chapter  5
17 Pages

The development of Standard American English

ByWilliam A. Kretzschmar, Jr

American English holds a prominent place among world varieties of the language, and yet Americans do not all speak English in the same way. American English shows differences from place to place and from social group to social group, at every level of scale. We can, however, still make useful distinctions between American English (here distinguished from Canadian English, the subject of its own chapter) and other world varieties by referring to Standard American English (SAE), a generalization at the national level of scale abstracted from the speech of educated Americans. This chapter describes the development of SAE in two ways, first with discussion of the emergence of American English as a variety in its own right, and then with discussion of how SAE differs from other varieties of American English and from other world varieties.