The Main Difference between BE and AE

  1. Similarity and Difference between a Set-Expression and a Word


The appearance of the American variant of the English language is the result of a long process of independent development of the people who settled in a new place to arrange a new way of life. They did not give new names to old things, but very often filled old words with new meanings and borrowed new words from their native languages. In present day reality the same words can have different connotations and implications for Britons and Americans even if they denote the same things and phenomena.

Language is sometimes compared to a castle containing the spirit, the very soul of the people inhabiting it. We can hardly find the soul of the American people in a castle built in the British Isles. It is true that the bricks for the new castle were brought from Britain and the Old World, but the castle itself was built in the new world.

We can not look at American only through the prism of British psychology and British history. We can not apply British standards to American values, we must get to know what Americans are like, to understand American values, attitudes and cultural patterns.

American English is, on the one hand a Key to American culture, on the other, it has a growing influence all over the world, especially in the business sphere.

There are several approaches to the problem of relationship between BE and AE. There is a well-known joke which defines Britain and America as two countries divided by a common tongue.

Oscar Wild wrote, "The English have of course, language."There are scholars who treat British and American English as two different languages. (H.L. Mencken). There are scholars who say that AE is but a "a dialect of the mother tongue" (Norman W. Schur).

There is a more realistic approach - American English is "an equal partner with British English", but they are not two different languages, they are "varieties of English" (P. Stevens). Actually, the idioms spoken in Britain and America have too much in common to be treated as different languages. Their grammar is basically the same. The main part of the lexicon is essentially the same. Historically, the period of their separate development is too short for them to become absolutely independent.

On the other hand, during this period which is now nearly four centuries, the two nations have been living their separate lives which differ in many aspects: different environments, different political systems, different realities of their everyday life, different contacts with other languages, etc.

English penetrated into America continent at the beginning of the XVII th century. The first English colony was established there in 1607. Thus, American English history is equal to almost four centuries. The earliest period lasted till the end of the XVIII th century and was characterized by the formation of American dialects of the English language. The latest period is marked by the formation of American variant of the literary English language. (XIX - XX cc.). The most characteristic features of AE were formed during the 1stperiod. The first colonizers were contemporaries of W. Shakespeare, E. Spenser and J. Milton.

Obsolete British words survived in America and a lot of new words were coined to nominate things, objects and phenomena unfamiliar to Britishers. Thus, British loan( , ) is fixed by OED in the XIII century and is still used the XVII century. The verb rarely used in Modern English is preserved in America. To fellowship(, , , -) could be met in Chaucer's works and is also survived in AE in a wider sphere of application as well as guess, and homely(, ).

Lexical divergencies were later conditioned by the influence of extra-linguistic factors upon vocabulary: surroundings, nature, flora, fauna: moose( ), live-oak(³ ), hickory(ϳ ), gap(ó ), backwoods(˳ ).

The first colonizers were gradually getting accustomed to new agriculture and house-keeping: corndodger( ), coleslaw( ), bee(' ), back-settlement(³ ), corn(), lot( ). A special group of words denoted different realia, connected with life and culture of aboriginal inhabitants of the continent - American Indians: squaw, moccasin, medicine man, warpath, tomahawk, canoe, wigwam, etc.

Further enrichment of the vocabulary took place through word-building and semantic transformations and borrowing. In the sphere of word-building the difference between British and American English lies in the intensity of the process. American English is more open to neologisms. Among the most productive ways of word-formation we must mention conversion: to deed( ), to tomahawk( ), to progress(XX cent - Britain).

Affixation of the early period (XVII-XVIII c-s) employed mostly native suffixes (-er, Un-): blazer(, ) . trailblazer (, ), formed fromblaze( , ), blower - ϳ ; drover- , ; driver- , unlocated( , ), unlotted( ).

Borrowed suffixes came to usage by the end of the XVIII century: demoralize(ϳ ), Americanize( ), boatable().

A lot of vocabulary units characteristic of British English acquired new lexico-semantic variants in AE; earlier LSV either continued to exist or disappeared.

Frontierwith its additional meaning " , " gave birth to frontierman, frontier country, frontier town.

Backtogether with its basic meaning came to denote ", , ": back countryman, back farmer, back-settlement, back woods.

Lot(, , ) came to denote a part of virgin territory, belonging to a new farmer, and an official who was in charge of the process was named lotter, lot-layer. Later lotbecame "- ".

Why AE storemeans "", ""? At the earliest period of settlement goods which came by water were accumulated, "stored" before they were sold. Thus to keep store- , , store-keeper- .

BE barn- , . In case of need in American households it was also used for cattle: barn- , .

BE cornmeans "- ", while in AE the first food gain was "" - corn. Hence - cornfield, popcorn, corn-fed.

In some cases the primary meaning is preserved only in BE: lumber(, ) by the XVIII century came to denote not only ", , ", but also (BE timber).

Some borrowings were first taken from the language of American Indians: squash- , , chinkapin- , raccoon- , skunk- .

French borrowings of the XVII - XVIII centuries are not numerous: chowder( , ), caribou- , bayou- , rapids- , prairie- .

Dutch borrowings are mostly referred to domestic, everyday spheres of life: kool sla cole slaw, koekje cookie, krul cruller( ), stoep stoop(), span( ), boss- , . Santa Clausgoes back to Dutch Sant Nikolaas. The etymology of Yankeeis rather vague; one of the most convincing versions is to originate it from a diminutive Janke (Jan) - A name given by Dutchmen from New Amsterdam (New York) to Britishers living in Connecticut. Later this nickname passed to all New Englanders and then to all Northerners.

Normative tendencies of English literature and language connected with S. Johnson's Dictionary already did not concern English colonies in America.

The very term Americanismwas introduced by Sir John Witherspoon, rector of Prinston university, a well known politician of the War for Independence period in one of his articles written in 1781. In the end of the XVIII century a literary normalized form of AE was still missing.

In the XIX century the number of Americanisms continues to grow and the first examples of their usage are included into historical dictionaries of Americanisms by Craigie and Mathews. The United States of America with its specific state and political structure, political parties and social institutions found its reflection in new political terminology. Such terms as Congress, Senate, House of Representatives (House), President, Vice President, District Attorneyappeared by the end of the XVIII century. In the XIX century appeared Administration( ), Department of the Interior(̳ ), Department of Justice(̳ ), Immigration Department( ), Superintendent of Education( ), firewarden ( ), city marshal( ), recorder- , ), caucus( , . .).

The evolution of the word Presidentdeserves special interest. Originally it meant " ". Later the term denoted Chairman of Continental Congress, Governor of State and at last Head of American Administration.

American technical vocabulary of railroads considerably differs from that of the British one: railroad(Br. Railway), engineer(Br. Engine - driver), cow-catcher(Br. Plough - ), freight train(Br. Goods train - ), baggage car(Br. Luggage van), flat-car(Br. Truck - ).

Gold rush and expansion to the West left it trace in vocabulary and phraseology: forty-niner- Gold-digger who came to California during the gold-rush of 1849 bad man(, ), prairie schooner( ), strike it rich( - fig. , ), jump a claim( , - fig. ).

Among words and word combinations which came into use in the XIX century a considerable part is constituted by slang with its derogatory connotations: slush money( ), floater (-, ), bum(), sell-out ( ), lay pipes( ), holdup( ).

A number of new words come into AE by way of borrowingamong which the most numerous is a group of Spanish words: tornado(), loco( ), mustang(), bronco( ), canyon(), corral(), patio( ), peon(), rancho, poncho, sombrero, bonanza( ), calaboose(').

German borrowings are presented by pumpernickel( ), wiener wurst(³ ), frankfurter( ), liver wurst(˳ ), zwieback(), lager beerand black beer(г ).

One of the active advocates of American Variant// S tandard Englishwas Noah Webster who complied the most characteristic features of AE and published in "American Dictionary of the English Language".

A considerable role in the formation of American variant of literary English belongs to Washington Irwing, Fenimore Cooper, Walt Witman, Mark Twain, O'Henry, Jack London.

Modern AE is more open to neologisms. Conversion remains the most productive way of word-building. Nouns are easily formed from verbs ( "a frame-up"From"to frame-up"), Verbs from nouns ("to bus"From"a bus"), Nouns from adjectives ("a husky"From"husky"), Etc. Back-formation is also very productive: to edit(Editor), to laze(Lazy), to commute(Commuter), to fax(A fax).

All kinds of shorteningsand portmanteauwords are very popular with Americans:

ad (advertisement), copter (helicopter), auditeria (auditorium + cafeteria).

Speaking about the vocabulary of AE upon the whole it is possible to distinguish three types of lexical units.

1) The common (General English) word-stock.

2) Common ideas, expressed by different words.

3) The same words having different meanings.

4) Words, expressing realia, with no counterparts in the other variant.

The second and the third types are closely connected and produce inconvenience in understanding both variants. This part of the word-stock provides the material for most of the confusions and popular jokes.

AE suspenders- BE braces(For holding up men's trousers)

AE garter belt- BE suspenders(For holding up women's stockings)

AE pants- BE trousers, AE underpants, shorts- BE pants, AE vest- BE waistcoat, AE public school- BE state school, AE private school- BE public school, AE faculty- BE teachers(Teaching staff), AE (university) department - BE faculty, AE truck- BE lorry, AE baggage- BE luggage, AE closet- BE storeroom.

British cars run on petrol, American cars run on gasoline(Gas). In America a man rentsa car, in Britain - hiresit. In American high school student graduates. A British secondary school pupil (never student) leavesschool.

Some American words are in fact British archaisms: fall(Autumn), mad(Angry), etc.

The fourth type of the word-stock is based on the new phenomena, on the appearance of new institutions, new social relations, new notions.

New forms of culture were created by the pioneers and later immigrants from different countries and they all had to be given names: trapper(, , ), rum( ), sequoia, canyon.

Idiomatic expressions are different in the two variants: AE to blow one's top- BE to fly into rage, AE to moonlight- BE to work at a second job, AE to hijack- BE to take over a plane, ship, train or motor vehicle by force.

Nowadays the difference in the vocabulary is very difficult to trace because a great number of Americanisms are borrowed into British English, so they lose their specific American character. Nevertheless, there are a considerable number of words which betray a speaker's nationality. For example, if a British girl and an American girl were out shopping together, the British girl, pointing to a shopwindow, might say, "I'd like to go into that shop and look at that frock", While her American friend would more likely say," I'd like to go into that storeand look at that dress. "

In some cases not separate words and their meanings are opposed in BE and AE, but, as A.I. Smirnitsky noticed - structural variants of words (lexico-morphological and word-building or derivational variants): AE aluminum- BE aluminium, AE acclimate- BE acclimatize,AE toward- BE towards,AE amid - BE amidst, AE candidacy- BE candidature.

But: BE terminal(ʳ , , ) is opposed to terminus(ʳ ). In AE terminal- ʳ .

The fourth type of American word-stock - words having no British equivalents ( ) must be the object of special study as they are of great importance for cross-cultural communication; among them we single out lexical units referring to political life: Electoral College( , , -), precinct captain(ij , (precinct - - ); watcher( , ); filibuster (, , , , ), wardheeler( , 򳺿 (ward) '); retiree(, ), draftee(), Birchdom(, ), GOP-ster(), witchhunt( ), Republicrat, militerrorism, salariat( ).

Modern slangywords, which are collected in such dictionaries as L.S. Berrey and M. Van den Bark, The American Thesaurus of Slang and H. Wentworth and S. Flexner, Dictionary of American Slang serve to create fresh names for some things that are frequent topics of discourse. For the most part they sound somewhat vulgar, cynical and hash, aiming to show the object of speech in the light of an off-hand contemptuous ridicule. A great deal of words of this kind came to BE from the USA: corny, cute, fuss-put, teenager, swell, Etc. but American slang also contains elements coming from BE: cheerio, right-o, Gerry.

Obsolete Words -- | -- NEOLOGISMS
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