How many different types of English are there? A comprehensive guide to the main differences between the different types of English spoken around the world

quanti tipi di inglese ci sono?

How many different types of English are there? A comprehensive guide to the main differences between the different types of English spoken around the world

Welcome back, language enthusiasts! Today I will take you on a journey into a topic that should interest anyone looking to improve their knowledge of the English language and answer a question that all language enthusiasts have asked themselves at least once: how many types of English are there?

I’m sure that by the end of this article, you will have no more doubts. 

How many types of English are there?

There are many countries around the world which use English as an official language. In this article, we will focus on the most popular:

  • British English
  • American English
  • Australian English
  • New Zealand English
  • Scottish English
  • Irish English
  • Welsh English
  • Singaporean English;
  • Indian English
  • South-african English

Let’s have a look at all of them in detail.

British English

British English or UK English, is the original variety of English and the most well-known and widely used worldwide.

Among the distinctive linguistic features of British English is the “RP” (Received Pronunciation) pronunciation, which is the standard pronunciation used in England by the upper social classes, in broadcasting and in many schools. British English speakers tend to use a lot of formal words and specific colloquial idioms, such as “bloody hell” (used in various contexts to convey strong emotions of shock, surprise or frustration), “mate” (a way to say friend) and “innit” (the contracted form of “isn’t it”)

British English often incorporates words that derive from Latin or French, due to the influence of the Roman Empire and the Norman Conquest in the 11th century. Examples of specific words in British English which demonstrate these diverse origins include lorry, flat, lift, biscuit and queue. Later we will have a look at some regional sub-varieties of British English (Irish English, Scottish English and Welsh English). These varieties have their own distinct characteristics and unique features influenced by their respective regions and cultural heritage.

American English

American English is spoken in the United States and Canada. American English originated from the English spoken by British immigrants in the 17th century which over time has evolved into its own unique form of English.

Among the distinctive linguistic features of American English is “General American” pronunciation, a neutral pronunciation without distinctive regional traits. In terms of vocabulary, American English often incorporates words of Native American and Spanish origin, due to the cultural influence of Native Americans and Spanish colonizers.

Examples of specific expressions and words in American English which differ to British English include truck (lorry), apartment (flat), elevator (lift), cookie (biscuit), and line (queue). American English tends to favour simpler and more direct terms and simplified spelling than British English. American English frequently uses idiomatic expressions such as “You’re in hot water” (to be in a difficult or dangerous situation) and “Bite the bullet” (to deal with an unpleasant situation that can’t be avoided).

Australian English

Australian English is the result of the evolution of British English which was introduced when Britain colonized Australia in 1788 and further developed with the influence of other European languages and indigenous Australian languages. The result is an English with unique characteristics, including a distinctive accent and a slightly different vocabulary.

Among the distinctive linguistic features of Australian English is its unique pronunciation, which includes distinct vowel sounds, vowel reduction in certain words, and a characteristic intonation pattern. Australian English frequently incorporates words of Aboriginal origin like “kangaroo” and “boomerang” and from other European languages, such as Italian, Greek, and Yiddish, due to the cultural influence of migrants. It is also renowned for its use of abbreviations and contractions, such as “Aussie” for Australian and “arvo” for afternoon.

New Zealand English

New Zealand English is the variant of English used in New Zealand. The first settlers to New Zealand were mainly from Australia and later, explorers and traders from Australia and other parts of Europe also established themselves in the region.

Its linguistic influences demonstrate significant contributions from Australian English, Northern England English, Scottish English and of course, the indigenous Māori language. One distinctive feature of New Zealand English is the “smothered” or “flattened” pronunciation of the “i” sound. The accent also shows a strong influence from Scottish and Irish accents. Some unique New Zealand words and expressions are: jandals (flip flops), Kiwi (a New Zealander) and togs (swimming costume).

Scottish English

Scottish English is the variety of English spoken in Scotland. It differs from other varieties of English due to its strong dialectal influence and the use of local words and expressions, many of which have Gaelic origins. One of the distinctive features of Scottish English is the pronunciation of consonants and vowels, which can differ significantly from standard British English.

Scottish English frequently uses Gaelic words and phrases, such as “glaikit” (foolish), “bairn” (child) and “canny” (careful). Examples of specific expressions and words in Scottish English include wee (small), “nippy” (cold), “lugs” (ears), and “muckle” (big). Scottish English is also known for its use of idiomatic expressions like “Aye” (equivalent to yes), “Lang may yer lum reek” (literally meaning “may your chimney smoke long” but figuratively wishing someone a long life), and “Dinna fash yersel” (Don’t worry).

Irish English

Irish English, the variety of English spoken in Ireland, has been greatly influenced by the Irish language (Gaelic) and possesses unique characteristics that distinguish it from other forms of English.

Among the distinctive features of Irish English is the pronunciation of certain vowels and consonants, such as the “r” sound that is pronounced differently compared to standard English. The influence of Gaelic expressions adds to its unique character, and the strong Irish storytelling tradition is reflected in the popular use of metaphors and similes.

Examples of specific expressions and words in Irish English include “craic” (fun), “sláinte” (cheers/to your health), “shamrock” (three-leaf clover, the symbol of Ireland), “langer” (drunk person), and “banjaxed” (broken). Irish English is known for its colourful idiomatic expressions such as “That’s gas” (very funny), “Jaysus” (expression of astonishment), and “Whisht!” (be quiet!).

Welsh English

Welsh English is the variety of English spoken in Wales. While Welsh (Cymraeg) is the traditional native language of Wales, English is widely used as a second language for everyday communication.

Welsh has influenced Welsh English in terms of pronunciation, vocabulary and sometimes linguistic structures. However, Welsh English still retains many features of standard British English while also exhibiting some unique peculiarities that reflect Welsh culture and identity.

Examples of specific expressions and words in Welsh English include “cwtch” (a cozy hug), “tidy” (good, fantastic), “bach” (small) and “hwyl” (spirit, emotion). Additionally, Welsh English includes Welsh linguistic influences, such as the use of the suffix “-yn” to form diminutives, for example, “housey” for “house.” 

Singaporean English

Yes, you read that right, there is a specific variety of English used in the city-state of Singapore, influenced by the country’s ethnic and cultural diversity and history. The British established a trading post on the island of Singapore in 1819 and the roots of Standard Singapore English derive from nearly a century and a half of British control. English is one of the four official languages of Singapore and is widely used in business and academia.

Singaporean English is characterized by the influence of Chinese, Malay, and Indian languages, which reflects the country’s multicultural nature. Singapore English often incorporates abbreviations and acronyms, and has its own unique pronunciation.

Examples of specific expressions and words in Singapore English include “lah” (used at the end of a sentence to create emphasis), “can lah” (can do), “shiok” (enjoyable), “ang moh” (Caucasian foreigner), and “makan” (food). 

Indian English

Indian English is spoken in India, where it coexists with numerous native languages. English was introduced to India during the British colonial period, and over time it has developed unique linguistic features influenced by the local languages and diverse cultures present in the country.

One of the main characteristics of Indian English is its pronunciation, which is different from standard British English. Additionally, speakers of Indian English often incorporate words and phrases from other Indian regional languages of such as Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali and many others. This blending of local vocabulary enriches the language and contributes to creating a unique linguistic register.

Examples of specific expressions and words in Indian English include “chai” (tea), “bungalow” (villa), “samosa” (savoury snack), “bandh” (strike), and “namaste” (greeting). Additionally, Indian English may have slightly different grammar and syntax compared to standard English.

Indian English has become an integral part of daily life in India, used in academic, commercial, media and social interactions. Recognizing and understanding Indian English is essential for effective communication with people in India and appreciating the country’s linguistic and cultural diversity.

South-African English

South African English is the English spoken in South Africa, a country well-known for its rich linguistic and cultural diversity. English is one of the eleven official languages of South Africa and is widely used as a language of communication among the country’s diverse communities.

South African English has been influenced by various languages including Afrikaans, indigenous languages such as Xhosa, Zulu, and Sotho, as well as British English. This mixture of influences is reflected in South African English pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar.

South African English pronunciation, which can vary from region to region, has unique characteristics in terms of vowel and consonant pronunciation.

South African English has a rich vocabulary that incorporates words and expressions from indigenous languages and Afrikaans.

Examples of specific expressions and words in South African English include “braai” (barbecue), “bakkie” (pick-up truck), “lekker” (nice, pleasant), “robot” (traffic light) and “Ubuntu” (a concept of humanity and community). Additionally, South African English can feature unique idiomatic expressions and cultural influences that reflect the history and diversity of South Africa.

I hope you have enjoyed this exploration into the various types of English spoken around the world, each with its own unique characteristics and influences. The diversity of English reflects the rich linguistic and cultural tapestry of different countries and regions and confirms its importance. 

If you have any further questions or need more advice on this topic or language learning in general, please feel free to reach out. Assisting students and language enthusiasts in improving their linguistic skills is both my job and my passion.