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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

Founded by Fishman, Joshua A.

Ed. by Duchêne, Alexandre / Coulmas, Florian

CiteScore 2018: 1.10

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 1.062
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.933

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Volume 2012, Issue 218


The definition of the standard language: a survey in seven countries

Dick Smakman
Published Online: 2012-11-21 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2012-0058


The definition of the standard language seems more elusive than that of the dialect. Dictionary definitions of “standard (language)” are limited while linguists apply wildly different approaches when describing this language variety. Lay views seem highly relevant in this definition, but these in particular have not been researched enough. To find agreement on the lay definition of “standard”, an international survey was performed in which 1,014 non-linguists from seven countries (England, Flanders, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland and the United States) were asked to define the standard language in their own country.

The only quality that arose across participants from all countries was “lingua francaness”. And while newsreaders were widely associated with standard speech, this association has turned out not to be universal. The strong association of standard languages with a specific city or region may also be less widespread than is often assumed. The common association of standard languages with non-regionality may only be true for old standard languages.

Two parallel standard languages appear: the socially distinctive one (the “exclusive” standard language) and the socially cohesive one (the “inclusive” standard language). These two views of the standard language are argued to be complementary rather than mutually exclusive.

Keywords: standard language; language ideology; language policy; lay perceptions; sociolinguistics

About the article

Leiden University

Published Online: 2012-11-21

Published in Print: 2012-11-21

Citation Information: , Volume 2012, Issue 218, Pages 25–58, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2012-0058.

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