What?s all this then? These days, nearly every economic,


These days, nearly every economic, political and social development is defined by its association with the broad-based phenomenon commonly identified as globalization. Understandably, economic integration favors standardization, and historical circumstance has led to the adoption of English as the primary language of international commerce. Consequently, the differences between British and American English should be of interest, if only for the historic role that these two nations have played in the unprecedented proliferation of a single language. Due to the limitations of this essay, three distinct elements of language will be discussed: vocabulary; grammar; and pronunciation.

Perhaps the most understandable distinctions between British and American English are the variations which exist in their formal and colloquial vocabularies. James Calvert Scott has noted that, while 'American English and British English vocabularies have diverged over time,' the various lexical differences can be grouped into four categories: the same expression with differences in style, connotation, and/or frequency; the same expression with one or more shared and different meanings; the same expression with completely different meanings; and different expressions with the same shared meaning. These differences in vocabularies affect understanding of all varieties of English (Scott 29).

Presumably, Scott's reference to 'differences in style' includes variations in spelling; if not, a fifth category should be added to his list. However, no rules exist which can help English speakers identify or predict the lexical differences between two specific dialects. Only prolonged exposure to one or both can ameliorate a student's confusion.

Fortunately, grammatical differences between the two dialects are far less noticeable. In the preface to the American edition of Shoots, Eats & Leaves, Lynne Truss declared that, while 'it is customary in the UK' to blame all examples of language erosion on the pernicious influence of the US,' there is little doubt in her mind that the British 'have no one to blame but ourselves' (xxiii- xxiv). Be that as it may, Truss frankly told her American readers that,

while significant variations exist between British and American usage, these are matters for quite rarefied concern. You say 'parentheses' while we say 'brackets''but to people who call an apostrophe 'one of them floating comma things' it doesn't matter... They are unlikely to spot that American usage interestingly places all terminal punctuation inside closing quotation marks, while British usage sometimes 'picks and chooses'... People who identify 'that dot-thing' as the mark at the end of a sentence probably don't care that the American 'period' is the equivalent of the British 'full stop' (xxiv).

Accordingly, few English students will be seriously inhibited by a lack of knowledge concerning the grammatical differences between British and American English.

Finally, this author believes that pronunciation is the most distinctive element of the various English dialects. Nearly every English speaker is tied to the accent of his region; indeed, this author has noticed that many of the characteristics of an accent can be detected years after an individual's emigration. More importantly, there is little question that an accent can play an extremely important role in economic and social relations. Recently, a study by The Aziz Corporation, a British institution, determined that an overseas accent'including American, continental Europe, Indian or Asian ' is better for success in business than any regional English accent. An overwhelming 79% of business men and women polled believe that a strong regional accent is a disadvantage in business whereas business people with a home counties accent are considered to be generally successfully by 77% of those in business ('Queen's' 177).

This phenomenon is not limited to Britain; recently, the Irish Times argued that it's nearly impossible for an Irish actor to find work in the States if he does not have a convincing American accent ('Finding').

All things considered, there is little reason to believe that the number of differences between British and American English will be reduced. In fact, it's only logical to expect both societies to incorporate different elements of the numerous non- native English dialects into their respective regional dialects. As for what this means for Global English, that is a question for the linguists. I may be a native English speaker, but I have only begun to study the language from a global perspective.

Works Cited

'Queen's English, please.' Accountancy. February 2006. Vol. 137, Issue 1350. p117. 'Finding their voice: Irish actors urged to lose their accents.' Irish Times, December 22, 2005. Scott, James Calvert. 'Differences in American and British Vocabulary: Implications for International Business Communication.' Business Communication Quarterly. December 2000. Vol. 63, Issue 4. p27-39. Truss, Lynne. Eats, Shoots & Leaves. American Edition. Gotham Books, New York: 2006.