Lexicology. Different dialects and accents of English


Preface
      Every language allows different kinds of variations:  geographical  or
territorial, perhaps the most obvious,  stylistic,  the  difference  between
the written and the spoken  form  of  the  standard  national  language  and
others. It is the national language of England proper, the  USA,  Australia,
New Zealand and some provinces of Canada. It is  the  official  language  of
Wales,  Scotland,  in  Gibraltar  and  on  the  island  of   Malta.   Modern
linguistics distinguishes territorial variants of a  national  language  and
local dialects. Variants of a language are regional varieties of a  standard
literary language characterized by some minor  peculiarities  in  the  sound
system, vocabulary and grammar and by their own literary norms.
      Standard English – the official language of Great  Britain  taught  at
schools and universities, used by the press, the radio  and  the  television
and spoken by educated people may be defined as that form of  English  which
is current and literary, substantially uniform and recognized as  acceptable
wherever English is spoken or understood. Its vocabulary  is  contrasted  to
dialect words or dialectisms belonging  to  various  local  dialects.  Local
dialects are varieties of the English language peculiar  to  some  districts
and having no normalized literary  form.  Regional  varieties  possessing  a
literary form are called  variants.  Dialects  are  said  to  undergo  rapid
changes under the pressure of Standard English taught  at  schools  and  the
speech habits cultivated by radio, television and cinema.
      The differences between the English language as spoken in Britain. The
USA, Australia and  Canada  are  immediately  noticeable  in  the  field  of
phonetics. However these distinctions  are  confined  to  the  articulatory-
acoustic characteristics of some phonemes, to some differences  in  the  use
of others and to the differences in the rhythm  and  intonation  of  speech.
The few phonemes characteristic  of  American  pronunciation  and  alien  to
British literary norms can as a rule be observed in British dialects.



                              AMERICAN ENGLISH

      The variety of English spoken in the USA  has  received  the  name  of
American English. The term variant or variety appears most  appropriate  for
several reasons. American English cannot be called a dialect although it  is
a regional variety,  because  it  has  a  literary  normalized  form  called
Standard American, whereas by  definition  given  above  a  dialect  has  no
literary form.   Neither  is  it  a  separate  language,  as  some  American
authors, like H. L. Mencken, claimed, because it  has  neither  grammar  nor
vocabulary of its own. From the lexical point of  view  one  shall  have  to
deal only with a heterogeneous set of Americanisms.
      An Americanism may be defined as a word or a set  expression  peculiar
to the English language as spoken in  the  USA.  E.g.  cookie  'a  biscuit';
frame house 'a house consisting of a skeleton  of  timber,  with  boards  or
shingles laid on'; frame-up 'a  staged  or  preconcerted  law  case';  guess
'think'; store 'shop'.
      A general and comprehensive description of  the  American  variant  is
given in  Professor  Shweitzer's  monograph.  An  important  aspect  of  his
treatment is the distinction made  between  americanisms  belonging  to  the
literary  norm  and  those  existing  in  low  colloquial  and  slang.   The
difference  between  the  American  and  British  literary   norm   is   not
systematic.
      The American variant of the  English  language  differs  from  British
English in pronunciation, some minor features of  grammar,  but  chiefly  in
vocabulary, and this paragraph will deal with  the  latter.1  Our  treatment
will be mainly diachronic.
      Speaking about the historic causes of these deviations it is necessary
to mention that American English is based on the language  imported  to  the
new continent at the time of the first settlements, that is on  the  English
of the 17th century. The first colonies were founded in 1607,  so  that  the
first colonizers were contemporaries of  Shakespeare,  Spenser  and  Milton.
Words which have died out in Britain, or changed their meaning  may  survive
in the USA. Thus, I guess was used by Chaucer for I  think.  For  more  than
three  centuries  the   American   vocabulary   developed   more   or   less
independently  of  the  British  stock  and,  was  influenced  by  the   new
surroundings. The early Americans had  to  coin  words  for  the  unfamiliar
fauna and flora. Hence bull-frog 'a large frog', moose (the  American  elk),
oppossum, raccoon (an American animal related to the  bears),  for  animals;
and corn, hickory, etc. for plants. They also had to find names for the  new
conditions  of  economic  life:  back-country  'districts  not  yet  thickly
populated',  back-settlement,  backwoods  'the  forest  beyond  the  cleared
country', backwoodsman 'a dweller in the backwoods'.
      The opposition of any two lexical systems among the variants described
is of great linguistic and heuristic value because it furnishes  ample  data
for  observing  the  influence  of   extra-linguistic   factors   upon   the
vocabulary. American political vocabulary shows this point very  definitely:
absentee  voting  'voting  by  mail',  dark  horse  'a  candidate  nominated
unexpectedly and not known to his voters', to gerrymander  'to  arrange  and
falsify  the  electoral  process  to  produce  a  favorable  result  in  the
interests of a particular  party  or  candidate',  all-outer  'an  adept  of
decisive measures'.
      Many of the foreign elements borrowed into American English  from  the
Indian dialects or from Spanish penetrated very soon not only  into  British
English but also into several other languages, Russian not excluded, and  so
became international. They are: canoe, moccasin,  squaw,  tomahawk,  wigwam,
etc. and translation loans: pipe of peace, pale-face and  the.  like,  taken
from Indian languages.  The  Spanish  borrowings  like  cafeteria,  mustang,
ranch, sombrero, etc. are very familiar to the  speakers  of  many  European
languages. It is only by force of habit that linguists still  include  these
words among the specific features of American English.
      As to the toponyms, for instance, Iowa,  Kansas,  Michigan,  Missouri,
Utah (all names of Indian tribes), or  other  names  of  towns,  rivers  and
states named by Indian  words,  it  must  be  borne  in  mind  that  in  all
countries of the world towns, rivers  and  the  like  show  in  their  names
traces of the earlier inhabitants of the land in question.
Another big group of peculiarities as compared with  the  English  of  Great
Britain is caused by some specific  features  of  pronunciation,  stress  or
spelling standards, such as [ae] for  in ask, dance, path, etc., or Ie]  for
[ei] in made, day and some other.
      The American spelling is in some respects  simpler  than  its  British
counterpart, in other respects just different. The suffix  -our  is  spelled
-or, so that armor and  humor  are  the  American  variants  of  armour  and
humour. Altho stands for although and thru  for  through.  The  table  below
illustrates some of the other differences but it is by no means  exhaustive.
For a more complete treatment the reader is referred to the monograph by  A.
D. Schweitzer:

                British spelling  American spelling

                offence      offense
                cosy   cozy
                practice     practise
                thralldom    thralldom
                jewellery    jewelery
                traveling    traveling
      In the course of time with the development  of  the  modern  means  of
communication the lexical  differences  between  the  two  variants  show  a
tendency to decrease.  Americanisms  penetrate  into  Standard  English  and
Britishisms  come  to  be  widely  used  in  American  speech.  Americanisms
mentioned as specific in manuals issued a few decades ago are  now  used  on
both sides of the Atlantic or substituted by terms  formerly  considered  as
specifically British. It  was,  for  instance,  customary  to  contrast  the
English word autumn with the American fall. In reality both words  are  used
in both countries, only autumn is somewhat more elevated, while  in  England
the word fall is now rare in literary use, though  found  in  some  dialects
and surviving in set expressions: spring and fall, the fall of the year  are
still in fairly common use.
        Cinema and TV are probably  the  most  important  channels  for  the
passage of Americanisms into the language of Britain and other languages  as
well: the Germans  adopted  the  word  teenager  and  the  French  speak  of
Vautomatisation. The influence of American publicity is also  a  vehicle  of
Americanisms. This is how the British  term  wireless  is  replaced  by  the
Americanism radio. The jargon of American  film-advertising  makes  its  way
into British usage; i.e. of all time (in "the greatest film of  all  time").
The phrase is now firmly established as standard vocabulary and  applied  to
subjects other than films.
      The personal visits of writers and scholars to the USA and  all  forms
of other personal contacts bring back Americanisms.
      The existing  cases  of  difference  between  the  two  variants,  are
conveniently classified into:
   1) Cases where there are no equivalents in British  English:  drive-in  a
cinema where you can see the film without getting out of  your  car'  or  'a
shop where motorists buy things staying in the  car';  dude  ranch  'a  sham
ranch used as a summer residence for holiday-makers from  the  cities'.  The
noun dude was originally a contemptuous nickname given  by  the  inhabitants
of the Western states to those of  the  Eastern  states.  Now  there  is  no
contempt intended in the word dude. It simply means 'a person who  pays  his
way on a far ranch or camp'.
   2) Cases where different words are used for the same denotatum,  such  as
can, candy, mailbox, movies, suspenders, truck in the USA and  tin,  sweets,
pillar-box  (or  letter-box),  pictures  or  flicks,  braces  and  lorry  in
England.
   3) Cases where the semantic structure of a partially equivalent  word  is
different. The  word  pavement,  for  example,  means  in  the  first  place
'covering of the street or the floor and the like made  of  asphalt,  stones
or some other material'. The derived meaning is in England 'the  footway  at
the side of the road'. The Americans use the noun sidewalk for  this,  while
pavement with them means 'the roadway'.
   4) Cases where otherwise equivalent words are different in  distribution.
The verb ride in Standard English is mostly combined with such  nouns  as  a
horse, a bicycle, more seldom they  say  to  ride  on  a  bus.  In  American
English combinations like a ride on the train to ride in a boat  are  .quite
usual.
   5) It sometimes happens that the same word is used  in  American  English
with some difference  in  emotional  and  stylistic  colouring.  Nasty,  for
example, is a much milder expression of disapproval in England than  in  the
States,  where  it  was  even  considered  obscene  in  the  19th   century.
Politician in England means 'someone in polities', and is derogatory in  the
USA. Professor Shweitzer, pays special attention to phenomena  differing  in
social norms of usage. E.g. balance  in  its  lexico-semantic  variant  'the
remainder of anything' is substandard in British English and quite  literary
in America.
   6) Last but not least, there may be  a  marked  difference  in  frequency
characteristics. Thus, time-table which  occurs  in  American  English  very
rarely, yielded its place to schedule.
      This question of different frequency distribution is also of paramount
importance if we wish to investigate the morphological peculiarities of  the
American variant. Practically speaking the same patterns and means of  word-
formation are  used  in  coining  neologisms  in  both  variants.  Only  the
frequency observed in both cases may be  different.  Some  of  the  suffixes
more frequently used in American English are: -ее (draftee n  'a  young  man
about to be enlisted'), -ette - tambourmajorette 'one of the  girl  drummers
in front of a procession'), -dom and -ster, as in  roadster  'motor-car  for
long journeys by road' or gangsterdom.
      American slang uses alongside the traditional ones also a few specific
models, such as verb stem-1- -er+adverb stem +--er: e.g.  opener-upper  'the
first  item  on  the  programme'   and   winder-upper   'the   last   item',
respectively. It also possesses some specific affixes and  semi-affixes  not
used in  literary  Colloquial:  -o,  -eroo,  -aroo,  -sie/sy,  as  in  coppo
'policeman', fatso 'a fat man', bossaroo 'boss', chapsie 'fellow'.
      The trend to shorten words and to use initial  abbreviations  is  even
more pronounced than in the British variant. New  coinages  are  incessantly
introduced in advertisements, in the press, in everyday  conversation;  soon
they fade out and are replaced by the newest creations. Ring  Lardner,  very
popular in the  30's,  makes  one  of  his  characters,  a  hospital  nurse,
repeatedly use two enigmatic abbreviations: G.F. and  P.  F.;  at  last  the
patient asks her to clear the mystery.
        "What about Roy Stewart?" asked the man in bed.
        "Oh, he's the fella I was telling  you  about,"  said  Miss  Lyons.
        "He's my G. F B. F"
        "Maybe I'm a D.F. not to know, but would yoa tell me  what  a  B.F.
        and G.F. are?"
        "Well, you are dumb, aren't you?" said Miss Lyons. "A G.F.,  that's
        a girl friend, and a B.F. is a boy friend. I thought everybody knew
        that"
      The phrases boy friend and girl friend, now  widely  used  everywhere,
originated in the USA. So it is an Americanism in the wider meaning  of  the
term, i.e. an  Americanism  "by  right  of  birth",  whereas  in  the  above
definition it  was  defined  Americanism  synchronically  as  lexical  units
peculiar to the English language as spoken in the USA.  Particularly  common
in American English are verbs with the hanging postpositive. They  say  that
in Hollywood you never meet a man: you meet up with him, you do not study  a
subject but study up on it. In British English similar  constructions  serve
to add a new meaning.
      With words possessing several structural variants it may  happen  that
some are more frequent in one country and the others in another. Thus,  amid
and toward, for example, are more often used in the States  and  amidst  and
towards in Great Britain.
      A well-known humourist G. Mikes goes as far as to say: "It was decided
almost two hundred years ago that English should be the language  spoken  in
the United States. It is not known, however, why this decision has not  been
carried out." In his book "How to Scrape Skies" he gives  numerous  examples
to illustrate this proposition: "You must be  extremely  careful  concerning
the names of certain articles. If you ask for suspenders in  a  man's  shop,
you receive a pair of braces, if you ask for a pair of pants, you receive  a
pair of trousers and should you ask for a pair  of  braces,  you  receive  a
queer look. It has to be  mentioned  that  although  a  lift  is  called  an
elevator in the United States, when hitch-hiking, you  do  not  ask  for  an
elevator, you ask for a lift.
      There is some confusion about the word flat.  A  flat  in  America  is
called an apartment; what they call a flat is a puncture in  your  tyre  (or
as they spell it, tire). Consequently  the  notice:  flats  fixed  does  not
indicate an estate agent where they are going to fix you  up  with  a  flat,
but a garage where they are equipped to  mend  a  puncture."  Disputing  the
common statement that there is no such thing  as  the  American  nation,  he
says: "They do indeed exist. They have produced the  American  constitution,
the American way of life, the comic strips in their newspapers:  .they  have
their national game,  baseball  —which  is  cricket  played  with  a  strong
American accent — and they have a national language, entirely their own."
      This is of course an exaggeration, but  a  very  significant  one.  It
confirms the fact that there is a difference between the two variants to  be
reckoned with. Although not sufficiently great to warrant  American  English
the status of an independent language, it is considerable enough to  make  a
mixture of variants sound unnatural, so that students of English  should  be
warned against this danger.
                            Local Dialects in the USA
      The  English  language  in  the  USA  is  characterized  by   relative
uniformity throughout the country.  One  can  travel  three  thousand  miles
without  encountering   any   but   the   slightest   dialect   differences.
Nevertheless, regional variations in speech undoubtedly exist and they  have
been observed and recorded by  a  number  of  investigators.  The  following
three major belts of dialects have so far been  identified,  each  with  its
own characteristic features: Northern, Midland and Southern,  Midland  being
in turn divided into North Midland and South Midland.
      The differences in pronunciation between American  dialects  are  most
apparent, but they seldom  interfere  with  understanding.  Distinctions  in
grammar are scarce. The differences in vocabulary are rather  numerous,  but
they are easy to pick up.
      Cf., e.g., Eastern New England sour-milk cheese, Inland Northern Dutch
cheese, New York  City  pot  cheese  for  Standard  American/cottage  cheese
(творог).
      The American linguist F. Emerson maintains that American  English  had
not had time to break up into widely diverse dialects and he  believes  that
in the course of time the American dialects might finally become  nearly  as
distinct as the dialects in Britain. He is certainly  greatly  mistaken.  In
modern times dialect divergence cannot increase. On  the  contrary,  in  the
United States, as elsewhere, the national language is tending  to  wipe  out
the dialect distinctions and to become still more uniform.
Comparison of the dialect differences in the British Isles and  in  the  USA
reveals that not only are they less numerous and  far  less  marked  in  the
USA, but that the very nature of the local distinctions is  different.  What
is usually known as American  dialects  is  closer  in  nature  to  regional
variants of the literary language. The  problem  of  discriminating  between
literary and dialect speech patterns in the USA  is  much  more  complicated
than in Britain. Many American linguists point  out  that  American  English
differs from  British  English  in  having  no  one  locality  whose  speech
patterns have come to be recognized  as  the  model  for  the  rest  of  the
country.


                  CANADIAN, AUSTRALIAN AND INDIAN VARIANTS

      It should of course be noted that the American English is not the only
existing variant. There are several other  variants  where  difference  from
the British standard is normalized. Besides the Irish and Scottish  variants
that have been mentioned in the preceding paragraph,  there  are  Australian
English, Canadian English, Indian English. Each of  these  has  developed  a
literature of its own, and is characterized by peculiarities  in  phonetics,
spelling, grammar and vocabulary. Canadian English  is  influenced  both  by
British and American English but it also has some specific features  of  its
own. Specifically Canadian words are called Canadianisms. They are not  very
frequent outside Canada,  except  shack  'a  hut'  and  to  fathom  out  'to
explain'.
      The vocabulary  of  all  the  variants  is  characterized  by  a  high
percentage of borrowings from the language of the people who  inhabited  the
land before the English colonizers came. Many of them denote  some  specific
realia of the new country: local animals, plants or weather conditions,  new
social relations, new trades and conditions of labour. The local  words  for
new not ions penetrate into the English language and  later  on  may  become
international, if they are of sufficient interest and importance for  people
speaking other languages. The term international w  о  г  d  s  is  used  to
denote words borrowed from one language into several  others  simultaneously
or at short intervals one after another. International words coming  through
the English of India are for instance: bungalow n, jute n, khaki adj,  mango
n, nabob n, pyjamas, sahib, sari.
      Similar examples, though perhaps fewer in number, such  as  boomerang,
dingo, kangaroo are all  adopted  into  the  English  language  through  its
Australian  variant.  They  denote  the  new  phenomena  found  by   English
immigrants on the new continent. A high percentage of  words  borrowed  from
the native  inhabitants  of  Australia  will  be  noticed  in  the  sonorous
Australian place names.
      Otherwise an ample use  was  made  of  English  lexical  material.  An
intense development of cattle breeding in new  conditions  necessitated  the
creation of an adequate terminology. It  is  natural  therefore  that  nouns
like stock, bullock or land find a new life  on  Australian  soil:  stockman
'herdsman', stockyard, stock-keeper 'the owner of  the  cattle';  bullock  v
means 'to work hard', bullocky  dray  is  a  dray  driven  by  bullocks;  an
inlander is a stock-keeper driving his stock from one  pasture  to  another,
overland v is 'to drive cattle over long distances';  to  punch  a  cow  'to
conduct a team of oxen'; a puncher 'the man who conducts a  team  of  oxen';
tucker-bag 'the bag with provision'.
      The differences described in the present chapter do not undermine  our
understanding of the English vocabulary as a balanced system.  It  has  been
noticed by  a  number  of  linguists  that  the  British  attitude  to  this
phenomenon is somewhat peculiar. When anyone other than an  Englishman  uses
English, the natives of  Great  Britain,  often  half-consciously,  perhaps,
feel that they have a special right to criticize his  usage  because  it  is
"their" language. It is, however, unreasonable with  respect  to  people  in
the Vfiited States, Canada, Australia and some other areas for whom  English
is their mother-tongue. Those who think that the Americans must look to  the
British for a standard are  wrong  and,  vice  versa,  it  is  not  for  the
American to pretend that  English  in  Great  Britain  is  inferior  to  the
English he speaks. At present there is no single "correct" English  and  the
American, Canadian and Australian English have developed standards of  their
own.



                                 Conclusion
    I. English is  the  national  language  of  England  proper,  the  USA,
Australia and some provinces of Canada.  It  was  also  at  different  times
imposed on the inhabitants of the former and present British  colonies  and.
protectorates as well as other Britain- and US-dominated territories,  where
the population has always stuck to its own mother tongue.
    II. British  English,  American  English  and  Australian  English  are
variants of the same language, because they  serve  all  spheres  of  verbal
communication. Their structural pecularities, especially morphology,  syntax
and word-formation, as well as their  word-stock  and  phonetic  system  are
essentially  the  same.  American  and  Australian  standards   are   slight
modifications of the norms accepted in the  British  Isles.  The  status  of
Canadian English 'has not yet been established.
    III. The main lexical differences between the variants  are  caused  by
the lack of equivalent lexical units in one  of  them,  divergences  in  the
semantic structures of polysemantic words  and  peculiarities  of  usage  of
some words on different territories.
    IV. The British local dialects  can  be  traced  back  to  Old  English
dialects. Numerous and distinct, they  are  characterized  by  phonemic  and
structural peculiarities. The local dialects are  being  gradually  replaced
by regional variants of the literary language, i. e. by a literary  standard
with a proportion of local dialect features.
    V. The so-called local dialects in the British Isles and in the USA are
used only by the  rural  population  and  only  for  the  purposes  of  oral
communication. In both  variants  local  distinctions  are  more  marked  in
pronunciation, less conspicuous in vocabulary and insignificant in  grammar.

    VI. Local variations in the USA are relatively small. What is called by
tradition American dialects is closer in nature to regional variants of  the
national literary language.




	

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