Territorial varieties of English pronunciation

The historical background of the spread of English and different varieties of the language. Differences between British English and other accents and to distinguish their peculiarities. Lexical, phonological, grammar differences of the English language.

Рубрика Иностранные языки и языкознание
Вид курсовая работа
Язык английский
Дата добавления 26.06.2015
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Perhaps the most obvious domain in which Americans tried to simplify English is that of spelling. Spelling reforms started at about the end of the eighteenth century. Attempts at changing the complicated spelling system of English were not only numerous but involved some “big names”, including Benjamin Franklin, Noah Webster, and Mark Twain. Twain, for example, worked on what he called “a simplified alphabet”.

In 1876 the Spelling Reform Board was founded. The Board drew up a list of about 300 words where it recommended simplifications in the spelling [29; 67]. These included changes in the spelling of such words as axe (to ax), judgement (to judgment), catalogue (to catalog), programme (to program). In these cases the recommendations of the Board were accepted, and today the second versions of the spellings above are all regarded as possible American alternatives. However, many of the Board's other suggestions were not successful. Later the Board went overboard, so to speak, with its recommendations. Perhaps fueled by their initial success, it suggested simplified spellings that did not meet with the approval of the public. For example, they wanted to have tuf for tough, def for deaf, troble for trouble, yu for you, and many others. There was a great deal of resistance to these changes, and simplified spelling slowly went out of fashion.

Almost a century before the days of the Spelling Reform Board, Webster published his American Spelling Book (later called Elementary Spelling Book) in 1788. In this book he suggested a number of changes in English spelling, but many of these were not accepted. These included bred for bread, soop for soup, wimmin for women, fether for feather, tuf for tough, groop for group, medicin for medicine. Some of his suggestions were more favourably received. Some of the best known cases of changes the Webster successfully suggested include the shift from -ll to -l (as in woolen), from -re to -er (as in theater), from -our to -or (as in color), and -ce to -se (as in defense). Some of his suggestions concerning individual words were also adopted [30; 106]. An example is the American spelling (anf pronunciation) of aluminum, in place of the British aluminium. In those cases where British English had alternative spellings, Webster always recommended the simpler form for American usage. For example, British English had at the time both music and musick, and it also had risk and risque. Since then, both varieties of English have opted for the simpler versions of these cases.

Linguistic economy can also be at work in literature. This can take a variety of forms. Perhaps the best known American writer of fiction to make use of linguistic economy in his works was Ernest Hemingway. One of Hemingway's goals was to avoid the “tricks” of high literature. To this end he employed certain simplifications in his prose of the 1920s. One of Hemingway's “favourite” stylistic devices was to “strip” sentences to their bare essentials. In his writing, he made a deliberate effort to avoid adjectives and adverbs, while keeping nouns and verbs. For Hemingway, the adjective and adverb did not belong to the essential parts of a sentence; they were something unnecessary that could be left out. In this respect, he can be viewed as following the ideas of the Saxonist movement in the United States, a purist approach to English that wished to replace foreign, especially French, words with Anglo-Saxon words and that also treated nouns and verbs as the most important parts of speech.

Linguistic economy (i.e., less linguistic form) in literature does not, of course, mean less meaning. Shorter sentences do not carry less meaning - silence is not meaningless. On the contrary, linguistic economy in literature is one way of adding layers of meaning to a literary work. Simpson (1986) argues that Natty Bumppo's silence is rich in meaning. In Hemingway's case, we find that the deliberately short and simple sentences were intended to be the tip of the iceberg. The reader is supposed to figure out the rest, and by far the most, of the meaning in Hemingway's stories. In any case, we should not suppose a direct influence from Puritan origins on the style of American literature in general. Despite the obviously economical tendencies in ordinary language and some of American literature, there was still fascination with ornamental style in the British mode.

Thus, due to all the reforms of the English language in the USA, we are able to see it in the form it exists nowadays.

2.2 Spelling differences

American English

British English

I . -e-

amoeba, ameba


aneesthesia, anesthetic

archaeology, archeology












I. -ae-, -oe-



anaesthaesia, anaesthetic








haemoglobin, hemoglobin

haemorrhage, hemorrhage


mediaeval, medieval


2. -ize







2. -ise







3. -or










glamour, glamor












savior, but Saviour









3. -our


behaviour, behaviouristic, behaviourism


clamour, clamorous

colour, colourable, coloration


dolour, dolorous

favour, favourite, favourable


glamour, glamorous, glamorise


honour, honourable, honorary

humour, humorist, humorous

labour, labourer, laborious


neighbour, neighbourly, neighourhood

odour, odorous, odourless


rancour, rancorous

rigour, rigorous, rigorously




savoury (savory - mint herb)




valour, valorous

vapour, vaporize, vaporous

vigour, vigorous, vigorously

4. -er

caliber, calibrate

ccntcr, central

fiber, fibrous, fiber-glass




maneuver, maneuverable

meager, meagerly, meagerness

meter, metric


ocher, ocherous

reconnoiter, reconnoitering

saber, sabered, sabering


scepter, sceptered

sepulcher, sepulchral

somber, somberly, somberness

specter, spectral

theater, theatrical

4. -re

calibre, calibrate

ccntrc, ccntral

fibre fibrous, fibre-glass




manoeuvre, manoeuvrable

meagre, meagrely, meagrencss

metre (unit of measure), metric


ochre, ochrous

reconnoitre, reconnoitring

sabre, sabred, sabring


sceptre, sceptred

sepulchre, sepulchral

sombre, sombrely, sombreness

spectre, spectral

theatre, theatrical

5. -o-

mold, moldy




5. -ou-

mould, mouldy




6. -se





vise (a gripping tool)

But : practice n. & v.

6. -ce


licence n., license v.




But: practice n., practise v.

7. -ction





7. -xion

connexion, connection

deflexion, deflection

inflexion, inflection

reflexion (scientific meaning,

otherwise reflection)

2.3 Phonology

Compared to English as spoken in England, North American English is more homogeneous. Some distinctive accents can be found on the East Coast (for example, in Eastern New England and New York City), partly because these areas were in contact with England and imitated prestigious varieties of British English at a time when those varieties were undergoing changes. In addition, many speech communities on the East Coast have existed in their present locations longer than others. The interior of the United States, however, was settled by people from all regions of the existing United States and therefore developed a far more generic linguistic pattern.

Most North American speech is rhotic, as English was in most places in the 17th century. Rhoticity was further supported by Hiberno-English, West Country English and Scottish English as well as the fact most regions of England at this time also had rhotic accents. In most varieties of North American English, the sound corresponding to the letter r is a retroflex [?] or alveolar approximant [?] rather than a trill or a tap. The loss of syllable-final r in North America is confined mostly to the accents of eastern New England, New York City and surrounding areas and the coastal portions of the South, and African American Vernacular English. In rural tidewater Virginia and eastern New England, 'r' is non-rhotic in accented (such as "bird", "work", "first", "birthday") as well as unaccented syllables, although this is declining among the younger generation of speakers. Dropping of syllable-final r sometimes happens in natively rhotic dialects if r is located in unaccented syllables or words and the next syllable or word begins in a consonant. In England, the lost r was often changed into [?] (schwa), giving rise to a new class of falling diphthongs. Furthermore, the er sound of fur or butter, is realized in American English as a monophthongal r-colored vowel (stressed [?] or unstressed [?] as represented in the International Phonetic Alphabet). This does not happen in the non-rhotic varieties of North American speech.

Some other English changes in which most North American dialects do not participate:

· The shift of /?/ to /?/ (the so-called "broad A") before /f/, /s/, /?/, /?/, /z/, /v/ alone or preceded by a homorganic nasal. This is the difference between the British Received Pronunciation and American pronunciation of bath and dance. In the United States, only eastern New England speakers took up this modification, although even there it is becoming increasingly rare.

· The realization of intervocalic /t/ as a glottal stop [?] (as in [b???l] for bottle). This change is not universal for British English and is not considered a feature of Received Pronunciation. This is not a property of most North American dialects. Newfoundland English is a notable exception.

On the other hand, North American English has undergone some sound changes not found in other varieties of English speech [31; 242]:

· The merger of /?/ and /?/, making father and bother rhyme. This change is nearly universal in North American English, occurring almost everywhere except for parts of eastern New England, hence the Boston accent.

· The merger of /?/ and /?/. This is the so-called cot-caught merger, where cot and caught are homophones. This change has occurred in eastern New England, in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas, and from the Great Plains westward.

· For speakers who do not merge caught and cot: The replacement of the cot vowel with the caught vowel before voiceless fricatives (as in cloth, off [which is found in some old-fashioned varieties of received pronunciation]), as well as before /?/ (as in strong, long), usually in gone, often in on, and irregularly before /?/ (log, hog, dog, fog [which is not found in British English at all]).

· The replacement of the lot vowel with the strut vowel in most utterances of the words was, of, from, what and in many utterances of the words everybody, nobody, somebody, anybody; the word because has either /?/ or /?/; want has normally /?/ or /?/, sometimes /?/.

· Vowel merger before intervocalic /?/. Which vowels are affected varies between dialects, but the Mary-marry-merry, nearer-mirror, and hurry-furry mergers are all widespread. Another such change is the laxing of /e/, /i/ and /u/ to /?/, /?/ and /?/ before /?/, causing pronunciations like [p??], [p??] and [pj??] for pair, peer and pure. The resulting sound [??] is often further reduced to [?], especially after palatals, so that cure, pure, mature and sure rhyme with fir.

· Dropping of /j/ is more extensive than in received pronunciation. In most North American accents, /j/ is dropped after all alveolar and interdental consonant, so that new, duke, Tuesday, resume are pronounced /nu/, /duk/, /tuzde?/, /??zum/.

· ?-tensing in environments that vary widely from accent to accent; for example, for many speakers, /?/ is approximately realized as [e?] before nasal consonants. In some accents, particularly those from Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City, [?] and [e?] contrast sometimes, as in Yes, I can [k?n] vs. tin can [ke?n].

· The flapping of intervocalic /t/ and /d/ to alveolar tap [?] before unstressed vowels (as in butter, party) and syllabic /l/ (bottle), as well as at the end of a word or morpheme before any vowel (what else, whatever). Thus, for most speakers, pairs such as ladder/latter, metal/medal, and coating/coding are pronounced the same. For many speakers, this merger is incomplete and does not occur after /a?/; these speakers tend to pronounce writer with [??] and rider with [a?] [32; 252]. This is a form of Canadian raising but, unlike more extreme forms of that process, does not affect /a?/. In some areas and idiolects, a phonemic distinction between what elsewhere become homophones through this process is maintained by vowel lengthening in the vowel preceding the formerly voiced consonant, e.g., [l?:·???] for "ladder" as opposed to [l?·???] for "latter".

· T-glottalization is common when /t/ is in the final position of a syllable or word (get, fretful: [???], [?f???f?l]), though this is always superseded by the aforementioned rules of flapping

· Both intervocalic /nt/ and /n/ may be realized as [n] or [?Ю], rarely making winter and winner homophones. Most areas in which /nt/ is reduced to /n/, it is accompanied further by nasalization of simple post-vocalic /n/, so that V/nt/ and V/n/ remain phonemically distinct. In such cases, the preceding vowel becomes nasalized, and is followed in cases where the former /nt/ was present, by a distinct /n/. This stop-absorption by the preceding nasal /n/ does not occur when the second syllable is stressed, as in entail.

· The pin-pen merger, by which [?] is raised to [?] before nasal consonants, making pairs like pen/pin homophonous. This merger originated in Southern American English but is now also sometimes found in parts of the Midwest and West as well, especially in people with roots in the mountainous areas of the Southeastern United States.

Some mergers found in most varieties of both American and British English include:

· The merger of the vowels /?/ and /o/ before 'r', making pairs like horse/hoarse, corps/core, for/four, morning/mourning, etc. homophones.

· The wine-whine merger making pairs like wine/whine, wet/whet, Wales/whales, wear/where, etc. homophones, in most cases eliminating /hw/, the voiceless labiovelar fricative. Many older varieties of southern and western American English still keep these distinct, but the merger appears to be spreading.

2.4 Differences in usage

The differences here listed, most of them between words in everyday employment, are but examples of a divergence in usage which extends to every department of daily life. In his business, in his journeys from his home to his office, in his dealings with his family and servants, in his sports and amusements, in his politics and even in his religion the American uses, not only words and phrases, but whole syntactical constructions, that are unintelligible to the Englishman, or intelligible only after laborious consideration [33; 117]. A familiar anecdote offers an example in miniature. It concerns a young American woman living in a region of prolific orchards who is asked by a visiting Englishman what the residents do with so much fruit. Her reply is a pun: "We eat all we can, and what we can't we can." This answer would mystify most Englishmen, for in the first place it involves the use of the flat American a in can't and in the second place it applies an unfamiliar name to the vessel that the Englishman knows as a tin, and then adds to the confusion by deriving a verb from the substantive. There are no such things as canned-goods in England; over there they are tinned. The can that holds them is a tin; to can them is to tin them. . . . And they are counted, not as groceries, but as stores, and advertised, not on bill-boards but on hoardings. And the cook who prepares them for the table is not Nora or Maggie, but Cook, and if she does other work in addition she is not a girl for general housework, but a cook-general, and not help, but a servant. And the boarder who eats them is often not a boarder at all, but a paying-guest. And the grave of the tin, once it is emptied, is not the ash-can, but the dust-bin, and the man who carries it away is not the garbage-man or the ash-man or the white-wings, but the dustman.

An Englishman, entering his home, does not walk in upon the first floor, but upon the ground floor. What he calls the first floor (or, more commonly, first storey, not forgetting the penultimate e!) is what we call the second floor, and so on up to the roof--which is covered not with tin, but with slate, tiles or leads. He does not take a paper; he takes in a paper. He does not ask his servant, "Is there any mail for me?" but "Are there any letters for me?" for mail, in the American sense, is a word that he seldom uses, save in such compounds as mail-van, mail-train and mail-order. Ho always speaks of it as the post. The man who brings it is not a letter-carrier but a postman. It is posted, not mailed, at a pillar-box, not at a mail-box. It never includes postal-cards, but only post-cards, never money-orders, but only postal-orders or post-office-orders. The Englishman dictates his answers, not to a typewriter, but to a typist; a typewriter is merely the machine. If he desires the recipient to call him by telephone he doesn't say, "'phone me at a quarter of eight," but "ring me up at a quarter to eight." [34; 113] And when the call comes he says "are you there?" When he gets home, he doesn't find his wife waiting for him in the parlor or living-room, but in the drawing-room or in her sitting-room, and the tale of domestic disaster that she has to tell does not concern the hired-girl but the scullery-maid. He doesn't bring her a box of candy, but a box of sweets. He doesn't leave a derby hat in the hall, but a bowler. His wife doesn't wear shirtwaists, but blouses. When she buys one she doesn't say "charge it" but "put it down." When she orders a tailor-made suit, she calls it a costume or a coat-and-skirt. When she wants a spool of thread she asks for a reel of cotton. Such things are bought, not in the department-stores, but at the stores, which are substantially the same thing. In these stores calico means a plain cotton cloth; in the United States it means a printed cotton cloth. Things bought on the installment plan in England are said to be bought on the hire-purchase plan or system; the installment business itself is the credit-trade. Goods ordered by post (not mail) on which the dealer pays the C03t of transportation are said to be sent, not postpaid or prepaid, but post-free or carriage-paid.

An Englishman does not wear suspenders, but braces. Suspenders are his wife's garters; his own are sock-suspenders. The family does not seek sustenance in a rare tenderloin but in an underdone undercut or fillet. It does not eat beets, but beet-roots. The wine on the table, if white and German, is not Rhine wine, but Hock. Yellow turnips, in England, are called Swedes, and are regarded as fit food for cattle only; when rations were short there, in 1016, the Saturday Review made a solemn effort to convince its readers that they were good enough to go upon the table. The English, of late, have learned to eat another vegetable formerly resigned to the lower fauna, to wit, American sweet corn. But they are still having some difficulty about its name, for plain corn in England means all the grains used by man. Some time ago, in the Sketch, one C. J. Olive, a gentleman farmer of Worcestershire, was advertising sweet corn-cobs as the "most delicious of all vegetables," and offering to sell them at 6s. 6d. a dozen, carriage-paid. Chicory is something else that the English are unfamiliar with; they always call it endive. By chicken they mean any fowl, however ancient. Broilers and friers are never heard of over there. Neither are crawfish, which are always crayfish. The classes which, in America, eat breakfast, dinner and supper, have breakfast, dinner and tea in England; supper always means a meal eaten late in the evening. No Englishman ever wears a frock-coat or Prince-Albert, or lives in a bungalow; he wears a morning-coat and lives in a villa or cottage [35; 18]. His wife's maid, if she has one, is not Ethel, or Maggie but Robinson, and the nurse-maid who looks after his children is not Lizzie but Nurse. So, by the way, is a trained nurse in a hospital, whose full style is not Miss Jones, but Nurse Jones or Sister. And the hospital itself, if private, is not a hospital at all, but a nursing-home, and its trained nurses are plain nurses, or hospital nurses, or maybe nursing sisters. Similarly, an English law student does not study law, but reads the law.

If an English boy goes to a public school, it is not a sign that he is getting his education free, but that his father is paying a good round sum for it and is accepted as a gentleman. A public school in Britain corresponds to American prep school; it is a place maintained chiefly by endowments, wherein boys of the upper classes are prepared for the universities. What we know as a public school is called a board school or council school in England, not because the pupils are boarded but because it is managed by a school board or county council. The boys in a public (i. e., private) school are divided, not into classes, or grades, but into forms, which are numbered, the lowest being the first form. The benches they sit on are also called forms. An English boy whose father is unable to pay for his education goes first into a babies' class (a kindergarten is always a private school) in a primary or infants' school. He moves thence to class one, class two, class three and class four, and then into the junior school or public elementary school, where he enters the first standard. Until now boys and girls have sat together in class, but hereafter they are separated, the boy going to a boys' school and the girl to a girls'. He goes up a standard a year. At the third or fourth standard, for the first time, he is put under a male teacher. He reaches the seventh standard, if he is bright, at the age of 12, and then goes into what is known as the ex-seventh. If he stays at school after this he goes into the ex-ex-seventh. But many leave the public elementary school at the ex-seventh and go into the secondary school, which is what public elementary school meets boys from private preparatory schools, who usually have an advantage over him, being armed with the Greek alphabet, the first twenty pages of 'French Without Tears,' the fact that Balbus built a wall, and the fact that lines equal to the same line arc equal to one another. But usually the public elementary school boy conquers these disabilities by the end of his first high-school year, and so wins a place in the upper fourth form, while his wealthier competitors grovel in the lower fourth. In schools where the fagging system prevails the fourth is the lowest form that is fagged. The lower fifth is the retreat of the unscholarly. The sixth form is the highest. Those who fail in their matriculation for universities or who wish to study for the civil Americans call a high-school. The sixth form is the highest. Those who fail in their matriculation for universities or who wish to study for the civil service or pupil teachers' examinations go into a thing called the remove, which is less a class than a state of mind. Here are the Brahmins, the contemplative Olympians, the prefects, the lab. monitors. The term public elementary school is recent. The principal of an English public (i. e., private) school is a head-master or head-mistress, but in a council school he or she may be a principal. The lower pedagogues used to be ushers, but arc now assistant masters (or mistresses). The titular head of a university is a chancellor or rector. He is always some eminent public man, and a vice-chancellor or vice-rector performs his duties. The head of a mere college may be a president, principal, master, warden, rector, dean or provost.

In England a corporation is a public company or limited liability company. The term corporation is commonly applied only to the mayor, aldermen and sheriffs of a city, as in the London corporation - An Englishman writes Ltd. after the name of a limited liability (what we would call incorporated) bank or trading company, as the Americans write Inc. He calls its president its chairman or managing director. Its stockholders are its shareholders, and hold shares instead of stock in it. The place wherein such companies are floated and looted--the Wall Street of London--is called the City, with a capital C. Bankers, stock-jobbers, promoters, directors and other such leaders of its business are called City men. The financial editor of a newspaper is its City editor. Government bonds are consols, or stocks, or the funds. To have money in the stocks is to own such bonds. An Englishman hasn't a bank-account, but a banking-account. He draws cheques (not checks), not on his bank but on the bankers. In England there is a rigid distinction between a broker and a stock-broker. A broker means, not a dealer in securities, as in American Wall Street broker, but a dealer in second-hand furniture. To have the brokers in the house means to be bankrupt, with one's very household goods in the hands of one's creditors. For a City man to swindle a competitor in England is not to do him up or to do him, but to do him in. When any English business man retires ho does not actually retire; he declines business.

The common objects and phenomena of nature are often differently named in England and America. Such Americanisms as creek and run, for small streams, are practically unknown in England, and the English moor and downs early disappeared from American. The Englishman knows the meaning of sound (e. g., Long Island Sound), but he nearly always uses channel in place of it. In the same way the American knows the meaning of the English bog, but rejects the English distinction between it and swamp, and almost always uses swamp or marsh (often elided to ma'sh). The Englishman seldom, if ever, describes a severe storm as a hurricane, a cyclone, a tornado, or a blizzard. He never uses cold-snap, cloudburst or under the weather. He does not say that the temperature is 29 degrees (Fahrenheit) or that the thermometer or the mercury is at 29 degrees, but that there are three degrees of frost.

In Chapter 2 we presented a comparative analysis of British and American English. We considered their historical background, phonology and differences in usage.


The English language has been developing during all its history. Today, one may visit almost any country with knowing only two languages - his or her mother tongue and English - and that will be enough for successful interaction. Another question is, whether one knows the accent and peculiarities of that English people in that country use. That is why the problem of the English language varieties exists nowadays.

In Chapter 1 the attention was focused on the usage of English in the countries where it has an official status. We considered English in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In Chapter 2 we compared British and American English. All the settled aims of our research were achieved.

The hypothesis that ”if we could watch English of through its history of development we would be able to foresee its future of the international language” has been approved. We watched the English language development throughout its history and realized the ways of its changes.

In the course of the work the following conclusions were made: despite the influence of other languages and their families, the English language saved its unique structure and individuality, having avoided the possibility to be the source for new languages origin.

Since the English language was given a spread all over the world, it possesses a great influence on other tongues and became a perfect international language in our present life.


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