1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email

American English (AmE)

By

American English (AmE)

Noah Webster, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language (1806)

Definition:

Broadly, the varieties of the English language spoken and written in the United States and Canada. More narrowly (and more commonly), the varieties of English used in the U.S.

American English was the first major variety of the language that developed outside of Britain.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • Some Characteristics of American English vs. British English
    "The economical nature of American English is seen in several commonly observed linguistic processes, including the use of shorter words (math - maths, cookbook - cookery book, etc.), shorter spellings (color - colour), and shorter sentences (I'll see you Monday vs. on Monday). The differences can be captured in the form of what we call principles or maxims, such as 'use as little (linguistic) form as possible.'

    "Regularity is found in the way in which American English changes certain paradigms of English that have some irregular members. Cases of this include the elimination of irregular verb forms (burn, burned, burned, rather than burnt), doing away with shall and keeping only will to indicate future, the regularization of the verb have (Do you have . . .? as opposed to Have you . . .?), and many others."
    (Zoltán Kövecses, American English: An Introduction. Broadview, 2000)


  • Agreement in American English and British English
    "American and British English often differ in their treatment of agreement with collective nouns, i.e. nouns with singular form but plural meaning, such as committee, family, government, enemy. In American English the singular is usually preferred with such nouns, but in British English they are sometimes followed by a verb form in the plural and a plural pronoun:
    AmE The government has decided that it has to launch a campaign.
    BrE The government have decided that they have to launch a campaign.
    This difference is especially clear in sports writing:
    AmE Mexico wins against New Zealand.
    BrE Mexico win against New Zealand.
    However, staff and police normally take plural agreement in American English as well. . . .

    Although Americans mostly use singular agreement with the verb, they are likely to use plural pronouns to refer to collective nouns (see further Levin 1998):
    AmE That's the sign of a team that has a lot of confidence in their players.
    (Gunnel Tottie, An Introduction To American English. Blackwell, 2002)


  • Dialect Endangerment?
    "As some of the more remote areas of the [U.S.] are opened to intercommunication with the outside world, their distinctive language varieties, fostered in isolation and spoken by relatively small numbers of people, may be overwhelmed by encroaching dialects. . . .

    "Though the ultimate fate of American English dialects in the new millennium is often debated in public and by the media, it is hardly an issue to linguists. Current dialect surveys based largely on phonological systems, in particular, vowel systems, rather than on isolated lexical items and scattered pronunciation details indicate that American dialects are alive and well--and that some dimensions of these dialects may be more prominent than they were in the past."
    (Walt Wolfram and Natalie Schilling-Estes, American English: Dialects and Variation, 2nd ed. Blackwell, 2006)


  • American English vs. British English
    "Americans tend to invent all sorts of new nouns and verbs and make words that shouldn't be . . .. [W]e must act now to ensure that English--and that to my way of thinking means English English--maintains its position as the world language."
    (Prince Charles, quoted in The Guardian, April 6, 1995)

    "[T]he Englishman, of late, has yielded so much to American example, in vocabulary, in idiom, in spelling and even in pronunciation, that what he speaks promises to become, on some not too remote tomorrow, a kind of dialect of American, just as the language spoken by the American was once a dialect of English."
    (H.L. Mencken, The American Language, 4th ed., 1936)


  • The Lighter Side of American English
    "We really have everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language."
    (Oscar Wilde, "The Canterville Ghost," 1887)

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.