Syntactic distinctions within present day English

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2002

20 Pages, Grade: 2 (B)




I. Language Areas of Present Day English
I. 1 British English versus American English
I. 2 Selected Peculiarities of British English and American English

II. Standard Syntactic Patterns in Present Day English

III Selected Syntactic deviations from Standard British English




A national variety is a variety of a language (as native language or second language) which is characteristic for a specific country.[1] This term is necessary to keep in mind for the description of linguistic situations in anglophone countries. English has spread over many countries as no other language had done before. The English language is spoken at present as a native language by approximately 270 million speakers spread over four continents. The number of speakers of English as a second language is estimated to be around 135 million.[2] The number of English speakers is consistently increasing.

Nearly all of the English speakers have regional features in the way they speak English. The majority of the population speak in a manner which identifies them as coming from a particular place.

The English language consists of the sum of all its dialects, not of one correct version and a number of substandard varieties.[3] But even if Standard English is defined as one dialect among many, it is no longer a regional dialect. It has spread throughout the world as the educated variety of English. It is natural that people may regard dialects as imperfect versions of English.

This term paper tries to examine several linguistic varieties in England in comparison to Standard English. The present discussion will be limited to Standard British English. The discussion about the linguistic varieties, which includes their grammar in general, will consistently be contrasted with the standard syntactic pattern in Standard British English. Before that a short overview about some of the peculiarities of Standard British and Standard American English in the fields of spelling, vocabulary and grammar will be given in detail.

I . Language Areas of Present Day English

Since the seventeenth century the English language spread over several countries and continents in addition to England.[4] This process of expansion began with the occupation of the East coast of North America and the Caribbean as well as the foundation of branches in India and West Africa.[5] It continued with the taking possession of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and ended up with the acquisition of further colonies in Asia and Africa.[6] Whereas the English language became more and more the native language of the settler colonies[7] and repressed the regional languages, the English language as native language was limited in other colonies only to the members of British administration and individual settlers.[8] Nevertheless the English language has got the status of an official language. Every country which was occupied by England and North America uses the English language as official language. That means English is used as means of communication in official areas. Consequently English is used in approximately 50 countries as official language.[9]

Due to social influences it is natural that different varieties of English appear with people in those countries who speak English as second language. Although it is an interesting phenomenon in English varieties our discussion will be significantly limited to Standard British English and its varieties in Great Britain and partly in Ireland. Examples will be given when the subject is presented in more detail in chapter three. Some varieties in England will be compared with a standard language norm (here Standard British English) in order to establish their deviations from the language norm. The following paragraph is intended to work out some peculiarities in both English and American Standard English as predominant language norms.

I. 1 British English versus American English

In spite of the complexity trying to define the two notions things will need to be simplified.

In any case British English[10] is easier to handle with, and can be defined here as the variety of English as spoken by the educated native inhabitants of Britain including people who have a university education.

Compared to BE, it is more difficult to state what AE is. Karol Janicki gives three causes for this difficulty:[11]

1. the immense size of the country with its fifty American states
2. the influence of many European languages which influenced the American English word stock
3. the existence of many socially established varieties of American English

Because AE has gained the status of a separate language, it is best referred to as a distinct national variety of English differing from the language spoken in Britain with respect to a significant number of features.[12] Concerning the status of AE Karol Janicki finds it most proper to use the term variety for AE[13] and it will be used throughout this work referring to the English language as spoken in the United States.

Despite the strong American influence on BE, the two varieties of English show a considerable number of differences. Undoubtedly most differences between BE and AE can be discovered in the vocabulary. Both varieties often use different words for the same objects. They make use of words and phrases that are seldom or never heard in America and vice versa.

In the following the term paper will proceed to a discussion of some selected peculiarities of BE and AE in the fields of spelling, vocabulary and grammar.

I. 2 Selected Peculiarities of British English and American English

I. Spelling

Only a few of the most significant spelling differences in present-day BE and AE are presented below and are classified under the following headings:

1. American - or versus British – our


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

2. American -er versus British –re


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

3. American -se versus British – ce


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

II. Vocabulary

The vocabulary differences between BE and AE are in part presented below.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Apart from those words mentioned in the list there are other terms which do not have a one to one correspondence. For instance: public school in Britain is an exclusive and expensive school. Whereas in America it is an ordinary state school for everyone. Homely in BE means nice and pleasant whereas in AE it means ugly. In AE pants are trousers, in BE underpants.[15]


[1] Hansen, Carls, Lucko: Die Differenzierung des Englischen in nationalen Varianten - Eine Einführung, Erich Schmidt Verlag, Berlin, 1996, p. 24.

[2] Janicki, Karol: Elements of British and American English, Kantor Wydawniczy SAWW, Poznan, 1995, p. 105.

[3] Freeborn, Dennis, et al. : Varieties of English, An Introduction to the Study of Language, Southampton, 1986, p. 41.

[4] Hansen, Carls, Lucko: Die Differenzierung des Englischen, p. 25.

[5] Ebd., p. 25.

[6] Ebd., p. 25.

[7] Ebd., p. 25: They were colonies with a majority of English settlers.

[8] Ebd., p. 25.

[9] Ebd., p. 26.

[10] The terms British and American English will be used in this sense throughout the term paper and will be abbreviated as BE and AE.

[11] Janicki, Karol: Elements of British and American English, p. 25.

[12] Ebd., p. 14.

[13] Ebd., p. 15.

[14] These and further examples in this chapter taken from Karol Janicki: Elements of British and American English, p. 49f.

[15] Ebd., p. 73-74.

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Syntactic distinctions within present day English
University of Marburg  (Anglistics)
Advanced Seminar in English Linguistiks
2 (B)
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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583 KB
english dialects
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Emel Deyneli (Author), 2002, Syntactic distinctions within present day English, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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