The Differences between American and British English

Written forms of American and British English. Historical background of the English language. Formal and notional agreement. Differences in pronunciation. Miscellaneous grammatical and morphological differences. The Philadelphia dialect vs. Cockney.

Рубрика Иностранные языки и языкознание
Вид курсовая работа
Язык английский
Дата добавления 04.03.2012
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2.2 The Cockney

The term Cockney has both geographical and linguistic associations. Geographically and culturally, it often refers to working class Londoners, particularly those in the East End. Linguistically, it refers to the form of English spoken by this group.

According to traditional definition, a "true" Cockney is someone born within earshot of the Bow Bells, i.e. the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow church in Cheapside in the City of London (which is not itself in the East End). However, the bells were silent from the outbreak of World War II until 1961. Also, as the general din in London has increased, the area in which the bells can be heard has contracted. Formerly it included the City, Clerkenwell, Finsbury, Shoreditch, Hoxton, Stepney, Bethnal Green, Limehouse, Mile End, Wapping, Whitechapel, Shadwell, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Surrey Quays and The Borough, although according to the legend of Dick Whittington the bells could also be heard from as far away as Highgate. The association with Cockney and the East End in the public imagination may be due to many people assuming that Bow Bells are to be found in the district of Bow, rather than the lesser known St Mary-le-Bow church.

A traditional costume associated with Cockneys is that of the pearly King (or pearly Queen) worn by London costermongers who sewed thousands of pearl buttons onto their clothing in elaborate patterns.


The term was used to describe those born within earshot of the Bow Bells as early as 1600, when Samuel Rowlands, in his satire The Letting of Humours Blood in the Head-Vaine, referred to 'a Bowe-bell Cockney'. Traveller and writer Fynes Moryson stated in his work An Itinerary that "Londoners, and all within the sound of Bow Bells, are in reproach called Cockneys." John Minsheu (or Minshew) was the first lexicographer to define the word in this sense, in his Ductor in Linguas (1617), where he referred to 'A Cockney or Cockny, applied only to one born within the sound of Bow bell, that is in the City of London'. However, the etymologies he gave (from 'cock' and 'neigh', or from Latin incoctus, raw) were just guesses, and the OED later authoritatively explained the term as originating from cock and egg (Middle English 'cokeney' < 'coken' + 'ey', lit. cocks' egg), meaning first a misshapen egg (1362), then a person ignorant of country ways (1521), then the senses mentioned above.

Francis Grose's A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785) derives the term from the following story:

A citizen of London, being in the country, and hearing a horse neigh, exclaimed, Lord! how that horse laughs! A by-stander telling him that noise was called Neighing, the next morning, when the cock crowed, the citizen to shew he had not forgot what was told him, cried out, Do you hear how the Cock Neighs?

An alternative derivation of the word can be found in Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary: London was referred to by the Normans as the "Land of Sugar Cake" (Old French: pais de cocaigne), an imaginary land of idleness and luxury. A humorous appellation, the word "Cocaigne" referred to all of London and its suburbs, and over time had a number of spellings: Cocagne, Cockayne and, in Middle English, Cocknay and Cockney. The latter two spellings could be used to refer to both pampered children, and residents of London, and to pamper or spoil a child was 'to cocker' him. (See, for example, John Locke, "...that most children's constitutions are either spoiled or at least harmed, by cockering and tenderness." from Some Thoughts Concerning Education, 1693)

Cockney area

The region in which "Cockneys" reside has changed over time, and is no longer the whole of London. As mentioned in the introduction, the traditional definition is that in order to be a Cockney, one must have been born within earshot of the Bow Bells. However, the church of St. Mary-le-Bow was destroyed in 1666 by the Great Fire of London and rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren. After the bells were destroyed again in 1941 in The Blitz of World War II, and before they were replaced in 1961, there was a period when by this definition no 'Bow-bell' Cockneys could be born. The use of such a literal definition produces other problems, since the area around the church is no longer residential and the noise of the area makes it unlikely that many people would be born within earshot of the bells anymore.

A study was carried by the city in 2000 to see how far the Bow Bells could be heard[citation needed], and it was estimated that the bells would have been heard six miles to the east, five miles to the north, three miles to the south, and four miles to the west.

Thus while all East Enders are Cockneys, not all Cockneys are East Enders. The traditional core neighbourhoods of the East End are Bethnal Green, Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Stepney, Wapping, Limehouse, Poplar, Millwall, Hackney, Shoreditch, Bow and Mile End. The area gradually expanded to include East Ham, Stratford, West Ham and Plaistow as more land was built upon.

Migration of Cockneys has also led to migration of the dialect. Ever since the building of the Becontree housing estate, the Barking & Dagenham area has spoken Cockney. As Chatham Dockyard expanded during the 18th century, large numbers of workers were relocated from the dockland areas of London, bringing with them a "Cockney" accent and vocabulary. Within a short period this famously distinguished Chatham from the neighbouring areas, including the City of Rochester, which had the traditional Kentish accent.

In Essex, towns that mostly grew up from post-war migration out of London (e.g. Basildon and Harlow) often have a strong Cockney influence on local speech. However, the early dialect researcher Alexander John Ellis believed that Cockney developed due to the influence of Essex dialect on London speech.[8] In recent years, there has been a move away from Cockney in the inner-city areas of London towards Multicultural London English whereas the eastern outskirts of Greater London have more speakers of the traditional Cockney dialect.

Cockney has been occasionally described as replacing /r/ with /w/. For example, thwee instead of three, fwasty instead of frosty. Peter Wright, a Survey of English Dialects fieldworker, concluded that this was not a universal feature of Cockneys but that it was more common to hear this in the London area than anywhere else in Britain. This description may also be a result of mishearing the labiodental R as /w/, when it is still a distinct phoneme in Cockney.

As with many urban dialects, Cockney is non-rhotic. A final -er is often pronounced as [?]. Words such as car, far, park, etc. can have an open [??].

An unstressed final -ow is pronounced [?]. This is common to most traditional, Southern English dialects except for those in the West Country.

Grammatical features:

Use of me instead of my, for example, "At's me book you got 'ere ". Cannot be used when "my" is emphasised (i.e., "At's my book you got 'ere" (and not "his")).

2.4 My own experience

Last year I went to the USA. I have been to there for three months. Of course, according to my course paper I did a little research in distinguishing of American and British English, and my findings are presented below:

British English:

“I was waiting in queue for the loo before getting some petrol for my lorry when I realized I left the hob on and the aubergines were probably burning!”

American English:

“I was waiting in line for the bathroom before getting some gas for my truck when I realized I left the stove on and the eggplant was probably burning!”



sidewalk pavement

street car tram

railroad railway

crosswalk zebra crossing


Americans refer to transportation and British people to transport.[56] (Transportation in Britain has traditionally meant the punishment of criminals by deporting them to an overseas penal colony.) British use of the word communications encompasses the movement of goods and people as well as of messages, whereas in America the word primarily refers to facilities established for the sending and receiving of messages by post or electronic transmission. The latter are normally referred to in British English as telecommunications.

Specific auto parts and transport terms have different names in the two dialects, for example:




rural road







car park

parking lot]

dual carriageway

divided highway]

estate car

station wagon






18 wheeler



articulated lorry

trailer truck

motorway or M road





gasoline or gas







ticking over



Finally, I want to say that, during my research I`ve analyzed these 2 variants of the language. There are some differences in the grammar, morphology and lexis. Of course, The English language was first introduced to the Americans by British colonization, beginning in the early 17th century. Similarly, the language spread to numerous other parts of the world as a result of British trade and colonization elsewhere and the spread of the former British Empire, which, by 1921, held sway over a population of about 470-570 million people: approximately a quarter of the world's population at that time. Differences between the two include pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary (lexis), spelling, punctuation, idioms, formatting of dates and numbers, and so on, although the differences in written and most spoken grammar structure tend to be much more minor than those of other aspects of the language in terms of mutual intelligibility. A small number of words have completely different meanings between the two dialects or are even unknown or not used in one of the dialects.

Nowadays, The English Language is one of the most important language within the UK and around the Globe.

While doing my course paper, I`ve noticed that some words in British English have different meanings in the American English. For example, "Professor" has different meanings in BrE and AmE. In BrE, it is the highest academic rank, followed by Reader, Senior Lecturer and Lecturer. In AmE "Professor" refers to academic staff of all ranks, with (Full) Professor (largely equivalent to the UK meaning) followed by Associate Professor and Assistant Professor.

There is additionally a difference between American and British usage in the word school. In British usage "school" by itself refers only to primary (elementary) and secondary (high) schools, and to sixth forms attached to secondary schools - if one "goes to school", this type of institution is implied. By contrast, an American student at a university may talk of "going to school" or "being in school". US law students and med students almost universally speak in terms of going to "law school" and "med school", respectively. However, the word is used in BrE in the context of higher education to describe a division grouping together several related subjects within a university, for example a "School of European Languages" containing departments for each language, and also in the term "art school". It is also the name of some of the constituent colleges of the University of London, e.g. School of Oriental and African Studies, London School of Economics.

In both the US and UK, college can refer to some division within a university such as the "college of business and economics". Institutions in the US that offer two to four years of post-high school education often have the word college as part of their name, while those offering more advanced degrees are called a university. (There are exceptions, of course: Boston College, Dartmouth College and The College of William and Mary are examples of colleges that offer advanced degrees.) American students who pursue a bachelor's degree (four years of higher education) or an associate degree (two years of higher education) are college students regardless of whether they attend a college or a university and refer to their educational institutions informally as colleges. A student who pursues a master's degree or a doctorate degree in the arts and sciences is in AmE a graduate student; in BrE a postgraduate student although graduate student also sometimes used. Students of advanced professional programs are known by their field (business student, law student, medical student, the last of which is frequently shortened to med student). Some universities also have a residential college system, the details of which may vary from school to school but generally involve common living and dining spaces as well as college-organized activities.

For Pratical Part I wanted to compare 2 dialects, I mean, The Philadelphia dialect and The Cockney. As you know that The term Cockney has both geographical and linguistic associations. Geographically and culturally, it often refers to working class Londoners, particularly those in the East End. Linguistically, it refers to the form of English spoken by this group. About the Philadelphia dialect Actual Philadelphia dialects are seldom heard nationally; Philadelphia natives who attain national prominence often make an effort to tone down or eliminate their dialects. However, Chris Matthews is a conspicuous example of the real thing. Philadelphia's suburbs in the Delaware Valley and southern New Jersey. It is one of the best-studied dialects of American English since Philadelphia's University of Pennsylvania is the home institution of William Labov, one of the most productive American sociolinguists. Unlike the dialects found in much of the rest of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia dialect shares some unusual features with the New York dialect and Southern American English, although it is a distinct dialect region. The Philadelphia dialect is, however, in most respects similar to the dialects of Wilmington, Delaware and Baltimore, together with which it constitutes what Labov describes as the "Mid-Atlantic Dialect".e

Also I did my research concerning the difference between American and British English basing on my own experience.


Figures of speech

Both BrE and AmE use the expression "I couldn't care less" to mean the speaker does not care at all. Speakers of AmE sometimes state this as "I could care less", literally meaning precisely the opposite. Intonation no longer reflects the originally sarcastic nature of this variant, which is not idiomatic in BrE and might be interpreted as anything from nonsense (or sloppiness) to an indication that the speaker does care.

In both areas, saying, "I don't mind" often means, "I'm not annoyed" (for example, by someone's smoking), while "I don't care" often means, "The matter is trivial or boring". However, in answering a question like "Tea or coffee?", if either alternative is equally acceptable, an American may answer, "I don't care", while a British person may answer, "I don't mind". Either sounds odd to the other.

In BrE, the phrase I can't be arsed (to do something) is a vulgar equivalent to the British or American I can't be bothered (to do something). This can be extremely confusing to Americans, as the Southern British pronunciation of the former sounds similar to I can't be asked..., which sounds either defiantly rude or nonsensical.

Older BrE often uses the exclamation "No fear!" where current AmE has "No way!" An example from Dorothy L. Sayers:

Q.: Wilt thou be baptized in this faith?

A.: No fear!

-- from A Catechism for Pre- and Post-Christian Anglicans

This usage may confuse users of AmE, who are likely to interpret and even use "No fear!" as enthusiastic willingness to move forward.


Fifteen minutes after the hour is called quarter past in British usage and a quarter after or, less commonly, a quarter past in American usage. Fifteen minutes before the hour is usually called quarter to in British usage and a quarter of, a quarter to or a quarter till in American usage; the form a quarter to is associated with parts of the Northern United States, while a quarter till is found chiefly in the Appalachian region. Thirty minutes after the hour is commonly called half past in both BrE and AmE. In informal British speech, the preposition is sometimes omitted, so that 5:30 may be referred to as half five. Half after used to be more common in the US. The AmE formations top of the hour and bottom of the hour are not commonly used in BrE. Forms like eleven forty are common in both dialects.


Main articles: Primary education, Secondary education in the United Kingdom, and Secondary education in the United States

The naming of school years in British (except Scotland) and American English

Age range

British English

American English


Alternative name



Alternative name

1 - 4

Preschool (optional)




Foundation Stage 1



4 - 5

Primary school



Infants reception

Foundation Stage 2




Year 1

Infants year 1

Key Stage 1


Elementary school


Year 2

Infants year 2

1st grade



Year 3

Junior year 3

Key Stage 2

2nd grade



Year 4

Junior year 4

3rd grade



Year 5

Junior year 5

4th grade



Year 6

Junior year 6

5th grade


11 - 12

Secondary school

Middle school

Junior high school

Year 7

First form[55]

Key Stage 3

6th grade



Year 8

Second form

7th grade



Year 9

Third form

8th grade



Year 10

Fourth form

Key Stage 4, GCSE

High school

9th grade

Freshman year


Year 11

Fifth form

10th grade

Sophomore year

16 - 17

Sixth form (optional)

11th grade

Junior year

Year 12

Lower sixth

Key Stage 5, A level


Year 13

Upper sixth

12th grade

Senior year

In the UK, the US equivalent of a high school is often referred to as a secondary school regardless of whether it is state funded or private. Secondary education in the United States also includes middle school or junior high school, a two or three year transitional school between elementary school and high school.

List of Used Literature

1. free encyclopedia wikipedia



4. The History of English text-book


6. "American Cultural Values"

7. "British Cultural Values"

8. "Cockney what is it?"

9. "Differences between American ans British English" articles from magazines

10. "American dialects"

11. Algeo, John (2006). British or American English?. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-37993-8.

12. Hargraves, Orin (2003). Mighty Fine Words and Smashing Expressions. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515704-4

13. McArthur, Tom (2002). The Oxford Guide to World English. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-866248-3.

14. Peters, Pam (2004). The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-62181-X.

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