2. not conforming in pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, etc., to the usage characteristic of and considered acceptable by most educated native speakers; lacking in social prestige or regionally or socially limited in use: a nonstandard dialect; nonstandard English. Compare standard (def. 27). (1)
the idea that language has a ‘standard’ is a vitally important one. it recurs throughout cultures and time, and is a shaping force in how people not only communicate with one another, but perceive those communications. opinions about language play crucial roles in defining social and cultural standing, role, and perspective. however, as one studies language, and languages, and the people who create and use this faculty, it becomes increasingly obvious that whatever standard people are striving for in their speech is one that eludes everyone. one of the most important reasons for this is that people’s ideas of what the standard is vary according to the constrains of their own experience. as one can see, this becomes a heavily convoluted situation quickly. another facet that affects the idea of the standard is literacy, the use of writing as a way to reflect language. this tool allows for widespread propagation of language, but only when it can be uniformly understood by the target audience. literary cultures have histories of strong standardization, with many developing societies such as the Real Academia Española (2), and the Académie française (3). the associations between a standardized language and the prestige of education or learning have shaped the acceptability of what is said. prescriptive approaches to language have since shaped the explanations of what language is and how it works, standardizing the form along rigid rule paradigms.
however, these approaches are limited in their scope of explanation, since every day language use falls far from whatever standard is superimposed upon it. instead, language changes and shifts, acquiring and losing meanings and structures according to other, more cognitively organic patterns and structures. the study of language along these parameters allows for a greater scope of understanding. by studying the function of language, rather than trying to dictate or emphasize the form, a student of language can focus instead on the boundaries and outlines inherent to the faculty itself.
if we look beyond the standard, we begin to see a larger picture with less clearly defined lines and many more questions than answers. consider that regardless of how closely we adhere to the agreed-upon structure taught to us as correct, we can still understand each other and effectively communicate everything from basic physical needs to abstract, conceptual thought. the ability to do so does not rest in the memorization of grammar rules taught to us as teenagers, but is instead a reflection of a deeply complex mental system that has been working in our brains since before birth. by treating language as unique and universally nonstandard, we can truly begin to understand how it is in fact the same, binding us to each other and the world.