Varieties of English

Variation in ‘Native’ Englishes
For use with chapter four of:
Insert cover photo
of book here
Galloway, N. & Rose, H. (2015). Introducing
Global Englishes. Routledge.
© Dr. Heath Rose & Dr. Nicola Galloway
Review of Lecture Three
• There are many advantages to having a global lingua franca - increased
efficiency in international organisations, political gatherings and
international business, scientific scholarship, popular media, travel and
personal communication.
• However, the spread of English and the adoption of it as a lingua franca
come at a cost – a threat to other languages and associated with
• Linguistic Imperialism is a notion that states the spread of English and
destruction of other languages was the direct result of policies connected
to colonialism and the pursuit of power through inequality.
• Arguments against linguistic imperialism take a bottom-up perspective.
• We can also examine policy in light of globalisation, which promoted
English education and use through a top-down policy (such as Georgia’s
switch from Russian to English), and which aimed to curb the bottom-up
intrusion of English into educational domains (such as in Sweden).
• Overall, issues and attitudes surrounding English are a complex mix of
English language variation in the British Isles
English language variation in Canada and The USA
Variation in Australia and New Zealand
English language variation in the Caribbean
Introductory activities
Discuss and record on a scale whether the sentence fits into an ideology of
acceptable English. (1=completely acceptable; 2=acceptable; 3=unacceptable;
4=completely unacceptable).
Are there any forms that you personally believe are completely acceptable, but
standard language proponents might not?
Are there any forms that might be more acceptable in certain geographic regions
of the world (or in certain demographic communities) but not in others?
All the above sentences are found in native Englishes around the world. Calling
the time “half-eight” is common for speakers in the UK, but not in Australia. To
say someone sings good is acceptable for younger speakers in the USA, but not
older generations. How do you think such differences emerged? Consider
historical factors, geographical factors, socioeconomic factors, and generational
Levels of
This lecture will focus on only a
few features…
Levels of
Part One
Image source:
Phonemic variation
Vowel mergers of /ʌ/ and /ʊ/. Much research has focused on the strut-foot vowel
merger. The /ʌ/ vowel does not appear in North of England (including midlands) accents,
and Irish accents. In these places the /ʊ/ sound exists in both words, making the words
strut and foot rhyme. Interestingly the difference here is due to a historical phonemic
split of other regions (Hughes et al., 2012), which did not take place in Northern England
or Ireland.
Vowel mergers of /ʊ/ and /u:/. Scottish speakers make little distinction between /ʊ/ and
/u:/ and /ɒ/ and /ɔ:/, causing the following pairs to be homophonous: pam-palm; pullpool; cot-caught (Hughes et al., 2012).
Distinction of /a/ and /ɑ:/. A distinction in North and South can also be made with the
vowels /a/ and /ɑ:/. Northern accents say /a/ in bath, but southerners say /ɑ:/
Intrusive nasals. Within the group of North of England accents a strong division exists
between even neighbouring varieties, such as a distinct final /g/ sound in the word ‘sing’
in Central Lancaster English, as opposed to a final /ŋ/ in the neighbouring areas north of
Interdental voiceless fricatives. The initial phoneme /θ/ in the word thin is pronounced
/t/ throughout much of Ireland
Labiodental replacing interdental fricatives /v/ and / ð / variations also exist across the
UK and often have developed independently in regions as diverse as Scotland, Yorkshire,
London, the South West, and the South East. It has been reported, for example, that /v/
has been used in place of /ð/ in words like smooth in Glasgow (Stuart-Smith, 2008).
Insertion of schwa in consonant clusters. In many accents across the region, the schwa
intrudes in consonant cluster –lm, as in words like calm and film, producing a sound
Lexical variation
• Borrowing from indigenous
languages: The result of an
influence of contact with Celtic
language in various parts of the
British Isle has resulted in the
adoption of borrowed lexical
items. In Ireland and Scotland,
there has been heavy influence
from Gaelic—as seen from
everyday words like glen (lake)
and loch (lake).
• Same meaning, different
words: An Atlas of English
dialects offers 9 alternative
words (spell, spelk, speel, spill,
splie, spool, splint, shiver, silver)
for splinter in England alone
Figure 4.1: Lexical variation in England
(Adapted from Upton & Widdowson,
Grammar-syntactic variation
• Tense and Aspect. The use of progressive aspects in a wider range
of applications is observable in Scottish English and Irish English,
such as: Barbara is knowing the answer
• Irregular verb levelling. Irregular verbs occur in Scottish English
such as brung instead of bought, writ instead of wrote, and selt
instead of sold.
• Plurality and concord with collective nouns. In Scotland, the
following examples have been observed: The windies wiz aw broken
(‘was’ replacing ‘were’ in stating the windows were all broken); The
lambs is oot the field (‘is’ replacing ‘are’); and There’s no bottles (‘is’
replacing ‘are’, again).
• Negation. We see variation in Scottish English, such as: She’s no
leaving; She isnea leaving; ‘no’ used as a tag question in That’s
miles away is it no?; and ‘none’ used to indicate an absence of
ability as in Rab can sing nane.
Grammar-syntactic variation shows a
North-South divide
South East
South West
Irish English
Second person plural pronouns:
Youse, y’all, you guys
Progressive tense widening:
She’s knowing that well.
Be as perfect auxiliary:
They’re not finished yet.
Double modals:
I tell you what we might should do
Must for conclusions drawn
This mustn’t be true!
What you doing?
You get the point?
‘Ain’t’ for negative ‘be’
‘Ain’t’ for negative ‘have’
I wasn’t a doing nothing
They had them in their hair, innit?
‘What’ in relative clauses: This is the
man what painted my house.
Table 4.1: Kortman’s (2008, p. 491) synopsis of variation across the British Isles
Attitudes towards variation in the
British Isles
• Even though RP is spoken by less than 3 per cent of the
population of the UK (Milroy and Milroy, 1999), it still
holds power and prestige in UK political circles.
• While geography plays a major role in determining an
accent in The United Kingdom, class also plays a pivotal
role—an RP accent can be found in almost any region
of The United Kingdom.
• In pop culture it is regional varieties of English that are
thriving (e.g. The Beatles; Cheryl Cole, Gary Barlow;
Geordie Shore)
• The media is moving towards more linguistic diversity
(e.g. BBC)
Part Two
English in North America
• In the USA, there is no official language, although English
takes on the role of an official language for most political,
administrative and educational functions.
• According to US 2011 census data:
– English is the main language of 79.4% of the population.
– Spanish-speakers constitute half of the 21% of the population
who speak another language at home.
• English is the official language of Canada, alongside French.
• According to Canadian 2011 census data:
– 17.4% of the population are bilingual in both official languages.
– More than 20% of Canadian population reported a mother
tongue other than English or French.
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• Standard American English is an institutional construct and thus “it has no native
speakers” (Kretzschmar, 2010, p. 101).
• Standard American is characterised by speech with “no accent”. This does not mean that
a standard American accent is neutral, but that it is devoid of characteristics usually
associated with particular regional American accents.
Phonemic variation
• Vowel lengthening. Prevalent across much of North
America, has resulted in homophonous pairing of
words like cot and caught, and don and dawn with
vowel /ɔː/. (Levey, 2010).
• Short vowels are realized as diphthongs. Southern
American English creates diphthongs from short
vowel sounds—changing vowels like /ɪ/ in think to to
produce vowels in the range of /ɛi~æi/ (Thomas,
• Vowel mergers. Mary-merry-marry lexical set have
merged to be equivalent of the vowel in square in
Standard American (but not in Northeast)
• Canadian Rising. The famous example of this is the
raising of /ɑʊ/ to /ʌʊ/ in words like about infamously
mimicked by Americans as a boot.
Lexical variation
• Borrowing from indigenous languages. English originally
adopted borrowings from indigenous languages, resulting
in words like kayak, and toboggan, which have since
spread to other parts of the world.
• Same meaning, different words: Tennis shoes vs
sneakers; soda vs pop vs coke.
Image source:
Grammar-syntactic variation
• Tense and aspect. The perfective done is observed in
pockets across the continent (e.g. That squirrel was
done eat in Appalachian English)
• Pronouns. The second person plural pronoun y’all is
used pervasively in the south, in favour of you guys in
the north and the west (although geographic pockets
prefer alternative terms such as yous in
• Negation. Double negation (he didn’t do nothing) is
also pervasive.
• Adverbs. The adoption of adverbs without –ly is
pervasive across the North American continent.
Attitudes towards variation in the
United States
• Milroy and Milroy (1999) state “distasteful
public disparagement of African American
English is commonplace and often openly
racist” (p. 153).
• Appalachian accents are often negatively
used to depict uneducated characters such
as Cletus in The Simpsons.
• When the movie Star Wars: The Phantom
Menace was first released there was
controversy that the bumbling idiotic
character of Jar Jar Binks was based on
African American or Black Caribbean
• Sothern accents are favourably viewed in
politics (e.g. George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton,
George W. Bush)
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Part Three
A note of why different accents
• The Englishes that emerged in Canada and The US (and
Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa), were the result
of mixing of contact dialects from numerous parts of the
British Isles.
• This type of mixing of dialects is referred to as koineization
• Variables such as proportions of dialects (Scottish settlers,
Irish settlers, Cockney settlers, settlers from other nations)
in each of the country’s koineization mix created quite
distinct Englishes across and within each of the countries.
• The accents in Australia and New Zealand are less
regionally defined within their borders, because these are
younger countries, and population mobility and
improvements in communications didn’t allow for the
geographic isolation needed for accent fragmentation.
Phonemic variation
• Vowel mergers. The merger of NEAR and SQUARE to the
/iə/ diphthong in the New Zealand causes bear and
bare to be pronounced the same as beer.
• Vowel distinctions. The kit vowel in New Zealand
English is centralized, e.g. “Fish and chips” as [fəʃ ən
• Vowel distinctions /æ/ and /a:/. There are class and
regional differences in the pronunciation of certain
vowels, such as /æ/ or /a:/ in words like chance and
castle, with middle classes favouring the latter.
• Rhoticity. Speech is generally non-rhotic across the
region, except in some pockets like the Southland
region of New Zealand.
Lexical variation
• Borrowing from indigenous languages. Australia, lexical borrowing
mainly occurred in the naming of aboriginal or local environmental
items, such as boomerang (hunting weapon), billabong (waterhole). In
New Zealand, borrowing extends further than items associated with
indigenous culture.
• Same meaning, different word. Walking in the woods is called hiking in
Australia and tramping in New Zealand, light footwear are jandals in
New Zealand and thongs in Australia and a sweater is a jumper in
Australia and a jersey in New Zealand.
• Preserved vocabulary and idiomatic expressions. A note of interest
here is the preservation of lexis that have been largely dropped from
use in their UK origins. Examples include billy (a pot for boiling water)
from Scotland, fair dinkum (authentic) from Derbyshire.
• Abbreviation. Another common feature is lexical shortening, including
the addition of the famous –o and –ie suffixes, typical of Australian
English. The result is words like tellie (television), chrissie pressies
(Christmas presents), barbie (barbeque) and journo (journalist). These
features are also found in New Zealand English.
Grammar-syntactic variation
• Tense and aspect. Studies have shown younger speakers in
Australia are levelling irregular verbs in Australia, but New Zealand
English is more conservative in terms of the regularisation.
• Modal verbs. Modals in Australasia see the decline of shall in favour
of will, and should in favour of ought, the region also sees better or
gotta instead of have to or should (e.g. We better go; we gotta go).
• Pronouns. Inconsistency of use of gendered pronouns. There are
objects that are consistently masculine (e.g. plants, animals and
vehicles with unknown drivers), and objects that are consistently
feminine (e.g. environment, vehicles themselves and buildings).
Interestingly, a vehicle-driver combined referent is masculine (e.g. A
truck came flying out in front of me, and he was swerving all over
the place), but a vehicle by itself is feminine (e.g. She’s a beautiful
car, that one).
Attitudes towards variation in the
• The Australian media has been very active in bringing the
accents of politicians to the forefront.
– The Courier Mail Newspaper, for example, associates the broad
accent of Julia Gillard (prime minister) with political prowess.
– Alexander Downer’s (politician) ‘cultivated’ Australian accent
has been labelled ‘posh’ and ‘plumpy’.
– Tony Abbott (prime-minister), stated that his political party
would "always speak with a strong Australian accent" when
targeting a member of the prime minister’s cabinet, who spoke
with a broad Scottish accent, as not being “local” or “homegrown”.
• Because of such public attitudes, ‘posh’ Australian accents
are very likely to vanish in the following decades from
Australia as they are seen as the remnant of a colonial past
(Moore, 2007).
Part Four
Development of Caribbean Englishes
• Channel 2 (Slavery) played a larger role in the
spread in this region than channel 1 (Settler
– Most importantly in the present linguistic perspective,
different settlement patterns have resulted in North
American varieties of English being characterized by
dialect transmission (with some degree of koineization
but also innovation) as against Caribbean forms of
English being shaped by process of creolization.
(Schneider, 2008, p. 23)
A note on difficulties in generalising
across regions
• The book acknowledges the inherent dangers in making
any geographic or historical division of linguistic
– the English of the Bahamas has more in common with North
American Englishes due to its place in history as a settler
destination for Anglo-Bahamian British loyalists who escaped
the US after the Revolutionary War (Childs &Wolfram, 2008).
– Boundaries with USA are less distinct such as Gullah-speaking
Afro-Bahamians moving from South Carolina and Georgia to the
– Barbados could be argued to have developed its Creole English
very differently to other plantation colonies in the Caribbean,
due to its long 300-year British colonization history, and the fact
that white settlers outnumbered black slaves in the first 25
years of its settlement, marking a huge difference in language
exposure in the creolization process (Blake, 2008).
Role of English in The Caribbean
• English is the official language of a number of Caribbean nations, including
Antigua and Barbuda,
The Bahamas,
Barbados (alongside Bajan),
Dominica (alongside Antillean French creole),
Jamaica (alongside Jamaican Patois),
Saint Kitts and Nevis,
Saint Lucia (alongside Saint Lucian French Creole),
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,
Trinidad and Tobago
• Only Jamaica lists their English Creole (Patois) alongside English as a
separate official language. Most nations have English as the official
language, although in practice the English creole is more commonly used,
or an official distinction is not made between the two.
Phonemic variation
• Bahamian English vowels are more similar to North American than
Caribbean varieties in the cases of their goat and lot vowels (Childs
& Wolfram, 2008).
• The mid-central vowel /ʌ/ in strut in prominent in Bajan English, but
it is rare in North American Englishes. Anglo-Bahamian Englishes
are often compared to UK varieties of English (Childs & Wolfram,
• Bajan English has a distinctive pronunciation of the price and prize
diphthong as [ʌɪ], which causes visitors to comment that Bajan
English is somewhat “reminiscent of the west of England, or an Irish
brogue” (Blake, 2008, p. 315)
• Vowel mergers. In Trinidadian English, vowel mergers appear, such
as the vowels in bird-bud; body-buddy; cut-cot-caught; bit-beat; and
harm-ham. Words like hat and heart are only distinguishable by
vowel length (James & Youssef, 2008).
Phonemic variation
• Dental fricatives. The stopping of voiced and voiceless dental fricatives is
characteristic of Caribbean English, with RP accented /θ/ realised as /t/ as
in think, and /ð/ realised as /d/ as in these
• Rhoticity. Caribbean accents tend to be non-rhotic across most of the
region, except in Bajan, which is fully rhotic across all communities of
• There is a tendency in the Bahamas to delete the initial /h/ sound in words
like harm, hat, hurry (to produce ‘arm, ‘at, ‘urry). Tobagonian English also
omits the /h/ sound in most words where it is the initial sound (James &
Youssef, 2008).
• Vowel assimilation in Jamaican English occurs across syllables as in see it
pronounced [si:t]; and syllable amalgamation occurs across syllables like
do it pronounced [dwi:t] or go on pronounced [ɡwa:n] (Devonish & Harry,
2008). A similar phenomenon is also reported in Tobagonian English,
where words like boil, become bwoil (James & Youssef, 2008).
• Consonant clusters. In Togonian English, sounds are omitted in consonant
clusters, such as from becoming fom, and smell, becoming mell (James &
Youssef, 2008).
Lexical Variation
• Due to the process of creolization, many
African words from the language.
– E.g., Bahamian obeah, meaning witchcraft.
• Because of the links between the USA and the
Bahamas, some lexical items entered
Bahamian English through Gullah
– hoe-cakes (cornmeal cake)
– Gulin (greedy)
– ninny (breast) (Reaser and Torbert, 2008).
Grammar-syntactic variation
• Tense and aspect
– Omission of the verb to be: you [are] fat, I [am] smart, he [is] over there.
– Levelling of verbs to the present the Caribbean (e.g. he swim yesterday).
– Tense markers (e.g. past tense indicated with the addition of ben in I ben run,
done in he done eat it)
• Auxiliary verbs – double-modals (he might could come) are common in
Jamaican English, but not in Bahamian.
• Pronouns – like many British varieties of English discussed in Section 4a,
substitutionof pronouns is pervasive across the Caribbean. Gendered
pronouns (e.g. she’s a goodboat) are also pervasive, perhaps due to the
influence of seafarers in the islands.
Reaser and Torbert (2008) on Bahamian English; Patrick (2008) on Jamaican Creole
English; and James and Youssef (2008) on Trinidad and Tobagonian English.
Attitudes: The case of Jamaica
• Jamaica is one of the few Caribbean nations to make an official distinction
between English and Patois as co-official languages, creating a political
view that they are two distinct languages.
• While English is used in formal public settings, and in written discourse,
Patois is used in informal private setting and in oral discourse.
• The lines between the two languages are not as distinct as policy
indicates, and as education in Jamaica has traditionally moved speakers
towards Jamaican English, and away from Patois, features of Jamaican
English regularly make their way into spoken Patois.
• Devonish & Harry (2008) argue that for many Jamaicans, English is a
second language acquired through education as the language of formal
speech and writing, and that the Creole is spoken as a native language.
• In the Caribbean, historical educational policy sought communities to
move toward a more ‘standard’ English instead of the creoles spoken
– Policy over time has changed and Caribbean Englishes are now promoted in
education, government, and literature.
– In Jamaica, “recent years have seen the ‘functional dethronement’ of
Standard English as the exclusive language of public-formal domains and there
is a shift toward a local variety as the new standard” (Melchers & Shaw,
2011, p. 123).
Summary of Lecture Four
The ‘native’ Englishes were developed from transported Englishes from the British Isles
Contact with other languages and accents in each region gave birth to new varieties of English.
Power of class-based divisions in the UK manifested in a geographically unbound RP accent.
The Englishes of Canada, The USA, Australia, and New Zealand are the result of koineization process. in
plantation colonies in Jamaica, Bermuda, and other parts of the Caribbean resulted in the development of
new L1 varieties of English through creolization.
It is clear that English varieties have different connotations of politics and power in various parts of the
inner circle.
– In the UK, an RP accent is considered a marked accent and still holds a great deal of power.
– In America the standard American accent (whether Northern or Southern) permeates across
America. This region sees divisions in power and language that are based along race and regional
lines, rather than class and regional lines as seen in the UK.
– Due to the youth and mobility of the Australian population, there is far less regional variation than in
the UK and USA, and lines are drawn almost entirely according to “broad” and “cultivated” lines
Other members of the inner circle show divisions of power and standardizations along the lines of these
three examples.
– In Ireland and NZ, for example, there are similarities with post-colonial Australia, which show a
movement away from RP-influenced accents.
– Canada follows a similar line with the USA with an unmarked Standard English, although racial lines
are far less pronounced than in the USA due to a very different history of racial tensions.
– The Caribbean sees movements like those witnessed in the UK, where regional varieties are
becoming a source of pride and identity rather than as deviations.
In summary, politics, power and language is a very complex network, and is subject to quick change due to
society attitude and other external factors.
Key terms
Gendered pronouns
High rising tone
Canadian rising
Vowel Merger
Appalachian English
African American
Vernacular English
Bare root verbs
Levelling (of accents)
Further reading
On Englishes of the British Isles:
• Kortmann, U. (Ed). (2008). Varieties of English: The British Isles.
Mouton de Gruyter.
• Hudges, A., Trudgill, P., & Watt, D. (2012). English Accents and
Dialects. Hodder Education.
On the Englishes of North America and The Caribbean:
• Schneider, D. (Ed.). (2008). Varieties of English: The Americas and
The Caribbean. Mouton de Gruyter.
On the Englishes of Australia and New Zealand:
• Burridge, K. & Kortmann, U. (Eds). (2008). Varieties of English: The
Pacific and Australasia. Mouton de Gruyter.

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