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British English (BrE) is, according to Oxford Dictionaries, "English as used in Great Britain, as distinct from that used elsewhere".More narrowly, it can refer specifically to the English language in England, or, more broadly, to the collective dialects of English throughout the British Isles taken as a single umbrella variety, for instance additionally incorporating Scottish English, Welsh English, and Northern Irish English. Tom McArthur in the Oxford Guide to World English acknowledges that British English shares "all the ambiguities and tensions [with] the word 'British' and as a result can be used and interpreted in two ways, more broadly or more narrowly, within a range of blurring and ambiguity".
Variations exist in formal (both written and spoken) English in the United Kingdom. For example, the adjective wee is almost exclusively used in parts of Scotland, North East England, Northern Ireland, Ireland, and occasionally Yorkshire, whereas the adjective little is predominant elsewhere. Nevertheless, there is a meaningful degree of uniformity in written English within the United Kingdom, and this could be described by the term British English. The forms of spoken English, however, vary considerably more than in most other areas of the world where English is spokenand so a uniform concept of British English is more difficult to apply to the spoken language.
English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain by Germanic settlers from various parts of what is now northwest Germany and the northern Netherlands. The resident population at this time was generally speaking Common Brittonic—the insular variety of Continental Celtic, which was influenced by the Roman occupation. This group of languages (Welsh, Cornish, Cumbric) cohabited alongside English into the modern period, but due to their remoteness from the Germanic languages, influence on English was notably limited. However, the degree of influence remains debated, and it has recently been argued that its grammatical influence accounts for the substantial innovations noted between English and the other West Germanic languages.
Initially, Old English was a diverse group of dialects, reflecting the varied origins of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms of England. One of these dialects, Late West Saxon, eventually came to dominate. The original Old English language was then influenced by two waves of invasion: the first was by speakers of the Scandinavian branch of the Germanic family, who settled in parts of Britain in the 8th and 9th centuries; the second was the Normans in the 11th century, who spoke Old Norman and ultimately developed an English variety of this called Anglo-Norman. These two invasions caused English to become "mixed" to some degree (though it was never a truly mixed language in the strictest sense of the word; mixed languages arise from the cohabitation of speakers of different languages, who develop a hybrid tongue for basic communication).
The more idiomatic, concrete and descriptive English is, the more it is from Anglo-Saxon origins. The more intellectual and abstract English is, the more it contains Latin and French influences, e.g. swine (like the Germanic schweincode: deu promoted to code: de ) is the animal in the field bred by the occupied Anglo-Saxons and pork (like the French porccode: fra promoted to code: fr ) is the animal at the table eaten by the occupying Normans. Another example is the Anglo-Saxon cu meaning cow, and the French bœufcode: fra promoted to code: fr meaning beef.
Cohabitation with the Scandinavians resulted in a significant grammatical simplification and lexical enrichment of the Anglo-Frisian core of English; the later Norman occupation led to the grafting onto that Germanic core of a more elaborate layer of words from the Romance branch of the European languages. This Norman influence entered English largely through the courts and government. Thus, English developed into a "borrowing" language of great flexibility and with a huge vocabulary.
Dialects and accents vary amongst the four countries of the United Kingdom, as well as within the countries themselves.
The major divisions are normally classified as English English (or English as spoken in England, which encompasses Southern English dialects, West Country dialects, East and West Midlands English dialects and Northern English dialects), Ulster English (in Northern Ireland), Welsh English (not to be confused with the Welsh language), and Scottish English (not to be confused with the Scots language or Scottish Gaelic language). The various British dialects also differ in the words that they have borrowed from other languages.
Around the middle of the 15th century, there were points where within the 5 major dialects there were almost 500 ways to spell the word though.
In addition, many British people can to some degree temporarily "swing" their accent towards a more neutral form of English at will, to reduce difficulty where very different accents are involved, or when speaking to foreigners.[ citation needed ]
Following its last major survey of English Dialects (1949–1950), the University of Leeds has started work on a new project. In May 2007 the Arts and Humanities Research Council awarded a grant to Leeds to study British regional dialects.
The team aresifting through a large collection of examples of regional slang words and phrases turned up by the "Voices project" run by the BBC, in which they invited the public to send in examples of English still spoken throughout the country. The BBC Voices project also collected hundreds of news articles about how the British speak English from swearing through to items on language schools. This information will also be collated and analysed by Johnson's team both for content and for where it was reported. "Perhaps the most remarkable finding in the Voices study is that the English language is as diverse as ever, despite our increased mobility and constant exposure to other accents and dialects through TV and radio". When discussing the award of the grant in 2007, Leeds University stated:
that they were "very pleased"—and indeed, "well chuffed"—at receiving their generous grant. He could, of course, have been "bostin" if he had come from the Black Country, or if he was a Scouser he would have been well "made up" over so many spondoolicks, because as a Geordie might say, £460,000 is a "canny load of chink".
Most people in Britain speak with a regional accent or dialect. However, about 2% of Britons speak with an accent called Received Pronunciation(also called "the Queen's English", "Oxford English" and "BBC English" ), that is essentially region-less. It derives from a mixture of the Midlands and Southern dialects spoken in London in the early modern period. It is frequently used as a model for teaching English to foreign learners.
In the South East there are significantly different accents; the Cockney accent spoken by some East Londoners is strikingly different from Received Pronunciation (RP). Cockney rhyming slang can be (and was initially intended to be) difficult for outsiders to understand,although the extent of its use is often somewhat exaggerated.
Estuary English has been gaining prominence in recent decades: it has some features of RP and some of Cockney. In London itself, the broad local accent is still changing, partly influenced by Caribbean speech. Immigrants to the UK in recent decades have brought many more languages to the country. Surveys started in 1979 by the Inner London Education Authority discovered over 100 languages being spoken domestically by the families of the inner city's schoolchildren. As a result, Londoners speak with a mixture of accents, depending on ethnicity, neighbourhood, class, age, upbringing, and sundry other factors.[ citation needed ] An example of thus is Multicultural London English, a sociolect that emerged in the late 20th century that is spoken mainly by young, working-class people in multicultural parts of London.
Since the mass internal migration to Northamptonshire in the 1940s and given its position between several major accent regions, it has become a source of various accent developments. In Northampton the older accent has been influenced by overspill Londoners. There is an accent known locally as the Kettering accent, which is a transitional accent between the East Midlands and East Anglian. It is the last southern Midlands accent to use the broad "a" in words like bath/grass (i.e. barth/grarss). Conversely crass/plastic use a slender "a". A few miles northwest in Leicestershire the slender "a" becomes more widespread generally. In the town of Corby, five miles (8 km) north, one can find Corbyite which, unlike the Kettering accent, is largely influenced by the West Scottish accent.
Phonological features characteristic of British English revolve around the pronunciation of the letter R, as well as the dental plosive T and some diphthongs specific to this dialect.
Once regarded as a Cockney feature, in a number of forms of spoken British English, /t/ has become commonly realised as a glottal stop [ʔ] when it is in the intervocalic position, in a process called T-glottalisation. National media, being based in London, have seen the glottal stop spreading more widely than it once was in word endings, not being heard as "no[ʔ]". It is still stigmatised when used at the beginning and central positions, such as later, while often has all but regained /t/ . Other consonants subject to this usage in Cockney English are p, as in pa[ʔ]er and k as in ba[ʔ]er.
In most areas of England, outside the West Country and other near-by counties of the UK, the consonant R is not pronounced if not followed by a vowel, lengthening the preceding vowel instead. This phenomenon is known as non-rhoticity. In these same areas, a tendency exists to insert an R between a word ending in a vowel and a next word beginning with a vowel. This is called the intrusive R. It could be understood as a merger, in that words that once ended in an R and words that did not are no longer treated differently. This is also due to London-centric influences. Examples of R-dropping are car and sugar, where the R is not pronounced.
British dialects differ on the extent of diphthongisation of long vowels, with southern varieties extensively turning them into diphthongs, and with northern dialects normally preserving many of them. As a comparison, North American varieties could be said to be in-between.
Long vowels /iː/ and /uː/ are usually preserved, and in several areas also /oː/ and /eː/, as in go and say (unlike other varieties of English, that change them to [oʊ] and [eɪ] respectively). Some areas go as far as not diphthongising medieval /iː/ and /uː/, that give rise to modern /aɪ/ and /aʊ/; that is, for example, in the traditional accent of Newcastle upon Tyne, 'out' will sound as 'oot', and in parts of Scotland and North-West England, 'my' will be pronounced as 'me'.
Long vowels /iː/ and /uː/ are diphthongised to [ɪi] and [ʊu] respectively (or, more technically, [ʏʉ], with a raised tongue), so that ee and oo in feed and food are pronounced with a movement. The diphthong [oʊ] is also pronounced with a greater movement, normally [əʊ], [əʉ] or [əɨ].
Dropping a morphological grammatical number, in collective nouns, is stronger in British English than North American English.This is to treat them as plural when once grammatically singular, a perceived natural number prevails, especially when applying to institutional nouns and groups of people.
The noun 'police', for example, undergoes this treatment:
Police are investigating the theft of work tools worth £500 from a van at the Sprucefield park and ride car park in Lisburn.
A football team can be treated likewise:
Arsenal have lost just one of 20 home Premier League matches against Manchester City.
This tendency can be observed in texts produced already in the 19th century. For example, Jane Austen, a British author, writes in Chapter 4 of Pride and Prejudice , published in 1813:
All the world are good and agreeable in your eyes.
However, in Chapter 16, the grammatical number is used.
The world is blinded by his fortune and consequence.
Some dialects of British English use negative concords, also known as double negatives. Rather than changing a word or using a positive, words like nobody, not, nothing, and never would be used in the same sentence.While this does not occur in Standard English, it does occur in non-standard dialects. The double negation follows the idea of two different morphemes, one that causes the double negation, and one that is used for the point or the verb.
As with English around the world, the English language as used in the United Kingdom is governed by convention rather than formal code: there is no body equivalent to the Académie française or the Real Academia Española. Dictionaries (for example, the Oxford English Dictionary , the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English , the Chambers Dictionary , and the Collins Dictionary ) record usage rather than attempting to prescribe it.In addition, vocabulary and usage change with time: words are freely borrowed from other languages and other strains of English, and neologisms are frequent.
For historical reasons dating back to the rise of London in the 9th century, the form of language spoken in London and the East Midlands became standard English within the Court, and ultimately became the basis for generally accepted use in the law, government, literature and education in Britain. The standardisation of British English is thought to be from both dialect levelling and a thought of social superiority. Speaking in the Standard dialect created class distinctions; those who did not speak the standard English would be considered of a lesser class or social status and often discounted or considered of a low intelligence.Another contribution to the standardisation of British English was the introduction of the printing press to England in the mid-15th century. In doing so, William Caxton enabled a common language and spelling to be dispersed among the entirety of England at a much faster rate.
Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language (1755) was a large step in the English-language spelling reform, where the purification of language focused on standardising both speech and spelling.By the early 20th century, British authors had produced numerous books intended as guides to English grammar and usage, a few of which achieved sufficient acclaim to have remained in print for long periods and to have been reissued in new editions after some decades. These include, most notably of all, Fowler's Modern English Usage and The Complete Plain Words by Sir Ernest Gowers.
Detailed guidance on many aspects of writing British English for publication is included in style guides issued by various publishers including The Times newspaper, the Oxford University Press and the Cambridge University Press . The Oxford University Press guidelines were originally drafted as a single broadsheet page by Horace Henry Hart, and were at the time (1893) the first guide of their type in English; they were gradually expanded and eventually published, first as Hart's Rules , and in 2002 as part of The Oxford Manual of Style. Comparable in authority and stature to The Chicago Manual of Style for published American English, the Oxford Manual is a fairly exhaustive standard for published British English that writers can turn to in the absence of specific guidance from their publishing house.
British English is the basis of, and very similar to Commonwealth English,that is English spoken and written in Commonwealth countries, though often with some local variation. This includes English spoken in Malta, Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria, and South Africa. It also includes South Asian English used in South Asia, English varieties in Southeast Asia and in parts of Africa. Canadian English is based on British English, but has more influence from American English. British English, for example, is the closest English to Indian English, but Indian English has extra vocabulary and some English words are assigned different meanings.
American English, sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. English is the most widely spoken language in the United States and in most circumstances is the de facto common language used in government, education, and commerce. Since the 20th century, American English has become the most influential form of English worldwide.
The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family spoken natively by a population of about 515 million people mainly in Europe, North America, Oceania and Southern Africa. The most widely spoken Germanic language, English, is also the world's most widely spoken language with an estimated 2 billion speakers. All Germanic languages are derived from Proto-Germanic, spoken in Iron Age Scandinavia.
Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area around present-day Rome, but through the power of the Roman Republic it became the dominant language in the Italian region and subsequently throughout the Roman Empire. Even after the fall of Western Rome, Latin remained the common language of international communication, science, scholarship and academia in Europe until well into the 18th century, when other regional vernaculars supplanted it in common academic and political usage, and it eventually became a dead language in the modern linguistic definition.
Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language, spoken in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages. It was brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the mid-5th century, and the first Old English literary works date from the mid-7th century. After the Norman conquest of 1066, English was replaced, for a time, by Anglo-Norman as the language of the upper classes. This is regarded as marking the end of the Old English era, since during this period the English language was heavily influenced by Anglo-Norman, developing into a phase known now as Middle English in England and Early Scots in Scotland.
Received Pronunciation (RP) is the accent traditionally regarded as the standard and most prestigious form of spoken British English. For over a century, there has been argument over such questions as the definition of RP, whether it is geographically neutral, how many speakers there are, whether sub-varieties exist, how appropriate a choice it is as a standard and how the accent has changed over time. The name itself is controversial. RP is an accent, so the study of RP is concerned only with matters of pronunciation; other areas relevant to the study of language standards such as vocabulary, grammar and style are not considered.
Spoken English shows great variation across regions where it is the predominant language. For example, the United Kingdom has the largest variation of accents of any country in the world, and therefore no single "British accent" exists. This article provides an overview of the numerous identifiable variations in pronunciation; such distinctions usually derive from the phonetic inventory of local dialects, as well as from broader differences in the Standard English of different primary-speaking populations.
Middle English is a form of the English language that was spoken after the Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century. The English language underwent distinct variations and developments following the Old English period. Scholarly opinion varies, but the Oxford English Dictionary specifies the period when Middle English was spoken as being from 1150 to 1500. This stage of the development of the English language roughly followed the High to the Late Middle Ages.
Estuary English is an English accent associated with the area along the River Thames and its estuary, including London. Phonetician John C. Wells proposed a definition of Estuary English as "Standard English spoken with the accent of the southeast of England". He views Estuary English as an emerging standard accent of England: an "intermediate" between the 20th-century higher-class non-regional standard accent, Received Pronunciation, and the 20th-century lower-class local London accent, Cockney. There is some debate among linguists as to where Cockney speech ends and Estuary English begins.
Indian English (IE) is a group of English dialects spoken in India and among the Indian diaspora. English is used by the Indian government for communication, along with Hindi, as enshrined in the Constitution of India. English is also an official language in seven states and seven union territories of India, and the additional official language in seven other states and one union territory. Furthermore, English is the sole official language of the Indian Judiciary, unless the state governor or legislature mandates the use of a regional language, or if the President of India has given approval for the use of regional languages in courts.
Scottish English is the set of varieties of the English language spoken in Scotland. The transregional, standardised variety is called Scottish Standard English or Standard Scottish English (SSE). Scottish Standard English may be defined as "the characteristic speech of the professional class [in Scotland] and the accepted norm in schools". IETF language tag for "Scottish Standard English" is en-scotland.
English is a West Germanic language that originated from Ingvaeonic languages brought to Britain in the mid-5th to 7th centuries AD by Anglo-Saxon migrants from what is now northwest Germany, southern Denmark and the Netherlands. The Anglo-Saxons settled in the British Isles from the mid-5th century and came to dominate the bulk of southern Great Britain. Their language originated as a group of Ingvaeonic languages which were spoken by the settlers in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages, displacing the Celtic languages that had previously been dominant. Old English reflected the varied origins of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms established in different parts of Britain. The Late West Saxon dialect eventually became dominant. A significant subsequent influence on the shaping of Old English came from contact with the North Germanic languages spoken by the Scandinavian Vikings who conquered and colonized parts of Britain during the 8th and 9th centuries, which led to much lexical borrowing and grammatical simplification. The Anglian dialects had a greater influence on Middle English.
West Country English is a group of English language varieties and accents used by much of the native population of South West England, the area sometimes popularly known as the West Country.
In English, the digraph ⟨th⟩ represents in most cases one of two different phonemes: the voiced dental fricative and the voiceless dental fricative (thing). More rarely, it can stand for or the cluster (eighth). In compound words, ⟨th⟩ may be a consonant sequence rather than a digraph, as in the of lighthouse.
The English language in Northern England has been shaped by the region's history of settlement and migration, and today encompasses a group of related dialects known as Northern England English. The strongest influence on the modern varieties of the English language spoken in Northern England is the Northumbrian dialect of Middle English, but also contact with Old Norse during the Viking Age, with Irish English following the Great Famine and particularly in Lancashire and the south of Yorkshire, with midlands dialects since the industrial revolution, have produced new and distinctive styles of speech. Some "Northern" traits can be found further south than others: only conservative Northumbrian dialects retain the pre-Great Vowel Shift pronunciation of words such as town, but all northern accents lack the FOOT–STRUT split, and this trait extends a significant distance into the Midlands.
English in Southern England is the collective set of different dialects and accents of Modern English spoken in Southern England.
In English phonology, t-glottalization or t-glottalling is a sound change in certain English dialects and accents, particularly in the United Kingdom, that causes the phoneme to be pronounced as the glottal stop (listen) in certain positions. It is never universal, especially in careful speech, and it most often alternates with other allophones of such as [t] (help·info),, ,, or.
English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family, with its earliest forms spoken by the inhabitants of early medieval England. It is named after the Angles, one of the ancient Germanic peoples that migrated to the island of Great Britain. English is genealogically West Germanic, closest related to the Low Saxon and Frisian languages; however, its vocabulary is also distinctively influenced by dialects of French and Latin, plus some grammar and a small amount of core vocabulary influenced by Old Norse. Speakers of English are called Anglophones.
The English language spoken and written in England encompasses a diverse range of accents and dialects. The language forms part of the broader British English, along with other varieties in the United Kingdom. Terms used to refer to the English language spoken and written in England include: English English and Anglo-English.
Welsh English comprises the dialects of English spoken by Welsh people. The dialects are significantly influenced by Welsh grammar and often include words derived from Welsh. In addition to the distinctive words and grammar, a variety of accents are found across Wales, including those of North Wales, the Cardiff dialect, the South Wales Valleys and West Wales.
Rhoticity in English is the pronunciation of the historical rhotic consonant by English speakers. The presence or absence of rhoticity is one of the most prominent distinctions by which varieties of English can be classified. In rhotic varieties, the historical English sound is preserved in all pronunciation contexts. In non-rhotic varieties, speakers no longer pronounce in postvocalic environments—that is, when it is immediately after a vowel and not followed by another vowel. For example, in isolation, a rhotic English speaker pronounces the words hard and butter as /ˈhɑːrd/ and /ˈbʌtər/, whereas a non-rhotic speaker "drops" or "deletes" the sound, pronouncing them as /ˈhɑːd/ and /ˈbʌtə/. When an r is at the end of a word but the next word begins with a vowel, as in the phrase "better apples", most non-rhotic speakers will pronounce the in that position, since it is followed by a vowel in this case.