Standard English, the National Curriculum, and linguistic disadvantage : a sociolinguistic account of the careful speech of Tyneside adolescents
This study investigates adolescents' use of standard English in situations requiring careful speech. An account is given of the historical, political, linguistic and educational development of the concept of standard English, with particular emphasis on spoken standard English. Popular conceptions of 'correct speech' are also considered, and all of these are related to requirements in the National Curriculum for England and Wales for the teaching of spoken standard English. This is related to a specific case, namely that of Tyneside English. This variety is described, and an account is given of the area and its main social and econornIc characteristics. Twenty four adolescents are chosen from two schools which contrast highly in terms of socioeconomic profile. The individuals are also selected to provide a spread of levels of attainment, and both sexes are equally represented. M Phonological, grammatical, lexical and discourse variables are quantified using Labovian quantification techniques and approaches which involve counting non-standard variants over a period of time. Principal linguistic variables are: glottalised variants of (p) (t) and (k); non standard verb and pronoun forms; non-standard lexical items, and certain kinds of discourse markers. This process provides evidence of the extent to which young people use or do not use spoken standard English. It is shown that in more careful speech young people from more and less privileged backgrounds use only small frequencies of non-standard variants, but that within this relatively small number differences do exist: certain items are used mainly by less privileged boys, others mainly by girls, others by more privileged individuals in general. Use of non-standard speech is shown to differ for different groups at different linguistic levels. Important differences in gender and in social class emerge, but attainment also appears to have a significant bearing on children's use of spoken standard English. The study concludes by discussing pedagogical approaches which might increase awareness of issues associated with standard English.