A World of Englishes

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England, the original source of all the world’s Englishes, is now considered as one of the “family” of world English varieties, with its own peculiarities and its own distinctive vocabulary.

English has been spoken for more than 1,ooo years, but over that time it has changed radically as more and more people throughout the world use it for different purposes and develop their own form of the language.  Though English is spoken as a first language in many countries across the world, native speakers sound markedly different from place to place.  Besides, global demographic trends show that native speakers of English have already been outnumbered by those who speak it as foreign or second language. The concept of world Englishes is generally understood as the different varieties or appropriations of English that have developed around the world over time.  Examples of world Englishes are Singlish(Singaporean English), Manglish ( Malaysian English) as well as the more popular American English.

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American English: When the British settlers founded colonies in Norh America, the same  English was spoken in the New World as in the Old World. American English then changed over the years absorbing the influences of the languages spoken by the other peoples who came to live there. Three distinct linguistic areas in particular soon arose: New England(with New York playing a special role), the South, and the rest which is known as General American. In the field of grammar a great deal of simplification has taken place.   An example of this is the usage of the present perfect.In American, it is possible to say : “ I just ate” or “ I didn’t see her yet”, in contradiction to the rules of standard British English. American English is the most independent variety of English, the only one that is taught to foreigners besides Standard English. Differences in vocabulary show the independent development of the two varieties. The main difference between British English and American English concerns the way  people speak, that is their accent( pronunciation and intonation). But also the spelling of the word is quite different, for instance the word honour  becomes honor in American English, centre becomes center and colour becomes color.  Finally some words in British English have  an American equivalent , such as flat whose American equivalent is apartment , or holiday which becomes vacation.

Canadian English: Canadian English is the resulting of the conflicting influences of British and American English. In vocabulary there is a lot of American influence. As Canada was settled in the same time as the United States by people from similar areas and, originally , the two nations were only politically separated, Canadian English in most respects resembles General American. In pronunciation, they are more similar than Geeral American to New England speech or the Southern dialect. In fact, only Canadian themselves and people from the Us will be able to recognize Canadian English is distinctive from the US way of talking.

Australian and New Zealand English: Australian and New Zealand English have a  very similar vocabulary.  Most of the Australian vocabulary derives from English local dialects. On the other hand, in recent years the influence of American English has been apparent. Thus we find American truck, elevator, and freeway alongside British petrol, boot(of a car), and tap. The pronunciation of Broad Australian is very similar to cockney* , while Educated Australian is close to RP*.

South African English: English is spoken as the first language only by 10% of the South African population, but it is the second language of many others.

Indian English: India is the third largest English-using nation in the world, after the USA and the UK.  English has played a key role within the complex multilingual society of India. Together with Hindi, English is used across the country , but its features depend heavily on the speakers’ ethnic group or social class.

Caribbean English: Even if Standard British English has traditionally been the linguistic model for the Commonwealth Caribbean, recently the import of US television, radio and  tourism has made American English an equally powerful influence. If British English was the world language at the end of the 19th century after a century of imperialism, and American English is the world language today after the American 20th century, then the language of the 21st century might well be Inglish , a combination of English and Hindi which is spoken in India.

 *Cockney: The word “cockney” refers to people and language of the working classes of east London. Cockney differs from Standard English not only in vocabulary but also pronunciation. For example, the unvoiced “th” is spoken like an “f”: “free” instead of “three”, while in the middle of words , the voiced “th” is spoken a “v”: “muvver” instead of “mother”. Another specific feature of cockney is the use of “rhyming  slang” , which is almost impossible for outsiders  to understand. For example , “ loaf of bread” stands for head, “north and south” stands for “mouth”.

 *RP:  Received Pronunciation refers to the standard pronunciation of British English.  in England people are  traditionally divided into different social classes depending on their spoken English.   Today “RP”, this prestigious variety of British English, is spoken only by members of the royal family and others from the upper classes.

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Cristina Calvano

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