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What are the need and consequences of language standardisation for how people understand languages and their speakers?
Since Dante’s time, the selection and description of a standard, a linguistic standard, has come up with complexities and issues about language, power and politics (Joseph 1987). The fact that language exists has always been a matter of debate, known as discursive debate, than a fact which is established. It happened irrespective of the fact that language is so natural and crucial to us. With the development of science, technology and increasingly adopting English as a necessity, the debate on language standardization and its pros and cons are widely discussed by the researchers of this area. Zander and others (2009) have done a study on seventeen countries to see whether English as a professional language causes problems. Recently, the word ‘language’ has gained so much popularity in terms of its influence on attaining knowledge, on communication which made it a separate area of study where the focus is given to language and language use. This is the case with English and it is noticeable why it is being so standardized everywhere. Standardization in languages is made to maintain quality and safety. The varieties of languages become standard when they go through the process of standardization in which a language is organized in such a way where its description can be given in grammar and in dictionaries (Le Page 1988).
Normally, language standardization chooses the local dialects which are used for commerce, trade and public and government offices. In such places, sometimes there is a need for a language that can be used for more than a local need. Then language standardization comes into the picture. The language that emerges in such situations is called standard language which is a variety spoken by a certain group for their public discourses (Southworth 1985). The concept of the standard language is easily noticed these days when people proudly say that they speak ‘standard English’, ‘standard German’ and so on. In the country like Germany which is considered as a monolingual country, it clearly shows how the German people who live in Berlin say that they speak standard German and some of the sounds and words that they use differ from the German spoken in other regions and parts of Germany. I came to know this as a first-hand experience during my visit and two weeks stay in Berlin. Today MNCs have also set a standard English which mostly refers to American English because of the fact that America is considered a dominant country today and has become the place of many new technological inventions and developments.
CONSEQUENCES OF LANGUAGE STANDARDIZATION
Standardization of English is done on the basis of geography and class selected the educated middle-class English from South-East England; whereas standardization of French was done from the educated middle class French from Paris and standardization of Japanese was done from educated middle class Japanese from Tokyo and standard German was chosen from educated middle class German from Berlin. The variety that was chosen shows the power relationships of a society consisting of political, social and symbolical power. Symbolical power reflects the prestige of a language to which its speakers attach themselves (Bourdieu 1991). Many people want to use a dominant variety of a language because they think it’s dominant, many people use it; and therefore, it’s prestigious to use this variety. Their prestige gets integrated with the prestige of the language. English saw the standardization with the emergence of chancery standard English in the late 14th century when it was used in official written papers. It replaced French and Latin and became the language of administration. It got spread by bureaucrats because they developed a kind of prestige with this. When standard English became the language of the educated upper class, it gathered the hegemonic power of standard. And thus, it is naturally said by many that those who don’t speak English should try to learn and speak this language if they want to make them a part of mainstream society (Crowley 1989). Today the good education has also been related to the word ‘standard’; those who teach standard language get a position of prestige.