Talking fallacies

21st June 1996 at 01:00
Somebody should point out forcefully to Sue Palmer (TES, June 7) that her often sensible curriculum suggestions are compromised by being based on a fundamental fallacy. It is simply not true that all dialects are "equal", or of equal value for a wide range of functions, not even that they are "linguistically equal" - whatever that may mean.

In any language, the dialect which becomes the standard undergoes a process of elaboration of grammar and vocabulary which enables its users to fulfil a full range of functions not available to the speakers of non-standard dialects.

In England this process began in the early 15th century, and the consequent 550 years of elaboration have given a qualitative edge to standard English which other dialects do not possess. Nor is it true (as is often claimed) that speakers of non-standard dialect can simply adapt spontaneously to standard: there are often crucial practical obstacles to this.

It's high time educationists stopped repeating this old fallacy, and took note of those linguists who have called for a more accurate formulation of the issues surrounding dialect differences.

Professor John Honey 13 Greenlands Red Cross Lane Cambridge

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now