British and American English

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.

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.

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.

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 poitical 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.

There are some differences between British and American English in the usage of prepositions, such as prepositions with dates, days of the week BE requres «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 someting».

There are also units of vocabulary which are different while denoting the same notions, e.g. BE – «trousers», AE -«pants»; in BE «pants» are «трусы» which in AE is «shorts». While in BE «shorts» are outwear. This can lead to misunderstanding. There are some differences in names of places:

BE        AE        BE         AE

passage      hall       cross-roads   intersection

pillar box     mail-box  the cinema   the movies

studio, bed-sitter         one-room appartment

flyover       overpass   zebra crossing  Pxing

pavement    sidewalk   tube, uderground  subway

tram        streetcar   flat         apartment

surgery     doctor’s office lift         elevator

Some words connected with food:

BE          AE               BE             AE

tin        can                 sweets           candy

sweet biscuit   cookie         dry biscuit       crackers

sweet     dessert              chips        french fries

minced meat                ground beef

Some words denoting people:

BE         AE                 BE            AE

barrister,     lawyer,        staff /university/     faculty

post-graduate  graduate      chap, fellow         guy

caretaker   janitor        constable          patrolman

shopassistant shopperson    bobby                 cop

If we speak about cars there are also some differences:

BE        AE              BE              AE

boot     trunk             bumpers          fenders

a car,   an auto,             to hire a car    to rent a car

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 delition of the letter «u» in words ending in «our», e.g. honor, favor;

b) the delition 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 delition 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) delition 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:

BE       AE              BE           AE

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.

BE         AE              BE          AE

/’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.




Descriptive lexicology.
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