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Difference Between British And South African English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1676 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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I aim to establish dialectal features importance upon the English language. This will occur through identifying how dialectal features are introduced into speech, significant differences between British English and South African English, as well as the possible differences in application of dialect into language. I aim to identify distinctive dialectal features in ordinary, colloquial speech, which are different to English speakers.

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A comparison of British English and South African English will enable differences to be shown. Within the speech, variables will affect the language choice, not always dialectal variables. These variables include age (adults and Children in the conversation), location of the speakers (where they're from and location which they currently reside) as well as the tier of class which the speakers are from. I will focus upon South Africans (English speaking not Afrikaans- the Lingua Franca), the test subjects are from the Cape Town area in South-west South Africa. Therefore, the South African test subjects should have many similarities to the British speaking English test subjects. As a consequence, I expect the main difference between the two sets of test subjects to be lexical due to them being English speaking.


Dialect differentiates language, distinguishing location, class and other social boundaries.

The South African language is similar to the English language, a cosmopolitan, hybrid language, with lexis being drawn from many other languages and cultures. Officially there are 11 languages feeding into South African [1] from Dutch Afrikaans to English, providing dialectal words such as the Afrikaaner word "Braai" for barbeque. It is often that these words interlink into different languages with the meaning mirrored in the adopted language such as Dutch to Afrikaans lexis. This is obvious through words like "Biltong" (Afrikaans) and "aardvark" (Afrikaans) transferring to the English language.

English is seen as a "Lingua Franca" in South Africa, not necessarily the dominant language spoken language, but instead a language which is a backup language which is always spoken in contexts where appropriate, for example, English is the international business language, therefore the majority of business is conducted in English.

As a consequence Afrikaans speakers use English; the lingua franca ... language use in Afrikaans-medium high schools in Pretoria reported that they often used English words when speaking Afrikaans [2]. Therefore showing the English language's dominance due to the ability to transfer into different languages. Therefore, it'll be interesting to see if the South African language of 11 different languages and distinctive dialects transfers into the English language as seen with the transfer of French lexis such as Entrepreneur, quit or Cafe.

Dialects form through modification of standard of English, changing due to influences and situations. They are a form of expression, marking individualism or belonging to a group e.g. social grouping such as level of class (Gentry, middle or working). As Peter Trudgill interprets dialects allow for recognition of area of growing up or current residence "Other people will use this information to help them decide where we are from…" [3].

This investigation aims to distinguish the differences of lexical variations, grammatical differences, approaches to speech, length of utterances, and use of taboo and non-fluency features.

Data Analysis:

The speech is started off by statements (declarative) and questions (interrogative sentence mood), for example line one of the South African transcript "Kieron (.) dinner time". The use of these sentence moods is the typical, standard of introduction for conversation. Furthermore both transcripts feature turn-yielding cues at the end of around half of sentences, leading to the formation of adjacency pairs. Therefore, there's no difference between English and Southern African English conversations over on how they're introduced or ended suggesting this method is the standard, not fulfilling any aims of establishing dialectal differences.

The main difference between the dialects of Southern Africa and an English Dialect is a high lexical variation. A clear example is the word "robots" used in Western South Africa to mean Traffic lights. This shows the use of different lexis to apply the same meaning as also seen through the adjective "Lekker" to mean good or nice. Whereas the transcript shows the English dialect to use +degree adverbs intensifying the adjective " the food is very burnt" as opposed to the Southern African "these crunchies are lekker". The South African lexis doesn't rely upon intensifiers instead having stronger dialectal words to take the place of two words, whereas the word "Crunchies" is a piece of South African lexis for Flapjack.

Nouns have been used with inflections for both English speech and South African speech. Proper Nouns for both English and South African haven't featured the inflection of 's' with the exception of "General motors'" which said singularly on its own. However, common nouns are varied in both English and in Southern African. Concrete nouns such as "Takkies" or Pants" both feature the inflection of 's', yet concrete nouns like "Lappie" haven't featured an inflection. This feature of spoken language is mirrored in the English transcript with concrete nouns such as "apples" "crackers". This shows no difference between the South African and British English dialect in the application of inflections, not helping to solve the language investigation.

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Adjectives don't tend to have inflections such as suffixes added to them in either dialects. Both dialects lack suffixes such as '-en' to give adjectives a regional placer, helping to determine the area or social class from which the test subjects are in or reside from. The South African transcript uses adjectives such as "slow" pre-modifying nouns like any normal application of adjectives. Whereas, the English transcript also applies adjectives use; e.g. "...well ridiculously cheap". This shows there is little if no difference between uses of adjectives between these two different dialects, suggesting it again to be the standard. As a consequence neither disproving nor proving a noticeable difference between the dialects.

Whereas, adverbs are also similar with no real noticeable difference between the two different dialects. Neither dialects as discussed before seem to use suffixes onto the adverbs e.g. slowly. Adverbs have been used in both dialects as transcribed showing the adverbs to intensify or portray manner, place or time, as seen by "ridiculously cheap". As seen before, this doesn't identify dialectal differences, meaning the aims fulfilled.

However, there is a difference in pronoun structure between the two transcripts and dialects. The English dialect transcript focuses upon object personal pronouns e.g. "i didn't know this", whereas the South African transcript mainly uses subject personal pronouns (I) (we). However, this may not be a dialectal difference due to being in different circumstances with them both being on different topics due to not being scripted. Therefore it neither confirms nor disproves dialectal differences in speech.

The South African transcripts shows dynamic verbs used with past tense inflections of '-ed' as well as present tense inflections of '-e': "i lagged..." Whereas the English transcript also shows the use of dynamic verbs, but only in the past tense. Like the South African Dynamic verbs, it portrays the action having already occurred. However, neither of these inflections are dialect specific, such as an Eastern English dialect of "he walk". Therefore, this doesn't help to identify dialectal features in spoken language.

The utterance length is higher in the English transcript on average as compared to the South African, suggesting dialect may affect length of utterance. However, there are more speakers (5) as compared to (4) within the South African discourse; therefore it is more likely that each speaker will have a shorter duration of speech due to some form of interruption by another speaker. As a consequence, this hints that utterance length may be a dialectal feature; however it is more likely to have been highly influenced by the amount of speakers. Therefore not really being a useful piece of data.

The transcripts have recorded different features of non-fluency signifiers, showing that dialect may cause different non-fluency features. The South African transcript notes the high use of fillers and other parts of unscripted speech such as facework like the facilitive tag question "you're lovely (.) aren't you". voice filled pauses occur where the speaker responds, yet doesn't provide a very clear answer. Whereas the British English transcript shows quite a high use of false-starts and recycling in speech unlike the South African transcript. This clearly shows both dialects have certain non-fluency features; however they vary and may just be partially dialect specific.

It is obvious the main difference between these transcripts and dialects is lexical variation. This is not really surprising due to the South African test subjects being English spoken. English South Africa is hugely influenced by western media i.e. American TV programs. The only real way to clarify these findings of dialect not being hugely different between British English and western South African is to undertake many more tests to see if there is reliability in the results or if it shows a broader theme as such.

CUT = This conclusion is repeated through the use of negatives, where neither dialects show abnormal use of negatives, therefore not providing a noticeable difference, meaning no clear conclusion can be drawn from these results.


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