968). "A Sociolinguistic Typology for Describing National Multilingualism". In Fishman, Joshua A. Readings in the Sociology of Language. The Hague, Paris: Mouton. pp. 529–545.  
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