British and American English

silk   Tuesday, June 10, 2003, 16:47 GMT
The language taken by John Smith to virginia in 1607 and by the Plymouth Fathers to Massachusetts in 1620 was the English of Sperncer and Shakespeare. During the following century and a half most of the colonists that settled in New England were British, but the Dutch founded New Amsterdam and held it until it was seized by the British in 1664 and re-named after the king's brother, the Duke of York. When, on 17 September 1787,the thirteen colonies on the Atlantic seaboard ratified the Federal Constitution, they comprised four million English-speaking people most of whom still lived east of the Appalachian Mountains.
From the linguistic point of view, this was the first and decisive stage in the history of United States English, which, by general consent but less accurately,we call American English for short.
During the period from 1787 to the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 new states were created west of Appalachians and the Alleghenies, and fresh immigrants came in large numbers from Ireland and Germany. The potato famine of 1845 drove one and a half million Irishmen to seek homes in the New World and the European revolution of 1848 drove as many Germans to settle in Pennsylvania and the Middle West.
silk   Tuesday, June 10, 2003, 20:03 GMT
At the end of the Civil War to the present day arrived Scandinavian, Slavs, and Italians. At the end of 19th c. one million Scandinavian or one fifth of the whole population of Norway and Sweden crossed the Atlantic Ocean and settled for the most part in Minnesota and Mississippi valley.
thomas   Tuesday, June 10, 2003, 20:11 GMT
In spelling, vocabulary or lexis, in pronunciation, and in the syntax of colloquial speech and slang, divergences persist. The distinctive features of American orthography are largely a legacy bequeathed by that intrepid and energetic lexicographer Noah Webster (1758-1843) whose American Spelling Book first appeared in 1783 and whose American Dictionary of the English Language was published n 1828. As a teacher in the backwoods of New Youk, Webster was very much aware of the inconsistencies of English spelling.
chana   Tuesday, June 10, 2003, 20:22 GMT
On arriving in the United States for the first time an Englishman is made unduly aware of differences in vocabulary because these figure rather prominently in the language of transport and travel.
He finds himself checking his baggage, bags, or grips, instead of registering his luggage.This is placed in a freight elevator worked by an elevator operator, who looks just like a lift attendant. The English visitor is surprised to find that subway is far more than a way under for pedestrians : it is the counterpart of the London Underground. He wonders what on earth M.T.A. means.
Rock   Tuesday, June 10, 2003, 20:38 GMT
Both word-stress and sentence-stress are less forceful in American than in British English and intonation is more level.Consequently American speech is more monotonous, but it is generally more distinct in its division of syllables. It is, as Mencken puts it, "predominantly staccato and marcato", whereas British English like Russian 'tends towards glissando'. Unstressed syllables are pronounced with more measured detachment and therefore with greater clarity. Many Americans speak with less variety of tone and their customary tempo is slower. Many have fallen into the habit of letting the velum droop in speech thus giving their souds a certain 'nasal twang' which may vary considerably from region to region and from individual to individual.
Clark   Tuesday, June 10, 2003, 21:26 GMT
This makes my reasoning stronger about when the major languages from Europe came to America, they became easier to understand and learn for non-native speakers. The languages are Spanish, Portuguese and English; I do not think this happened with French.
Guofei Ma   Tuesday, June 10, 2003, 22:30 GMT
I think that the British are generally more aware of American variants than the Americans are of British variations. When I was in the UK and Hong Kong, most people knew what the "trunk" and "hood" of a car were. However, relatively few people in the US know the British equivalents- "bonnet" and "boot".
Guofei Ma   Tuesday, June 10, 2003, 22:34 GMT
Also, most British dictionaries (even the small Pocket Oxford Dictionary, which can be lifted with two fingers) tend to include both American and British pronunciations of words whilst dictionaries published in America that can be lifted with two fingers usually include only the American pronunciation.
Clark   Tuesday, June 10, 2003, 23:09 GMT
My Collins Gem two way dictionaries, and the Oxford two way dictionaries give only British English pronunciation, and sometimes they give the American equivalent to a British usage. I think since American television is so predominant, and since British television is almost never shown in America, we, as Americans, are not exposed to as many Britishisms as the British are exposed to Americanisms.
hp20   Wednesday, June 11, 2003, 01:14 GMT
what does M.T.A. mean, anyways?
?   Wednesday, June 11, 2003, 03:51 GMT
hp20: what does M.T.A. mean, anyways?

Just curious, but I notice that "anyways" has been used instead of "anyway" several times. Just wondering if this soley an American thing.
Clark   Wednesday, June 11, 2003, 04:20 GMT
I have wondered the same thing. Anyways, I always use "anyways" with an "s." :-P
Jim   Wednesday, June 11, 2003, 04:33 GMT
I reckon it may be an American thing. I'd never even noticed "anyways" until now. I've always used "anyway".
Jim   Wednesday, June 11, 2003, 06:47 GMT
According to the Cambridge Dictionary "anyways" is US informal for "anyway".

Thomas is right when he lays the blame for the peculiarities of American spelling on that fanatically nationalistic lexicographer Noah Webster. He'd have done even more but the American population wouldn't cop it.
Clark   Wednesday, June 11, 2003, 07:09 GMT
Maybe if the rest of the English-speaking world would have listened to his spelling ideas, the English language would have been much easier to spell. Would you agree Jim? I mean, you are always talking abut reforming the English language, and that is what Webster was doing. His intentions might not have been spelling reform, but like it or not, that is what he was doing. It would have been easier for the American English to stay written the same as the rest of the English-speaking world, but it would have been a whole lot more easier if the whole of the English-speaking world would have gone along with the idea of spelling reform.