The use of the English language in most member countries of the Commonwealth of Nations was inherited from British colonisation. Mozambique is an exception – although English is widely spoken there, it is a former Portuguese colony which joined the Commonwealth in 1996. English is spoken as a first or second language in most of the Commonwealth. In a few countries, such as Cyprus and Malaysia, it does not have official status, but is widely used as a lingua franca.
Many regions, notably Canada, Australia, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Sri Lanka and the Caribbean, have developed their own native varieties of the language, primarily at the spoken and informal written level.
These varieties of English are sometimes collectively called Commonwealth English; this term may have originated with the 1962 publication of Aid to Commonwealth English, a TEFL resource, by the British Council. In practical usage, the term usually includes the original British English, as well as Irish and Hong Kong English (despite neither country being a member of the Commonwealth), but often excludes Canadian English, which has many distinct features due to amalgamation with American English and influences from French.
Written English as used in the Commonwealth generally favours British spelling as opposed to American, with some exceptions in Canada, where there is a strong influence from neighbouring American English (collectively, the US and Canadian dialects form North American English). Few Commonwealth countries besides Canada and Australia have produced their own dictionaries and style guides from major publishers, and rely on those produced in the United Kingdom, especially for formal writing.
The report of the Inter-Governmental Group on Criteria for Commonwealth Membership states that English is a symbol of Commonwealth heritage and unity.
Southern Hemisphere native varieties of English began to develop during the 18th century, with the colonisation of Australasia and South Africa. Australian English and New Zealand English are closely related to each other, and share some similarities with South African English (though it has unique influences from indigenous African languages, and Dutch influences it inherited along with the development of Afrikaans from Dutch). The vocabularies of these dialects draw from both British English (in the main) and American English (especially for recent terminology), as well as numerous native peculiarities.
Canadian English contains elements of British English and American English, as well as many Canadianisms and some French influences. It is the product of several waves of immigration and settlement, from Britain, Ireland, France, the United States, and around the world, over a period of almost two centuries. Modern Canadian English has taken significant vocabulary and spelling from the shared political and social institutions of Commonwealth countries.
Caribbean English is influenced by the English-based Creole varieties spoken, but they are not one and the same. There is a great deal of variation in the way English is spoken, with a "Standard English" at one end of a bipolar linguistic continuum and Creole languages at the other. These dialects have roots in 17th-century British and Irish English, and African languages, plus localised influences from other colonial languages including French, Spanish, and Dutch; unlike most native varieties of English, West Indian dialects often tend to be syllable-timed rather than stress-timed.
Second-language varieties of English in Africa and Asia have often undergone "indigenisation"; that is, each English-speaking community has developed (or is in the process of developing) its own standards of usage, often under the influence of local languages. These dialects are sometimes referred to as New Englishes (McArthur, p. 36); most of them inherited non-rhoticity from Southern British English.
Several dialects of West African English exist, with a lot of regional variation and some influence from indigenous languages. West African English tends to be syllable-timed, and its phoneme inventory is much simpler than that of received pronunciation; this sometimes affects mutual intelligibility with native varieties of English. A distinctive East African English, often with significant influences from Bantu languages such as Swahili, is spoken in countries such as Kenya or Tanzania, particularly in Nairobi and other cities where there is an expanding middle class, for whom English is increasingly being used in the home as the first language.
India has the largest English-speaking population in the Commonwealth, although comparatively few speakers of Indian English are first-language speakers. The same is true of English spoken in other parts of South Asia, e.g. Pakistani English, and Bangladeshi English. South Asian English phonology is highly variable; stress, rhythm and intonation are generally different from those of native varieties. There are also several peculiarities at the levels of morphology, syntax and usage, some of which can also be found among educated speakers.
Many of the differences between American and British English date back to a time when spelling standards had not yet developed. For instance, some spellings seen as "American" today were once commonly used in Britain and some spellings seen as "British" were once commonly used in the United States. A "British standard" began to emerge following the 1755 publication of Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language, and an "American standard" started following the work of Noah Webster and in particular his An American Dictionary of the English Language, first published in 1828.Webster's efforts at spelling reform were somewhat effective in his native country, resulting in certain well-known patterns of spelling differences between the American and British varieties of English. However, English-language spelling reform has rarely been adopted otherwise, and so modern English orthography varies somewhat between countries and is far from phonemic in any country.Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally known as the Commonwealth, and historically the British Commonwealth, is a unique political association of 53 member states, nearly all of them former territories of the British Empire. The chief institutions of the organisation are the Commonwealth Secretariat, which focuses on intergovernmental aspects, and the Commonwealth Foundation, which focuses on non-governmental relations between member states.The Commonwealth dates back to the first half of the 20th century with the decolonisation of the British Empire through increased self-governance of its territories. It was originally created as the British Commonwealth through the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference, and formalised by the United Kingdom through the Statute of Westminster in 1931. The current Commonwealth of Nations was formally constituted by the London Declaration in 1949, which modernised the community, and established the member states as "free and equal".The human symbol of this free association is the Head of the Commonwealth, currently Queen Elizabeth II, and the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting appointed Charles, Prince of Wales to be her designated successor, although the position is not technically hereditary. The Queen is the head of state of 16 member states, known as the Commonwealth realms, while 32 other members are republics and five others have different monarchs.
Member states have no legal obligations to one another. Instead, they are united by English language, history, culture and their shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. These values are enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter and promoted by the quadrennial Commonwealth Games.
The countries of the Commonwealth cover more than 29,958,050 km2 (11,566,870 sq mi), equivalent to 20% of the world's land area, and span all six inhabited continents.Imperial units
The system of imperial units or the imperial system (also known as British Imperial or Exchequer Standards of 1825) is the system of units first defined in the British Weights and Measures Act of 1824, which was later refined and reduced. The Imperial units replaced the Winchester Standards, which were in effect from 1588 to 1825. The system came into official use across the British Empire. By the late 20th century, most nations of the former empire had officially adopted the metric system as their main system of measurement, although some imperial units are still used in the United Kingdom, Canada and other countries formerly part of the British Empire. The imperial system developed from what were first known as English units, as did the related system of United States customary units.Scottish English
Scottish English includes the varieties of English spoken in Scotland. The main, formal variety is called Scottish Standard English or Standard Scottish English (SSE). Scottish Standard English may be defined as "the characteristic speech of the professional class [in Scotland] and the accepted norm in schools". IETF language tag for "Scottish Standard English" is en-Scotland.In addition to distinct pronunciation, grammar and expressions, Scottish English has distinctive vocabulary, particularly pertaining to Scottish institutions such as the Church of Scotland, local government and the education and legal systems.Scottish Standard English is at one end of a bipolar linguistic continuum, with focused broad Scots at the other.
Scottish English may be influenced to varying degrees by Scots.
Many Scots speakers separate Scots and Scottish English as different registers depending on social circumstances. Some speakers code switch clearly from one to the other while others style shift in a less predictable and more fluctuating manner. Generally there is a shift to Scottish English in formal situations or with individuals of a higher social status.
Commonwealth of Nations topics
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