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Standard American English (SAE)


Standard American English (SAE)

Do You Speak American? (PBS, 2005)


The variety of the English language that is generally used in professional writing in the United States and taught in American schools. Also known as General American.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "The notion of a widespread, normative variety, or 'standard dialect,' is an important one, but it is not always easy to define in a precise way, especially for English. . . .

    "In the United States, we don't have a language academy, but we have many grammar and usage books that people turn to for the determination of standard forms. The key words in this definition are 'prescribed' and 'authority' so that the responsibility of determining standard forms is largely out of the hands of most speakers of the language. . . .

    "If we took a sample of everyday conversational speech, we would find that there are virtually no speakers who consistently speak formal standard English as prescribed in the grammar books. In fact, it is not unusual for the same person who prescribes a formal standard English form to violate standard usage in ordinary conversation."
    (Walt Wolfram and Natalie Schilling-Estes, American English: Dialects and Variation, 2nd ed. Blackwell, 2006)

  • "Standard American English usage is linguistic good manners, sensitively and accurately matched to context--to listeners or readers, to situation, and to purpose. But because our language is constantly changing, mastering its appropriate usage is not a one-time task like learning the multiplication tables. Instead, we are constantly obliged to adjust, adapt, and revise what we have learned."
    (The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. Columbia Univ. Press, 1993)

  • "Edited American English is the version of our language that has come to be the standard for written public discourse--for newspapers and books and for most of the writing you do in school and on the job. . . .

    "Where did this description of Edited American English come from? It is the work through the years of many grammarians, many authors of textbooks and dictionaries, many editors who have taken it upon themselves to describe--and sometimes to prescribe--the version of English used by the influential writers and speakers of their day. Those writers and speakers don't say 'I don't have no money' and 'He don't like me' and 'I ain't going'--at least not in their public discourse. They say 'I don't have any money' and 'He doesn't like me' and 'I'm not going,' so those forms are the ones that get included in the grammar books and usage manuals as the standard."
    (Martha Kolln and Robert Funk, Understanding English Grammar. Allyn and Bacon, 1998)
Also Known As: SAE, Edited American English, American Standard English, General American
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