American English, variety of the English language spoken in the United States. Although all Americans do not speak the same way, their speech has enough in common that American English can be recognized as a variety of English distinct from British English, Australian English, and other national varieties. American English has grown up with the country. It began to diverge from British English during its colonial beginnings and acquired regional differences and ethnic flavor during the settlement of the continent. Today it influences other languages and other varieties of English because it is the medium by which the attractions of American culture'' its literature, motion pictures, and television programs'' are transmitted to the world. II. Characteristics of American English
All speakers of English share a common linguistic system and a basic set of words. But American English differs from British English, Australian English, and other national varieties in many of its pronunciations, words, spellings, and grammatical constructions. Words or phrases of American origin, and those used in America but not so much elsewhere, are called Americanisms. A. Pronunciation
In broad terms, Canadian and American speakers tend to sound like one another. They also tend to sound different from a large group of English speakers who sound more British, such as those in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. For example, most Canadians and Americans pronounce an r sound after the vowel in words like barn, car, and farther, while speakers from the British English group do not. Also, some British English speakers drop h sounds at the beginning of words, so that he and his are pronounced as if they were spelled ee and is. The English spoken in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa sounds more like British English than American English does because these varieties have had less time to diverge from British English. The process of separate development began later in these countries than in North America. Although Canadians and Americans share many speech habits, Canadian speakers of English sometimes tend more toward British English because of the closer historical association of Britain with Canada. One prominent difference between American English and Canadian English is the vowel sound in words like out and house. Americans often say that the Canadian pronunciation sounds as if the words were spelled oot and hoose. In some cases there are differences between American English and British English in the rhythm of words. British speakers seem to leave out a syllable in words like secretary, as if it were spelled secretry, while Americans keep all the syllables. The opposite is true of other words, such as specialty, which Americans pronounce with three syllables (spe-cial-ty) while British speakers pronounce it with five syllables (spe-ci-al-i-ty). Vowels and consonants may also have different pronunciations. British speakers pronounce zebra to rhyme with Debra, while American speakers make zebra rhyme with Libra. Canadian and British speakers pronounce the word schedule as if it began with an sh sound, while Americans pronounce it as if it began with an sk sound. B. Words
The most frequently used words are shared by speakers of different varieties of English. These words include the most common nouns, the most common verbs, and most function words (such as pronouns, articles, and prepositions). The different varieties of English do, however, use different words for many words that are slightly less common'' for example, British crisps for American potato chips, Australian billabong for American pond, and Canadian chesterfield for American sofa. It is even more common for the same word to exist with different meanings in different varieties of English. Corn is a general term in Britain, for which Americans use grain, while corn in American English is a specific kind of grain. The word pond in British...
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