As first language, English is now spoken by over 300 million people in North America (including Canada), Australia, New Zealand, The Caribbean and South Africa. Hundreds of millions of others, especially in Africa and Southern and South-east Asia, speak it as a second language.
The spread of English beyond Europe is associated with four centuries of colonialism.
There are 3 strands in colonial expansion:
- The activities of trading companies brought speakers of English into contact with people in many different parts of the world, and this contact with West Africa in the 16th century gave rise to the Atlantic slave trade, One result of this was the formation of English-based pidgins, some of which subsequently became Creoles of the Caribbean.
- We have colonial settlement and so new varieties of English were established in America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
- 19th century imperialism institutionalised English in certain older colonies, such as India and newly-acquired ones principally in Africa.
In dealing with English involvement with the world beyond Europe, we do not see a concerted, systematic policy during the last 400 years. Different types of colony were established for different reasons in different areas at various times. Sometimes it is more economic than political or vice versa. Commercial exploitation, as in India, preceded any kind of coordinated attempt by government to lay claim to a territory and then administer it. When governments tried to do this, their policies were often ignorant of local conditions. As England was not the only adventurer into the New World, it exploits were often governed by political rivalries, at first with Spain, later with the Dutch, later the French and Germans.
English came into contact with an enormously wide range of languages and cultures during this period. It was standard English that was taught in schools and colleges of the old colonies, and that was spoken by the administrators of these territories.
But while attachment to the norms of England was strong, new standards have eventually merged. The best example is that of the United States of America, which not only has the most speakers of English in the world today, but whose variety has also been increasingly influential in many parts of the world, like the Caribbean, Canada and Australia.
The rise of new standards:
The written standard of English is international. It used in the areas of colonial settlement we have describe with hardly any modifications.
Among the most well known of these are American variations in spelling such as tire for tyre, honor for honour. Differences in grammar and vocabulary are also minor and again American examples will serve: the past participle form gotten is used as well as got and instead of autumn, fall is used.
Divergence is most noticeable at the level of pronunciation. The United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand are sometimes said to have their own national standards. Each area has its own norms of pronunciation, at times responding to local circumstances.
The sound systems in ach of these areas are closest to those of the South-East of England. This reflects the origins of the earliest settlers.
An interesting feature of both Australian and South African pronunciation is that neither has the stigmatised consonant pronunciations so common in the South-East of England. Initial /h/ is sounded and neither the glottal plosive North Cockney substitution for the initial sound in thin and of /v/ for medial consonant in words like other is widely heard. Both Australian and South African Englishes have Cockneyfied diphthongs in words like mate (starting with a vowel more like that of mat than met) and might (starting witha vowel more like that of mock). The vowel in words like dance, plant, also fluctuate as in England. In South Africa and New Zealand the vowel in these words is along back one, as it is in RP, but in Australian pronunciation a front vowel is common in these words, although a back one is used in path and pass.
Only in America, have there been attempts to elevate the status of the colonial variety to that of a language separate from the English of England.
American English can be best called a national variety of English, with its own norms.
The main differences between British and American English are the following ones:
a) Americans use a simple past tense when British people use a present perfect
– He just went home (US)
– He has just gone home (GB)
b) Americans use the verb have differently from British people
– Do you have a problem? (US)
– Have you got a problem? (GB)
c) The American past participle of get is gotten in Br. E. is got
d) Americans use his where the British use one ´s
e) There are differences in the use of prepositions and adverb particles: stay home, stay at home, meet s.o., meet with s.o., protest sth., protest against sth, Monday through Friday, Monday to Friday, talk to, talk with.
f) Americans use adverb forms without –ly
– He looked at me real strange (US)
– He looked at me really strangely (GB)
g) Verb and noun collocations are different: to take a bath instead of to have a bath
- Vocabulary: cab/taxi, fall/ autumn, movie/film, mail/post, trunk/boot (of a car), vacation/holiday, stingy/mean, cookie/biscuit, elevator/lift, gasoline/petrol, schedule/timetable, truck/lorry, candy/sweet, clerk/shop assistant,
a) –l is not doubled in an unstressed syllable: AE traveler/ BrE traveller
b) Words ending in – ter in AE and – tre in BrE: center /centre
c) Words ending in – or in AE and – our in BrE: color/ colour
d) Words ending in – og in AE and – ogue in BrE: catalog /catalogue
e) Many verbs ending in –ize in AE but in –ize or –ise in BrE: realize/ realize or realise
f) They use I for y: tire/tyre
g) They use s for c: defense/defence
h) They use e for ae and oe: anemia/ anaemia
i) They use dg for dge: judgment/ judgement
j) They use ction for xion: complection/ complexion
a) Stressed vowels are often lengthened more in A.E. than in BrE
b) Vowels are often nasalized in A.E.
c) In A.E r is pronounced in all positions (rhotic) in a word not only before a vowel as in BrE
d) In A.E t and d have voiced pronunciation between vowels writer /raidƏ/ = rider
e) U and ew after n, d and t are pronounced in BrE like ny, dy and ty but not in A.E new /nu:/, BrE /nju:/
English as a universal language:
The emergence of a language that could unite the world is the realization of a dream that goes back to he 17th century and the beginnings of global consciousness itself.
The global English of our times has all the benefits of he standardizing process. There is a recognized standard in Britain and America. There is also an agreed, standardized vocabulary and spelling system. British or American, the language is basically the same and its global structure is backed up by massive English language training programmes, an international business that in textbooks, language courses, tape cassettes, video programmes and computerized instruction is worth hundreds of millions of pounds or dollars to the economies of the USA and the UK. The English language is now one of Britain´ s most reliable exports.
In countries like India and Nigeria, English is used at al levels of society: in local English language newspapers and broadcasting, in public administration, in university education, in the major industries, the courts and the civil service. Indeed with nearly 200 languages, India needs English to unify the country. English in India is vital for science and industry.
English has become the one foreign language that much of the world wants to learn. This is nearly a universal aspiration. One basic force is an international need and desire to communicate: the more English- speaking the world becomes, the more desirable the language becomes to all societies. English is the language of the media industries: news, journalism, radio, films and television.
Of the leading countries in world trade, eight are countries in which English either is an official language or was an official language in colonial times. For a developing country like China, Singapore or Indonesia, English is vital. As well as being the language of international trade and finance, it is the language of technology, especially computers, of medicine, of the international aid bodies like Oxfam and Save the children and of virtually all international exchanges from Unesco to the Olympic committee and world summits.
The power of English is not confined to the invention and manufacture of new technology. All major corporations advertise and market their products in English. English is the language of international pop music and mass entertainment as a worldwide phenomenon.
The English language has 3 characteristics that can be committed as assets in its world state:
- Unlike all other European languages, the gender of every noun is determined by meaning and does not require a masculine, feminine or neutral article.
- It has a grammar of great simplicity and flexibility. Nouns and adjectives have highly simplified word-endings. This flexibility extends to the parts of speech themselves. Nouns can become verbs and verb nouns in a way that is impossible in other languages.
- It has a teeming vocabulary, 80% of which is foreign-born. Precisely because its roots are so varied (Celtic, Germanic and Romance) it has words in common with virtually every language in Europe.
a) There is a tendency for the dark l in words like milk or pull to be realized as a vowel. /miuk/
b) There is some aspiration on /t/ in word-final position /bath/
c) Word final /z/ is sometimes devoiced to /s/ buzz /bus/
d) The diphthong /ei/ is lowered and realized by many as /ai/ and /ai/ by /oi/: pay /pai/, might /moit/
b) Vocabulary: creeks means small river, forest land means grass not trees, mob (flock, herd)
a) There is a tendency to reduce the number of verb forms:
– I do- I done- I have done
– I see- I seen- I have seen
– I go- I went- I have went
b) The use of them as a plural demonstrative adjective.
– Gimme them boots. (these)
c) The tendency to distinguish between you (sing) and youce /juz/ (pl)
a) The entire country is rhotic: post-vocalic “r” in war and wards
b) It follows the US model in the use of /u/ rather than /ju/ after /t, d, n/ news /nu:z/, the voicing of t between vowels, /r/ and /t/
- Vocabulary: Canadians tend to follow the US English usage in vocabulary: truck to lorry, gas to petrol, clerk to shop assistant but in spelling Canadian English tends to follow UK norms
- Grammar: Have you got preferred to Do you have?
a) The diphthongs /ei/ and /Əu/ as in gate and goat are monophthongized to /e/ and /o/
b) Schwa rarely occurs in relaxed speech. In words ending in –er the vowel is often /a/ mother /m Λđa/
c) Consonant clusters in word-final position which end in /t,d/ are often simplified build /bil/, sand /san/
- Vocabulary: Many English words have extended in meaning: mash up: destroy, ruin, passage: can mean money to pay the fare with
a) Structures involving active voice predominate. Where passive occur they usually involve get.
– He got killed
b) Will is often replaced by would, especially when there is doubt about the proposition.
– Would you buy me some clothes?
c) Serial verb constructions are common:
– Child run come go bring these hats
New Zealand English:
a) It is non-rhotic
b) The vowel sound in words like bit, is, ship tend to be schwa
c) The vowel sound in nut is often identical with the sound in not.
d) The l sound tends to be dark in all contexts
- Vocabulary: Much of New Zealand´ s vocabulary is shared with Australia, the UK and the USA
- Grammar: Standard New Zealand English is indistinguishable from the standard written language in Australia and in the UK. Many dialect features such as the use of “I done” and “them things” occur in the speech of the less well educated members of the community, but on the whole New Zealand English is homogenous and in grammar close to media norms.
a) It is non-rhotic
b) The consonants /đ, Θ/ are realised as /t, d/ in the South and /s,z/ in the North.
c) The /dƷ/ sound that occurs finally in orange is realised as / Ʒ/ in the North and / S/ in the South.
- Vocabulary: Many words have been given additional meanings: battery charger a person who repairs batteries, well done! Greeting to someone at work.
a) The use of could and would for can and will
b) The use of uncountable nouns as countable
c) The definite article is sometimes omitted
North African English:
a) The diphthongs /ei/ /ai/and /oi// are replaced by /e, a, o)
b) Initial p is often not aspirated and so p and b are not fully contrasted
c) The l sound tends to be clear in all positions
d) The velar nasal / ŋ/ is realized as / ŋk/, / ŋ/, / ŋg/ and /n/
a) The copula is omitted: she teacher, we happy
b) Adjectives are sometimes used as nouns:
– He didn´ t tell me the important
c) Intonation is often used to distinguish statements from Yes/No questions
– He has come?
d) A is sometimes omitted
– This is shop
South African English:
a) It is non-rhotic
b) The consonants /p, t, k/ are less strongly aspirated than in RP
c) The vowel /i/ is usually replaced by schwa in unstressed syllables
- Vocabulary: It has adopted words from Afrikaans: boer (farmer)
a) Lend seems to be replacing borrow
b) “Check you” is a colloquial equivalent of “I´ ll meet you”
c) Man occurs as a general term of friendly address to both women and men
– You should have seen me, man!