LANGUAGES Definitions The English word derives ultimately from Latin lingua, "language, tongue", via Old French. This metaphoric relation between language and the tongue exists in many languages and testifies to the historical prominence of spoken languages. When used as a general concept, "language" refers to the cognitive faculty that enables humans to learn and use systems of complex communication. A Language is a coding system and a means by which information may be transmitted or shared between two or more communicators for purposes of command, instruction or play. Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication. The scientific study of language in any of its senses is called linguistics. A mental faculty, organ or instinct: One definition sees language primarily as the mental faculty that allows humans to undertake linguistic behavior: to learn languages and produce and understand utterances. This definition stresses the universality of language to all humans and the biological basis of the human capacity for language as a unique development of the human brain. These kinds of definitions are often applied by studies of language within a cognitive science framework and in neuro-linguistics. A formal symbolic system: Another definition sees language as a formal system of signs governed by grammatical rules of combination to communicate meaning. This definition stresses the fact that human languages can be described as closed structural systems consisting of rules that relate particular signs to particular meanings. A tool for communication: Yet another definition sees language as a system of communication that enables humans to cooperate. This definition stresses the social functions of language and the fact that humans use it to express themselves and to manipulate objects in their environment. This view of language is associated with the study of language in a functional or pragmatic framework, as well as in socio-linguistics and linguistic anthropology. What makes human language unique: Human language is unique in comparison to other forms of communication, such as those used by animals, because it allows humans to produce an infinite set of utterances from a finite set of elements, and because the symbols and grammatical rules of any particular language are largely arbitrary, so that the system can only be acquired through social interaction. The known systems of communication used by animals, on the other hand, can only express a finite number of utterances that are mostly genetically transmitted. Human language is also unique in that its complex structure has evolved to serve a much wider range of functions than any other kinds of communication system. Origin of language: Language is thought to have originated when early hominids first started cooperating, adapting earlier systems of communication based on expressive signs to include a theory of other minds and shared intentionality. This development is thought to have coincided with an increase in brain volume. Language is processed in many different locations in the human brain, but especially in Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas. Humans acquire language through social interaction in early childhood, and children generally speak fluently when they are around three years old. The use of language has become deeply entrenched in human culture and, apart from being used to communicate and share information, it also has social and cultural uses, such as signifying group identity, social stratification and for social grooming and entertainment. The word "language" can also be used to describe the set of rules that makes this possible, or the set of utterances that can be produced from those rules. The languages that are most spoken in the world today belong to the Indo-European family, which includes languages such as English, Spanish, Russian and Hindi; the Sino-Tibetan languages, which include Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese and many others; Semitic languages, which include Arabic, Amharic and Hebrew; and the Bantu languages, which include Swahili, Zulu, Shona and hundreds of other languages spoken throughout Africa. Types of Language: Types of Language includes; Natural Language. Artificial Language. Animal Language. 1= Natural languages: Human languages are usually referred to as natural languages, and the science of studying them falls under the purview of linguistics. A common progression for natural languages is that they are considered to be first spoken and then written, and then an understanding and explanation of their grammar is attempted. Languages live, die, polymorph, move from place to place, and change with time. Any language that ceases to change or develop is categorized as a dead language. Conversely, any language that is in a continuous state of change is known as a living language or modern language. It is for these reasons that the biggest challenge for a speaker of a foreign language is to remain immersed in that language in order to keep up with the changes of that language. TYPES OF NATURAL LANGUAGES: I. Non-Verbal: Sign Language: A sign language (also signed language) is a language which, instead of acoustically conveyed sound patterns, uses visually transmitted sign patterns (manual communication, body language) to convey meaning—simultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to fluidly express a speaker's thoughts. Hundreds of sign languages are in use around the world and are at the cores of local Deaf cultures. Wherever communities of deaf people exist, sign languages develop. Their complex spatial grammars are markedly different from the grammars of spoken languages. Gestures: A gesture is a form of non-verbal Language in which visible bodily actions communicate particular messages, either in place of speech or together and in parallel with spoken words. Gestures include movement of the hands, face, or other parts of the body. Gestures differ from physical non- verbal communication that does not communicate specific messages, such as purely expressive displays, proxemics, or displays of joint attention. Gestures allow individuals to communicate a variety of feelings and thoughts, from contempt and hostility to approval and affection, often together with body language in addition to words when they speak. II. Verbal Language: The basis of communication is the interaction between people. Verbal Language is one way for people to communicate face-to-face. Some of the key components of verbal communication are sound, words, speaking, and language. At birth, most people have vocal cords, which produce sounds. As a child grows it learns how to form these sounds into words. Some words may be imitative of natural sounds, but others may come from expressions of emotion, such as laughter or crying. Words alone have no meaning. Only people can put meaning into words. As meaning is assigned to words, language develops, which leads to the development of speaking. The actual origin of language is subject to considerable speculation. Some theorists believe it is an outgrowth of group activities such as working together or dancing. Others believe that language developed from basic sounds and gestures. 2= Artificial languages: An artificial language is a language the phonology, grammar, and/or vocabulary of which have been consciously devised or modified by an individual or group, instead of having evolved naturally. There are many possible reasons to construct a language: to ease human communication (see international auxiliary language and code); to bring fiction or an associated constructed world to life; for linguistic experimentation; for artistic creation; and for language games. The expression "planned language" is sometimes used to mean international auxiliary languages and other languages designed for actual use in human communication. Some prefer it to the term "artificial" which may have pejorative connotations in some languages. Outside the Esperanto community, the term language planning means the prescriptions given to a natural language to standardize it; in this regard, even "natural languages" may be artificial in some respects. Prescriptive grammars , which date to ancient times for classical languages such as Latin, Sanskrit, and Chinese are rule-based codifications of natural languages, such codifications being a middle ground between naive natural selection and development of language and its explicit construction. The ASCII Table, a scheme for encoding character strings. Mathematics, Logics and computer science use artificial entities called formal languages (including programming languages and markup languages, and some that are more theoretical in nature). These often take the form of character strings, produced by a combination of formal grammar and semantics of arbitrary complexity. A programming language is a formal language endowed with semantics that can be utilized to control the behavior of a machine, particularly a computer, to perform specific tasks. Programming languages are defined using syntactic and semantic rules, to determine structure and meaning respectively. 3= Animal languages: The term "animal languages" is often used for non-human systems of communication. Linguists and semioticians do not consider these to be true "language", but describe them as animal communication on the basis on non-symbolic sign systems, because the interaction between animals in such communication is fundamentally different in its underlying principles from human language. According to this approach, since animals aren't born with the ability to reason the term "culture", when applied to animal communities, is understood to refer to something qualitatively different than in human communities. Language, communication and culture are more complex amongst humans. A dog may successfully communicate an aggressive emotional state with a growl, which may or may not cause another dog to keep away or back off. Similarly, when a human screams in fear, it may or may not alert other humans of impending danger. Both of these examples communicate, but both are not what would generally be called language. In several publicized instances, non-human animals have been taught to understand certain features of human language. Karl von Frisch received the Nobel Prize in 1973 for his proof of the sign communication and its variants of the bees. Chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans have been taught hand signs based on American Sign Language. The African Grey Parrot, Alex, which possessed the ability to mimic human speech with a high degree of accuracy, is suspected of having had sufficient intelligence to comprehend some of the speech it mimicked. Though animals can be taught to understand parts of human language, they are unable to develop a language. While proponents of animal communication systems have debated levels of semantics, these systems have not been found to have anything approaching human language syntax. What are the Varieties of Language and Major World Languages? Varieties of English language and Major World Languages: 1. American English: The variety of the English language that is generally used in professional writing in the United States and taught in American schools. Standard American English usage is linguistic good manners, sensitively and accurately matched to context--to listeners or readers, to situation, and to purpose. But because language is constantly changing, mastering its appropriate usage is not a one-time task like learning the multiplication tables. Instead, we are constantly obliged to adjust, adapt, and revise what we have learned. If we took a sample of everyday conversational speech, we would find that there are virtually no speakers who consistently speak formal Standard English as prescribed in the grammar books. Standard English is not entirely uniform around the globe: for example, American users of standard English say first floor and I've just gotten a letter and write center and color, while British users say ground floor and I've just got a letter and write centre and colour. But these regional differences are few in comparison with the very high degree of agreement about which forms should count as standard. 2. Australian English: Australian English is strikingly homogeneous from coast to coast, largely lacking the differences in accent and dialect found in the British, Irish, American, and Canadian varieties. A single speech continuum runs through the nation, within which however three areas have been identified. o Cultivated Australian: A minority accent and style so closely--and determinedly-- patterned on RP that some phoneticians call it 'Near-RP.' However, for many Australians it is a snobbish, effete, and subservient form of speech long associated with high status, or pretensions in such status. o Broad Australian: At the other end of the spectrum, an accent and style with features often identified internationally as Australian, as when outsiders hear (or claim that they hear) such a question as 'Did you come here today?' as 'Did you come here to die?' It is especially associated with mate-ship and the no-nonsense values of the traditional Australian working-class and lower middle-class male. o General Australian: The wide band between 'cultivated' and 'broad,' a majority usage, especially in the cities, where it receives the same kind of middle-class approval as General American and General Canadian in North America. There is no equivalent in the United Kingdom. 3. Canadian English: A variety of the English language that is used in Canada. Canadianism is a word or phrase that originated in Canada or has special meaning in Canada. Standard Canadian English is distinct from both Standard British English and Standard American English. With respect to lexical variation, or vocabulary, Canadian English [is] much closer to American than to British English where those varieties differ, though a small set of unique Canadian words . . . [shows] that Canadian English is not simply a mixture of British and American forms. Canadianisms like bachelor apartment, bank machine, chesterfield, eavestrough, grade one, parkade, runners or running shoes, scribbler and washroom are not merely words for things found only or mostly in Canada, but Canadian words for universal concepts that have other names outside Canada (compare American studio apartment, ATM, couch, gutters, first grade, parking garage, sneakers or tennis shoes, notebook and restroom; or British studio flat or bed-sit, cash dispenser, settee, gutters, first form, car park, trainers, exercise book and lavatory or loo. "Canadians often use the particle eh (as in It's nice, eh?) where Americans use huh. . . . As elsewhere, eh is used in Canada to mean Could you repeat what you said, but more commonly it is a question tag, as in You do want to go, eh? (=don't you?), or serves to elicit agreement or confirmation (It's nice, eh?) and to intensify commands, questions, and exclamations (Do it, eh?)." 4. Chinese English: Speech or writing in English that shows the influence of Chinese language and culture. Chinglish: Speaking both English and Chinese in one's sentences. Example of a sentence in chinglish: "At K-mart, I buy hen duo clothes." On a theoretical level, China English is distinguished systematically from Chinese English, Chinglish, Pidgin English, etc. China English is understood as a standardizing or standardized variety in use in China, which reflects Chinese cultural norms and concepts. Chinese English refers to varieties of English used by Chinese learners (see Kirkpatrick and Xu 2002). Hu (2004: 27) puts China English at one end of a continuum where lowly Pidgin English or Chinglish is at the other. China English is 'a language which is as good a communicative tool as Standard English,' but one which has important Chinese characteristics. Since each Chinese ideogram can have many meanings and interpretations, translating Chinese ideas into English is, indeed, extremely difficult. Because of this, Chinese- English hybrid words [such as "No noising" for "Quiet, please," and "slipper-crafty" for "treacherously icy road"] are often viewed with amusement by the rest of the English- speaking world. Nevertheless, this abundance of new words and phrases, unlikely as it may seem, is one of the prime drivers of the globalization of the English language. What is Phonetics? Phonetics Definition: The branch of linguistics that deals with the sounds of speech and their production, combination, description, and representation by written symbols. Phonetics is the study of the physical aspects of speech sounds. A linguist who specializes in phonetics is known as a phonetician. Etymology: From the Greek, meaning “sound, voice". Pronunciation: fah-NET-iks. Subfields Phonetics as a research discipline has three main branches: Articulatory Phonetics is concerned with the articulation of speech: The position, shape, and movement of articulators or speech organs, such as the lips, tongue, and vocal folds. Acoustic Phonetics is concerned with acoustics of speech: The spectro-temporal properties of the sound waves produced by speech, such as their frequency, amplitude, and harmonic structure. Auditory Phonetics is concerned with speech perception: the perception, categorization, and recognition of speech sounds and the role of the auditory system and the brain in the same. One of the most important achievements in phonetics over the past century has been to arrive at a system of phonetic symbols that anyone can learn to use and that can be used to represent the sounds of any language. This is the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)." Examples: In any language we can identify a small number of regularly used sounds (vowels and consonants) that we call phonemes; for example, the vowels in the words 'pin' and 'pen' are different phonemes, and so are the consonants at the beginning of the words 'pet' and 'bet.' Because of the notoriously confusing nature of English spelling, it is particularly important to learn to think of English pronunciation in terms of phonemes rather than letters of the alphabet; one must be aware, for example, that the word 'enough' begins with the same vowel phoneme as that at the beginning of 'inept' and ends with the same consonant as 'stuff.'" Applications Application of phonetics includes: Forensic Phonetics: the use of phonetics (the science of speech) for forensic (legal) purposes. Speech Recognition: the analysis and transcription of recorded speech by a computer system. What is Phonology? Phonology Definition: The branch of linguistics concerned with the study of speech sounds with reference to their distribution and patterning. Adjective: phonological. Phonology is the study of the patterning of sounds in languages. Phonology is like the “grammar” of sound for a language. Phonology concerns itself with systems of phonemes, abstract cognitive units of speech sound or sign which distinguish the words of a language. A linguist who specializes in phonology is known as a phonologist. Etymology: From the Greek, "sound, voice". Pronunciation: fah-NOL-ah-gee Aims of Phonology: The aim of phonology is to discover the principles that govern the way sounds are organized in languages and to explain the variations that occur. We begin by analyzing an individual language to determine which sound units are used and which patterns they form--the language's sound system. We then compare the properties of different sound systems, and work out hypotheses about the rules underlying the use of sounds in particular groups of languages. Ultimately, phonologists want to make statements that apply to all languages. . . . Whereas phonetics is the study of all possible speech sounds, phonology studies the way in which a language's speakers systematically use a selection of these sounds in order to express meaning. There is a further way of drawing the distinction. Now two speakers have anatomically identical vocal tracts, and thus no one produces sounds in exactly the same way as anyone else. . . . Yet when using our language we are able to discount much of this variation, and focus on only those sounds, or properties of sound, that is important for the communication of meaning. We think of our fellow speakers as using the 'same' sounds, even though acoustically they are not. Phonology is the study of how we find order within the apparent chaos of speech sounds." When we talk about the “sound system” of English, we are referring to the number of phonemes which are used in a language and to how they are organized. Phonology is not only about phonemes and allophones. Phonology also concerns itself with the principles governing the phoneme systems--that is, with what sounds languages 'like' to have, which sets of sounds are most common (and why) and which are rare (and also why). It turns out that there are prototype-based explanations for why the phoneme system of the languages of the world has the sounds that they do, with physiological/acoustic/perceptual explanations for the preference for some sounds over others." What is Dialect? Dialect Definition A dialect is a regional variant of a language distinguished by minimal lexical, grammatical, or phonological (pronunciation) differences from variants of the same language. The term dialect came from the Greek word “Dialektos” Dialect can be one of two different things: 1. A variety of language that is specific to one group of speakers. This can be because of the area they live in, or because of social class. 2. A language that is found within a regional (or national) language. Dialect can be distinguished by: Vocabulary. Grammar. Pronunciation. Dialect corresponds to the differences in style of speech of people who speak the same language but live in different regions and can be used to differentiate people from different regions. Mostly the regional differences affect the development of a dialect but at times it can also be a result of a social class. Dialects are differentiated based on the pronunciation, grammar and the vocabulary. DIVISION OF DIALECT: The dialects can be divided into: 1= Standardized dialects. 2= Non-standardized dialects. Standardized dialects: A standard dialect (also known as a standardized dialect or "standard language") is a dialect that is supported by institutions. Such institutional support may include government recognition or designation; presentation as being the "correct" form of a language in schools; published grammars, dictionaries, and textbooks that set forth a "correct" spoken and written form; and an extensive formal literature that employs that dialect (prose, poetry, non-fiction, etc.). There may be multiple standard dialects associated with a single language. Non-Standard Dialect: A nonstandard dialect, like a standard dialect, has a complete vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, but is not the beneficiary of institutional support. An example of a nonstandard English dialect is Southern American English or Newfoundland English. The Dialect Test was designed by Joseph Wright to compare different English dialects with each other. A nonstandard dialect is a dialect that does not have the institutional support or sanction that a standardized dialect has. Like any dialect, a nonstandard dialect has its own vocabulary and an internally consistent grammar and syntax; and it may be spoken using a variety of accents. What is Accent? Accent Definition: An accent is a way of pronouncing a language. It is therefore impossible to speak without an accent. In linguistics, an accent is a manner of pronunciation peculiar to a particular individual, location, or nation. An accent may identify the locality in which its speakers reside (a geographical or regional accent), the socio-economic status of its speakers, their ethnicity, their caste or social class, their first language (when the language in which the accent is heard is not their native language), and so on. Accents typically differ in quality of voice, pronunciation of vowels and consonants, stress, and prosody. Although grammar, semantics, vocabulary, and other language characteristics often vary concurrently with accent, the word 'accent' refers specifically to the differences in pronunciation, whereas the word 'dialect' encompasses the broader set of linguistic differences. Often 'accent' is a subset of 'dialect'. Why do languages develop different accents? Human nature. In all sorts of ways, we behave like those we mix with. We are members of social groups, and within our social group we like to behave in similar ways and show that we belong. We do this in language as well as in other ways (e.g. what we wear, what we eat). When groups become distinct, the way they speak becomes distinct too. This happens socially and geographically, but is easiest to illustrate by geographical differences. If a single group splits into two (imagine that one half goes to Island A and one half to Island B), then once they have separated, their accents will change over time, but not in the same way, so that after just one generation the accent of Island A will be different from the accent of Island B. If they stay completely separated for centuries, their dialects may become so different that we will start wanting to say they are speaking two different languages. Accent stereo-typing and prejudice: Stereotypes refer to specific characteristics, traits, and roles that a group and its members are believed to possess. Stereotypes can be both positive and negative, although negative are more common. Stereotypes may result in prejudice, which is defined as having negative attitudes toward a group and its members. Individuals with non-standard accents often have to deal with both negative stereotypes and prejudice because of an accent. Researchers consistently show that people with accents are judged as less intelligent, less competent, less educated, having poor English/language skills, and unpleasant to listen to. Not only people with standard accents subscribe to these beliefs and attitudes, but individuals with accents also often stereotype against their own or others' accents. What is Word Stress? Word Stress: Definition:In English, we do not say each syllable with the same force or strength. In one word, we accentuate ONE syllable. We say one syllable very loudly (big, strong, important) and all the other syllables very quietly. Let's take 3 words: photograph, photographer and photographic. Do they sound the same when spoken? No. Because we accentuate (stress) ONE syllable in each word. And it is not always the same syllable. So the shape of each word is different. The syllables that are not stressed are weak or small or quiet. Native speakers of English listen for the STRESSED syllables, not the weak syllables. If you use word stress in your speech, you will instantly and automatically improve your pronunciation and your comprehension. Try to hear the stress in individual words each time you listen to English - on the radio, or in films for example. Your first step is to HEAR and recognize it. After that, you can USE it. Rules of Word Stress: There are two very important rules about word stress: 1. One word, one stress. (One word cannot have two stresses. So if you hear two stresses, you have heard two words, not one word.) 2. The stress is always on a vowel. Word Stress Importance: Word stress is not used in all languages. Some languages, Japanese or French for example, pronounce each syllable with eq-ual em-pha-sis. Other languages, English for example, use word stress. Word stress is not an optional extra that you can add to the English language if you want. It is part of the language! English speakers use word stress to communicate rapidly and accurately, even in difficult conditions. If, for example, you do not hear a word clearly, you can still understand the word because of the position of the stress. Example: Think again about the two words photograph and photographer. Now imagine that you are speaking to somebody by telephone over a very bad line. You cannot hear clearly. In fact, you hear only the first two syllables of one of these words, photo... Which word is it, photograph or photographer? Of course, with word stress you will know immediately which word it is because in reality you will hear either PHOto... or phoTO... So without hearing the whole word, you probably know what the word is (PHOto...graph or phoTO...grapher). It's magic! (Of course, you also have the 'context' of your conversation to help you.) This is a simple example of how word stress helps us understand English. There are many, many other examples, because we use word stress all the time, without thinking about it. What is Sentence Stress? Sentence Stress: Definition: Sentence stress is the music of spoken English. Like word stress, sentence stress can help you to understand spoken English, especially when spoken fast. Sentence stress is what gives English its rhythm or "beat". You remember that word stress is accent on one syllable within a word. Sentence stress is accent on certain words within a sentence. Sentence Types: Most sentences have two types of word: Content words: Content words are the key words of a sentence. They are the important words that carry the meaning or sense. If you remove the content words from a sentence, you will not understand the sentence. The sentence has no sense or meaning. Structure words: Structure words are not very important words. They are small, simple words that make the sentence correct grammatically. They give the sentence its correct form or "structure". If you remove the structure words from a sentence, you will probably still understand the sentence. Example: Imagine that you receive this telegram message: Will you SELL my CAR because I've GONE to FRANCE This sentence is not complete. It is not a "grammatically correct" sentence. But you probably understand it. These 4 words communicate very well. Somebody wants you to sell their car for them because they have gone to France. We can add a few words: Will you SELL my CAR because I've GONE to FRANCE The new words do not really add any more information. But they make the message more correct grammatically. We can add even more words to make one complete, grammatically correct sentence. But the information is basically the same: Content Words Will you SELL my CAR because I've GONE to FRANCE. Structure Words In our sentence, the 4 key words (sell, car, gone, France) are accentuated or stressed. Why is this important for pronunciation? It is important because it adds "music" to the language. It is the rhythm of the English language. It changes the speed at which we speak (and listen to) the language. The time between each stressed word is the same. In our sentence, there is 1 syllable between SELL and CAR and 3 syllables between CAR and GONE. But the time (t) between SELL and CAR and between CAR and GONE is the same. We maintain a constant beat on the stressed words. To do this, we say "my" more slowly, and "because I've" more quickly. We change the speed of the small structure words so that the rhythm of the key content words stays the same. syllables 2 1 3 1 Will you SELL my CAR because I've GONE to FRANCE. t1 beat t1 beat t1 beat t1 beat Rules for Sentence Stress in English: The basic rules of sentence stress are: 1. Content words are stressed 2. Structure words are unstressed 3. The time between stressed words is always the same The following tables can help you decide which words are content words and which words are structure words: Content words - stressed Words carrying the meaning Example main verbs SELL, GIVE, EMPLOY nouns CAR, MUSIC, MARY adjectives RED, BIG, INTERESTING adverbs QUICKLY, LOUDLY, NEVER negative auxiliaries DON'T, AREN'T, CAN'T Structure words - unstressed Words for correct grammar Example pronouns he, we, they prepositions on, at, into articles a, an, the conjunctions and, but, because auxiliary verbs do, be, have, can, must What is the Difference between Formal and In-Formal words usage? Formal and informal words: The difference between formal and informal styles is mainly in the vocabulary. It is the style of writing, or the way we use words to say what we want to say. Different situations call for different ways of putting words together. The way we write in academic and scientific settings differs greatly from the way we write to a friend or close one. The tone, vocabulary, and syntax, all change as the occasion changes. This difference in the styles of writing is the difference between formality and informality, or the difference between formal and informal writing. In-Formal Words: Definition: Informal words are the ones used in everyday conversations. If the task requires informal writing, such as a letter to a friend, avoid using formal ‘heavy’ words. Formal Words: Definition: Apart from the vocabulary in formal writing it is best to avoid words like “I”, “you”, “we”, unless you are expressing an opinion. For example in an essay instead of writing “You would find it difficult to get a job without proper qualifications”, write something like “One would find it difficult to find a job without proper qualifications”, or you could write “Finding a job without proper qualifications would be rather difficult”. Short list of words. Formal Informal Inform me Let me know Cancel Drop Contact Get in touch Obtain Get Apologize Say sorry Postpone Delay Request Ask for Compensate Make up Establish Set up Discover Find out Handle Deal with Investigate Check up on Tolerate Put up Increase Go up Children Kids Difference between Formal and In-Formal Words Usage: Here's a list of some of the main differences between informal and formal writing: Informal: May use colloquial words/expressions (kids, guy, awesome, a lot, etc.). Formal: Avoid using colloquial words/expressions (substitute with children, man/boy, wonderful, many, etc.) Informal: May use contractions (can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, etc.). Formal: Avoid contractions (write out full words – cannot, will not, should not, etc.). Informal: May use first, second, or third person. Formal: Write in third person (except in business letters where first person may be used). Informal: May use clichés (loads of, conspicuous by absence, etc.) Formal: Avoid clichés (use many, was absent, etc.) Informal: May address readers using second person pronouns (you, your, etc) Formal: Avoid addressing readers using second person pronouns (use one, one’s, the reader, the reader’s, etc.) Informal: May use abbreviated words (photo, TV, etc) Formal: Avoid using abbreviated words (use full versions – like photograph, television, etc.) Informal: May use imperative voice (e.g. Remember….) Formal: Avoid imperative voice (use Please refer to.….) Informal: May use active voice (e.g. We have noticed that…..) Formal: Use passive voice (e.g. It has been noticed that….) Informal: May use short and simple sentences. Formal: Longer and more complex sentences are preferred (short simple sentences reflects poorly on the writer) Informal: Difficulty of subject may be acknowledged and empathy shown to the reader. Formal: State your points confidently and offer your argument firm support. These are just some of the differences between formal and informal writing. The main thing to remember is that both are correct, it is just a matter of tone and setting. Formal English is used mainly in academic writing and business communications, whereas Informal English is casual and is appropriate when communicating with friends and other close ones. Choose the style of writing keeping in mind what you are writing and to whom. But whichever style you write in – formal or informal – be sure to keep it consistent, do not mix the two. What is the Difference between American and British English? American and British English differences: Historical background: The English language was first introduced to the Americas by British colonization, beginning in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia. Similarly, the language spread to numerous other parts of the world as a result of British trade and colonization elsewhere and the spread of the former British Empire, which, by 1921, held sway over a population of 470–570 million people, approximately a quarter of the world's population at that time. Over the past 400 years the form of the language used in the Americas—especially in the United States—and that used in the United Kingdom have diverged in a few minor ways, leading to the dialects now occasionally referred to as American English and British English. Differences between the two include pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary (lexis), structure, idioms, and phrases, although the differences in written and most spoken grammar structure tend to be much less than those of other aspects of the language in terms of mutual intelligibility. A small number of words have completely different meanings in the two dialects or are even unknown or not used in one of the dialects. One particular contribution towards formalizing these differences came from Noah Webster, who wrote the first American dictionary (published 1828) with the intention of showing that people in the United States spoke a different dialect from Britain, much like a regional accent. This divergence between American English and British English once caused George Bernard Shaw to say that the United States and United Kingdom are "two countries divided by a common language"; a similar comment is a scribed to Winston Churchill. Likewise, Oscar Wilde wrote, "We have really everything in common with America now-a-days, except, of course, the language" (The Canterville Ghost, 1888). Henry Sweet incorrectly predicted in 1877 that within a century American English, Australian English and British English would be mutually un-intelligible. It may be the case that increased worldwide communication through radio, television, the Internet and globalization has reduced the tendency to regional variation. This can result either in some variations becoming extinct (for instance, the wireless, superseded by the radio) or in the acceptance of wide variations as "perfectly good English" everywhere. Often at the core of the dialect though, the idiosyncrasies remain. Nevertheless it remains the case that, although spoken American and British English are generally mutually intelligible, there are enough differences to cause occasional misunderstandings or at times embarrassment—for example some words that are quite innocent in one dialect may be considered vulgar in the other. Pronunciation differences: Differences in pronunciation between American English (AmE) and British English (BrE) can be divided into: Differences in accent (i.e. phoneme inventory and realization). Differences in the pronunciation of individual words in the lexicon (i.e. phoneme distribution). Different kinds of English have different pronunciation. For example, the pronunciation (the accent) of British English is different from the pronunciation of American English. The most frequently learned kinds of English in the world are American English and British English. American pronunciation In the context of language learning, American pronunciation means General American (GenAm) pronunciation. This is the pronunciation used by educated Americans, on television and on radio. It is described in dictionaries of American English, such as the Merriam-Webster and Random House dictionaries. Most Americans and Canadians speak something similar to General American. Whether you're in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle or Toronto, you will generally hear the same accent. There are some regional differences, but they are usually very small. The only major exception is the South of the US (especially outside of big cities), which has its own distinct accent. General American pronunciation is rhotic, which means that the letter r is always pronounced. British pronunciation When people talk about learning British pronunciation, they usually think of Received Pronunciation (RP). RP is the pronunciation of the British upper class; it is sometimes called the Queen's English. This is the pronunciation that you will learn at a British language school; it is also the model taught in course books and dictionaries from publishers like Oxford and Longman. In the UK, only a small percentage of people speak something similar to RP — these are upper- class people, academics, actors, TV personalities, politicians and English teachers. Outside of these groups, RP-like pronunciation is used in the southeast of England — in the area near Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton and London — although most people in that area actually speak Estuary English, which is significantly different from RP. "Normal" Britons usually speak with their local accents, which are often quite different from RP, and can be very hard to understand to untrained ears. Sometimes cities that are only 20 km apart have very different accents. RP is non-rhotic, which means that the letter r is usually "silent", unless it is followed by a vowel. Examples: In words like car, tower, inform and first, r is silent (r is not followed by a vowel). In words like red, foreign, print, r is pronounced (r is followed by a vowel). R is also pronounced at the end of a word, if the next word starts with a vowel, for example: number eight, far away. Most RP speakers also insert an r in phrases like: the idea(r) of, Africa(r) and Asia, law(r) and order. This r is not in the spelling; they just use it to separate two vowels. The following pairs sound exactly the same in RP: or/awe, court/caught, sore/saw, farther/father, formerly/formally. In General American, they all sound different. Grammar Difference: Introduction: Speakers of American English generally use the present perfect tense (have/has + past participle) far less than speakers of British English. In spoken American English it is very common to use the simple past tense as an alternative in situations where the present perfect would usually have been used in British English. The two situations where this is especially likely are: (i) In sentences which talk about an action in the past that has an effect in the present: American English / British English A: Jenny feels ill. She ate too much. B: Jenny feels ill. She's eaten too much. A: I can't find my keys. Did you see them anywhere? B: I can't find my keys. Have you seen them anywhere? (ii) In sentences which contain the words already, just or yet: American English / British English A: Are they going to the show tonight? A: No. They already saw it. B: Are they going to the show tonight? B: No. They've already seen it. A: Is Samantha here? A: No, she just left. B: Is Samantha here? B: No, she's just left. A: Can I borrow your book? A: No, I didn't read it yet. B: Can I borrow your book? B: No, I haven't read it yet. 1. Verb agreement with collective nouns: In British English collective nouns, (i.e. nouns referring to particular groups of people or things), (e.g. staff , government, class, team) can be followed by a singular or plural verb depending on whether the group is thought of as one idea, or as many individuals, e.g.: My team is winning. The other team are all sitting down. In American English collective nouns are always followed by a singular verb, so an American would usually say: Which team is losing? Where-as in British English both plural and singular forms of the verb are possible, as in: Which team is/are losing? 2. Use of delexical verbs have and take: In British English, the verb have frequently functions as what is technically referred to as a delexical verb, i.e. it is used in contexts where it has very little meaning in itself but occurs with an object noun which describes an action, e.g.: I'd like to have a bath. Have is frequently used in this way with nouns referring to common activities such as washing or resting, e.g.: She's having a little nap. I'll just have a quick shower before we go out. In American English, the verb take, rather than have, is used in these contexts, e.g.: Joe's taking a shower. I'd like to take a bath. Let's take a short vacation. Why don't you take a rest now? 3. Use of auxiliaries and modals: In British English, the auxiliary do is often used as a substitute for a verb when replying to a question, e.g.: A: Are you coming with us? B: I might do. In American English, do is not used in this way, e.g.: A: Are you coming with us? B: I might. In British English needn't is often used instead of don't need to, e.g.: They needn't come to school today. They don't need to come to school today. In American English needn't is very unusual and the usual form is don't need to, i.e.: They don't need to come to school today. In British English, shall is sometimes used as an alternative to will to talk about the future, e.g.: I shall/will be there later. In American English, shall is unusual and will is normally used. In British English shall I / we is often used to ask for advice or an opinion, e.g.: Shall we ask him to come with us? In American English should is often used instead of shall, i.e.: Should we ask him to come with us? 4. Use of prepositions: In British English, at is used with many time expressions, e.g.: At Christmas/five 'o' clock At the weekend In American English, on is always used when talking about the weekend, not at, e.g.: Will they still be there on the weekend? She'll be coming home on weekends. In British English, at is often used when talking about universities or other institutions, e.g.: She studied chemistry at university. In American English, in is often used, e.g.: She studied French in high school. In British English, to and from are used with the adjective different, e.g.: This place is different from/to anything I've seen before. In American English from and than are used with different, e.g.: This place is different from/than anything I've seen before. In British English to is always used after the verb write, e.g.: I promised to write to her every day. In American English, to can be omitted after write, i.e.:I promised to write her every day. 5. Past tense forms: Below is a table showing verbs which have different simple past and past participle forms in American and British English. Note that the irregular past forms burnt, dreamt and spoilt are possible in American English, but less common than the forms ending in -ed. Infinitive Simple past Simple past Past participle Past participle (Br) (Am) (Br) (Am) burn burned/ burned/ burned/ burned/ burnt burnt burnt burnt bust bust busted bust busted dive dived dove/ dived dived dived dream dreamed/ dreamed/ dreamed/ dreamed/ dreamt dreamt dreamt dreamt get got got got gotten lean leaned/ leaned leaned/ leaned Infinitive Simple past Simple past Past participle Past participle (Br) (Am) (Br) (Am) leant leant learn learned/ learned learned/ learned learnt learnt plead pleaded pleaded/ pleaded pleaded/ pled pled prove proved proved proved proved/ proven saw sawed sawed sawn sawn/ sawed smell smelled/ smelled smelled/ smelled smelt smelt spill spilled/ spilled spilled/ spilled spilt spilt spoil spoiled/ spoiled/ spoiled/ spoiled/ spoilt spoilt spoilt spoilt stink stank stank/ stunk stunk stunk wake woke woke/ woken woken waked Note that have got is possible in American English, but is used with the meaning 'have', gotten is the usual past participle of get, e.g. American English British English You've got two brothers You've got two brothers (= you have two brothers) You've gotten taller this year You've got taller this year Vocabulary Difference: Most of the differences in lexis or vocabulary between British and American English are in connection with concepts originating from the 19th century to the mid 20th century, when new words were coined independently. Almost the entire vocabularies of the car/automobile and railway/railroad industries (see Rail terminology) are different between the UK and US, for example. Other sources of difference are slang or vulgar terms (where frequent new coinage occurs) and idiomatic phrases, including phrasal verbs. The differences most likely to create confusion are those where the same word or phrase is used for two different concepts. Regional variations, even within the US or the UK, can create the same problems. Here are some of the main differences in vocabulary between British and American English. This page is intended as a guide only. Bear in mind that there can be differences in the choice of specific terms depending on dialect and region within both the USA and the UK. British English American English anti-clockwise counter-clockwise articulated lorry trailer truck autumn autumn, fall barrister attorney bill (restaurant) bill, check biscuit cookie block of flats apartment building bonnet (clothing) hat bonnet (car) hood boot trunk bumper (car) bumper, fender caravan trailer car park parking lot chemist's shop drugstore, pharmacy chest of drawers dresser, chest of drawers, bureau chips fries, French fries the cinema the movies maths math motorbike motorcycle motorway freeway, expressway motorway highway, freeway, expressway, interstate highway, interstate nappy diaper pants, underpants underpants, drawers pavement sidewalk pet hate pet peeve petrol gas, gasoline The Plough Big Dipper pocket money allowance post mail postbox mailbox postcode zip code postman mailman, mail carrier, letter carrier pub bar rubbish garbage, trash rubbish-bin garbage can, trashcan saloon (car) sedan shop shop, store silencer (car) muffler single (ticket) one-way solicitor lawyer, attorney spanner wrench sweets candy taxi taxi, taxi cab tea towel dish towel telly (informal), TV television, TV third-party insurance liability insurance timetable schedule tin can toll motorway toll road, turnpike torch flashlight trousers pants, trousers underground (train) subway Idiom Difference: Definition: Idiom is an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent element as kick the bucket, hang one’s head etc. English is a language particularly rich in idioms – those modes of expression peculiar to a language (or dialect) which frequently defy logical and grammatical rules. Without idioms English would lose much of its variety and humor both in speech and writing. The background and etymological origins of most idioms is at best obscure. This is the reason why a study of differences between the idioms of American and British English is somewhat difficult. But it also makes the cases, where background, etymology and history are known, even more interesting. Some idioms of the “worldwide English” have first been seen in the works of writers like Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, Lewis Carroll or even in the paperbacks of contemporary novelists. American English Idioms: A bit much If something is excessive or annoying, it is a bit much. A bridge too far A bridge too far is an act of overreaching- going too far and getting into trouble or failing. A chain is no stronger than its weakest link This means that processes, organisations, etc, are vulnerable because the weakest person or part can always damage or break them. A day late and a dollar short (USA) If something is a day late and a dollar short, it is too little, too late. A fool at 40 is a fool forever If someone hasn't matured by the time they reach forty, they never will. A fresh pair of eyes A person who is brought in to examine something carefully is a fresh pair of eyes. A hitch in your giddy-up If you have a hitch in your giddy-up, you're not feeling well. ('A hitch in your gittie-up' is also used.) A lick and a promise If you give something a lick and a promise, you do it hurriedly, most often incompletely, intending to return to it later. Back the wrong horse If you back the wrong horse, you give your support to the losing side in something. Back to back If things happen back to back, they are directly one after another. Back to square one If you are back to square one, you have to start from the beginning again. Back to the salt mines If someone says they have to go back to the salt mines, they have to return, possibly unwillingly, to work. Backseat driver A backseat driver is an annoying person who is fond of giving advice to the person performing a task or doing something, especially when the advice is either wrong or unwelcome. Bad Apple A person who is bad and makes other bad is a bad apple. Bad blood If people feel hate because of things that happened in the past, there is bad blood between them. Bad egg A person who cannot be trusted is a bad egg. Good egg is the opposite. Bad mouth (UK) When you are bad mouthing,you are saying negative things about someone or something.('Bad-mouth' and 'badmouth' are also used.) Bag and baggage Bag and baggage means all your possessions, especially if you are moving them or leaving a place. Bag of bones If someone is a bag of bones, they are very underweight. Bag of nerves If someone is a bag of nerves, they are very worried or nervous. Banana republic Banana republic is a term used for small countries that are dependent on a single crop or resource and governed badly by a corrupt elite. Banana skin (UK) A banana skin is something that is an embarrassment or causes problems. British English Idioms: Across the pond This idiom means on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean used to refer to the US or the UK depending on the speaker's location. All mouth and trousers Someone who's all mouth and trousers talks or boasts a lot but doesn't deliver. 'All mouth and no trousers' is also used, though this is a corruption of the original. All talk and no trousers Someone who is all talk and no trousers, talks about doing big, important things, but doesn't take any action. Argue the toss If you argue the toss, you refuse to accept a decision and argue about it. At a loose end If you are at a loose end, you have spare time but don't know what to do with it. If you are on your back foot, you are at a disadvantage and forced to be defensive of your position. Bad mouth When you are bad mouthing, you are saying negative things about someone or something.('Bad- mouth' and 'badmouth' are also used.) Banana skin A banana skin is something that is an embarrassment or causes problems. Barrack-room lawyer A barrack-room lawyer is a person who gives opinions on things they are not qualified to speak about. Been in the wars If someone has been in the wars, they have been hurt or look as if they have been in a struggle. Beer and skittles People say that life is not all beer and skittles, meaning that it is not about self-indulgence and pleasure. Belt and braces Someone who wears belt and braces is very cautious and takes no risks. Box clever If you box clever, you use your intelligence to get what you want, even if you have to cheat a bit. Brass neck Someone who has the brass neck to do something has no sense of shame about what they do. Canary in a coal mine A canary in a coal mine is an early warning of danger. Cheap as chips If something is very inexpensive, it is as cheap as chips. Coals to Newcastle Taking, bringing, or carrying coals to Newcastle is doing something that is completely unnecessary. Come a cropper Someone whose actions or lifestyle will inevitably result in trouble is going to come a cropper. Daft as a brush Someone who is daft as a brush is rather stupid. Phrases and Words Difference: Phrases and Words that have their origins in BrE: Some speakers of AmE are aware of some BrE terms, although they may not generally use them or may be confused as to whether someone intends the American or British meaning (such as for biscuit). They will be able to guess approximately what some others, such as "driving licence", mean. However, use of many other British words such as naff (slang but commonly used to mean "not very good") are unheard of in American English. Phrases and Words that have their origins in AmE: Speakers of BrE are likely to understand most common AmE terms, examples such as "sidewalk", "gas (gasoline/petrol)", "counterclockwise" or "elevator (lift)", without any problem, thanks in part to considerable exposure to American popular culture and literature. Certain terms that are heard less frequently, especially those likely to be absent or rare in American popular culture, e.g. "copacetic (satisfactory)", are unlikely to be understood by most BrE speakers.