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Variation in ‘Native’ Englishes
For use with Chapter 4 of:
Galloway, N. and Rose, H. (2015). Introducing
Global Englishes. Routledge.
© Dr. Heath Rose and Dr. Nicola Galloway
Review of Lecture 3
• There are many advantages to having a global lingua franca – increased
efficiency in international organizations, political gatherings, and
international business, scientific scholarship, popular media, travel, and
personal communication.
• However, the spread of English and its adoption as a lingua franca come at
a cost – a threat to other languages and associated with Americanization.
• Linguistic imperialism is a notion that the spread of English and
destruction of other languages was the direct result of policies connected
to colonialism and the pursuit of power through inequality.
• Arguments against linguistic imperialism take a bottom-up perspective.
• We can also examine policy in light of globalization, which promoted
English education and use through a top-down policy (such as Georgia’s
switch from Russian to English), and which aimed to curb the bottom-up
intrusion of English into educational domains (such as in Sweden).
• Overall, issues and attitudes surrounding English are a complex mix of
English language variation in the British Isles
English language variation in Canada and the USA
Variation in Australia and New Zealand
English language variation in the Caribbean
Introductory activities
Look at the example sentences in the introduction to Chapter 4 and then discuss
the questions below.
1. Discuss and record on a scale whether each sentence fits into an ideology of
‘acceptable English’ (1 = completely acceptable; 2 = acceptable;
3 = unacceptable; 4 = completely unacceptable).
2. Are there any forms that you personally believe are completely acceptable,
but that standard language proponents might not?
3. Are there any forms that might be more acceptable in certain geographic
regions of the world (or in certain demographic communities) but not in
4. All the sentences are found in native Englishes around the world. Calling the
time half-eight is common for speakers in the UK but not in Australia. To say
someone sings good is acceptable for younger speakers in the USA but not
for older generations. How do you think such differences emerged? Consider
historical factors, geographical factors, socio-economic factors, and
generational factors.
Levels of
This lecture will focus on only a few features:
Levels of
Part 1
English language variation in the
British Isles
Image source:
Phonemic variation (1)
• Vowel mergers of /ʌ/ and /ʊ/ – much research has focused on the
strut–foot vowel merger. The /ʌ/ vowel does not appear in north of
England accents (including Midlands) and some Irish accents. In these
places the /ʊ/ sound exists in both words, making the words strut and
foot rhyme. Interestingly, the difference here is due to a historical
phonemic split of other regions (Hughes et al., 2012), which did not take
place in northern England or Ireland.
• Vowel mergers of /ʊ/ and /u:/ – Scottish speakers make little distinction
between /ʊ/ and /u:/, or in /ɒ/ and /ɔ:/, causing the following pairs to be
homophonous: pam–palm, pull–pool, cot–caught (Hughes et al., 2012).
• Distinction of /a/ and /ɑ:/ – a distinction in north and south England can
also be made with the vowels /a/ and /ɑ:/. Northern accents say /a/ in
bath, but southerners say /ɑ:/.
• Intrusive nasals – within the group of north of England accents a strong
division exists between even neighbouring varieties, such as a distinct
final /g/ sound in the word sing in Central Lancaster English, as opposed
to a final /ŋ/ in the neighbouring areas north of Lancaster.
Phonemic variation (2)
• Interdental voiceless fricatives – the initial phoneme /θ/ in the word
thin is pronounced /t/ throughout much of Ireland.
• Labiodental replacing interdental fricatives – /v/ and /ð/ variations also
exist across the UK and often have developed independently in regions
as diverse as Scotland, Yorkshire, London, the south-west, and the southeast. It has been reported, for example, that /v/ has been used in place
of /ð/ in words like smooth in Glasgow (Stuart-Smith, 2008).
• Insertion of schwa in consonant clusters – in many accents across the
region, the schwa intrudes in consonant cluster -lm, as in words like calm
and film, producing a sound /ləm/.
Lexical variation
• Borrowing from indigenous
languages – the result of an
influence of contact with Celtic
language in various parts of the
British Isles has resulted in the
adoption of borrowed lexical
items. In Ireland and Scotland,
there has been heavy influence
from Gaelic, as seen from
everyday words like glen (valley)
and loch (lake).
• Same meaning, different words
– an Atlas of English dialects
offers nine alternative words for
splinter alone (spell, spelk,
speel, spill, splie, spool, splint,
shiver, silver).
Figure 4.1: Lexical variation in England
(adapted from Upton and Widdowson,
Grammar-syntactic variation
• Tense and aspect – the use of progressive aspects in a wider range
of applications is observable in Scottish English and Irish English,
such as: Barbara is knowing the answer.
• Irregular verb levelling – irregular verbs occur in Scottish English,
such as brung instead of bought, writ instead of wrote, and selt
instead of sold.
• Plurality and concord with collective nouns – in Scotland, the
following examples have been observed: The windies wiz aw broken
(‘was’ replacing ‘were’ in stating ‘the windows were all broken’);
The lambs is oot the field (‘is’ replacing ‘are’); and There’s no bottles
(‘is’ replacing ‘are’, again).
• Negation – we see variation in Scottish English, such as: She’s no
leaving; She isnea leaving; ‘no’ used as a tag question in That’s
miles away, is it no?; and ‘none’ used to indicate an absence of
ability as in Rab can sing nane.
Grammar-syntactic variation shows a north–south divide
Second person plural pronouns: youse,
y’all, you guys
Progressive tense widening:
She’s knowing that well
Be as perfect auxiliary:
They’re not finished yet
Double modals:
I tell you what we might should do
Must for conclusions drawn:
This mustn’t be true!
What you doing?
You get the point?
Ain’t for negative ‘be’
Ain’t for negative ‘have’
I wasn’t a doing nothing
They had them in their hair, innit?
What in relative clauses: This is the man
what painted my house
Table 4.1: Kortman’s (2008, p. 491) synopsis of variation across the British Isles
Attitudes towards variation in the
British Isles
• Even though RP is spoken by less than 3% of the population of
the UK (Milroy and Milroy, 1999), it still holds power and
prestige in UK political circles.
• While geography plays a major role in determining an accent
in the UK, class also plays a pivotal role – an RP accent can be
found in almost any region of the UK.
• In pop culture it is regional varieties of English that are
thriving (e.g. The Beatles, Cheryl Cole, Gary Barlow, Geordie
• The media is moving towards more linguistic diversity (e.g.
Part 2
English language variation in Canada
and the USA
English in North America
• In the USA, there is no official language, although English
takes on the role of an official language for most political,
administrative, and educational functions.
• According to 2011 US census data:
– English is the main language of 79.4% of the population.
– Spanish speakers constitute half of the 21% of the population
who speak another language at home.
• English is the official language of Canada, alongside French.
• According to 2011 Canadian census data:
– 17.4% of the population are bilingual in both official languages.
– More than 20% of Canadian population reported a mother
tongue other than English or French.
Image source:
• Standard American English is an institutional construct and thus ‘it has no native
speakers’ (Kretzschmar, 2010, p. 101).
• Standard American is characterized by speech with ‘no accent’. This does not
mean that a standard American accent is neutral, but that it is devoid of
characteristics usually associated with particular regional American accents.
Phonemic variation
• Vowel lengthening – prevalent across much of North America, has
resulted in homophonous pairing of words like cot and caught, and
don and dawn with vowel /ɔː/ (Levey, 2010).
• Short vowels are realized as diphthongs – southern American
English creates diphthongs from short vowel sounds, changing
vowels like /ɪ/ in think to to produce vowels in the range of /ɛi~æi/
(Thomas, 2008).
• Vowel mergers – Mary–merry–marry lexical set have merged to be
equivalent of the vowel in square in Standard American (but not in
the north-east)
• Canadian rising – the famous example of this is the raising of /ɑʊ/
to /ʌʊ/ in words like about infamously mimicked by Americans as
a boot.
Lexical variation
• Borrowing from indigenous languages – English originally
adopted borrowings from indigenous languages, resulting
in words like kayak and toboggan which have since spread
to other parts of the world.
• Same meaning, different words – tennis shoes vs
sneakers; soda vs pop vs coke.
Image source:
Grammar-syntactic variation
• Tense and aspect – the perfective done is observed in
pockets across the continent (e.g. That squirrel was
done eat in Appalachian English).
• Pronouns – the second person plural pronoun y’all is
used pervasively in the south, in favour of you guys in
the north and the west (although geographic pockets
prefer alternative terms, such as yous in
• Negation – double negation (he didn’t do nothing) is
also pervasive.
• Adverbs – the adoption of adverbs without -ly is
pervasive across the North American continent.
Attitudes towards variation in the
United States
• Milroy and Milroy (1999, p. 153) state ‘distasteful public
disparagement of African American English is commonplace
and often openly racist’.
• Appalachian accents are often negatively used to depict
uneducated characters such as Cletus in The Simpsons.
• When the movie Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was first
released there was controversy that the bumbling idiotic
character of Jar Jar Binks was based on African American or
Black Caribbean stereotypes.
• Sothern accents are favourably viewed in politics (e.g. George
H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush).
Part 3
English language variation in Australia
and New Zealand
A note on why different accents emerged
• The Englishes that emerged in Canada and the US (and
Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa) were the result of
mixing of contact dialects from numerous parts of the
British Isles.
• This type of mixing of dialects is referred to as koineization.
• Variables such as proportions of dialects (Scottish settlers,
Irish settlers, Cockney settlers, settlers from other nations)
in each of the country’s koineization mix created quite
distinct Englishes across and within each of the countries.
• The accents in Australia and New Zealand are less
regionally defined within their borders, because these are
younger countries, and population mobility and
improvements in communications didn’t allow for the
geographic isolation needed for accent fragmentation.
Phonemic variation
• Vowel mergers – the merger of near and square to the /iə/
diphthong in New Zealand causes bear and bare to be
pronounced the same as beer.
• Vowel distinctions – the kit vowel in New Zealand English is
centralized, e.g. fish and chips as [fəʃ ən tʃəps].
• Vowel distinctions /æ/ and /a:/ – there are class and
regional differences in the pronunciation of certain vowels,
such as
/æ/ or /a:/ in words like chance and castle, with middle
classes favouring the latter.
• Rhoticity – speech is generally non-rhotic across the region,
except in some pockets like the Southland region of New
Lexical variation
• Borrowing from indigenous languages – in Australia, lexical borrowing mainly
occurred in the naming of aboriginal or local environmental items, such as
boomerang (hunting weapon), billabong (waterhole). In New Zealand,
borrowing extends further than items associated with indigenous culture.
• Same meaning, different word – walking in the woods is called hiking in
Australia and tramping in New Zealand; light footwear are jandals in New
Zealand and thongs in Australia; and a sweater is a jumper in Australia and a
jersey in New Zealand.
• Preserved vocabulary and idiomatic expressions – of interest is the
preservation of lexis that have been largely dropped from use in their UK
origins. Examples include billy (a pot for boiling water) from Scotland, fair
dinkum (authentic) from Derbyshire.
• Abbreviation – another common feature is lexical shortening, including the
addition of the famous -o and -ie suffixes typical of Australian English. The
result is words like tellie (television), chrissie pressies (Christmas presents),
barbie (barbeque), and journo (journalist). These features are also found in
New Zealand English.
Grammar-syntactic variation
• Tense and aspect – studies have shown younger speakers in
Australia are levelling irregular verbs, but New Zealand English
is more conservative in terms of the regularization.
• Modal verbs – modals in Australasia see the decline of shall in
favour of will, and should in favour of ought. The region also
sees better or gotta instead of have to or should (e.g. we
better go; we gotta go).
• Pronouns – inconsistency of use of gendered pronouns. There
are objects that are consistently masculine (e.g. plants,
animals, and vehicles with unknown drivers), and objects that
are consistently feminine (e.g. environment, vehicles
themselves, and buildings). Interestingly, a vehicle–driver
combined referent is masculine (e.g. A truck came flying out in
front of me, and he was swerving all over the place), but a
vehicle by itself is feminine (e.g. She’s a beautiful car, that
Attitudes towards variation in the
• The Australian media has been very active in bringing the accents of
politicians to the forefront:
– The Courier Mail newspaper, for example, associates the broad accent
of Julia Gillard (former prime minister) with political prowess.
– Alexander Downer’s (politician) ‘cultivated’ Australian accent has been
labelled ‘posh’ and ‘plummy’.
– Tony Abbott (current prime minister) stated that his political party
would ‘always speak with a strong Australian accent’ when targeting a
member of the then prime minister’s cabinet, who spoke with a broad
Scottish accent, as not being ‘local’ or ‘home-grown’.
• Because of such public attitudes, ‘posh’ Australian accents are very
likely to vanish in the following decades from Australia as they are
seen as the remnant of a colonial past (Moore, 2007).
Part 4
English language variation in
the Caribbean
Development of Caribbean Englishes
• Channel 2 (slavery) played a larger role in the
spread in this region than channel 1 (settler
– Most importantly in the present linguistic perspective,
different settlement patterns have resulted in North
American varieties of English being characterized by
dialect transmission (with some degree of koineization
but also innovation) as against Caribbean forms of
English being shaped by process of creolization
(Schneider, 2008, p. 23).
A note on difficulties in generalizing
across regions
• The book acknowledges the inherent dangers in making any
geographic or historical division of linguistic boundaries:
– The English of the Bahamas has more in common with North American
Englishes due to its place in history as a settler destination for AngloBahamian British loyalists who escaped the US after the Revolutionary
War (Childs and Wolfram, 2008).
– Boundaries with USA are less distinct, such as Gullah-speaking AfroBahamians moving from South Carolina and Georgia to the Bahamas.
– Barbados could be argued to have developed its creole English very
differently than other plantation colonies in the Caribbean, due to its
long 300-year British colonization history and the fact that white
settlers outnumbered black slaves in the first 25 years of its
settlement, marking a huge difference in language exposure in the
creolization process (Blake, 2008).
Role of English in the Caribbean
• English is the official language of a number of Caribbean nations, including:
Antigua and Barbuda
The Bahamas
Barbados (alongside Bajan)
Dominica (alongside Antillean French creole)
Jamaica (alongside Jamaican Patois)
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia (alongside Saint Lucian French creole)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago
• Only Jamaica lists their English creole (Patois) alongside English as a separate
official language. Most nations have English as the official language, although in
practice the English creole is more commonly used, or an official distinction is not
made between the two.
Phonemic variation (1)
• Bahamian English vowels are more similar to North American than
Caribbean varieties in the cases of their goat and lot vowels (Childs
and Wolfram, 2008).
• The mid-central vowel /ʌ/ in strut is prominent in Bajan English, but
it is rare in North American Englishes. Anglo-Bahamian Englishes
are often compared to UK varieties of English (Childs and Wolfram,
• Bajan English has a distinctive pronunciation of the price and prize
diphthong as [ʌɪ], which causes visitors to comment that Bajan
English is somewhat ‘reminiscent of the west of England, or an Irish
brogue’ (Blake, 2008, p. 315).
• Vowel mergers – in Trinidadian English, vowel mergers appear, such
as the vowels in bird–bud; body–buddy; cut–cot–caught; bit–beat;
and harm–ham. Words like hat and heart are only distinguishable
by vowel length (James and Youssef, 2008).
Phonemic variation (2)
Dental fricatives – the stopping of voiced and voiceless dental fricatives is
characteristic of Caribbean English, with RP accented /θ/ realized as /t/ as in
think, and /ð/ realized as /d/ as in these.
Rhoticity – Caribbean accents tend to be non-rhotic across most of the region
except in Bajan, which is fully rhotic across all communities of speakers.
There is a tendency in the Bahamas to delete the initial /h/ sound in words like
harm, hat, and hurry (to produce ’arm, ’at, ’urry). Tobagonian English also
omits the /h/ sound in most words where it is the initial sound (James and
Youssef, 2008).
Vowel assimilation in Jamaican English occurs across syllables, as in see it
pronounced [si:t]; and syllable amalgamation occurs across syllables like do it
pronounced [dwi:t], and go on pronounced [ɡwa:n] (Devonish and Harry,
2008). A similar phenomenon is also reported in Tobagonian English, where
words like boil become bwoil (James and Youssef, 2008).
Consonant clusters – in Togonian English, sounds are omitted in consonant
clusters, such as from becoming fom, and smell becoming mell (James and
Youssef, 2008).
Lexical variation
• Due to the process of creolization, many African words
from the language:
– e.g. Bahamian obeah meaning witchcraft.
• Because of the links between the USA and the Bahamas,
some lexical items entered Bahamian English through
– hoe-cakes (cornmeal cake)
– gulin (greedy)
– ninny (breast) (Reaser and Torbert, 2008).
Grammar-syntactic variation
• Tense and aspect:
– Omission of the verb to be: you [are] fat, I [am] smart, he [is] over
– Levelling of verbs to the present in the Caribbean (e.g. he swim
– Tense markers (e.g. past tense indicated with the addition of ben in
I ben run, done in he done eat it).
• Auxiliary verbs – double-modals (he might could come) are common in
Jamaican English, but not in Bahamian.
• Pronouns – like many British varieties of English discussed in
Section 4a, substitution of pronouns is pervasive across the Caribbean.
Gendered pronouns (e.g. she’s a good boat) are also pervasive,
perhaps due to the influence of seafarers in the islands.
Reaser and Torbert (2008) on Bahamian English; Patrick (2008) on Jamaican Creole
English; and James and Youssef (2008) on Trinidad and Tobagonian English.
Attitudes: the case of Jamaica
• Jamaica is one of the few Caribbean nations to make an official distinction
between English and Patois as co-official languages, creating a political
view that they are two distinct languages.
• While English is used in formal public settings and in written discourse,
Patois is used in informal private setting and in oral discourse.
• The lines between the two languages are not as distinct as policy
indicates, and as education in Jamaica has traditionally moved speakers
towards Jamaican English and away from Patois, features of Jamaican
English regularly make their way into spoken Patois.
• Devonish and Harry (2008) argue that for many Jamaicans, English is a
second language acquired through education as the language of formal
speech and writing, and that the creole is spoken as a native language.
• In the Caribbean, historical educational policy sought communities to
move toward a more ‘standard’ English instead of the creoles spoken
– Policy over time has changed and Caribbean Englishes are now promoted in
education, government, and literature.
– In Jamaica, ‘recent years have seen the “functional dethronement” of
Standard English as the exclusive language of public–formal domains and
there is a shift toward a local variety as the new standard’ (Melchers and
Shaw, 2011, p. 123).
Summary of Lecture 4 (1)
The ‘native’ Englishes were developed from transported Englishes from the
British Isles.
Contact with other languages and accents in each region gave birth to new varieties
of English.
Power of class-based divisions in the UK manifested in a geographically unbound
RP accent.
The Englishes of Canada, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand are the result of
koineization process. Plantation colonies in Jamaica, Bermuda, and other parts of the
Caribbean resulted in the development of new L1 varieties of English through
It is clear that English varieties have different connotations of politics and power in
various parts of the Inner Circle:
– In the UK, an RP accent is considered a marked accent and still holds a great deal of power.
– In America, the standard American accent (whether northern or southern) permeates
across America. This region sees divisions in power and language that are based along race
and regional lines, rather than class and regional lines as seen in the UK.
– Due to the youth and mobility of the Australian population, there is far less regional
variation than in the UK and USA, and lines are drawn almost entirely according to ‘broad’
and ‘cultivated’ lines.
Summary of Lecture 4 (2)
• Other members of the Inner Circle show divisions of power and
standardizations along the lines of these three examples:
– In Ireland and New Zealand there are similarities with post-colonial Australia
which show a movement away from RP-influenced accents.
– Canada follows a similar line with the USA with an unmarked ‘standard’
English, although racial lines are far less pronounced than in the USA due to a
very different history of racial tensions.
– The Caribbean sees movements like those witnessed in the UK, where regional
varieties are becoming a source of pride and identity rather than as
• In summary, politics, power and language is a very complex network, and
is subject to quick change due to society attitude and other external
Key terms
Gendered pronouns
High rising tone
Canadian rising
Vowel merger
Appalachian English
African American Vernacular
Bare root verbs
Levelling (of accents)
Further reading
On Englishes of the British Isles:
• Kortmann, B. and Upton, C. (eds). (2008). Varieties of English: The
British Isles. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
• Hudges, A., Trudgill, P., and Watt, D. (2012). English Accents and
Dialects. New York: Routledge.
On the Englishes of North America and the Caribbean:
• Schneider, E. W. (ed.). (2008). Varieties of English 2: The Americas
and The Caribbean. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
On the Englishes of Australia and New Zealand:
• Kortmann, B., Buridge, K., Mesthrie, E., Schneider, E. W., and Upton,
C. (eds.) (2008). Varieties of English 3: The Pacific and Australasia.
Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.