What constitutes correct language in not necessarily an adherence to prescriptive norms. Within the english-speaking world alone today there are around 80 different official forms, each with their own distinct lexis, written and spoken grammars and variant dialects.
It could be said that many of the intra and cross-cultural differences and divisions amongst speakers of english in particular are in part attributable to linguistic variations. Variations that delineate cultural identity.
Perhaps the most problematic area of social integration and conformity occurs in the academic sphere where intelligence and mental acuity are still measured by the correctness of your speech, and your ability to conform to the use of Standard English, where strict grammatical structures are adhered to, outlined by a now very outdated and stilted view of the class society that was perhaps still relevant up until the 1950’s. BBC English is one of the last bastions of so called linguistic correctness, though it too has given way to the very natural and inevitable process of dialect levelling that occurs in all languages with every successive generation who by default will reinvent and simplify language in order to stamp their identity on the world, and also to keep up with modernity.
How many of you who read the above poster either misread it, or simply didn’t understand it?
Can the popular quote “Life is a bowl of cherries” as it is presented above be considered as incorrect, when uttered in the correct cultural context along with the modifier “init?” which is a contraction of the phrase “isn’t it”, and the added modifying clause posed as a rhetorical question “Is it dough?” [the ‘th’ being replaced by a much harder pronunciation sounding more like ‘d’], both phrases that feature heavily in the street dialects of south and south-east London? A dialect incidentally that I am deeply acquainted with as it forms a part of my cultural heritage.
It is now being understood through academic research in the field of language studies conducted over the last 30 years or so that language in all its variant forms is composed of highly complex patterns and forms that conform in great part to cultural variations and norms, as well as cognitive and neurological impulses, that predispose us to use the language that we do in order to communicate our ideas and emotions. The variations of language that we use from the private familial level to the wider social level is broad indeed, and in many ways Standard English pales into insignificance given the prevalence of much older forms of english that have survived and are still spoken as regional dialects, and the way in which they have developed almost independently from the accepted norm.
All forms of english, in fact of any language are valid in that they are highly evolved forms of verbal expression that are understood perfectly well by members of the community and sociocultural setting to which they conform.
Standard English then is just another form of english that is used in particular contexts, though it is by no means prescriptive any longer. The type of language that you and I speak is reflective of who we choose to communicate with at any given moment and the social and cultural context within which the communication is set, and it is about as correct as it needs to be. If the purpose is to be understood, then all language usage is correct because it takes an incredible amount of mental acuity and cleverness to formulate. It takes years to learn well.
Being understood and accepted socially are perhaps the most important motivations behind the types of language that we adopt, utilise and reformulate both verbally and non-verbally. Isn’t it about time we stopped talking about correctness, and started embracing not only the art of English but indeed all forms of language?
Language is a beautiful thing…