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British English
British English
is the standard dialect of English language
English language
as spoken and written in the United Kingdom.[3] Variations exist in formal, written English in the United Kingdom. For example, the adjective wee is almost exclusively used in parts of Scotland
Scotland
and Ireland, and occasionally Yorkshire, whereas 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 spoken,[4] so a uniform concept of British English
British English
is more difficult to apply to the spoken language. According to Tom McArthur in the Oxford Guide to World English, British English
British English
shares "all the ambiguities and tensions in 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".[5] When distinguished from American English, the term "British English" is sometimes used broadly as a synonym for the various varieties of English spoken in some member states of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Contents

1 History 2 Dialects

2.1 Regional 2.2 Ethnicity

3 Features

3.1 Glottal stop 3.2 R-dropping 3.3 Diphthongisation

3.3.1 In the South 3.3.2 In the North

3.4 Loss of grammatical number in collective nouns 3.5 Negative Concord

4 Standardisation 5 See also 6 Notes 7 References 8 External links

History[edit] Main article: History of the English language English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian
Anglo-Frisian
dialects brought to Britain by Germanic settlers from various parts of what is now northwest Germany
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.[6] Initially, Old English
Old English
was a diverse group of dialects, reflecting the varied origins of the Anglo-Saxon
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 conquered and colonised parts of Britain in the 8th and 9th centuries; the second was the Normans
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
Anglo-Saxon
origins. The more intellectual and abstract English is, the more it contains Latin
Latin
and French influences e.g. swine (like the Germanic schwein) is the animal in the field bred by the occupied Anglo-Saxons and pork (like the French porc) is the animal at the table eaten by the occupying Normans.[7] 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[edit]

This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode
Unicode
characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Map showing phonological variation within England
England
of the vowel in bath, grass, and dance.   'a' [ä]   'aa' [æː]   'ah' [ɑː]   anomalies Those in the north generally pronounce such words with a short vowel whereas those in the south use a long vowel

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
Ulster English
in Northern Ireland, Welsh English
Welsh English
(not to be confused with the Welsh language), and Scottish English
Scottish English
(not to be confused with the Scots 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.[8] Following its last major survey of English Dialects (1949–1950), the University of Leeds
University of Leeds
has started work on a new project. In May 2007 the Arts and Humanities Research Council
Arts and Humanities Research Council
awarded a grant to Leeds to study British regional dialects.[9][10] The team are[a] sifting 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
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
English language
is as diverse as ever, despite our increased mobility and constant exposure to other accents and dialects through TV and radio".[10] When discussing the award of the grant in 2007, Leeds University
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
Geordie
might say, £460,000 is a "canny load of chink".[11]

Regional[edit] Most people in Britain speak with a regional accent or dialect. However, about 2% of Britons speak with an accent called Received Pronunciation[12] (also called as "the Queen's English", "Oxford English" and " BBC
BBC
English"[13]), that is essentially region-less.[14][15] It derives from a mixture of the Midlands and Southern dialects spoken in London
London
in the early modern period.[15] It is frequently used as a model for teaching English to foreign learners.[15] In the South East there are significantly different accents; the Cockney
Cockney
accent spoken by some East Londoners is strikingly different from Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation
(RP). The Cockney
Cockney
rhyming slang can be (and was initially intended to be) difficult for outsiders to understand,[16] although the extent of its use is often somewhat exaggerated. Estuary English
Estuary English
has been gaining prominence in recent decades: it has some features of RP and some of Cockney. In London
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. Since the mass internal immigration to Northamptonshire
Northamptonshire
in the 1940s and 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
Kettering
accent, which is a transitional accent between the East Midlands
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
Kettering
accent, is largely influenced by the West Scottish accent. In addition, most British people
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. Ethnicity[edit] Main article: Multicultural London
London
English Features[edit] Phonological features characteristic of British English
British English
revolve around the pronunciation of the letter R, as well as the dental plosive T and some diphthongs specific to this dialect. Glottal stop[edit] In a number of forms of spoken British English, it is common for the phoneme /t/ to be realised as a glottal stop [ʔ] when it is in the intervocalic position, in a process called T-glottalisation. Once regarded as a Cockney
Cockney
feature, it has become much more widespread. It is still stigmatised when used in words like later, but becoming very widespread at the end of words such as not (as in no[ʔ] interested).[17] Other consonants subject to this usage in Cockney English are p, as in pa[ʔ]er and k as in ba[ʔ]er.[17] R-dropping[edit] In most areas of Britain outside Scotland
Scotland
and Northern Ireland, 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. This 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. Diphthongisation[edit] 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. In the South[edit] Long vowels /i:/ and /u:/ 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]. In the North[edit] Long vowels /i:/ and /u:/ are usually preserved, and in several areas also /o:/ and /e:/, 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 /i:/ and /u:/, 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
Scotland
and North-West England, 'my' will be pronounced as 'me'. Loss of grammatical number in collective nouns[edit] A tendency to drop grammatical number in collective nouns, stronger in British English
British English
than in North American English,[18] exists. This is namely treating them, that were once grammatically singular, as grammatically plural, that is: the perceived natural number prevails. This applies especially to nouns of institutions and groups made of many 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.[19]

A football team can be treated likewise:

Arsenal have lost just one of 20 home Premier League matches against Manchester City.[20]

Negative Concord[edit] Some dialects of British English
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.[21] 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.[22] Standardisation[edit] As with English around the world, the English language
English language
as used in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
is governed by convention rather than formal code: there is no body equivalent to the Académie française
Académie française
or the Real Academia Española. Dictionaries (for example, Oxford English Dictionary, Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, Chambers Dictionary, Collins Dictionary) record usage rather than attempting to prescribe it.[23] 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
London
in the 9th century, the form of language spoken in London
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
British English
is thought to be from both dialect leveling 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.[23] Another contribution to the standardisation of British English
British English
was the introduction of the printing press to England
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
England
at a much faster rate.[8] Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language
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.[24] By the early 20th century, British authors have produced numerous books intended as guides to English grammar and usage, a few of which have 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
The Complete Plain Words
by Sir Ernest Gowers.[25] Detailed guidance on many aspects of writing British English
British English
for publication is included in style guides issued by various publishers including The Times
The Times
newspaper, the Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press
and the Cambridge University Press. The Oxford University Press
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
The Chicago Manual of Style
for published American English, the Oxford Manual is a fairly exhaustive standard for published British English
British English
that writers can turn to in the absence of specific guidance from their publishing house.[26] See also[edit]

Canadian English Comparison of American and British English Australian English Commonwealth English British Sign Language Hiberno-English

Notes[edit]

^ In British English
British English
collective nouns may be either singular or plural, according to context. An example provided by Partridge is: " 'The committee of public safety is to consider the matter', but 'the committee of public safety quarrel regarding their next chairman' ...Thus...singular when...a unit is intended; plural when the idea of plurality is predominant". BBC
BBC
television news and The Guardian
The Guardian
style guide follow Partridge but other sources, such as BBC
BBC
Online and The Times style guides, recommend a strict noun-verb agreement with the collective noun always governing the verb conjugated in the singular. BBC
BBC
radio news, however, insists on the plural verb. Partridge, Eric (1947) Usage and Abusage: "Collective Nouns". Allen, John (2003) BBC News style guide, page 31.

Citations

^ "British English; Hiberno-English". Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
(2 ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. 1989.  ^ British English, Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary ^ The Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
applies the term to English as "spoken or written in the British Isles; esp[ecially] the forms of English usual in Great Britain", reserving "Hiberno-English" for the "English language as spoken and written in Ireland".[1] Others, such as the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary, define it as the "English language as it is spoken and written in England".[2] ^ Jeffries, Stuart (27 March 2009). "The G2 Guide to Regional English". The Guardian. section G2, p. 12.  ^ McArthur (2002), p. 45. ^ English and Welsh, 1955 J. R. R. Tolkien, also see references in Brittonicisms in English ^ "Linguistics 201: History of English". pandora.cii.wwu.edu.  ^ a b "The History of English - Early Modern English
Early Modern English
(c. 1500 - c. 1800)". www.thehistoryofenglish.com.  ^ Professor Sally Johnson[permanent dead link] biography on the Leeds University website ^ a b Mapping the English language—from cockney to Orkney, Leeds University website, 25 May 2007. ^ McSmith, Andy. Dialect
Dialect
researchers given a "canny load of chink" to sort "pikeys" from "chavs" in regional accents, The Independent, 1 June 2007. Page 20 ^ "Received Pronunciation". Retrieved 20 March 2017.  ^ BBC
BBC
English because this was originally the form of English used on radio and television, although a wider variety of accents can be heard these days. ^ Sweet, Henry (1908). The Sounds of English. Clarendon Press. p. 7.  ^ a b c Fowler, H.W. (1996). R.W. Birchfield, ed. "Fowler's Modern English Usage". Oxford University Press.  ^ Franklyn, Julian (1975). A dictionary of rhyming slang. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. p. 9. ISBN 0-415-04602-5.  ^ a b Trudgill, Peter (1984). Language in the British Isles. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 56–57. ISBN 0-521-28409-0.  ^ [1], Oxford dictionary
Oxford dictionary
website, 02 April 2017. ^ [2], BBC, 8 January 2017. ^ [3], BBC, 2 April 2017. ^ " Double negatives
Double negatives
and usage - English Grammar Today - Cambridge Dictionary". dictionary.cambridge.org.  ^ Tubau, Susagna. "Lexical variation and Negative Concord in Traditional Dialects of British English" (PDF). The Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics. doi:10.1007/s10828-016-9079-4.pdf.  ^ a b "The Standardisation of English". courses.nus.edu.sg.  ^ "The History of English: Spelling and Standardization (Suzanne Kemmer)". www.ruf.rice.edu.  ^ "New edition of The Complete Plain Words
The Complete Plain Words
will delight fans of no-frills". 27 March 2014.  ^ https://www.ox.ac.uk/sites/files/oxford/media_wysiwyg/University%20of%20Oxford%20Style%20Guide.pdf

References[edit]

McArthur, Tom (2002). Oxford Guide to World English. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-866248-3 hardback, ISBN 0-19-860771-7 paperback. Bragg, Melvyn (2004). The Adventure of English, London: Sceptre. ISBN 0-340-82993-1 Peters, Pam (2004). The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-62181-X. Simpson, John (ed.) (1989). Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

External links[edit]

Sounds Familiar? – Examples of regional accents and dialects across the UK on the British Library's 'Sounds Familiar' website Accents and dialects from the British Library
British Library
Sound Archive Accents of English from Around the World Hear and compare how the same 110 words are pronounced in 50 English accents from around the world – instantaneous playback online The Septic's Companion: A British Slang Dictionary – an online dictionary of British slang, viewable alphabetically or by category British English
British English
Turkey

v t e

Dialects and accents of Modern English by continent

Europe

United Kingdom

Received Pronunciation

England

Varieties by common name

Barrovian Black Country Brummie Bristolian Cheshire Cockney

"Mockney"

Cornish Cumbrian East Anglian East Midlands Essex Estuary Geordie Kentish Lancastrian Mackem Mancunian Multicultural London Norfolk Northern Pitmatic Potteries Scouse Southern Suffolk Sussex West Country

"Mummerset"

West Midlands Yorkshire

Varieties by geographic location

East of England

Essex Norfolk Suffolk

East Midlands North

Cheshire Cumbria

Barrow

Lancashire Manchester Merseyside Northumbria

Sunderland Tyneside Pitmatic

Yorkshire

South

Kent Thames Estuary; London

Multicultural London

Sussex

West Country

Bristol Cornwall Dorset

West Midlands

Black Country Birmingham Stoke-on-Trent

Northern Ireland

Mid Ulster Ulster Scots

Scotland

Glasgow Highlands

Wales

Cardiff Gower Port Talbot

Ireland

Dublin

D4

South-West

Cork

Supraregional Ulster

Channel Islands

Alderney Guernsey Jersey

Elsewhere

Gibraltar Isle of Man Malta

North and South America

United States

Varieties by common name

African American Appalachian Boston Cajun California Chicago; Detroit; Great Lakes Chicano Mid-Atlantic

Philadelphia; South Jersey Baltimorese

General American High Tider Maine Miami Midland Midwestern New England New Mexican New York Old Southern Pacific Northwest Pennsylvania Dutch Pittsburghese Rhode Island Southern Texan Upper Midwestern Western Vermont Yat Yeshivish Yooper

Varieties by geographic location

Delaware Valley; Mid-Atlantic

Pennsylvania Dutch Philadelphia; South Jersey Baltimore

Midland Midwest

Great Lakes; Inland North Upper Midwest Upper Peninsula of Michigan

New England

Boston Maine Rhode Island Vermont

New York City; Northeastern New Jersey

New York Latino

North South

Acadiana Appalachia Chesapeake; Pamlico Miami New Orleans Texas

West

California New Mexico Pacific Northwest

Western Pennsylvania

Canada

Aboriginal Atlantic

Cape Breton Newfoundland Lunenburg

Standard

Ottawa Valley Pacific Northwest Quebec

Caribbean

Bahamas Barbados Dominican Republic Jamaica Puerto Rico Trinidad

Elsewhere

Bermuda Falkland Islands Guyana

Oceania

Australia

Aboriginal Broad; Strine General South Australian Torres Strait West Australian

Elsewhere

Fiji New Zealand Palau Solomon Islands

Other continents

Africa

Cameroon Ghana Kenya Liberia Malawi Namibia Nigeria Sierra Leone South Africa

White

Cultivated General Broad Cape Flats

Black Indian

Uganda

Asia

Bangladesh Brunei Burma or Myanmar Hong Kong India Malaysia Nepal Pakistan Philippines Singapore Sri Lanka

v t e

English-speaking world

Click on a coloured area to see an article about English in that country or region

Further links

Articles

English-speaking world History of the English language British Empire English in the Commonwealth of Nations Anglosphere

Lists

List of countries by English-speaking population List of countries where English is an official language

 

Countries and territories where English is the national language or the native language of the majority

Africa

Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

Americas

Anguilla Antigua and Barbuda The Bahamas Barbados Belize Bermuda British Virgin Islands Canada Cayman Islands Dominica Falkland Islands Grenada Guyana Jamaica Montserrat Saba Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Sint Eustatius Sint Maarten South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands Trinidad and Tobago Turks and Caicos Islands United States United States
United States
Virgin Islands

Europe

Guernsey Ireland Isle of Man Jersey United Kingdom

Oceania

Australia New Zealand Norfolk Island Pitcairn Islands

 

Countries and territories where English is an official language, but not the majority first language

Africa

Botswana Cameroon The Gambia Ghana Kenya Lesotho Liberia Malawi Mauritius Namibia Nigeria Rwanda Sierra Leone Somaliland South Africa South Sudan Sudan Swaziland Tanzania Uganda Zambia Zimbabwe

Americas

Puerto Rico

Asia

Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Hong Kong Special
Special
Administrative Region India Pakistan Philippines Singapore

Europe

Gibraltar Malta

Oceania

American Samoa Cook Islands Fiji Guam Kiribati Marshall Islands Micronesia Nauru Niue Northern Mariana Islands Palau Papua New Guinea Samoa Solomon Islands Tokelau Tuvalu Vanuatu

Dependencies shown in italics.

United Kingdom
United Kingdom
port

.