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The English and Literature Department
Qualification work on speciality English philology

on the theme:

Differences between American English and British English”

Supervisor: ___________

Gulistan 2008

I. Introduction
1.1 General American
In the early part of the seventeenth century English settlers began to bring their language to America, and another series of changes began to take place. The settlers borrowed words from Indian languages for such strange trees as the hickory and persimmon, such unfamiliar animals as raccoons and woodchucks. Later they borrowed other words from settlers from other countries – for instance, chowder and prairie from the French, scow and sleigh from the Dutch. They made new combinations of English words, such as backwoods and bullfrog, or gave old English words entirely new meanings, such as lumber (which in British English means approximately junk) and corn (which in British means any grain, especially wheat). Some of the new terms were needed, because there were new and un-English things to talk about. Others can be explained only on the general theory that languages are always changing, and American English is no exception.

Aside from the new vocabulary, differences in pronunciation, in grammatical construction, and especially in intonation developed. If the colonization had taken place a few centuries earlier, American might have become as different from English as French is from Italian. But the settlement occurred after the invention of printing, and continued through a period when the idea of educating everybody was making rapid progress. For a long time most of the books read in America came from England, and a surprising number of Americans read those books, in or out of school. Moreover, most of the colonists seem to have felt strong ties with England. In this they were unlike their Anglo-Saxon ancestors, who apparently made a clean break with their continental homes. The problem of the theme is that the problem of the theme is that: A good many Englishmen and some Americans used to condemn every difference that did develop, and as recently as a generation ago it was not unusual to hear all “Americanisms” condemned, even in America. It is now generally recognized in this country that we are not bound to the Queen’s English, but have a full right to work out our own habits. Even a good many of the English now concede this, though some of them object strongly to the fact that Americanisms are now having an influence on British usage.

The aim of the theme is to study deeply the differences of American and British English. There are thousands of differences in detail between British and American English, and occasionally they crowd together enough to make some difficulty. If you read that a man, having trouble with his lorry, got out his spanner and lifted the bonnet to see what was the matter, you might not realize that the driver of the truck had taken out his wrench and lifted the hood. It is amusing to play with such differences, but the theory that the American language is now essentially different from English does not hold up. It is often very difficult to decide whether a book was written by an American or an English man. Even in speech it would be hard to prove that national differences are greater than some local differences in either country. On the whole, it now seems probable that the language habits of the two countries will grow more, rather than less, alike, although some differences will undoubtedly remain and others may develop.

It also seems probable that there will be narrow-minded and snobbish people in both countries for some time to come. But generally speaking, anybody who learnsto speak and write the standard English of his own country, and to regard that of the other country as a legitimate variety with certain interesting differences, will have little trouble wherever he goes. General American—like the British Received Pronunciation as well as most standard language varieties of many other societies—was never the accent of the entire nation. Rather, it is most closely related to a generalized Midwestern accent and is spoken particularly by many newscasters, in part because the national broadcasters preferred to hire people who exhibited similar speech. Famous news anchor Walter Cronkite is a good example of a broadcaster using this accent. Since Cronkite was born in Missouri, and spent his first dozen years there, some assumed that General American was the regional accent of the state, although Cronkite's teen years were spent in Texas, which is not known for having "accentless" speakers. General American is sometimes promoted as preferable to other regional accents; in the United States, classes promising "accent reduction" generally attempt to teach speech patterns similar to this accent.

The well-known television journalist Linda Ellerbee, who worked hard early in her career to eliminate a Texas accent, stated, "in television you are not supposed to sound like you're from anywhere." Some sources[attribution needed]1 suggest this is less true today than it was formerly. GeneralAmerican is also the accent generally taught to individuals from other countries learning English as a second language in the United States, as well as outside the country to anyone who wishes to learn "American English."

^ II. Main part
2.1 Pronunciation symbols
The symbols used to render pronunciations are those that are used in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition (1992). These symbols are phonemic rather than phonetic. That is, they are designed to help you distinguish meaningful units of sound, such as the difference between cat and cad or pat and pet. They are not designed to represent the specific pronunciation of any individual or of any particular speech community. Thus they allow people from different speech communities to pronounce words correctly in their native dialect. In the discussions that follow, the term long vowel can refer to any of the following sounds: ( ), ( ), ( ), ( ), (ä), and ( ); it can also refer to the diphthongs (ou) and (oi). The term short vowel can refer to any of these sounds: ( ), ( ), ( ), ( ), ( ), and ( ). A full pronunciation key can be found at Pronunciation Symbols.

1. a

2. aberrant

3. acumen

4. -ade

5. aerate

6. affluence affluent

7. -age

8. agoraphobia

9. ague

10. albumen albumin

11. alms

12. alumni alumnae

13. analogous

14. anesthetist

15. angina

16. Antarctic

17. apartheid

18. aplomb

19. arctic / Arctic

20. argot

21. ask

22. assimilation

23. asterisk

24. athlete

25. auxiliary

26. banal

27. barbiturate

28. blackguard

29. boatswain

30. bogeyman

31. bouquet

32. bowline

33. breeches

34. brooch

35. bulimia

36. buoy

37. C

38. cabal

39. cache

40. cadre

41. catacomb

42. Celt / Celtic

43. centenary

44. cerebral

45. Ch

46. choleric

47. clique

48. clothes

49. colander

50. comptroller

51. conch

52. coupon

53. covert

54. culinary

55. dais

56. debacle

57. deify / deity

58. demagogic demagogy

59. despicable

60. desultory

61. diphtheria

62. diphthong

63. disastrous

64. disparate

65. dissect

66. dissimilation

67. doughty

68. dour

69. dwarf

70. ebullience ebullient

71. -ed

72. either

73. envelope

74. environment

75. epoch

76. err

77. escalator

78. escape

79. espresso / expresso

80. et cetera

81. exquisite

82. February

83. flaccid

84. forecastle

85. formidable

86. forte

87. fulminant fulminate

88. fulsome

89. fungi

90. G

91. genealogy

92. genuine

93. genus

94. gerrymander

95. gibberish

96. governor

97. grievous

98. gunwale

99. H

100. harass

101. hegemony

102. height

103. heinous

104. herb

105. hoof

106. hovel / hover

107. impious

108. inherence / inherent

109. integral

110. interest

111. intrusion

112. inveigle

113. jewelry

114. junta

115. juvenilia

116. kerchief

117. kilometer

118. kudos

119. L

120. lasso

121. leeward

122. leisure

123. length

124. library

125. lived

126. lower / lour

127. machinate

128. mainsail

129. mauve

130. mayoral

131. metathesis

132. millenary

133. mineralogy

134. mischievous

135. moot

136. mores

137. naphtha naphthalene

138. neither

139. niche

140. nuclear

141. often

142. ophthalmia

143. -or

144. panegyric

145. penalize

146. poinsettia

147. portentous

148. posthumous

149. potpourri

150. primer

151.pronunciation spelling

152. prosody

153. pumpkin

154. quark

155. quasi

156. quay

157. quixotic

158. ration

159. Realtor

160. remonstrate

161. renaissance Renaissance

162. renege

163. renown

164. ribald

165. roof

166. row

167. sarcophagi

168. scarify

169. schism

170. scone

171. secretive

172. sheik

173. shone

174. similar

175. sloth

176. sonorous

177. spelling pronunciation

178. spontaneity

179. strength

180. the

181. tomato

182. topgallant topmast topsail

183. trauma

184. troth

185. valet

186. vase

187. victual

188. whilst

189. wizen

190. Xmas

191. zoo- / zo-

^ 2.2 Pronunciation Challenges
Pronunciation Challenges Confusions and Controversy Differences Between American and British English

While there are certainly many more varieties of English, American and British English are the two varieties that are taught in most ESL/EFL2 programs. Generally, it is agreed that no one version is "correct" however, there are certainly preferences in use. The most important rule of thumb is to try to be consistent in your usage. If you decide that you want to use American English spellings then be consistent in your spelling (i.e. The color of the orange is also its flavour - color is American spelling and flavour is British), this is of course not always easy - or possible. The following guide is meant to point out the principal differences between these two varieties of English.
^ 2.2.1 Use of the Present Perfect

In British English the present perfect is used to express an action that has occurred in the recent past that has an effect on the present moment. For example:

I've lost my key. Can you help me look for it?

In American English the following is also possible:

I lost my key. Can you help me look for it?

In British English the above would be considered incorrect. However, both forms are generally accepted in standard American English. Other differences involving the use of the present perfect in British English and simple past in American English include already, just and yet.

British English:

I've just had lunch

I've already seen that film

Have you finished your homework yet?

American English:

I just had lunch OR I've just had lunch

I've already seen that film OR I already saw that film.

Have your finished your homework yet? OR Did you finish your homework yet?
2.2.2 Possession

There are two forms to express possession in English. Have or Have got

Do you have a car?

Have you got a car?

He hasn't got any friends.

He doesn't have any friends.

She has a beautiful new home.

She's got a beautiful new home.

While both forms are correct (and accepted in both British and American English), have got (have you got, he hasn't got, etc.) is generally the preferred form in British English while most speakers of American English employ the have (do you have, he doesn't have etc.)3
^ 2.2.3 The Verb Get

The past participle of the verb get is gotten in American English. Example He's gotten much better at playing tennis. British English - He's got much better at playing tennis.
2.2.4 Vocabulary

Probably the major differences between British and American English lies in the choice of vocabulary. Some words mean different things in the two varieties for example:

Mean: (American English - angry, bad humored, British English - not generous, tight fisted)

Rubber: (American English - condom, British English - tool used to erase pencil markings)

There are many more examples (too many for me to list here). If there is a difference in usage, your dictionary will note the different meanings in its definition of the term. Many vocabulary items are also used in one form and not in the other. One of the best examples of this is the terminology used for automobiles.

American English - hood British English - bonnet

American English - trunk British English - boot

American English - truck British English - lorry

Once again, your dictionary should list whether the term is used in British English or American English.

For a more complete list of the vocabulary differences between British and American English use this British vs. American English vocabulary tool.
2.2.5 Prepositions

There are also a few differences in preposition use including the following:

American English - on the weekend British English - at the weekend

American English - on a team British English - in a team

American English - please write me soon British English - please write to me soon
^ 2.2.6 Past Simple/Past Participles

The following verbs have two acceptable forms of the past simple/past participle in both American and British English, however, the irregular form is generally more common in British English (the first form of the two) and the regular form is more common to American English.

Burn Burnt OR burned

Dream dreamt OR dreamed

Lean leant OR leaned

Learn learnt OR learned

Smell smelt OR smelled

Spell spelt OR spelled

Spill spilt OR spilled

Spoil spoilt OR spoiled
2.2.7 Spelling

Here are some general differences between British and American spellings:

Words ending in -or (American) -our (British) color, color, humor, humor, flavor, flavor etc.

Words ending in -ize (American) -ise (British) recognize, recognize, patronize, patronize etc.
^ 3.2 Differences between standard British English and standard American English
3.2.1 Lexical difference

Lexical differences of American variant highly extensive on the strength of multiple borrowing from Spanish and Indian languages, what was not in British English.

American variant British variant

Subway «метро» underground

the movies «кинотеатр» the cinema

shop «магазин» store

sidewalk «тротуар» pavement

line «очередь» queue

soccer «футбол» football

mailman «почтальон» postman

vacation «каникулы» holiday

corn «кукуруза» maize

fall «осень» autumn

Also claim attention differences in writing some words in American and British variants of language.

For instance, following:

American variant British variant

honor honor

traveler traveler

plow plough

defense defense

jail goal

center centre

apologize apologies
^ 3.2.2 Grammatical difference

Grammatical differences of American variant consist in following:

1. In that events, when Britannia’s use Present Perfect, in Staffs can be used and Present Perfect, and Past Simple.

2. Take a shower/a bath instead of have a shower/a bath.

3. Shall is not used. In all persons is used by will.

4. Needn't (do) usually is not used. Accustomed form -don't need to (do).

5. After demand, insist, require etc should usually is NOT used. I demanded that he apologize (instead of I demanded that he should apologies in British variant).

6. to/in THE hospital instead of to/in hospital in BE.

7. on the weekend/on weekend instead of at the weekend/at weekend.

8. on a street instead of in a street.

9. Different from or than instead of different to/from

10. Write is used with to or without the pretext.

11. Past participle of "got" is "gotten"

12. To burn, to spoil and other verbs, which can be regular or irregular in the British variant, in the American variant ALWAYS regular.

13. Past Perfect, as a rule, is not used completely.4

The best way to make sure that you are being consistent in your spelling is to use the spell check on your word processor (if you are using the computer of course) and choose which variety of English you would like. As you can see, there are really very few differences between standard British English and standard American English. However, the largest difference is probably that of the choice of vocabulary and pronunciation. For further information concerning these areas please refer to the following links below.

American English has grown steadily in international significance since World War II, parallel to the growth of U.S. political, economic, technological and cultural influence worldwide. American English is currently the dominant influence on "world English" (cf. British English) largely due to the following:

1. Wealth of the U.S. economy vs. the U.K., & influences

2. Magnitude of higher education in America vs the U.K.

3. Magnitude of the publishing industry in America

4. Magnitude of global mass media and media technology influence

5. Appeal of American popular culture on language and habits

6. International political and economic position of the U.S. (cf. Kennedy)

American and British English are both variants of World English. As such, they are more similar than different, especially with "educated" or "scientific" English. Most divergence can be ascribed to differing national histories and cultural development (cf. Are Americans Ruining English? [PBS]), and the way in which the two national variants have changed correspondingly.

The following general categories of difference between standard American English (SAE) and standard British English (SBE) each have their own socialistic value:
3.2.3 Punctuation

• Date writing, number/word order (never use only numbers!)

• Use of commas and periods inside quotation marks

• Business letter salutations, colons vs commas


• His daughter was a thespian who matriculated at the state college. She came to the party with a homo sapiens! The dean said he was an extrovert. He masticated throughout the meal.

The R is a consonant, but it acts more like a vowel, because the tip of the tongue doesn't touch anywhere in the mouth. The middle T is what makes a word like meeting sound like meeting. As the most commonly used word in English is the word that is very important. Here are some very high-frequency. The words: the, these, those, they, them, there, they're, their, this, that and then. If these and those are pronounced with a D instead of a TH, it sounds like dese and dose, which is considered lower class in America.
^ 4.2 Sound system
4.2.1 Voiced and unvoiced consonants

If you want to master English pronunciation you have to able to distinguish between these two types of consonants. This is necessary for you to learn the proper pronunciation when you learn new vocabulary. And more importantly you need to know the difference between voiced and unvoiced consonants to be able to pronounce the words of English correctly. What makes one consonant be voiced and another not?

A consonant is voiced when it makes the vocal cords vibrate. It is voiceless when it is pronounced without vibrating the vocal cords.

The sound of the letters "p" and "b"

For example, the sounds indicated by the letters "b" and "p" differ only in their vocalization (voicing). The are both "bilabials", that is, they are produced by closing both lips. But the "b" is voiced and the "p" is unvoiced. In this article, we will follow common practice and indicate the letters of the alphabet with quotes ("b" and "p") and the sounds with slashes (/b/ and /p/)

You can appreciate the difference by lightly touching with the tips of your fingers your "Adam's Apple" (the voice box that you can see in the front of your throat) as you pronounce the word bowl . You can feel the vibration with the tips of our fingers. Concentrate on the first sound, the consonant /b/ before passing to the vowel represented by the "o". Notice that you can lengthen the sound (something is heard!) without the "o". This is because /b/ is a voiced consonant. Now pronounce the word pole. Do you feel the vibration in the vocal cords? No.

The reason is that /p/ is an unvoiced consonant. Notice that you can't lengthen the sound or hear anything.

When you pronounce these sounds, don't forget the advice we already gave you in other articles: exaggerate the value of the vowel "o" with a strong English accent!

Listen to the following exercise until you can distinguish betwen the two sounds and produce them yourself.

You should be able to telll the difference between the /p/ and the /b/ in the sentence The doctor said: "Bill, take your pill!

Try it now!

The sounds of the English letters /k/ (sometimes "c") and /g/

It is not only the sounds /p/ and /b/ that are voiced or unvoiced. The same distinction holds for the sounds represented by the letters "k" y "g" in the International Phonetic Alphabet. By the way, do you see that it will not be hard for you to learn the symbols of the IPA? Many of the symbols, like the k and the g are already familiar to you. They are the normal letters of the alphabet.

The IPA symbol k interests us now. It is the "hard" sound of the letter "c", the sound that the letter "c" usually takes before the letters "a", "o", and "u", for example in the words car, coat, cube.

Now can you see how the IPA system makes it easy for you to learn the pronunciation of new words? Now, we don't have to worry that sometimes the letter "c" has the sound of the IPA symbol k (as in the word cold) or that sometimes the same letter "c" of the English alphabet is pronounced as the IPA s (as in the words cell ).

Now try to feel in your voice box the vibration in the word coal! You can't because it is the unvoiced partner in the pair. If you touch your voice box while you pronounce the word goal, you do feel the vibration because the sound g is voiced.

Practice the two words coal and goal. But keep on pronouncing the the English vowel with its lengthening. Exaggerate the English language character of the vowel. Don't pronounce it as if it were col or gol in your language. And also remember the explosive nature of the consonant represented by the "c" in English when it is pronounced as the IPA k. Blow out the candle when you say coal.

Pero... ¡Qué no suene como si hablaras de repollo (la col en el Perú) o del fútbol (el gol)! Cuidado con tu acento hispano!

Did you notice that we review various important things about the English sounds as we move along in this book. From now on, in your listening and in your practice, you must remember the explosive consonants, the special English vowels, and the voiced or unvoiced consonants.

The sound of the letters "t" and "d"

Consider the pair of words tear and dear. Do the same with these words as you did above with the pairs of words coal and goal, and pole and bowl. Can you distinguish which of the initial sounds is voiced and which is unvoiced? Both are pronounced in almost the same place in the mouth but the initial sound of these two words is different in that the letter "t" is usually voiceless and the "d" is usually voiced. However, do NOT think that the letter "d" in English is always voiced. You will see that sometimes this letter "d" represents a voiceless sound. This is a VERY important lesson in the pronunciation of English and when you learn how and when the "d" is unvoiced it will be a valuable tool for you in your mastery of English5.

This difference between the letters "d" and "t" in English is very important in the matter of the past tense of verbs. We will treat this elsewhere.

Also there is another pair of voiced and unvoiced consonants, the sounds represented in English by the letters "s" and "z". We will study them in their most important contexts, that of the third person singular of the present of verbs, and that of the plural of nouns.

But for now, concentrate on the consonants we just looked at.

Now listen and practice! Listen wherever you can (or listen in our book) to the different pairs of voiced and unvoiced consonants. Then make them yourself.

P and B

K and G

T and D
^ 4.2.2 The American R

The American R is like a vowel because it does not touch anywhere in the mouth. In Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Greek and many other languages, the R is a consonant because it touches behind the teeth. The American R is produced deep in the throat. Like the French R and the German R, the American R is in the throat, but unlike those two consonant sounds, it doesn't touch. Let's contrast two similar sounds: [ä] and [r]. Hold your hand out in front of you, with your palm up, like you are holding a tray on it. Slightly drop your hand down, and say ah, like you want the doctor to see your throat. Now, curl your fingers up slightly, and say [r]. Your tongue should feel in about the same position as your hand.


Let's start with the [æ] sound. Although it's not a common sound, [æ] is very distinctive to the ear, and is typically American. In the practice paragraph vowel chart, this sound occurs 5 times. As its phonetic symbol indicates, [æ] is a combination of [ä] + [e]. To pronounce it, drop your jaw down as if you were going to say [ä]; then from that position, try to say eh. The final sound is not two separate vowels, but rather the end result of the combination. It is very close to the sound that a goat makes: ma-a-a-ah!

If you find yourself getting too nasal with [æ], pinch your nose as you say it. Go to the practice paragraph and find the 5 [æ] sounds, including [æu] as in down or out.


The [ä] sound is a more common sound than [æ]; you will find 10 such sounds in the practice paragraph. To pronounce [ä], relax your tongue and drop your jaw as far down as it will go. As a matter of fact, put your hand under your chin and say [mä], [pä], [tä], [sä]. Your hand should be pushed down by your jaw as it opens. Remember, it's the sound that you make when the doctor wants to see your throat.


Last is the schwa, the most common sound in American English. When you work on the practice paragraph, depending on how fast you speak, how smoothly you make liaisons, how strong your intonation is, how much you relax your sounds, you will find from 50 to 75 schwas. Spelling doesn't help identify it, because it can appear as any one of the vowels, or a combination of them. It is a neutral vowel sound, uh. It is usually in an unstressed syllable, though it can be stressed as well.

Whenever you find a vowel that can be crossed out and its absence wouldn't change the pronunciation of the word, you have probably found a schwa: photography [f'tägr'fee] (the two apostrophes show the location of the neutral vowel sounds)6.

Because it is so common, however, the wrong pronunciation of this one little sound can leave your speech strongly accented, even if you Americanize everything else.

Remember, some dictionaries use two different written characters, the upside down e & [^] for the neutral uh sound, but for simplicity, we are only going to use the first one.

^ Silent or Neutral?

A schwa is neutral, but it is not silent. By comparison, the silent E at the end of a word is a signal for pronunciation, but it is not pronounced itself: code is [kod]. The E tells you to say an [o]. If you leave the E off, you have cod, [käd]. The schwa, on the other hand, is neutral, but it is an actual sound, uh. For example, you could also write photography as phuh-tah-gruh-fee.

The schwa is a neutral sound, (no distinctive characteristics), but it is the most common sound in the English language. To make the uh sound, put your hand on your diaphragm and push until a grunt escapes. Don't move your jaw, tongue or lips, just allow the sound to flow past your vocal cords. It should sound like uh, not ah.

Once you master the two sounds [æ] and uh, you will have an easier time pronouncing 'can' and 'can't'. In a sentence, the simple positive 'can' sound like [k'n]. The simple negative 'can't' sounds like [kæn(t)].

Intention Spelling Pronunciation

Positive I can do it. [I k'n do it.

Negative I can't do it. I kæn(t) do it.

Extra Positive I can do it. I kææn do it.

Extra Negative I can't do it. I kænt do it.

When we read the works of Shakespeare or other authors from centuries past, we are often struck by the peculiar ring of their language. It is undeniably

English, yet quite removed from the English we speak today. Clearly, the language has changed in the 400 hundred plus years since Shakespeare’s day. Less obvious is the fact that English continues to change. Like all living languages, English is continually changing as new words, pronunciations and grammatical structures arise and eventually supplement or replace old ones.

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