American and British English

By Tim Kennedy,2014-11-01 20:08
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American and British English


    American and British English

    American and British English are dialects(方言) of English which have a recognised standard

    form and are equally acceptable in Academic English as long as the style and register (语域)used

    are appropriately formal. There are no significant differences in the academic form of other varieties of English. These tend to resemble either the American or British form. For example, Australian English generally uses the same spelling as British English.

    Differences between British and American English.

    Throughout this page, blue is used to denote British English and red to denote American English. The most noticeable difference in the academic context is in spelling. There are also grammatical differences and vocabulary differences, although relatively few in formal language. Spelling

    In general, both American and British spelling are acceptable, but it is important to be consistent, at least with the use of the same word - theatre or theater, but not both - and in your choice of ize or ise endings as in criticize or criticise, plagiarize or plagiarise. The Cambridge International Dictionary of English gives British, American and Australian English spelling. American spelling tends to reflect pronunciation and British spelling tends to reflect grammatical or historical implications(含义) as well.

    However, there may be advantages in using British spelling in certain situations. For instance, two forms: programme and program exist in British English. The former can be a noun referring to television programmes or programmes of events (plans, conferences, a theatre programme etc.). The latter can be a noun referring to computer programs. Both forms can be verbs, but there is no spelling distinction between them except in the infinitive form (as in She learned how to program the computer to calculate the value of the pound against the Euro at twelve hourly intervals) and the present tense. If you wish to make reference to both meanings in your writing, then British English makes a useful reference (meaning) distinction between the two, while American English has only one form program to refer to both.

    British English distinguishes between practice (noun) I haven't done my cello practice yet and practise (verb) He practises the cello for ten minutes every morning. However, American English tends to use practice as both a noun and a verb. Students taking Cambridge examinations are



    advised to adopt the British system as this reflects the underlying(根本的) grammatical (part of

    speech) distinction.

    Grammatical differences

    There are few grammatical differences between American and British English that are of concern in Academic Writing. The past participles got and gotten are one of the most obvious differences, but they are rarely used in formal writing. The Euro has got/gotten rid of the currency exchange transactions(交易) which used to be necessary before the single currency was instated(设置) is

    more likely to be formally expressed as The Euro has abolished the need for currency exchange transactions.

    American English accepts the use of the simple past tense with just, already and yet (Did you see him yet?/He just went out?/Did you go there already?) while British English requires the use of the present perfect (Have you seen him yet?/He has just gone out/Have you been there already?) In Academic English, the British form is preferable as the American form tends to be perceived as informal (rather than inaccurate).

    Particle differences - Clinton met with the representatives of the Daughters of the Revolution / Clinton met the representatives - are not significant, though British markers may 'correct' the with as it seems informal.

    American English can make what British English considers to be uncountable nouns plural, for example technologies. When this occurs with formal, technical vocabulary in a specific context - the new technologies - British English, over time, tends to adopt the same form. Vocabulary differences

    There are many vocabulary differences - flat, pavement, tap, trousers or apartment, sidewalk, faucet, pants, for example. Most cause few problems except where the same word has a different meaning. Pants in British English refers to underwear, for example. It may be wise to check with British friends in case meaning is different in English or in case a particular form does not exist in British English.

    In general, the main object in Academic English is to communicate (remember Clarity and Reality particularly here) your message to your reader - probably your tutor or examiner - so bear their understanding and preferences in mind when you make decisions about the most appropriate form to use.



    Doreen du Boulay, Sussex Language Institute 1998-2001. Web version by Matthew Platts.


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