Standardization Process and Requirements
(2003) quotes Milroy and Milroy in his article, Language Standardization and Signed
Language Dictionaries, as defining the standardization of a language as “the suppression of optional variability
in a language (432).” The process of standardization is an involved process
that language communities undergo and operates on the phonology, lexicon, and syntax of a language. Language standardization describes more of a process than a product (Johnston,
The various stages in the process are the selection,
diffusion, maintenance, codification, and prescription of a standard form of a language (Johnston,
2003). Knowledge of the process of standardization is important. Without distinctions, one can easily feel that a standardized form of a language can be imposed on a community
with success and ease without having the initial conditions present to feed and sustain it.
While a standard language is linked to decisions from the rich and powerful, a practical and functional side exists
as to why standardization can be seen within society (Johnston,
Literacy is responsible for permitting the diffusion
of a standard through correspondence, legal papers, documents, and dictionaries (Johnston,
2003). The written format is one means of communication that favors a selection
of pronunciation, lexicon, and syntax within a language that is presented on paper.
Literate individuals learn to represent words in only one format. Their
knowledge is devoid of how the person creating the text speaks them. Writers
learn to substitute the varieties of a language for the newer accepted standard version of a language. Religious and legal associations are often held responsible for the written format of a language. This written format was once based on the emerging standard and becomes the very measurement
of correctness of the language as a whole (Johnston, 2003).
Literacy allows codification to occur. Codification
shows the conventions of orthography and sentence structure that have existed and continue to emerge. In this stage of the process, the first dictionaries and grammar of a standard form of language is produced,
but they only deal with the “difficult” words, phrases, or grammatical structures and so are not considered comprehensive
or exhaustive (Johnston, 2003).
As the process of standardization becomes advanced,
the nonstandard or vernacular users are stigmatized and often discriminated (Johnston,
2003). “Dialect” and “accent” define and describe varieties
of a language that deviate from this prescribed standard. Dictionaries and grammars
developed in this stage claim to be exhaustive and comprehensive, and users of the language regard them as an authority of
defining correctness in language. It is in this step of the standardization process
that it reaches its most complete form in society and near universal literacy (Johnston,
2003). All other formats are devalued as deviation, sloppy production, or performance
errors according to Johnston.
Writing is not only a catalyst
in the process of standardization, but also the product of the language standardization process. According to Johnston, an individual could
reason that the standardized version is somewhat of a ‘chimera.’ The
truth is, accents and dialects are prevalent in everyday speech, and variations in pronunciation, lexicon, and grammar from
this standard occur everywhere. Speakers of the “standard variation”
do not actually speak the idealized standard written format of the language. Even with this knowledge, nonstandard varieties
continue to be devalued, and deviation of the written language lacks tolerance (Johnston,
Dictionaries and their Role in Standardization
in his article, “The role of variation in lexicography,” quoted Landau as defining a dictionary as “a text
that describes the meaning of words, often illustrates how they are used in context, and usually indicates how they are pronounced
(Lucas, 2003, 322). The term “dictionary” often suggests authority,
scholarship, and precision that language users look to for answers concerning the appropriate usage and standard norms of
a language (Lucas, 2003).
are a format of making a language legitimate (Lucas, 2003). Lucas presents an
example where the Deaf president of the research group on Italian Sign Language in Rome thanked the printer for choosing a heavy paper for
the 2,500 entries because it gave the appearance of being bulky (Lucas, 2003). The
reason for this gratitude was that when it stood on the shelf with the other recognized and standardized languages, people
saw its size and did not question whether it was a real language. The significance of this was that prior to the production
of such a dictionary, it was not considered a legitimate language (Lucas, 2003).
While many American Sign Language books exist
to represent and display the lexicon of signs for the Deaf community of America. Members of the Deaf community have shown resistance to these books as not being descriptive
of what occurs in their language (Lucas, 2003). Many members of the Deaf community
have felt that these dictionaries inaccurately represent their language and do not show all the variations that exist within
their language. Lucas and Johnston have different opinions about the ability
to represent the many variations in a sign language dictionary.