No, No Native Dialect Is "Bad English"


"The modern study of language has shown that all native speakers are experts in their language. Almost all judgments about someone's language – the laziness of a glottal stop, the slowness of rural speech, the supposed ugliness of a particular urban accent – have no linguistic justification and reflect only the prejudice of the judger."

This is a nearly incontrovertible finding of modern linguistics: no speaker is "grammatically challenged" at speaking their native language. Their grammar may be different than yours, but there is no objective criterion by which it can be judged worse.


  1. Is it ever possible for *anyone* to be grammatically challenged"?

    If a group of n people speak the same way, we can say they are experts in the language spoken by that n people. How small can n be? Is it logically possible for two people to make the same grammatical "mistake"?

    1. Yes, Nick, of course: I probably over=stated my case. Toddlers, foreigners, and the mentally handicapped certainly are all "grammatically challenged".

      As an amateur linguist enthusiast, I would say the main point here is that, among different speech communities, there is no way to judge the grammar of one as superior to that of another. Of course, within a speech community, some people might express themselves better and others less so.

  2. I've run across this many times when it comes to African American Vernacular English. So many people claim that the people using this form of English have bad grammar, but I often have to point out to these people that the grammar is correct and consistent, it is only that it isn't the same that they themselves are using.

    Of course, they still don't get what it is that I'm trying to tell them, so I'll ask how studied they are in linguistics. Unsurprisingly, not only have they not studied linguistics, most of them don't even know what linguistics is (they think that it is simply learning a foreign language, presumably because this is often called being a "linguist").