英式英文與美式英文為何大不同?

英國式英文與美國式英文為何大不同?

這確實是個很有趣的問題,美國人與英國人表面上講著「同款」的語言,但在某些溝通上卻會出現「雞同鴨講」的現象。記得某位英國朋友曾說過一個發生在她身上的真實笑話,這位可愛的英國女生Emma,第一次到美國當交換學生,住在接待家庭裡面,她發現自己的房間裡沒有垃圾桶,於是跟接待家庭的女主人問道:「Have you got a bin?」女主人很疑惑地反問:「What’s a bin?」Emma不放棄,比手畫腳繼續說:「A bin.」女主人依舊一頭霧水,最後終於恍然大悟,原來就是美國人習慣說的「trash can」,但兩人依然堅持不下,你說你的bin,我還是稱那個東西為can。

從這個小小的例子可以看出來,英國人和美國人對自己的語言帶有一定的堅持,甚至不願意輕易妥協。從歷史的角度來看,其實不難理解美式與英式英文發生差異的原因,當十七世紀早期新移民從英國到達美洲以後,剛開始雙方的聯繫不是那麼密切,而語言本身是會與時俱進的,因此大西洋兩岸的「英文」開始往不同方向發展。再加上後來獨立的「美國」,基本上就是民族的大熔爐,許多歐洲國家的移民紛紛登陸美國這片新天地,像是荷蘭、德國、法國、西班牙等語言,分別將一些元素注入「美式英文」中,例如:「大蘋果」紐約,直到現在還有不少街名,是受到當時「新阿姆斯特丹」這個城市中荷蘭移民的影響,而持續保留到今天。語言的變化一開始往往是出現在「說」,慢慢才將影響延伸到書面的「寫」。

除此之外,十八世紀中葉工業革命蓬勃發展後,許多新的機械名詞隨之產生,就連一些原有的名詞,像是railroad,原本發源自英國,但後來在英國本土演變成railway,卻在美國保留了railroad的用法。雖然大西洋兩岸的來往漸漸變得頻繁,但直到現在,許多新名詞的產生已沒有統一的必要性,例如:英國人習慣稱「手機」為mobile phone,美國人則稱之為cell phone。

反觀現在網路世界發達,不只是「英式英文」與「美式英文」,就連其他各種語言,在差異間似乎都變得帶有幾分相似性,這就是「活」語言有趣的地方。

History of British vs American English

The English language was introduced to the Americans through British colonization in the early 17th century and it spread to many parts of the world because of the strength of the British empire. Over the years, English spoken in the United States and in Britain started diverging from each other in various aspects. This led to two dialects in the form of the American English and the British English.

Differences in the use of Prepositions

There are also a few differences between British and American English in the use of prepositions. For example: While the British would play in a team, Americans would play on a team. Another example: While the British would go out at the weekend, Americans would go out on the weekend.

Differences in Verb usage

American and British English may also use a base verb in different manners. For example: For the verb ” to dream”, Americans would use the past tense dreamedwhile the British would use dreamt in past tense. The same applies to “learned” and “learnt”. Another example of differing past tense spellings for verbs in American and British English is “forecast”. Americans use forecast while the British would sayforecasted in simple past tense.

Differences in Pronunciation

Some words that are pronounced differently in American vs British English are controversy, leisure, schedule etc. There are also some words like Ax (Axe in British) and Defense (Defence in British) which have the same pronunciation but different spellings in both languages.

Time telling in British vs American English

Both languages have a slightly different structure of telling the time. While the British would say quarter past ten to denote 10:15, it is not uncommon in America to say quarter after or even a quarter after ten.

 

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英文為何大不同