Once a vast Empire, The United Kingdom hashad a huge cultural, sociological and economicimpact onits former colonies or members of community we call the Commonwealth. We are going to touch upon one of the mainconsequencesof the colonial era – the English language.In many places where the British (English) had an influence, English still today functions as theofficial, often native language,of course with some amendments made to fit the locals. Additionally, someplace else, English is further used as thelingua franca, where this term is also known asthe commonor vehicular language used to make communication possible between people who do not share a native language. We can see this for instance in Nigeria, where different places and tribes use their own means of communication and speak English to understand each other.
The next role of the English language is that it functions as aninternational language.With the United States of America’sleading rolein the world’s economy and the United Kingdom following slightly behind,international companies and trade dealers use English as their means of communicationtogether with French and sometimes Spanish. Why? The English language is one of the easier ones to learn as a foreigner without keeping you up all night.
As for the present-day geographical distribution of English, it is spoken now on all the continents withoutexception and it is the third mostly spoken language in the world with only Chinese () and Spanish () being the first two. As I mentioned earlier, this distribution goes back to the colonial times and nowadays we can distinguish four geographical groups as follows: First being the group in British Isles including England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. The second group functions in America, consisting of the United States, Canada and The Caribbean. Third English language group is in Africa and West, East and South parts of Africa are its subsets. Last group is spoken in the Pacific and is divided into South Asia, Australia and New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.Withthat being said, wecan consider Britain and America the two main distinct groups for the English language. Foreach there is a set standard of formal language: In Britain, this is called theReceived Pronunciationand in America we talk aboutGeneral American.Received Pronunciationis theaccentofStandard Englishin theUnited Kingdomand is definedas “the standard accent of English as spoken in thesouth of England,although it can be heard from native speakers throughout England and Wales.The study of RP is concerned exclusively with pronunciation, whereasStandard English,the Queen’s English,Oxford English, andBBC Englishare also concerned with matters such as grammar, vocabulary and style. An individual using RP will typically speakStandard English, although the converse or inverse is not necessarily true. The standard language may be pronounced with a regional accent and the contrapositive is usually correct. It is very unlikely that someonespeaking RP would use it to speak a regional dialect.General American differs from the RP in the fact that it is widely used by majority of Americans, when, on the other hand, RP is only used by the small minority.
This general separation to groups is a one type, the other, also very important distinction in the English language, isthe division between anaccentand a dialect.And since in Britain there is a very visible social stratification, wherepeople are often able to make instant and unconscious judgements about a stranger’s class affiliationon the basis ofhis or her accent, it is important.Wehave todifferentiate between words people use (= dialect) and the sounds they make, their pronunciation. Accent, or pronunciation, is a special element of a dialect that needs separate attention to be properly understood. A famous distinction in pronunciation in England is the so-called BATH vowel’, the quality of the a’ sound differing between north and south. For example, someone from Leeds, in the north of England, would typically pronounce bath’ with the short a’ of cat’, whereas someone from Oxford, in the south of England, would typically pronounce bath’ with the long a’ of father’. Another distinction, still more significant on the world stage, concerns the issue ofrhoticity, i.e.whether or nota written r’ is sounded when it follows a vowel, for example in the words car’ and butter’. Whilst most people in England and Wales do not pronounce the r’ (and are thereforenon-rhotic), many in South-West England and parts of Lancashire do. In this they are joined by most Scots and Irish speakers of English, and bythe majority ofNorth Americans. Rhoticity is in fact numerically and geographically the dominant form in world terms.
The standards are set but with the English language changing all the time,what will happen next, over time? There mightbesomemodification in through television and radio that may bringtheBritish English more into line withtheAmerican English. Further, it may help to narrow the gap between pronunciation and spelling. Other factors will also contribute toward the narrowing of this gap: advanced technological education, computer programming, machine translation, and expanding mass media.Non-standard or non-RP usages will becomeanorm when more people or the majority will start relying onthem. Progressives will see all these as linguistic development or evolution and some errors will no longer be considered as such.