Apart from pronunciation differences in the spoken language, I'm curious what common language features are found in the prestige dialects of English in different countries.

Prestige language is regarded as that spoken by the most respected members of a community. So, what aspects of high-prestige language set it apart from stigmatized language or from non-prestigious language?

I am not concerned with pronunciation, so these would have to be features that are found in the written language, for example, through distinctive choices in style, vocabulary, phrasing, idiom, or grammar (no matter whether of syntax or of morphology).


2 Answers 2


There are two features that nearly all non-standard dialects of English have, but that Standard British English and standard American do not. As far as I know, no standard dialects of English have either of these two features.

The two features concerned both relate to negation. The first is the invariant negatively inflected auxiliary verb ain't. This inflection ('contraction' in common parlance) can stand in for all negative present tense forms of the auxiliary verbs be and have, whether first, second or third person and whether singular or plural:

  • Ain't that so?

The second relevant feature is negative concord. This is when we see negative forms used to agree with the negative polarity of the larger clause they occur in. It is sometimes referred to as 'double negation'. Semantically, the negative items that are used to agree with the polarity of the clause do not reverse its overall polarity (unlike in standard Englishes):

  • She has never done no-one no harm.

The absence of these two features in standard written Englishes is arguably the single most telling aspect of these varieties in terms of differentiating them from the regional dialects with which they compete.

Note that the reason that these two feature occur in virtually all (some people say all) non-standard varieties of English is because this is how the language originally was. It was new-fangled standard English which deviated away from the original canonical pattern!


So far as I know, pretty much every English speaker uses standard English in writing, even if they primarily speak a non-standard dialect of English, at least in formal cases. In the case of a story written down, it can show the grammatical and vocabulary differences.

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    – Community Bot
    Commented May 11 at 8:18
  • 3
    I can't understand far more textspeak than 'standard' communication in print etc (where the subject matter itself is not overly demanding). Commented May 11 at 11:50
  • Maybe true for some people and very formal contexts, but many of non standard dialects will use dialect words and grammatical constructs, and less educated may also use eye/phonetic spellings eg "of" for "'ve"; some people also see use of dialect as a political statement whether AAVE or north of England.
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 11 at 13:32
  • @StuartF If you speak AAVE, and use "I'm going to x" instead of "I be going", then, you ain't [used on purpose here] speaking AAVE.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 11 at 14:03
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    @Lambie In the AAVE that I'm familiar with, it's usually "I'mma go." I've never heard the habitual "be" used in that way, but maybe that's a thing in dialects of AAVE that I'm not familiar with. Edit: I have heard "I be going" used for things like "I be going crazy," but that's a different use of "go."
    – Sophie
    Commented May 11 at 16:05

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