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North American eighteenth-century writers presumed — erroneously — that they spoke and wrote a dialect-free version of Elizabethan England that had persisted, uncorrupted, in the United States after the arrival of the colonists, while back in England these varieties had declined.

However, as Frulla points out, the linguistic situation was more complex than this. The colonists had hailed from various parts of the British Isles and spoken various dialectal forms of English. The resulting koine was the product of the levelling that had taken place as the different dialects came into contact with each other. Second generation immigrants levelled the variety further. For the eighteenth-century writers, the koine was superior to the many dialects spoken back in England. For Webster, standardising the language was a means of unifying the nation and his attempts to do so need to be considered in the wider political context.

Varieties can be social in nature but also professional and newspaper English or journalese is a well-documented variety. He examines the syntactic features of newspaper headlines and compares them with Standard English. After a detailed analysis of some of the linguistic features of headlines, such as the omission of obligatory constituents or the concatenation of noun phrases, all of which seem to mark a departure from Standard English, Moncomble argues that this variation from the norm actually builds on the potentialities of the Standard variety.

Headlinese illustrates how individual varieties establish their own norms, even if they are not monitored.

Definition and Examples of Language Varieties

Although idealized presentations of syntax in grammars present it as stable and uniform, headlinese demonstrates just how creative syntax can be. This creativity is of course to be found also in works of literature and E.


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Moreover, the verbs to be found in the main clause, such as hear or observe , do not necessarily undergo a semantic shift as is sometimes claimed, and still convey a meaning of sensory perception. The study thus demonstrates that grammars of Standard English do not cover all the syntactic variations to be found in the Standard variety, and also that within the Standard variety competing syntactic structures can co-exist. Whether or when such forms will be accepted by grammars, only time will tell. The two linguistic forms examined by Gaudy-Campbell especially innit have often been neglected by linguists with one or two notable exceptions.

Gaudy-Campbell illustrates the extreme versatility of these two forms, which are often used in texts to signal orality. Lexicographers from Johnson onwards have cited poets and authors as their primary source of evidence for a new word, and Brewer demonstrates that canonical literary works featured heavily in the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. There are various reasons for this bias towards literary works but, as Jean Missud demonstrates in his study on phrasal compounds, literary writers will often challenge standard morphology by creating new words and expressions.

Phrasal compounds are one example of a linguistic form that rarely finds its way into a dictionary and, for some morphologists, they do not belong to the category of standard compounds. However, such forms raise interesting theoretical questions and can be used for various stylistic effects.

Although this use of only is not uncommon, especially in spoken English, it is again a linguistic form which rarely features in grammars on Standard English. Starting with the prototypical use of only as a restrictive adverb, Walker traces the evolution of only and its use as a discourse marker to express counter-expectation or undesirability.


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He suggests that it has undergone pragmaticalization and that it is more common in British English than in other varieties. One example of this is the use of between you and I. Another example concerns adverbs.

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Not all adverbs end in —ly ; English has a number of flat adverbs, such as fast , whose form is identical to that of an adjective. But insecure speakers tend to add ly to all adverbs, even when a flat form is required such as seldom , much or thus. Her survey of English speakers and their attitude towards this form offers interesting insights into how speakers situate themselves in relation to the Standard variety. She reports on an online survey carried out in in which participants were asked to rate the word thusly on a six-fold acceptability scale.

The results of the survey reveal that thusly is becoming more acceptable, especially among young Americans. This is also true of other features of Standard English such as accent. They can be used to give an authentic feel to dialogue or to create character Hodson The project sought to compare literary representations of dialects with actual varieties, but also to contrast and compare the representation of non-standard forms in literary texts from various parts of the world.

Percillier presents a quantative analysis of texts from Southeast Asia, West Africa and Scotland, and shows that, although the non-standard forms used in these very different regions have some points in common, they also follow clearly distinct patterns. Scottish texts, such as works by Kelman, rely heavily on phonology to introduce non-standard forms, while Southeast Asian texts use code-switching features and West African texts introduce non-standard forms through grammatical differences.