Queen's English still rules: We say tomato... as does most of the world
Huge international study finds that, contrary to popular belief, Americanese has not taken over in English-speaking countries
Sunday 31 October 2010
The English-speaking world talks as we do in the UK, according to the biggest international study of English dialects ever undertaken. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have shattered the myth that Americanese has taken an unshakeable hold on the Anglophone world.
The findings, the result of a 10-year study of more than 70,000 people, also suggest that the legacy of the British Empire has played an important role in maintaining the pre-eminent position of British English.
The researchers have been sifting through a vast internet database of responses from the world's English speakers, who were asked to choose which words they use to describe a range of everyday objects. Nearly 30 different words were given to describe a sandwich, including "sub", "hoagie" and "nudger". Contributors were also asked to enter the postcode, or zip code, of the town they believe most influenced their speech.
Dr Bert Vaux, a linguistics specialist who led the research, found that English-speakers from the UK, US, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand had their own variations for common words and phrases. Where in the UK, we might call rain during sunny weather a "sun-shower", those in South Africa may call it a "monkey's wedding", and those in the US's southern states would sometimes say "the devil's beating his wife". The study found that while the US often has several variations for certain words, in the main the rest of the world takes the British-English form.
The researchers will now analyse their vast archive in detail. But Dr Vaux said he already understands why British-English prevails: "The legacy of the British Empire plays a role and the fact that the education system for English throughout the world still seems to be connected more to the British model, rather than the American one," he said.
Dr Vaux is now about to begin a similar survey solely in Britain, which starts this weekend and will be the first project of its kind since the 1960s.
"A pattern is already visible," he said. "It is similar to what's happening in the US: speech patterns of the major cities are becoming increasingly different from each other."
- 1 Howard Jacobson: Let’s see the 'criticism' of Israel for what it really is
- 2 Gingers face extinction due to climate change, scientists warn
- 3 Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014: In defence of Mesut Ozil - the Arsenal midfielder works magic in the shadows
- 4 Pornhub pleads with users to stop uploading videos of Brazil 'getting f**ked by Germany' in World Cup match
- 5 Give childhood back to children: if we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less
Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
Jennifer Lawrence face palms Emma Watson at Christian Dior show
Gingers face extinction due to climate change, scientists warn
Pamplona Running of the Bulls 2014: Briton critically injured in San Fermin festival
Elephant 'cries' while being rescued after 50 years of abuse in India
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
British jihadist calls for 'flag of Islam' over Downing Street and Buckingham Palace
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories
£33000 - £40000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Executive Assista...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Social Media Director (Gl...
£35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - 6 Months Fix...
£37000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Tolworth, Surrey - £40,...