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Some Peculiarities of British English and American English




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George Bernard Show said that the United States and United Kingdom are “two countries divided by a common language”. A similar comment is ascribed to Winston Churchill.

The American variant of the English language differs from British English in pronunciation, some minor features of grammar, spelling standards and vocabulary.

The American spelling is in some respects simpler than its British counterpart, on other respects just different: BrE – colour, honour, AmE – color, honor; BrE – favourite, theatre, AmE – favorite, theater; BrE – realise, analyse, AmE – realize, analyze; BrE – counselor, modeling, AmE – counselor, modeling.

Speaking about lexical differences between the two variants of the English language, the following cases are of importance:

1. Cases where there are no equivalent words in one of the variants. For example, British English has no equivalent to the American word drive-in (“ a cinema or restaurant that one can visit without leaving one’s car).

2. Cases where different words are used for the same denotatum, e.g. sweets (BrE) – candy (AmE); reception clerk (BrE) – desk clerk (AmE).

3. Cases where some words are used in both variants but are much commoner in one of them. For example, shop and store are used in both variants, but the former is frequent in British English and the latter – in American English.

4. Cases where one (or more) lexico-semantic variant(s) is (are) specific to either British English or American English. For example, both British and American have the word faculty, but denoting “all the teachers and other professional workers of a university or college” this word is used only in American English. As a rule, such words may have analogous oppositions to one of these lexico-semantic variants in another variant of English or in Standard English, e.g. AmE faculty – BrE/SE teaching staff.

5. Cases where one and the same word in one its lexico-semantic variants is used oftener in British English than in American English. For example, the most common British meaning of the word brew is “a cup of tea”, while in American English this word is mostly used in the meaning “a beer or coffee drink”.

6. Cases where the same words have different semantic structure in British English and American English. For example, the word homely used to describe a person in British English means “home-loving, domesticated, house-pride”, while in American English denotes “unattractive in appearance”.

In some cases the connotational aspect of meaning of such words comes to the fore. For example, the word politician in British English possesses the meaning “a person who is professionally involved in politics”, thus it is rather neutral, whereas in American English this word is derogatory as it means “a person who acts in a manipulative and devious way, typically to gain advancement within an organization”.



Besides, British English and American English have their own derivational peculiarities that are usually confined to the frequency with which a certain pattern or a means of word-formation is used. For example, some of the affixes more frequently used in American English are: -ee (draftee – “a young man about to be enlisted”), -ster(roadster – “motor-car for long journeys by road”), super- (super-market – “a very large shop that sells food and other products for the home”). American English sometimes favours words that are morphologically more complex, whereas British English uses clipped forms, cf.: AmE transportation – BrE transport. In some cases the formation of words by means of affixes is more preferable in American English while in British English the form is a back-formation, cf.: AmE burglarize – BrE burgle (from burglar).

 

 





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