Why is the internet converting to British writing and why isn't it the same?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by science man, Jul 13, 2010.

  1. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    All my other languages are phonetic [hindi, marathi, gujarati, arabic] I just read the consonants!
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  3. Anti-Flag Pun intended Registered Senior Member

    I found it fairly easy to read most of it, look carefully at it.
    Though I can't make gramatical sense of "roman alphabet simply stupid". Shouldn't it be "is simply stupid"?
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    But if you re-read what you just wrote, you've said that the second syllable in "center" is pronounced "er" and the second syllable in "color" is pronounced "or." Yet their pronunciation is identical. Why should they have two different spellings? Why not be consistent and write centor? Or coler?
    There's been some controversy on that issue lately. Britain was of course the first modern Western power to build relations (although not very amicable ones) with China and they even established a colony on Hong Kong. So all the Hong Kong Chinese learned British English and made it something of a standard. But in recent years two forces have worked against that: 1) The huge influx of Chinese immigrants to the USA, who visit their families and expose them to American English, and 2) The new business relations with the USA, resulting in businesspeople from each country spending time in the other. Language almost always follows the coin rather than the flag, the teacher, or even the prophet, so American English may become more common over there.

    The thorn only represents the voiceless TH in "think" and "bath". The voiced TH in "this" and "bathe" is represented by the eth, ð.
    The problem with this is that there are at least four more-or-less standard dialects of English: British, Indian, American and Australian. By definition the major difference between dialects is phonetic, and indeed there are major differences among the four. There's no agreed-upon set of dialects, so if you like you can also include New Zealand, Scots, American Southern, Irish, South African, AAVE (African-American Vernacular English or "ebonics"), Cockney, Brummie, etc. To pick an example from your sample text:
    • We Americans pronounce "natural" as natcheral, whereas the Brits say natyooral.
    • The second example is not a British/American thing, but some people pronounce "room" (and "roof") with a long ooooo, whereas I and others use the vowel from "full" and "put."
    • Leaving your sentence behind, how would you spell the word that we pronounce LAB-ruh-taw-ree, but in Britain it's luh-BOR-uh-tree?
    • Our skejool vs. their shedyool for "schedule"?
    • Our JEN-yoo-WINE vs. their JEN-yoo-wuhn?
    • In some local British dialects, the U in "up" and in "put" are the same.
    • In some American dialects "cot" and "caught" are homonyms.
    This is the problem scholars in every language have when they attempt to "modernize" its spelling, and it's the reason English spelling has not been revised in many centuries.
    Not until dialect differences are leveled. Radio and TV have made a good start on that. The internet will take it further, now that we can have friends, colleagues and even family on the other side of the planet, and talk to them every day.
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  7. mathman Valued Senior Member

    Armour is the name of an American beef packing company.
  8. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Yeah, not really. The combined populations of UK, Australia and NZ don't even reach one third of the US population. Canadian English is indistinguishable from US English, with the exception of a few tell-tale signs - the standard linguistic taxonomy of English features a division between "North American English," "British English," and "Other Commonwealth English" for exactly this reason.

    Indian English is a separate dialect from British English, just as American English is.

    English instruction in China employs a variety of native English speakers from various countries. But the resulting Chinese English-speakers sound to me to be speaking North American English - and I personally know dozens of them. American English tends to be preferred by people learning English for business/career/education purposes, due to its wider usage and the greater economic and academic opportunities presented by the USA (and Canada).

    So then I guess we need to start calling the language of America, American.

    And, as usual, I'll note the hilarity of a lecture on proper English usage coming from someone that mispells every third word and evinces a terrible grasp on grammar and composition.
  9. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Bear in mind that for every speaker of British English in Hong Kong, there are 3 speakers of American English in Taiwan.

    And I'd be careful not to overestimate the extent to which the manner of speech in Hong Kong represents any kind of larger standard for China as a whole. There is a very strong linguistic divide between the southern Hong Kong area, and the bulk of China (the former speak Cantonese, the latter Mandarin - and they have a commiserately long history of pointed division over linguistic issues, even before the question of English comes up).

    And let's also not forget that the USA was right behind Britain in pursuing relations with China way back when, even if we didn't end up with a colony like Hong Kong.

    Right - there are almost as many Chinese Americans, as there are Chinese in Hong Kong.
  10. Randwolf Ignorance killed the cat Valued Senior Member

    This is all wonderful, and I couldn't really care less how the current state of affairs came about...

    However, what really irks me is that I have now been exposed to so much of both that I no longer remember the "correct" way to spell thirty-odd words.

    Does anyone know the current policy of schools and Uni's on either side of the pond? Do they allow both, show preference depending on what country you happen to be matriculating in, or perhaps a mixed bag?

    Fraggle, anyone?
  11. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    My understanding is that it's a mixed bag, and some of the 'mixing' is contextual.

    For example, here in NZ we primarily use UK-English, and in most contexts (at least in the circles I've moved in anyway) using the US-English spelling of a word will get it red lined and corrected, however, as I have pointed out, in other contexts the US have 'had their wicked way'.

    Again, for example, in Chemistry, nomenclature is governed by IUPAC, and for reasons that I am still unclear on, IUPAC decided that the americanized spelling of Sulphur would be adopted internationally, so now it Sulfur, Sulfate, sulfite, and Sulfonyl. and using 'ph' instead of 'f' will get you redlined and corrected.
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    These days, when American universities have to offer courses in "remedial English" to incoming freshmen, most professors are delighted if a student can just write coherently at the university level, and will hardly complain if they use non-American spelling standards--or punctuation standards; remember that the Brits omit the period after Mr, Dr and many other common abbreviations, and that their practice with commas is even more inscrutable. Besides, many of the students in American universities come from other countries, and it's to be expected that a good number of them learned British English rather than American, and may be planning to go home where they'll be expected to continue writing in British English.

    That said, I wouldn't expect British spelling and punctuation to pass muster in a graduate thesis, but then any graduate student who doesn't submit his thesis to a colleague with excellent (American-standard) proofreading skill is a fool.

    Outside of academia, American standards are enforced almost universally. You never see British spelling in the print media, and a quick way to judge the quality of a website is to check for professional proofreading. I work as a writer and editor in the corporate world, often with government clients, and although these days many of the members of any IT staff are likely to be Indians, who are taught from the British stylebook, we always enforce American vocabulary, spelling and punctuation.

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