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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Prestige and standard in Canadian English : Prestige and standard in Canadian English : Richards, Donna Jean


A survey of the use of standard and prestige in general descriptions of English, and of Canadian English in particular, reveals terminological confusion caused by the similarity of the two concepts and by cultural differences among the national dialects being discussed. This work argues, however, that these concepts can and should be distinguished. Once working definitions for both terms are formulated, they are tested against data from the Survey of Vancouver English. Vancouver English reveals little or no evidence of prestige, defined as "that variety (or those forms) used by the highest socio-economic group and emulated by others." The absence of a highest socio-economic group sufficiently well established to provide forms for others to emulate may explain this result, since, in Vancouver, social homogeneity seems to complement the geographical homogeneity that typifies Canadian English. While Vancouver English does reveal evidence of standard, defined as "that variety used by the majority of speakers and typified by correctness," the evidence also suggests that the notion of standard may need to be refined. The effect of various social factors on correctness is analyzed in order to provide a more precise notion of what "correctness" reflects, and education is found to contribute significantly to correctness. Furthermore, consideration of the four processes of standardization -- selection, codification, elaboration of function and acceptance -- in Canadian English confirms the importance of education to standardization and suggests not only that a standard exists in Canadian English but also that Canadian English is a standard variety distinct from other varieties of English. Standard is thus redefined to reflect more directly the role of correctness and the centrality of the four processes to standardization. The study concludes with a brief reconsideration of standard and prestige in light of these Canadian findings and suggests directions for further research.

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