Small text iconNormal text iconLarge text icon

INTERACTION

 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MembersMembers   GroupsGroups   RegisterRegister 
 User Control PanelUser Control Panel      LoginLogin 


All times are UTC




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 40 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1, 2, 3  Next
Author Message
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 8:37 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2007 11:27 am
Posts: 242
Location: Bethesda, Gwynedd
One of the things that I love about English is that it's a record of our culture and our history. As we've been invaded by foreigners, assimilated them or invaded them ourselves, our language has changed to accommodate them. Our language is a living record of our culture. It's still changing to accommodate the world around us - two generations down the line, school children will be asking why email is pronounced 'E - mail', but effort isn't pronounced 'E - fort'.

The way I understand it, American English split from UK English because of the way colonization was handled. The Irish were starved into going over there and so were many of the English, Scottish, and the rest of Europe. The people who had enough money to stay in their home country did. (Which is the reason we have 'Autumn', from the French, and the Americans have 'Fall', from 'Leaf Fall', the 'plebian' name for the season.) Education in the new American states was passed from fledgling town to fledging town via the written word, rather than verbally (hence the differences in pronunciation of 'tourniquet'). Divided by an ocean, the two languages developed in response to their own environments and nation's histories.

I'm not going to start crying that we should resist the advances of the American cultural empire - it's an important part of our cultural history and one which, like everything else, will be reflected in our language. That said, I don't think there's any bad thing in trying to maintain the separation. We're two different nations, with two different histories, and we should both be proud of and aware of our histories, similarities and differences. Despite what the current fashion among the PC is, there's nothing wrong with being proud of where you came from and the history of your part of the universe.

What gets me about the American spelling in the British novels is there seems to be an underlying lack of respect for us British. We’re a sub-part of the American market, which implies we’re a sub-part of the American nation. And that, by association, means our history and culture are irrelevant.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not something that keeps me awake at night and not something I’m even that fussed about. But when you feel as if someone is telling you your culture and history are irrelevant, it’s hard not to feel something. I’m of the opinion that we need to maintain that line between reflecting the history and throwing one language out for the other.

_________________
The future's going to be just like the present, but with more LEDs.

Me blog: http://dylan-fox.blogspot.com/
And if that's not enough, I'm on Twitter, too: Foxie299


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 8:40 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Mar 09, 2007 1:37 pm
Posts: 174
Location: Brighton, UK
Hoing wrote:
Good heavens, such a to-do about language! I find American and British English equally easy to read and understand. One realises and the other realizes. One has colour and the other has color. So what?

(cont.)


1, 700, ®41$3 |\/|¥ |-|47 70 ¥0µ $1®.

(More seriously, well said!)

_________________
Shaun C. Green

Nostalgia For Infinity
Literature, gaming, punk rock... and all that.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 1:13 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2007 7:19 am
Posts: 243
Location: Sheffield, UK
Hoing wrote:
Good heavens, such a to-do about language! I find American and British English equally easy to read and understand. One realises and the other realizes. One has colour and the other has color. So what?


Not quite. There's the classic story about the Brit on a US aeroplane (airplane) who, when the stewardess said, "The plane will be landing momentarily in Chicago," asked if there'd be enough time for him to disembark (deplane). I myself have confused Americans through the use of terms as simple as "fortnight" and "bin". British English no longer has "gotten", except in "forgotten"; American English no longer has a dark "l". And other such differences...

Hoing wrote:
As for standards and all that rigmarole, how far back do we want the standards to begin? Modern English, whether American or British, is 60% French. (A gift from the Norman Invasion in 1066.) It has a huge Scandanavian influence, not to mention the pre-Saxon (etc.) influences.


English is a Germanic language with Romance influences. Not the other way around. And where did you get that 60% from? I'm intrigued. The OED has 500,000 words defined in it; the French equivalent (Larousse?) has 100,000. Either we've invented more French words than the French (:-)), or they've lost one hell of a lot.

Hoing wrote:
Or shall we instead look at the history of colonization (or colonisation)? In those cases, it is the language of the coloniz(s)ed country that remains more conservative, while that of the mother country tends to change more. What are we to make of that? Does that mean American English is more like British English was at the time America was coloniz(s)ed than modern British English is now? Well, yes. So. Where shall we begin this "standard?" And if American English is second rate, how did it become that way? It has changed less since the continent was coloniz(s)ed than has English as spoken in Britain today. Does that mean, like Monty Python's newt, that British English was second rate in those days, but has since "got better?"


I'm not sure what point you're making here. Yes, colonial English - US, Indian, Australian, West Indian, etc. - has evolved at a slower rate than English as spoken in the British Isles. There's no value judgement there.

Hoing wrote:
And we haven't even spoken of dialects. Which British dialect is correct? Oxford? Cockney? Jordie? [Fill in the blank]?


Well, RP... Since that's the dialect taught as a "standard" form of English. "Correct" in this sense meaning "most likely to be understood by other speakers".

Hoing wrote:
Sorry, folks, but whichever side of the Atlantic one lives on, this seems like much ado about nothing to me. But the solution is simple: if you don't like the form of English printed in a particular book, don't read the book. Write to the publisher to complain. Whatever. But I do suspect the people who talked about market economics are right. If a book would sell more copies were it printed backwards in Cockney, you better believe it would be printed backwards in Cockney.


The "problem" as stated is that publishers in the US will happily "translate" British English, but not vice versa. The argument is that this implies publishers think less of British readers than American readers. In fact, the reverse is probably true. At no time in the UK have other forms of spoken English ever been "translated" in any media. You can hear speakers of Indian English, West Indian English, Australian English, etc. on television and in films - it is assumed that they can be understood by native Brits. In the US, on the other hand, Australian English is routinely dubbed, and a film with Geordie dialogue was actually released with subtitles.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 1:17 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2007 5:24 pm
Posts: 60
Location: Waterloo, Iowa, USA
Hi, Foxie:

Thanks for your heartfelt post. Of course you should be proud of your culture and history. I'm an American, yet I'm far more drawn to British history than to my own. Our cultures share a lot in common, including our linguistic history. But the people who have been posting on this thread speak of British English as if it were just one thing and American English as if it were one (different) thing, when in fact both are vast and varied. There are some dialects of British English that are more similar to some dialects of American English than they are to other dialects of British English. I suspect an Oxford dean would be more comfortable linguistically with a speaker from Boston's upper crust than s/he would with, for instance, a laborer who speaks Geordie. British English is many things, not just one. American English is many things, not just one. But all these variations are English, and all share a common history.

I still maintain that it is not British publishers' responsibility--at least not publishers of fiction--to preserve British English, whatever one's definition of "British English" might be. They're trying to make money, period. Schools are the proper venue to teach language.

Language is a wonderful and fascinating thing. It can't be "preserved" in any particular form. It is the natural function of language to change, and any efforts to prevent that will fail. If language didn't change, speakers of English would still be reciting the Lord's Prayer like this:

Fæder ure,
þu þe eart on heofonum,
si þin nama gehalgod.
Tobecume þin rice.
Gewurþe ðin willa on eorðan swa swa on heofonum.
Urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us to dæg.
And forgyf us ure gyltas, swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum.
And ne gelæd þu us on costnunge,
ac alys us of yfele. Soþlice.

Yep, that's also British English, circa the year 1000. Who knows, maybe those folks were proud of their culture and history, too, and strained mightily to keep their language pure.

Couldn't be done then, and can't be done now.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 1:50 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2007 7:19 am
Posts: 243
Location: Sheffield, UK
Hoing wrote:
Yep, that's also British English, circa the year 1000. Who knows, maybe those folks were proud of their culture and history, too, and strained mightily to keep their language pure.


You can blame Caxton for that (a publisher, ironically). He picked his own dialect to use in his printing - the present participle -ynge instead of -ande, "he" instead of "heo" or hie"...


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 2:17 pm 
Offline

Joined: Tue Mar 06, 2007 11:38 am
Posts: 208
Location: Glasgow
“Language should be descriptive not prescriptive”? Absolutely, but not at the expense of clarity. As a side note, I notice that Mr Hoing uses the phrase: “Write to the publisher to complain.” Which I applaud because, while I have no problem with a lot of American English, I have a disproportionately raging reaction every time I read or hear a phrase like that where the preposition is dropped.

For example,
“Write your publisher.”
“We’ll meet Friday.”
“One hundred twenty five.”

Back on topic though, I think the real issue here is one of time scale. Language has always changed around us, but what with the tvs and the interwebs and such the rate of change is now fast enough to be not only noticeable but probelematic.
Oh noes!

_________________
Neil Williamson
www.neilwilliamson.org.uk


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 2:42 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2007 5:24 pm
Posts: 60
Location: Waterloo, Iowa, USA
Quote:
iansales wrote:

Not quite. There's the classic story about the Brit on a US aeroplane (airplane) who, when the stewardess said, "The plane will be landing momentarily in Chicago," asked if there'd be enough time for him to disembark (deplane). I myself have confused Americans through the use of terms as simple as "fortnight" and "bin". British English no longer has "gotten", except in "forgotten"; American English no longer has a dark "l". And other such differences...


Ah, yes, we silly Americans are so easily confused ... :D

Quote:
iansales wrote:

English is a Germanic language with Romance influences.


Certainly Anglo-Saxon (Old English) was a Germanic language. Not much of that left in modern English, I'm afraid. Not many root words left, and the grammar itself has changed from inflectional to derivational.

Quote:
iansales wrote:

The "problem" as stated is that publishers in the US will happily "translate" British English, but not vice versa. The argument is that this implies publishers think less of British readers than American readers. In fact, the reverse is probably true. At no time in the UK have other forms of spoken English ever been "translated" in any media. You can hear speakers of Indian English, West Indian English, Australian English, etc. on television and in films - it is assumed that they can be understood by native Brits. In the US, on the other hand, Australian English is routinely dubbed, and a film with Geordie dialogue was actually released with subtitles.


Actually, Ian, isn't the problem, as stated in this thread, that British publishers been "translating" from British to American English?

As for the US "routinely" dubbing Australian English, I've lived here my entire life and have never seen that done. Never. Perhaps you've come to this country and seen it happen somewhere, but that hardly counts as "routine." I've been to England many times (and am coming again in November), but I would never presume something I witnessed on a local level there was in any way "routine" for England as a whole. I confess that I've never seen a film that uses the Geordie dialect exclusively, but yeah, I probably would need subtitles unless the dialogue were spoken very slowly. (As an easily confused American, I do have difficulty getting "Have you got a cigarette" out of "Aya goya fag.") But then, some dialects of American English are a bit indecipherable to me as well!

Anyway, I'm sure people on both sides of the pond are absolutely convinced that their version of English, whatever dialect they may speak, is the correct one. Whatever. We're all ethnocentric to a point, I suppose. It's natural to prefer one's own dialect to any another--although I may be the exception here. I find my Midwestern American dialect dull and uninteresting, especially compared to many British dialects. (For instance, the English/Scottish blend I heard in Berwick-Upon-Tweed was one of the loveliest, most lyrical dialects I've ever heard.)


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 2:54 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2007 7:19 am
Posts: 243
Location: Sheffield, UK
Hoing wrote:
Ah, yes, we silly Americans are so easily confused ... :D


My point was that seemingly simple words may not have crossed the Atlantic.

Hoing wrote:
Certainly Anglo-Saxon (Old English) was a Germanic language. Not much of that left in modern English, I'm afraid. Not many root words left, and the grammar itself has changed from inflectional to derivational.


It's still classed as Germanic language, though.

Hoing wrote:
Actually, Ian, isn't the problem, as stated in this thread, that British publishers been "translating" from British to American English?


I understood the subject to be about books published in Britain with American spellings. Did someone mention books written by British authors and first published in the UK? I might have missed it.

Hoing wrote:
As for the US "routinely" dubbing Australian English, I've lived here my entire life and have never seen that done. Never. Perhaps you've come to this country and seen it happen somewhere, but that hardly counts as "routine."


Okay, I picked up that "fact" from a recent book written by a linguist, and took him at his word.

Hoing wrote:
I confess that I've never seen a film that uses the Geordie dialect exclusively, but yeah, I probably would need subtitles unless the dialogue were spoken very slowly. (As an easily confused American, I do have difficulty getting "Have you got a cigarette" out of "Aya goya fag.")


No good, then, asking you to translate the Yorkshire - thaberrerlerrergerritersen :-)

Hoing wrote:
Anyway, I'm sure people on both sides of the pond are absolutely convinced that their version of English, whatever dialect they may speak, is the correct one. Whatever. We're all ethnocentric to a point, I suppose.


I have no feelings whatsoever on the matter. They are all forms of English to me, and equally worthy. Admittedly, I do find Indian English's use of "reputed company" and "concerned manager" amusing - but my amusement doesn't invalidate it as a construction.

Having said that, I do think American publishers should credit their readers with a little more intelligence. I mean, is "philosopher" really so difficult it has to be changed to "sorceror"?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 4:11 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2007 5:24 pm
Posts: 60
Location: Waterloo, Iowa, USA
Yeah, I didn't get the philosopher/sorceror business, either. No way to know if the change actually boosted US sales over what they would have been with the original title (although the publishers must have thought it would). I suspect Ms. Rowling did all right either way ... :D


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 4:14 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2007 5:24 pm
Posts: 60
Location: Waterloo, Iowa, USA
P.S. My wife collects only the British editions of Potter. So there's at least one American who prefers British English, at least when it comes to ol' Harry. I confess to never having read them in either incarnation.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 4:17 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2007 7:19 am
Posts: 243
Location: Sheffield, UK
I read the first one. I thought it very ordinary. I never bothered with the others.

I don't get the Neil Gaiman thing either...


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 5:37 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2007 5:24 pm
Posts: 60
Location: Waterloo, Iowa, USA
Obviously I love the study of the history of language, particularly English, so this thread has been fun. It got me to thinking, though: what are the real differences between British and American English?

Spelling is one, but that's so superficial it hardly matters. The overwhelming majority of words are spelled identically in both.

There are words and phrases that differ, of course, but it really isn't hard to remember that a fortnight is two weeks, the bonnet and boot of a car are the hood and trunk, a lorry is a semi, a lift is an elevator, and (I believe, correct me if I'm wrong) an elevator is an escalator. Such usage may sound strange at first to American ears, but once learned they're simple enough. Same is true with Americanisms to British ears. Yeah, we say "ass," while you say "arse," but once you know the difference, communication becomes no problem. It's then only a matter of preference.

For me the single most noticeable difference involves the grammar of singular nouns which represent plural entities. In the US we would say "The BBC is a big company." In the UK you say "The BBC are a big company." Of all the differences, that was the biggest one for me to get used to. I assign no value judgment either way as to which is correct, because I understand the arguments both ways.

BTW, Ian, "fortnight" did cross the Atlantic and is still, in fact, listed in American dictionaries. It's just that it's fallen out of common usage here, as words often do in all languages. It's rather like the possessive pronoun "mine" when used before a noun beginning with a vowel. Neither British nor American English says "mine eyes" anymore, we say "my eyes." Thus, that usage of "mine" has not only dropped out of common usage, but all usage. (Well, except in "The Battle Hymn of the Republic.")

Anyway, this has been a fascinating discussion, and I thank those who responded to my ramblings, but I think it's time for me to withdraw and let other people have their say.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 5:47 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Mar 06, 2007 9:16 pm
Posts: 179
Location: Velcro City
Hoing wrote:
For me the single most noticeable difference involves the grammar of singular nouns which represent plural entities. In the US we would say "The BBC is a big company." In the UK you say "The BBC are a big company." Of all the differences, that was the biggest one for me to get used to. I assign no value judgment either way as to which is correct, because I understand the arguments both ways.


Ah, man - as a music hack, that one drives me a little nuts, I must admit. Radiohead are a band! Radiohead is their name! *pounds keyboard in mock rage*

_________________
"I have a fatal compulsion to find a kind of higher sense in things that make no sense at all."

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

VelcroCityTouristBoard


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2007 7:43 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2007 5:24 pm
Posts: 60
Location: Waterloo, Iowa, USA
Okay, one more little comment ...

Paul, as near as I can figure, British grammar is based on the content of a word, while American grammar is based solely on the word itself. Hence, using Radiohead as an example, in the UK you say, "Radiohead are a band," because of the plural number of people in the band. But because the word Radiohead itself is a singular noun, in the US we say "Radiohead is a band," regardless of the number of people involved. Similarly, I assume you would say "The crowd are going wild," while we would say, "The crowd is going wild." (Not sure on this, though.)

As I said, I can see logical arguments either way.

It's just another of the infinitely fascinating permutations of language. :shock:


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2007 8:52 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2007 7:19 am
Posts: 243
Location: Sheffield, UK
Hoing wrote:
Obviously I love the study of the history of language, particularly English, so this thread has been fun. It got me to thinking, though: what are the real differences between British and American English?


I can recommend this book.

Hoing wrote:
There are words and phrases that differ, of course, but it really isn't hard to remember that a fortnight is two weeks, the bonnet and boot of a car are the hood and trunk, a lorry is a semi, a lift is an elevator, and (I believe, correct me if I'm wrong) an elevator is an escalator. Such usage may sound strange at first to American ears, but once learned they're simple enough. Same is true with Americanisms to British ears. Yeah, we say "ass," while you say "arse," but once you know the difference, communication becomes no problem. It's then only a matter of preference.


Er, no. An elevator isn't an escalator. We call them escalators too. I think we stopped calling them moving staircases some time after

Hoing wrote:
For me the single most noticeable difference involves the grammar of singular nouns which represent plural entities. In the US we would say "The BBC is a big company." In the UK you say "The BBC are a big company." Of all the differences, that was the biggest one for me to get used to. I assign no value judgment either way as to which is correct, because I understand the arguments both ways.


I don't know about this. Personally, I'd say, "The BBC is a big company." When plural forms of verbs are used with singular nouns representing collections... I'm not convinced it's right to do so, but it's often spoken that way - perhaps because it sounds better.

Hoing wrote:
BTW, Ian, "fortnight" did cross the Atlantic and is still, in fact, listed in American dictionaries. It's just that it's fallen out of common usage here, as words often do in all languages. It's rather like the possessive pronoun "mine" when used before a noun beginning with a vowel. Neither British nor American English says "mine eyes" anymore, we say "my eyes." Thus, that usage of "mine" has not only dropped out of common usage, but all usage. (Well, except in "The Battle Hymn of the Republic.")


Yes, I knew that "fortnight" is known in parts of the US. I used it in Maryland, and received a blank look; but friends of mine in New York state say it is common in those parts and New England.

The only British expression I can think of that still uses "mine" instead of "my" is "mine host". But that's pretty much dropped out of favour.

There was an interesting article in one of our daily newspapers last year about US authors writing British characters and vice versa. The general consensus was that neither had quite got it right (I think it's Harry Turtledove who has British characters using "momentarily" and "presently" with their US meanings). The article suggested that American speakers used simpler constructions, but that British speakers were more direct - which sort of goes against received wisdom. Unfortunately, I didn't keep the article, and I've been unable to find a copy on-line...


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 40 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1, 2, 3  Next

All times are UTC


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group