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Social, stylistic & regional variants of English.

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On the British Isles there are some local varieties of English, which developed from Old English local dialects. There are six groups of them: Lowland /Scottish/, Northern, Western, Midland, Eastern, Southern. The local population uses these varieties in oral speech. Only the Scottish dialect has its own literature /R. Berns/.

One of the best-known dialects of British English is the dialect of London - Cockney. Some peculiarities of this dialect can be seen in the first act of Pigmalion by B. Shaw, such as : interchange of /v/ and /w/ e.g. wery vell; interchange of /f/ and /0/ , /v/ and / /, e. g/ fing /thing/ and fa:ve / father/; interchange of /h/ and /-/ , e.g. eart for heart and hart for art; substituting the diphthong /ai/ by /ei/ e.g. day is pronounced /dai/; substituting /au/ by /a:/ , e.g. house is pronounced /ha:s/,now /na:/ ; substituting /ou/ by /o:/ e.g. dont is pronounced /do:nt/ or substituting it by / / in unstressed positions, e.g. window is pronounced /wind /.

Another feature of Cockney is rhyming slang: hat is tit for tat, wife is trouble and strife, head is loaf of bread etc. There are also such words as tanner /sixpence/, peckish/hungry/.

Peter Wain in the Education Guardian writes about accents spoken by University teachers: It is a variety of Southern English RP which is different from Daniel Joness description. The English, public school leavers speak, is called marked RP, it has some characteristic features: the vowels are more central than in English taught abroad, e.g. bleck het/for black hat/, some diphthongs are also different, e.g. house is pronounced /hais/. There is less aspiration in /p/, /b/, /t/ /d/.

The American English is practically uniform all over the country, because of the constant transfer of people from one part of the country to the other. However, some peculiarities in New York dialect can be pointed out, such as: there is no distinction between / / and /a: / in words: ask, dance sand bad, both phonemes are possible. The combination ir in the words: bird, girl ear in the word learn is pronounced as /oi/ e.g. /boid/, /goil/, /loin/. In the words duty, tune /j/ is not pronounced /du:ti/, /tu:n/.


British and American English are two main variants of English. Besides them there are: Canadian, Australian, Indian, New Zealand and other variants. They have some peculiarities in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary, but they are easily used for communication between people living in these countries. As far as the American English is concerned, some scientists /H.N. Menken, for example/ tried to prove that there is a separate American language. In 1919 H.N. Menken published a book called The American Language. But most scientists, American ones including, criticized his point of view because differences between the two variants are not systematic.
American English begins its history at the beginning of the 17-th century when first English-speaking settlers began to settle on the Atlantic coast of the American continent. The language which they brought from England was the language spoken in England during the reign of Elizabeth the First.

In the earliest period the task of Englishmen was to find names for places, animals, plants, customs that they came across on the American continent. They took some of names from languages spoken by the local population - Indians, such as: chipmuck /an American squirrel/, igloo /Eskimo dome-shaped hut/, skunk / a black and white striped animal with a bushy tail/, squaw / an Indian woman/, wigwam /an American Indian tent made of skins and bark/ etc.

Besides Englishmen, settlers from other countries came to America, and English-speaking settlers mixed with them and borrowed some words from their languages, e.g. from French the words bureau/a writing desk/, cache /a hiding place for treasure, provision/, depot/ a store-house/, pumpkin/a plant bearing large edible fruit/. From Spanish such words as: adobe / unburnt sun-dried brick/, bananza /prosperity/, cockroach /a beetle-like insect/, lasso / a noosed rope for catching cattle/ were borrowed.

Present-day New York stems from the Dutch colony New Amsterdam, and Dutch also influenced English. Such words as: boss, dope, sleigh were borrowed.

The second period of American English history begins in the 19-th century. Immigrants continued to come from Europe to America. When large groups of immigrants from the same country came to America some of their words were borrowed into English. Italians brought with them a style of cooking, which became widely spread and such words as: pizza, spaghetti came into English. From the great number of German-speaking settlers the following words were borrowed into English: delicatessen, lager, hamburger, noodle, schnitzel and many others.

During the second period of American English history there appeared quite a number of words and word-groups which were formed in the language due to the new political system, liberation of America from the British colonialism, its independence. The following lexical units appeared due to these events: the United States of America, assembly, caucus, congress, Senate, congressman, President, senator, precinct, Vice-President and many others. Besides these political terms many other words were coined in American English in the 19-th century: to antagonize, to demoralize, influential, department store, telegram, telephone and many others.

There are some differences between British and American English in the usage of prepositions, such as prepositions with dates, days of the week BE requires on / I start my holiday on Friday/, in American English there is no preposition / I start my vacation Friday/. In BE we use by day, by night/at night, in AE the corresponding forms are days and nights. In BE we say at home, in AE - home is used. In BE we say a quarter to five, in AE a quarter of five. In BE we say in the street, in AE - on the street. In BE we say, to chat to somebody, in AE to chat with somebody. In BE we say different to something, in AE - different from something.
There are also units of vocabulary which are different while denoting the same notions, e.g. BE - trousers, AE -pants; in BE pants are which in AE is shorts. While in BE shorts are outwear. This can lead to misunderstanding. There are some differences in names of places:

British EnglishAmerican EnglishBritish EnglishAmerican English
passage hallcross-roads intersection
pillar box mail-box the cinema the movies
studio bed-sitter one-room apartment
flyover overpass zebra crossing Pxing


Differences in the organization of education lead to different terms. BE public school is in fact a private school. It is a fee-paying school not controlled by the local education authorities. AE public school is a free local authority school. BE elementary school is AE grade school BE secondary school is AE high school. In BE a pupil leaves a secondary school, in AE a student graduates from a high school In BE you can graduate from a university or college of education, graduating entails getting a degree. A British university student takes three years known as the first, the second and the third years. An American student takes four years, known as freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years. While studying a British student takes a main and subsidiary subjects. An American student majors in a subject and also takes electives.

A British student specializes in one main subject, with one subsidiary to get his honors degree. An American student earns credits for successfully completing a number of courses in studies, and has to reach the total of 36 credits to receive a degree.

Differences of spelling.

The reform in the English spelling for American English was introduced by the famous American lexicographer Noah Webster who published his first dictionary in 1806.

Those of his proposals which were adopted in the English spelling are as follows:

  • a) the deletion of the letter u in words ending in our, e.g. honor, favor;
  • b) the deletion of the second consonant in words with double consonants, e.g. traveler, wagon,
  • c) the replacement of re by er in words of French origin, e.g. theater, center,
  • d) the deletion of unpronounced endings in words of Romanic origin, e.g.
    catalog, program,
  • e) the replacement of ce by se in words of Romanic origin, e.g. defense, offense,
  • d) deletion of unpronounced endings in native words, e.g. tho, thro.

Differences in pronunciation

In American English we have r-coloured fully articulated vowels, in the combinations: ar, er, ir, or, ur, our etc. In BE the sound / / corresponds to the AE /^/, e.g. not. In BE before fricatives and combinations with fricatives a is pronounced as /a:/, in AE it is pronounced / / e.g. class, dance, answer, fast etc.

There are some differences in the position of the stress:
add`ress adress la`boratory `laboratory
re`cess `recess re`search `research
in`quiry `inquiry ex`cess `excess
Some words in BE and AE have different pronunciation, e.g.
/`fju:tail/ /`fju:t l/ /`dousail / /dos l/
/kla:k/ /kl rk/ /`fig / /figyer/
/ `le3 / / li:3 r/ /lef`ten nt/ /lu:tenant/
/ nai / /ni: r/ /shedju:l/ /skedyu:l/

But these differences in pronunciation do not prevent Englishmen and American from communicating with each other easily and cannot serve as a proof that British and American are different languages.

Words can be classified according to the period of their life in the language. The number of new words in a language is always larger than the number of words which come out of active usage. Accordingly we can have archaisms, that is words which have come out of active usage, and neologisms, that is words which have recently appeared in the language.


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Variation in lexicon. Philological topology.


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: 24.01.2009 01:04
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: 13.04.2009 01:32
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Thanks)))) Ochen ochen pomoglo!

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Thanks a lot!

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, ! ! - ))

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