Standard varieties in language include dialects, standard languages, registers and styles of language, and individual idiosyncratic language forms. The terms "standard variety" thus covers language distinctions at all levels: macro/national level, the community/cultural level, and the individual level.
One of the functions of language is to establish, reinforce, and communicate community belonging. Individuals use standard language, dialect, or individual idiosyncrasies as a means of identifying themselves as members of a particular community. In this sense, standard variety thus points to the exclusionary aspect of language: using one variety or another positions the speaker as belonging to one set of communities and not to another. Sociologists and linguists often use the concept of standard variety to examine issues of class, race, gender, nationality and social privilege.