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Dialects of English facts for kids

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There are several dialects of English used in different parts of the world.

American English

American English or U.S. English is the dialect (or rather, a variety of dialects) of English language spoken in the United States. It is different in some respects from other variations of English, such as British English. Historically, many types of American English can be traced back to old local dialects of England.

Awareness of American English is greater now in many parts of the world where another form of English is more common. This is partly because of people's exposure to American English via the media, for example CNN television, and the Internet, where the most common form of English is American English.

The increasing global awareness of American English as well as other versions of English may lead to localised versions of English continuing the English language tradition of absorbing new words. For example, the English language spoken in India, which has more than one billion people, will assume more American English words to go along with its British English base and many other words adopted into English usage in India from Indian languages such as Hindi.

Sometimes people will learn American English as it is spoken in America - for example, in telephone call centers in India and other places, people often learn American English in order to sound more like their customers who call India from America. These people frequently continue to use American English in everyday life.

Many word definitions are different in American English. Most languages change starting with minor issues like this - for instance Italian, Spanish, French all came from Latin due to many small usage shifts over centuries.

Spelling in American English

Compared to British English, in American English:

  • centre is spelled "center"
  • colour is spelled "color"
  • draught is spelled "draft"
  • honour is spelled "honor"
  • gaol (uncommon) is spelled "jail"
  • neighbour is spelled "neighbor"
  • plough is spelled "plow"
  • realise is spelled "realize"
  • summarise is spelled "summarize"

There are also some words in American English that are a bit different from British English, e.g.:

African American Vernacular English

African American Vernacular English is a lect that has features of 16th century English. It originated in Black Culture but may be spoken by members of any group. Its pronunciations and grammar are different from Standard English. It is a distinct cultural variety of English, something any non-native English speaker would be familiar with.

It first emerged when blacks were taken en masse from their ancestral homes to North America. Sold into slavery, the captives developed a way to communicate among all their various tribes. In 1996, Linguists proposed using AAVE to educate black children in Oakland, California. They asserted that AAVE is not an Indo-European language. There has been a new awareness of cultural linguistics since.

British English

British English is the version of the English language which is used in the United Kingdom and some other countries. British English is a redundant expression because the English language comes from England, which is a part of Britain.

American English is similar to English with alterations in spellings and usage of some words.

Spelling in British English

  • American words ending in "er" often end in "re" when written in British English. Examples: center becomes centre - liter becomes litre - meter becomes metre.
  • American words are less likely to contain the letter "u" than British words. Examples: color becomes colour - favor becomes favour - honor becomes honour.
  • American words may not contain the "ph" sound. Example: Sulphur is the British spelling of Sulfur.
  • American words may use a "z" instead of an "s". Example: colonisation is the British spelling of colonization

Vocabulary in British English

In British English, "dock" refers to the water in the space between two "piers" or "wharfs". In American English, the "pier" or "wharf" could be called a "dock", and the water between would be a "slip".

Some simple differences:

British - American

  • flat - apartment
  • to let - to rent
  • garden - yard
  • lift - elevator
  • lorry - truck
  • metro, underground, tube - subway
  • pavement - sidewalk
  • petrol - gas or gasoline
  • football, footy - soccer
  • railway - railroad
  • shopping trolley - shopping cart
  • tap - faucet
  • trousers - pants
  • jumper - sweater
  • boot - trunk (of a car)
  • bonnet - hood (of a car)
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Dialects of English Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.