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20th-Century English |
In Great Britain at present the speech of educated persons is known as Received Standard English. A class dialect rather than a regional dialect, it is based on the type of speech cultivated at such schools as Eton and Harrow and at such of the older universities as Oxford and Cambridge. Many English people who speak regional dialects in their childhood acquire Received Standard English while attending school and university. Its influence has become even stronger in recent years because of its use by such public media as the British Broadcasting Corp.
Widely differing regional and local dialects are still employed in the various counties of Great Britain. Other important regional dialects have developed also; for example, the English language in Ireland has retained certain individual peculiarities of pronunciation, such as the pronunciation of lave for leave and fluther for flutter; certain syntactical peculiarities, such as the use of after following forms of the verb be; and certain differences in vocabulary, including the use of archaic words such as adown (for down) and Celtic borrowings such as banshee. The Lowland Scottish dialect, sometimes called Lallans, first made known throughout the English-speaking world by the songs of the 18th-century Scottish poet Robert Burns, contains differences in pronunciation also, such as neebour (“neighbor”) and guid (“good”), and words of Scandinavian origin peculiar to the dialect, such as braw and bairn. The English spoken in Australia, with its marked diphthongization of vowels, also makes use of special words, retained from English regional dialect usages, or taken over from indigenous Australian terms.
An important development of English outside Great Britain occurred with the colonization of North America. American English may be considered to include the English spoken in Canada, although the Canadian variety retains some features of British pronunciation, spelling, and vocabulary. The most distinguishing differences between American English and British English are in pronunciation and vocabulary. There are slighter differences in spelling, pitch, and stress as well. Written American English also has a tendency to be more rigid in matters of grammar and syntax, but at the same time appears to be more tolerant of the use of neologisms. Despite these differences, it is often difficult to determine—apart from context—whether serious literary works have been written in Great Britain or the U.S./Canada—or, for that matter, in Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa. See American English.
Future of the English Language
The influence of the mass media appears likely to result in standardized pronunciation, more uniform spelling, and eventually a spelling closer to actual pronunciation. Despite the likelihood of such standardization, a unique feature of the English language remains its tendency to grow and change. Despite the warnings of linguistic purists, new words are constantly being coined and usages modified to express new concepts. Its vocabulary is constantly enriched by linguistic borrowings, particularly by cross-fertilizations from American English. Because it is capable of infinite possibilities of communication, the English language has become the chief international language.
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