Usage

Usage refers to the differences that have developed, usually within countries compared with others, in spelling and the employment of some parts of speech. Usually one particular place is taken as having the "basic" language. For English, unsurprisingly this is England but sometimes variations can travel in the opposite direction. Changes that may have become accepted in, say, North America, enter into common usage in England.

It is not intended that there will be here a major investigation or report on regional variations of the English language. Rather these are just a few notes to indicate how broadly the use of a language can vary and yet still be understood by all whatever "version" is used. A full study of this subject could well run to a few a volumes.

The information presented here is not essential to you so far as your ability to use English is concerned. It is simply a short, lighthearted look at the language in which you will become proficient.

British Variations

Usually it is accepted that the "standard" form of the language is that used in the United Kingdom. Variations here occur only over time. Words such as "thou", "thee" and "thy" have fallen into disuse in Britain. Some communities outside of the United Kingdom retain use of these words in everyday practise. This is the case for some religious minority groups in the United States of America.

The words "disc" and "disk" were taken to be English and American respectively. The words are from different origins, Greek − "diskos," Latin − "discus" although "disk" is earlier. In computing "disc" is used for optical discs (compact disc, DVD disc) and was by choice of the group that coined and trademarked the name "compact disc". The term "disk" is used for products using magnetic storage (hard disks or floppy disks also known as diskettes). These spellings for this limited application is acceptable in Britain and US and other parts of the Commonwealth. This is an example of a form of use that originated abroad but has been accepted in Britain.

There are simply some commonly mis-used words. It is useful to be aware of some of these so that your own usage of the language is not compromised in these ways.

American Variations

There are any number of well known American spellings that are different from British spellings of the same word. The use of keyboards with key assignments different on American computers compared with British machines is common. Usually the choice between an American or a U.K. keyboard is given at the time of initial set up of a machine. Such a facility might be expected where a machine is to be used in two different languages. This shows the extent to which the English language varies between countries in which the common national language is English. Different key assignments cannot cope with spelling variations. Word processing programs do try to cope with such changed uses of the language and some even try to deal with grammatical variations. The inbuilt spell checking facilities vary on many programs with the better ones permitting a default choice and user options.

There are many words that are spelt differently in the United States of America compared with Britain. Perhaps the most well known is the transposition of the letters "e" and "r" at the end of some words such as "center" (US) and "centre" (UK). Another frequently seen difference is between the "ize" and the "ise" ending. In north American, including Canada, only the "ize" ending is recognised. The situation is more complex elsewhere. In Australia and New Zealand the "ise" ending is preferred. In Britain learned opinion is split with some authorities referring to the Greek and Latin origins of words to determine the "correct" spellings. The mass media and newspapers tend to use the "ise" ending as an opposing reaction to the Americanism of the "ize" ending even though this reasoning is incorrect. Some British academic publications use the "ize" ending.

There are grammatical connotation to some of the USA variations. In Britain the noun/verb difference is maintained in such words as "advice" and advise" or "device" and "devise". In America the distinction between "licence" and "license" and "practice" and "practise" has been abandoned but not with any consistency. In America "license" and "practice" are used for both meanings of each word.

There are many other examples that could be given but the Wikipedia web site explores this subject fully. Also dealt with on this site is the matter of varying pronunciation that goes with some of the spelling changes, such as "aluminium" (UK) and "aluminum" (USA).

Australian Variations

Australia generally favours British spellings. There are some exceptions, such as "program" being favoured over "programme" and "jail" a opposed to "gaol". The major variations in Australian English occur in the inclusion of totally new words derived from words originating in indigenous languages. Such words include "yakka" (work) and "cooee" (a short distance). Some words derived from local languages have become accepted not just in English but internationally, such as "dingo", "kangaroo" and "boomerang". The words "dirt", and "digger" have particular Australian connotations compared with their English origins.

The American influence on Australian English can be seen in North Queensland where the typically Australian words "brumby" (wild horse) and "drover" (sheep or cattle herder) have been overcome by the American equivalents of "bronco" and "cowboy". There was a major American influence in that region in the Second World War owing to the stationing of a large number of American troops there. In some cases Australians follow American usage and in others British. The term "mobile phone" is preferred over "cell phone" but "eggplant" is used rather than "aubergine".

It is in speech where differences make Australian English unique. This has been caused by the close living in the days of initial settlement of the continent of people from Ireland, Wales and Scotland as well as from England. The various accents and dialects coalesced into what is now known, in Australia, as "Strine". As with the American Variations above the matter is covered fully in Wikipedia and in the vocabulary section of the same source.

New Zealand

As is the case with Australian English it is in the spoken language that most New Zealand variations occur. Certainly everyone in Australia has an ear atuned to identification of a New Zealander via the pronunciation of that well known English and antipodean meal "fush and chups". New Zealanders also have in common with Australians the use of the third person singular, feminine instead of the third person neuter in phrases such as "She'll be right" (meaning "all will be OK"). Inevitably some Maori words have crept into common usage such as "kai" for "food" and "kia ora" for "hello".

Many old Imperial Measures are retained in common use in spite of the country having officially adopted the metric system of weights and measures many decades ago. Again the best reference for New Zealand usage is that found in Wikipedia which source also provides an extended vocabulary peculiar to this country. So far as spelling is concerned New Zealand generally follows English customs in this respect.

Canadian Variations

Canadian English shares vocabulary with American English although often this and British terminology co-exist. There are grammatical peculiarities in Canadian usage. As an example in the written language Canadians will start a sentence with "As well" meaning "In addition". In common with Australian and British English, in Canadian usage the definite article is sometimes omitted. Canadian English is discussed very fully in Wikipedia as has been the case in the other national variations mentioned above.

Almost a quarter of Canadians speak French as their mother tongue. There are as many variations with the French used in Canada compared with that used in Europe as there are in comparing Canadian and British English but that is not for consideration here. Owing to the early settlement of the country there has been a greater influence by the Scots in Canada than in the other places previously mentioned especially in Newfoundland. This is also the case with respect to the spoken language.

Canadians are tolerant of both American and British spelling but the latter is usually followed in government documents. This ease of coping with different usages has probably been enhanced by the English - French make-up of the population and the addition in more recent times of many other nationalities as Canada developed into an immigrant friendly nation. To some extent this also applies to the United States of America which country still tries to encourage cultural diversity by its "green card lottery" programme.

Other Variations

The other major influences upon the English language and variations that have occurred have their origins in the close proximity of Scotland, Wales and Ireland to England. The Welsh, Scottish and Irish influences on the English language can be seen at these sites. Each country has its own distinctive accent. In Scotland there are differences between the north and the south as is also the case in Ireland. In Wales local accents vary according to whether or not an area is naturally a Welsh language speaking area. Generally in south Wales and those parts of the country close to the English border Welsh is not the everyday or natural language of most of the inhabitants of these areas.

Wales has more identifiable grammatical variations than the other two countries especially with the tendency to transpose in sentences the position of subject and verb and the predicate ("Fed up I am with running.). There are lesser differences owing to the Scottish and Irish influences although the spoken language is no less identifiable than the Welsh. These accents are often not lost even with extended periods of living in other parts of the world.

Usage

Usage

British Variations

American Variations

Australian Variations

New Zealand Variations

Canadian Variations

Other Variations

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