Western Culture

Learning Materials for Students

World Englishes

Are There Many English Languages?

Today, there is not one English language but many Englishes: British, American, Australian, Indian, Hong Kong, African, Canadian, Pakistani, Singaporean and many others. A command of one of these Englishes is vitally important for everyone who wants to be part of the new, global way of life, in which computers and the Internet play a central role. Knowledge of English can bring educational advancement and economic improvement, and will empower people everywhere by opening up new opportunities and new ways of communicating.

We are faced, in the twenty-first century, with a new world that demands an unprecedented level of communication skills from its citizens.  It is obvious that more and more people will need guidance and education. Our planet is at risk in many ways, and certainly illiteracy and a tragic lack of understanding between human beings in different parts of the world are among the most devastating threats we face.

British English (or UK English) is a collective term for the forms of English spoken in the British Isles. When used by British speakers, it often refers to the written Standard English and the sociolect known as Received Pronunciation (RP). The people who live in the British Isles do not use the term often, although they do refer to Scottish English, Welsh English and Irish English, and dialects thereof.

American English was inherited from British colonization. The first wave of English-speaking immigrants was settled in North America in the 17th century. In that century, there were also speakers in North America of the Dutch, French, German, Native American, Spanish, Swedish, and Finnish languages.

American English has both spelling and grammatical differences from British English, some of which were made as part of an attempt to rationalize the English spelling used by British English at the time. Unlike many 20th century language reforms (e.g., Turkey's alphabet shift, Norway's spelling reform) the American spelling changes were not driven by government, but by textbook writers and dictionary makers.

The first American dictionary was written by Noah Webster in 1828. At the time America was a relatively new country and Webster's particular contribution was to show that the region spoke a different dialect from Britain, and so he wrote a dictionary with many spellings differing from the standard. Many of these changes were initiated unilaterally by Webster.

Webster also argued for many "simplifications" to the idiomatic spelling of the period. Somewhat ironically, many, although not all, of his simplifications fell into common usage alongside the original versions, resulting in a situation even more confused than before.

Many words are shortened and differ from other versions of English. Spellings such as center are used instead of centre in other versions of English. Conversely, American English sometimes favors words that are morphologically more complex, whereas British English uses clipped forms, such as AmE transportation and BrE transport or where the British form is a back-formation, such as AmE burglarize and BrE burgle (from burglar).

A number of words that originated in the English of the British Isles are still in everyday use in North America, but are no longer used in most varieties of British English. The most conspicuous of these words are fall, the season; and gotten as a past participle of get. Americans are likelier than Britons to name a stream whose breadth or volume is judged insufficient for it to be a river or a creek. The word diaper goes back at least to Shakespeare, and usage was maintained in the U.S. and Canada, but was replaced in the British Isles with nappy.

Some of these words are still used in various dialects of the British Isles, but not in formal standard British English. Many of these older words have cognates in Scots. You will find information about the differences between British and American English in the following website: http://esl.about.com/library/weekly/aa110698.htm .

Canada is an independent sovereign state in northern North America, the northern-most country in the world, and the second largest in total area. Bordering the United States, its territorial claims extend north into the Arctic Ocean as far as the North Pole. Canada is a federation of ten provinces and three territories, governed as a Westminster-style representative democracy.

Canada's two official languages are English and French. On July 7, 1969, French was made  Canada redefining itself as a bilingual and multicultural nation at the federal level.

Canadian culture has been heavily influenced by British and French cultures and traditions as a result of its colonial past. In addition, Canadian culture has also been influenced by American culture partially because of the close proximity of the two countries and partially because of the migration of people, ideas, capital and politics across the border. Despite these inherited British, French and American traditions, Canadian culture has developed many unique characteristics.

As Canada and the United States have grown closer, many Canadians have developed complex feelings and concerns, regarding what makes Canada a "distinct" nation within North America. The large American cultural presence in Canada has prompted some fears of a "cultural takeover," and has initiated the establishment of many laws and government institutions to protect Canadian culture. Much of Canadian culture remains defined in contrast to American culture.

In recent years, Canada has increasingly distinguished itself from the United States by both more liberal social policy and more conservative fiscal policy. Canadian governments (and to a large extent, the Canadian people) support issues such as universal health care, gay marriage and decriminalization of marijuana. Information about the differences between Canadian English and American and British English can be found in this website: http://www.cornerstoneword.com/misc/cdneng/cdneng.htm

Australian English began to diverge from British English after the foundation of the Colony of New South Wales in 1788. By the 1820s, observers had recognised that native-born white Australians spoke with a distinctive accent and vocabulary. Since the Australian goldrushes — which began in the 1850s — Australian English has borrowed increasingly from external sources, including American English. This so-called "Americanisation" was accelerated by a massive influx of US military personnel during World War II. The large scale importation of television programs and other mass media from the United States, from the 1950s onwards, also had a sigificant effect. As a result, for example, Australians use the word truck instead of the British lorry, and freeway is the most common word for a high-speed road, though motorway is also used.

Due to their shared history and geographical proximity, Australian English is most similar to New Zealand English. However the difference between the two are immediately obvious to a speaker from either country, if not to a casual observer from a third country.

The exposure to the different spellings of British and American English leads to a certain amount of spelling confusion, such as "organize" as opposed to "organise", or "color" as opposed to "colour". Generally, British usage and spelling is preferred, although there are exceptions, such as the "American" spellings of program, jail and some well-known proper names (for example, the Australian Labor Party).

Perhaps due to the mass influx of English prisoners earlier on in Australia's history, Australian English uses a lot of colloquialisms that are common with the so-called 'English working-class accent'. One most telling example would be the frequently used and friendly word 'mate'. Another similarity would be the shortening of words and adding an 'ee' or 'o' sound on the end, as in; Australian = Aussie, John = Jono, afternoon = arvo, alright/ok = righto.

There are is also a strong influence from Hiberno-English, as many Australians are of Irish descent. Perhaps most noticeable is the widespread – but not universal – pronunciation of the name of the letter "H" as "haitch" /heɪtʃ/, rather than the unaspirated "aitch" /eɪtʃ/ found in New Zealand, as well as most of Britain and North America. This is often attributed to the influence of Irish Catholic priests and nuns. Others include the non-standard plural of "you" as "youse", /juːz/ which is common in some social circles, and the expression "good on you", although both of these are also encountered in New Zealand English and British English.

The origins of Australian words

Australian English incorporates many uniquely Australian terms, such as outback to refer to remote, sparsely-populated areas, and bush to refer to native forested areas, but also to country areas in general. One theory is that many such words or usages originated with British convicts transported to the penal colonies of Australia between 1788 and 1868. The convicts were mostly people from English cities, such as Cockneys, and many words widely used by country Australians are or were also used in London and/or south east England, with minor variations in meaning. For example: creek (in Australia, a stream whereas in England it is a small watercourse flowing into the sea); paddock (in Australia any field, in England a small enclosure for livestock); bush (in England this usage survives as a proper name, for example Shepherd's Bush).

The origins of other terms are not as clear, or are disputed. Fair dinkum can mean "are you telling me the truth?", "this is the truth!", or even "ridiculous!" depending on context. Dinkum is often claimed to date back to the gold rushes of the 1850s, and that it is derived from the Cantonese for "real gold". More recently, dinkum is said to derive from English regional slang for "hard work" or "fair work".

G'day is well known as a stereotypical Australian greeting ("G'day" is not quite synonymous with "good day", and is never used as an expression for "farewell"). Many of these terms have been adopted into British English via popular culture and family links.

Some elements of Aboriginal languages have been incorporated into Australian English, mainly as names for places, flora and fauna (for example Dingo, kangaroo). Beyond that, very few terms have been adopted into the wider language. A notable exception is Cooee (a musical call which travels long distances in the bush and is used to say 'is there anyone there?'), which can also be used as a term for an audible range of distance ("If he's within cooee of here we'll spot him"). Though often thought of as an Aboriginal word, Didgeridoo/Didjeridu (a well known wooden musical instrument) is usually considered to be an onomatopaoeic word of Western invention. It has also been suggested that it may have an Irish derivation. More about Australian English: http://www.linguist.de/reese/English/australia.htm

The Republic of South Africa is a large republic in Southern Africa. It is located at the extreme southern tip of the continent, and borders Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland. The small nation of Lesotho is entirely contained within South African territory. Its economy is the largest and most well developed of the entire African continent, with modern infrastructure common in nearly all of the country.

South Africa has the largest population of people of European descent in Africa, the largest Indian population outside of Asia, as well as the largest Coloured community, making South Africa one of the most ethnically diverse countries on the continent.

South Africa has 11 official languages, second only to India in number. As a result, there are many official names for the country. It also recognises eight non-official languages: Fanagalo, Lobedu, Northern Ndebele, Phuthi, South African Sign Language, Khoe, Nama and San. These non-official languages may be used in certain official uses in limited areas where it has been determined that these languages are prevalent, but their populations are not as such that they require nationwide recognition.

There are 11 official names for South Africa, one for each of the official national languages. While each language is technically equal to every other, English has emerged recently as the chief-among-peers as it is the most widely spoken language across racial barriers, even though it is not the most widely spoken language by population. The South African passport currently has only French and English on the front cover and lists the other official names of South Africa on an inner page.

This can be seen in differences in food, music, and dance among each of separate groups. However, there are certain unifying traits. South African cuisine is heavily meat-based. South Africa has also developed into a major wine producer, with some of the best vineyards in the world lying in valleys around Stellenbosch, Franschoek and Paarl. The unusual fast food of deep-fried crickets is also common in South Africa. More about South African English: http://www.answers.com/topic/south-african-english

Oceania is a name used for varying groups of islands of the Pacific Ocean. In its narrow usage it refers to Polynesia (including New Zealand), Melanesia (including New Guinea) and Micronesia. In a wider usage it includes Australia. It may also include the Malay archipelago. Uncommon usage includes islands such as Japan and the Aleutian Islands.

Although the islands of Oceania do not form part of a true continent, Oceania is sometimes associated with the continent of Australia for the purposes of dividing the whole world into continental groupings. As such, it is the smallest "continent" in area and the second smallest, after Antarctica, in population. This article primarily refers to the grouping of Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Australia. These traditional divisions are no more in use amongst researchers, who prefer to divide Oceania into Near Oceania and Remote Oceania.

In ecology, Oceania is one of eight terrestrial ecozones, which constitute the major ecological regions of the planet. The Oceania ecozone includes all of Micronesia, Fiji, and all of Polynesia except New Zealand. New Zealand, along with New Guinea and nearby islands, Australia, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia, constitute the separate Australasia ecozone.

If the narrower definition is accepted, every country but one in Oceania is borderless. The exception is Papua New Guinea which borders Indonesia. Wider definitions might also allow the borders of Indonesia with Malaysia and Timor Leste, and Malaysia's border with Brunei Darussalam to be considered within Oceania. More about Oceania: http://www.answers.com/Oceania

Regions and Countries

The traditional subdivision of Oceania into Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia is no more recognised as correct by most geographers and scientists, but it is still the most popular one.

Micronesia

  • Palau
  • Micronesia
  • Marshall Islands
  • Nauru
  • Kiribati

Melanesia

  • Papua New Guinea
  • Solomon Islands
  • Vanuatu
  • Fiji
  • East Timor
  • Indonesia

Polynesia

  • Tuvalu
  • Samoa
  • Tonga
  • New Zealand

Australia

Territories in Oceania that belong to countries of other continents include:

  • American Samoa (United States0
  • Easter Island (Chile)
  • French Polynesia (France)
  • Guam (United States)
  • Hawaii (United States)
  • New Caledonia (France)
  • Northern Mariana Islands (United States)
  • Pitcairn Islands (United Kingdom)
  • Wallis and Futuna (France)

Caribbean English is a dialect of the English language spoken in the Caribbean. In the Caribbean, there is a great deal of variation in the way English is spoken.

Examples of the English in daily use in the Caribbean include a reduced set of pronouns, typically, me, we, he, she, and they (pronounced "day" or "deh").

A simple statement, "I don't know" could be stated, "Me na' know" in the case of Jamaica. "I ain' know" in the case of Barbados, or "Me eh' know" in Trinidad and Tobago.

More about Caribbean English: http://www.answers.com/Caribbean%20English .

The Republic of India is the second most populous country in the world, with a population of over one billion, and is the seventh largest country by geographical size. India has grown significantly, both in population and in strategic importance, in the last twenty years.

 

India has a rich and unique cultural heritage, and has actively preserved its established traditions throughout history. It has also absorbed customs from both invaders and immigrants.

India has a fairly free and independent media. The Indian press has flourished since independence and has a vast number of English language and local language newspapers and journals. The total number of registered newspapers in India, as of 2003 was 55,780, of which 22,000 are Hindi language publications and periodicals. The total newspaper circulation is 142,005,543. You will find some information about Indian English in the following website: http://www.answers.com/topic/indian-english?gwp=19

 

Home Assignment

 

Please study the following website and prepare to speak about the differences between British and American English:

http://esl.about.com/library/weekly/aa110698.htm

 

Tools and Resources for English Teachers