Main differences between British and American English Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 28 June 2016

Main differences between British and American English

American English is now different from its British mother and we could say it is more than another dialect due to its importance nowadays. At the beginning of its history, after the American emancipation, there were two opposite attitudes towards the language: those who wanted to eradicate any legacy from the colonization and did not want a British model for their language and those who felt language loyalty towards mother- English. But finally, as in many British colonies, linguistic emancipation was a consequence of politics.

The growing importance of American English is also due to politics: after World War II, when the United States assumed a more global role and had greater influence in fields such as economic, technological and political, America became a linguistic model. As well as this American English has a dominant influence in the world because in US there is 70% of the native English speakers’ population, for its big publishing industry and mass media technology and for the magnitude of higher education.

The main differences between British English and American English are pronunciation, spelling and lexicon. However, syntax is not a big difference. Now we are going to have a glimpse at each, illustrating them with some examples.

Referring to pronunciation we can settle some basic parameters to see the difference between dialects. First we have the merger of [I] and [a] before nasal consonants, makes pin and pen homophones in the American dialect. Many words that used to be stressed on their second syllable are now stressed in their first syllable (like reconcile) but in America nowadays this process is even more rapid. Words like cigar, hotel and Detroit are now front-stressed. Then there is the deletion or reduction of weakly stressed syllables, a process that has been really important in English phonetics and that now is extending throughout the States. An example of that would be fence from defense or ‘lectricity for electricity.

Now let us have a look at spelling. Generally American English -or as a word ending is -our in British English like in color- colour and American English
-er is usually equivalent to -re in British English, like in center and centre . In American English the final e is removed form verbs when making the gerund whereas in British English is not usual, like routing and routeing (US-UK) and another common difference is that American prefer -ization and -ize instead of the British -isation and -ise, for example organization- organize (Am.) and organise- organisation ( Br.).

Probably the major difference between these two varieties is vocabulary, so words and idioms are quite distant. American lexicon is different because at first Americans had to name things that did not exist in Britain and then, for geographic reasons, it started changing and having its own criteria. Some words mean different things in the two varieties, for instance mean is “not generous” in British English and “angry, bad humoured” in American, rubber is “a tool to erase pencil” in British English and “a condom” in American English. These differences are on dictionaries but many vocabulary terms are used in a single form for each variety and then we can say it is the biggest difference between American and British. For example we can have trunk in American and lorry in British. Besides that, American English has reinforced archaic words such as maybe, which are not usual in Britain.

Syntax is the most similar characteristic between these two dialects, but it also has some peculiarities in American English.

To start with, double negation is possible and in British it is not. e.g.: I don’t have no money vs. I don’t have any money.

Then, in American English there is a variation in the structure of indirect questions, which can be done as it follows: she asked him did he do it. Also the pronoun system varies: in general they are used in the nominative case , as a consequence I, she, he and we are prepositional or verbal objects.

Referring to tenses there is a difference in the present perfect, which in British English is used to express and action that has occurred in the recent past and that continues in the present somehow. For example I’ve lost my key would be okay in American English but it is also possible I lost my key, which is not correct in Britain.

To express possession, while both forms are correct (and accepted in both British and American English), have got (have you got, he hasn’t got, etc.) is the usual form in British English while American English uses the have (do you have, he doesn’t have etc.)

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