Regional & Dialectical Variations of Standard English

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  • 0:04 Variety in English
  • 0:32 Dialect and Accent
  • 1:42 Dialect in the UK
  • 2:51 Dialect in the US
  • 6:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

The English language is complex, with multiple regional and dialectical variations. In this lesson, we examine the different variations of the English language in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Variety in English

The English language is so complex that many native English speakers don't even use it properly. When you add in the dozens of dialects and accents in America and other English-speaking countries, it becomes even more complicated. All of these varieties are slightly different from one another. Since it would take a book to discuss all of these differences, let's just focus on the main regional variations and dialectical variations of Standard English in America and the United Kingdom.

Dialect and Accent

A dialect is the vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation of a language. Dialects are standard and non-standard. There are regional and dialectical variations of Standard English in both the United States and the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, there are two dialects: Standard English and regional variation.

In the United States, there is Standard American English and somewhere between three and 24 regional variations. Social scientists suggest that New England, Southern, and Western are the three main regional variations of English, but there are sub-dialects within those variations that bring the number up to 24.

However, it's important to note that in both instances of British English and American English, it's impossible to determine the exact amount of dialects because the language changes from one person to the next.

An accent is simply the way a person pronounces words within one's dialect. In the United Kingdom, Received Pronunciation is the accent correlated to the standard English, although dozens of variations exist. Received Pronunciation is known as the 'Queen's English.' Likewise, America has a standard accent, but tiny variations occur across the country.

Dialect in the UK

Standard English and regional variation are the two dialects in the United Kingdom. The standard English dialect is the dialect of English that's taught in schools, spoken by the media, and in law. Most often, even if a person's speech changes to a regional dialect, their writing retains the features of standard English. Over 30 different regional dialects exist in the United Kingdom, with experts saying that it's impossible to know just how many dialects of British English exist.

Here are some of the most common regional dialects of English in the United Kingdom:

  • Standard English: Taught in school and is what you would think of when you read British literature or watch a movie set in England.
  • Cockney: The working class dialect in London. Some argue that to be a true Cockney, one must have been born within hearing distance of the Bow Bells in London's Cheapside District.
  • Yorkshire: Influenced by 13th century Viking invasions, the dialect is found in Northern England.
  • Southeast Midlands: Influenced by Scandinavian, French and Middle English. It has a drawl to the words and tends to incorporate older words such as 'thee' and 'thou.'

Dialect in the United States

A Long Island University report suggests that 24 regional dialects exist in the United States. Many of the dialects are a result of settlers and colonization of the country throughout its history. The 24 regions include:

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