The varieties of the English Language


Standard English

The speech of educated persons In Great Britain is known as Received Standard English (RSE). A sociolect (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 asOxford andCambridge. 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.

RSE is acceptable wherever English is spoken or understood.

Widely differing regional and local dialects are still employed in the various counties ofGreat Britain.


Local dialects are varieties of the English language peculiar to some district. Many of them have certain literary form, like Scottish English and Irish English that have a special linguistic status as compared with dialects.

The main groups of dialects in Great Britain are Northern (Durham, Yorkshire etc), Midland (Lincolnshire etc), Eastern (Norfolk, Suffolk), West Country (Somerset, Devon, etc) and Southern (Estuary, Cockney etc).

E.g. Yorkshire dialect words: aye = yes; love = term used by anyone, said to anyone in any situation and in some environments it is used on the end of almost every sentence which is addressing someone (e.g. «That’ll be three pounds please love»); any road =any way; lake/laik/leck/larkin = to play; learn =to teach (as in «That’ll learn yer» — that will teach you a lesson).

 Fig. 6 UK Dialect map


World Englishes

There are several other variants of so called “World Englishes”, where difference from the British standard is normalized. Each of these variants has developed a literature of its own and is characterized by peculiarities in phonetics, spelling, grammar and vocabulary. Since the 1990s the term “Global English” or “World English” has been used to denote this whole language complex. As a matter of fact, alongside the main system of the English vocabulary there are several other systems connected with it but possessing some features of their own.

There are many varieties of World English; some of the main ones are in shown in the table below.



E.g. Bahamian: bey= boy (e.g. Bey wa ya say?)

to cut eye = to glare or look with disproval

Australian: mongrel – a despicable person, a scroundrel;

sheila – generic term for (young) female in the same sense as a bloke is a male

Many of the World Englishes developed from creoles or pidgin.

Creole is  a language that has its origin in extended contact between two language communities, one of which is generally European. It incorporates features from each and constitutes the mother tongue of a community.

Pidgin is a simplified language made up of elements of two or more other languages and used for contacts, esp. trading contacts, between the speakers of other languages. Unlike creoles, pidgins do not constitute the mother tongue of any speech community.

Modern English can be considered as the lingua franca of the modern world.

Lingua franca is a language used for communication among people of different mother tongues.

American English

American English is a variety of the English language spoken in the United States. Although all Americans do not speak the same way, their speech has enough in common that American English can be recognized as a variety of English distinct from British English, Australian English, and other national varieties. American English has grown up with the country. It began to diverge from British English during its colonial beginnings and acquired regional differences and ethnic flavor during the settlement of the continent. Today it influences other languages and other varieties of English because it is the medium by which the attractions of American culture—its literature, motion pictures, and television programs—are transmitted to the world.

All speakers of English share a common linguistic system and a basic set of words. But American English differs from British English, Australian English, and other national varieties in many of its pronunciations, words, spellings, and grammatical constructions. Words or phrases of American origin, and those used in America but not so much elsewhere, are called Americanisms.

The main lexical differences between the British and American variants are as follows:

1)    Americanisms which have no equivalents in British English

e.g. hickory, corn, moose

junior school


2)    Different words are used in British and American English for the same objects

e.g. flat (BE) – apartment (AE). Apartment in BE has a rare usage and means a suite of rooms set aside for a particular person, implies luxury

 3)    The semantic structure of a partially equivalent word can different in American English

e.g. bin  (BE) (or dustbin, rubbish bin, ashbin) = waste container

In AE they use “trash can, ashcan, garbage can.”

Both in BE and AE —a large receptacle or container for storage («a grain bin»)

4) Otherwise equivalent words can be different in distribution.

e.g. ride a horse/bike (BE) – ride on a train (AE)

catch up («to reach and overtake»): Transitive or intransitive in BE, strictly intransitive in AE (to catch sb up/to catch up with sb).

 5) Sometimes the same word is used in both AE and BrE but with difference in emotional and stylistic colouring.

e.g. dead (BE) (of a cup, glass, or bottle) empty, finished with; very, extremely («dead good», «dead heavy», «dead rich»)

Both in BE and AE – deceased; completely, perfectly («dead straight», «dead on», «dead right»)

 6) The same word can be used in both AE and BrE but one of them is most frequent in Britain, the other one – in the USA.

e.g. advert (BE) – advertisement (AE),

estate agent (BE)- realtor(AE)

green fingers (talent for growing plants) —  green thumb (AE)