Submitted by perenna on November 2, 2004

Realize or realise?

I have this impression that American orthography started to differ slightly from the British spelling because the emigrants sort of started from a clean table in their writing, and spelling grew closer to pronunciation. Americans write ‘realize’, ‘organize’, ‘Elizabeth’, while Brits write ‘realise’, ‘organise’, ‘Elisabeth’: when said aloud, the words have a voiced sibilant, hence the ’z’ instead of ’s’.

Also vice versa. The clearly sounding ’r’ in American pronunciation in words like ’word’, ’bird’, ’are’, should, according to my knowledge, derive from the same liaison between speaking and writing: because it is written, it can also be heard. The audible ’r’ is a kind of relic that has worn off from the British pronunciation.

Is this so?

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Brian -

They're not different languages at all. Just variations of the same language. Dialects. Certain words, phrases, and accents differ, but it's definitely the same language.

It's not like a Brit would travel to America and not be able to understand what was being said. In fact, most of the differences are so minor that it really doesn't matter much at all. I'm sure an American could adapt to British English very quickly.

That would be like saying people in Kansas and Nevada speak different languages. Incorrect.

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Difficult to understand why, in a debate about English, everybody seems to spell "pronunciation" incorrectly.

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Yes, most dialects of British English drop the R but this is replaced by vowel lenghtening. Thus wod and word are different because the vowel is lengthened in place of the lost R. It is a mistake to say the r is just pronounced different. Look at any International Phonetic Alphabet transcription in a British English dictionary and you'll find the r is not there. This is the difference between rhotic and non-rhotic. RP (Received Pronunciation), the "posh English accent" is non-rhotic. Thus car is really something like /ka:/ with a lengthened vowel. However, there is still a "linking r". Thus when you say "a car and a book" in a non-rhotic dialect, it is pronounced "a ca: rand a book". The r sort of attaches to the next word.

However, traditionally, English is rhotic. Non-rhoticity (r-dropping) has been spreading from the southeast of England and has gradually taken over most of the country. The American pronunciation of English is more conservative and archaic.

BTW, Shakespeare would have originally sounded more American than English. So movies like "Shakespeare in Love" are really historically inaccurate. No one had posh English accents in those days because they hadn't yet developed. The vast majority of England even in the 19th century pronounced R like Americans do. The West Country dialect of the South of England still retains this pronunciation.

Nicholas

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Sometimes the American way of saying things is the old way, not the new way. For many years there were no standard spellings in England. We (U.S.) spell Elizabeth with a "z". We are not at all bothered by different spellings of words between ourselves and the Brits.
I am personally on a crusade to correct the idiotic pronunciation - on either continent - of the word Espresso, which means "pressed coffee", NOT Expresso (cringe!) which is a brand name for a pen. I heard Gordon Ramsay say this the other day. Freaked me out.

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One thing you may need to consider is that America is a melting pot. So many have immigrated to the U.S. in order to start a new life with a little old and a little new culture. American's try to embrace as much culture as possible. If changes have been made it is to unify all those coming in. Spellings may have changed and while it may seem "lazy" to some to use phonetic spellings, how much harder would it be for a new immigrant to learn the language if it wasn't spelled phonetically?

Cultures and societies change, why anyone would want to arrest that, is against human nature. Why did we lose the Greek form of the original words? or the Latin form? Because of change.

As other countries change as well, maybe not as quickly. America seems to have the stigma as being the "place of opportunity" so the influx of immigrants is higher, therefore change is exponential compared to others. Yet, there is still some inkling of history in the American culture (but not just from one place).

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Don't know if this has been said, but to the OP: In England we don't spell Elizabeth with an 's'. It's spelt with a 'z', there are just different spellings families choose. For instance, the name 'Kayleigh' can either be spelt that way or 'Kaylee', they're both correct, there are just prefered spellings.

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"Finally, and perhaps most pedantically, I do so wish Americans would drop the phrase "British accent". There is no such thing...There are more accents in the English language spoken within Britain than in the rest of the world put together...So please refrain from insulting the Scots, the Welsh, northeners and all the rest by suggesting they have the same accent as I do."

I am sorry Enid that someone identified you with the island that you are from. It seems as though you are quite offended, but equally arrogant as well. How can you claim that your island has more dialects than the rest of the English-speaking world? Have you been to Jamaica? Maybe you have also exchanged words with someone from Hawaii, Louisiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, California, New York or Maine? I should not even mention Nigeria, Australia or New Zealand either, but have you? It is so nice of you to throw the rest of the English-speaking world into one pile. In my opinion, the people that have the right to be offended when someone labels their accent as being "British" is the Irish, the Australians and the kiwis, because they are all too often thrown into the same pot as you are, but they are from different islands and/or countries.

Despite this comment, I also wanted to echo something important that other people on this thread have already pointed out. English is still an actively growing and changing language, with different spellings and pronunciations. Many words that the Americans use today are from Britain, but the British continued to live and change while the Americans had a period of a language freeze (if you could call it that) during the colonial times. This is also the reason why there are two different spellings for many words, i.e. heighth and height. I teach my students that it does not matter if you spell c-o-l-o-r / c-o-l-o-u-r, or r-e-a-l-i-s-e- / r-e-a-l-i-z-e-, both are correct.

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>> Finally, and perhaps most pedantically, I do so wish Americans would drop
>> the phrase "British accent". There is no such thing...
>> There are more accents in the English language spoken within Britain than in
>> the rest of the world put together...
>> So please refrain from insulting the Scots, the Welsh, northeners and all the
>> rest by suggesting they have the same accent as I do.

Enid, there are possibly more accents in the north of England than in the rest of the country put together, also when Americans talk about the "British accent", what makes you think they are talking about your accent any more than mine? or do you think that only your British accent is correct.

BTW, the use of the term 'British accent' is no more common than the equally accurate 'American accent'.

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Americans speak ’the sort of English´

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I have read with great intrigue and, as a Scot, I can barely understand English people sometimes because they have such strange accents. the "British" media always portrays the Scots ad Welsh as having strong accents but the Eglish are sometimes unintelligable. For example I was having a conversation with an English girl the other day in Dundee and we were talking about potatoes (lol !). She said "Is there a lot of famine in this area?" I replied "Famine?!? 1852 was the last major famine in this country!" And she said "No..... famine". I was puzzled, "Famine?" She said "You know: the people who grow crops !" And I finally understood what she had meant. "OH !!! FARMING"

I find the dipthongs in English-English and non-Rhoticity really difficult to understand.

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I know the IPA and I think I know what you're saying... but "does not belong to the international phonetic standard"?

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Hey guys, just a thing that I just read on the top of this page:

Some people have said here that English speakers from England do not drop the "R" sound in words like "word", "world", "bird", whereas american people reproduce that sound.

I would just like to say that this is not true. If any of you has already studied some about phonetic symbols, in this case for English, you have got to agree with me. What happens is that english people have 'created' a new phonetic symbol, that does not belong to the international phonetic standard, that is that kind of "R" sound that they made in those kind of words. The correct pronunciation for "bird", for example, is /b3d/ (where this "3" represents the 'strong shwa' phonetic symbol). It may even be similar to a R sound for some people, but is quite different, actually. Therefore, the british pronunciation for "word" and "wod", as someone has asked above, is respectvely /w3d/ and /wod/.

I hope to have helped somehow.

[]'s

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Rhotic speakers pronounce ‘r’ after vowels in all positions, even in words such as ‘cart’, ‘horse’ and ‘far’. It has long been assumed that American English is r-full, in that speakers of this variety always pronounce ‘r’, while English English is r-less, as those speakers drop ‘r’ after vowels. Non-prevocalic ‘r’ is a part of most people’s stereotype of a North American accent, and its use there could be the result of immigrants from the British Isles at a time when the non-prevocalic ‘r’ was more common in the UK. In her article ‘English dialects transported’, Kniezsa claims that ‘what was transported of the language was preserved, in which case the language of the new country shows a variety of archaic forms not to be found any longer in the speech of the mother country’ (Kniezsa quoted in Ureland 1996:351) However, to say that rhotic ‘r’ is a variant of English that was exported to America and has since become extinct in British English is misleading. There are certain areas of the UK where post-vocalic ‘r’ prevails, and on the other hand, there are regions in the USA where this feature has never occurred. Some interesting, yet complex comparisons can be drawn between the historical developments of rhoticity in both countries.

1.0 The development of Rhoticity in the UK

In the UK, the most revered form of English is Received Pronunciation. The fact that RP is r-less suggests that when British English started to lose post-vocalic ‘r’ in the 18th Century, the reason behind it was prestige. Dialect maps from the Survey of English Dialects show the South West, North West and Tyneside and Scotland to be the conservative regions of this feature in the UK. This suggests that, like the /æ/ vs. /a:/ distinction before it, the change from rhoticity originated in the South East and diffused outwards from here. However, unlike the former distinction, the change from rhoticity spread to the north of England but not to the West Country. The reason for this pattern of diffusion becomes more apparent when one considers where rhotic ‘r’ occurs in urban speech. There are very few cities, in England at least, where post-vocalic ‘r’ is a feature. Even in those cities located in ‘r’ conservative areas, rhoticity is not a feature. Clearly, urban areas were significant in the process of this particular linguistic change, which is not surprising given the period during which this change started. The 18th Century saw a rapid growth in cities, particularly in the north of England, as a result of the Industrial revolution. Communication and travel between the South East and the ‘power house’ cities of the North was more essential and available than ever before and facilitated the spread of non-rhotic speech northwards. This would also account for the continued use of ‘r’ in the urban speech of Bristol and the South West. Not only did the West Country have little part in the revolution, but also, as a city, Bristol did not grow much during the 18th century. The docks here were limited in their ability to expand to deal with the new industries, and were subsequently overtaken in importance by Liverpool.
The differentiation does not just occur on a geographic scale, but on a social scale too. Not only is rhoticity in British English no longer the norm, it is now stigmatized as a non-prestigious archaic form and a sign of rusticity, but at the same time of a kind nature. In cities such as Bristol and Exeter, rhoticity occurs in speech a long way up the social scale. However, in nearby Bournemouth, which traditionally has had closer links with London and has a far more varied class population, rhoticity is much less common. Bournemouth was also a ‘new’ city that did not exist before the coming of the railways. It was populated by ‘incomers’ from London, which gives a further reason for its lack of rhoticity.

1.2 The development of Rhoticity in America

The situation in America is far more complicated than in the UK, as there are two possible ways in which a distinction between rhotic and non-rhotic accents in America came about. The first theory claims that the original settlers in the r-less regions of America were non-rhotic before they arrived. Wyld, for example, proposed that the weakening of /r/ began as early as the mid 15th Century, allowing it to have been transported to America as a prestige feature. However, a second suggestion is that the r-less variety may have become prestigious in the UK a lot later. Most linguists believe it to have only become prestigious as late as the 18th Century. In this case, the weakening of /r/ would have become prestigious in America at the same time as in the UK as a result of the strong bonds between the two countries.
In giving evidence for first theory, Wolfram & Schilling-Estes comment that the ‘configuration of the dialects of the Eastern United States still reflect the distribution of early British habitation of the New World.’ (1998:25) According to them, the distribution of ‘r’ pronunciation was explained geographically; the speech variants could be mapped to the areas settled by various immigrants from different speech communities in Britain. For example, mainly immigrants from rhotic Northern Ireland populated the mountains of South Carolina, while immigrants from supposedly already non-rhotic southern England settled the coastal plains. This is one explanation for the marked difference in ‘r’ pronunciation between these two areas today.
However, some linguists believe all British English was rhotic at the time of settlement. In their article ‘Dialects in the US: Past, Present and Future’ Wolfram & Schilling-Estes claim that ‘the speech of the Jamestown colonists more closely resembled today’s American English than today’s standard British speech.’ (1998:93) This statement presumes that at the time of colonization, rhoticity was a feature of all British Englishes. If this were true, the loss of rhoticity would have become a prestige feature in London at the end of the 18th Century and been transferred to America via contact with the East Coast ports. In support of this theory, a linguistic map of North-Eastern USA from the 1930s shows r-lessness radiating from the cultural centre of Boston. However, there are ‘pockets’ of rhoticity that appear to have maintained r-full pronunciation. It is these so called ‘relic’ areas that suggest diffusion of non-rhotic pronunciation has occurred, and the fact that younger speakers in these communities preferred r-less pronunciation implied that the variant was still spreading. Either way, both rhotic and non-rhotic accents can be found in some areas, which suggests a complex linguistic development has occurred.
In his chapter on rhoticity, Downes suggests that ‘both forms crossed the Atlantic as folk pronunciations’ (1998:156). That is to say both forms reached America before either was the norm or a prestige variety, and as such, r-less speech only acquired prestige once the social elite on the eastern seaboard adopted it from Britain. This argument highlights the very close ancestral ties between southern England, New England and the aristocracy of the southern states. Alternatively, Lass (1987) argued that the first settlers were non-rhotic speakers from southern England, and subsequent waves of further immigrants from Ireland and Scotland imported rhoticity at a later date.
The debate as to whether r-less speech gained prestige from England, or on the other hand whether settlers were already non-rhotic by the time they had arrived can be resolved by a compromise proposed by Downes. He suggests that r-less speech became prestigious well after the colonization of America. However, this would have ‘confirmed’ any ‘r’ variability in the eastern ports and encouraged continued ‘r’ loss. Downes added that ‘there is no doubt that non-rhoticity had general prestige across the coastal south’ (1998:159). In support of this, we have evidence of hypercorrected r-less speech in some southern US accents where even today, ‘r’ is dropped altogether, giving us pronunciations such as ‘Pais, Texas’, meaning ‘Paris, Texas.’

2.0 Comparison of development of Rhoticity in UK and USA

Once we have understood how the two variants came to co-exist, it is necessary to understand how the non-rhotic pronunciation came to spread unevenly across the east of America. The explanation for this distribution mirrors the social diffusion that occurred in the UK during the 18th Century. American linguist Raven McDavid claimed that ‘rhoticity was associated with lower levels of education, older speakers and rural as opposed to urban speech.’ (Downes 1998:155) This suggests a similar scenario to what was happening in the UK at the time. Like the Industrial Revolution, the expansion of the plantations saw the social elite spread outwards from the coastal ports, but certain areas were left culturally isolated. The mountains, inhabited by rhotic speaking Ulster immigrants, were not suitable for plantations and were left undeveloped. The consequence was that the non-rhotic plantation owners diffused towards the hinterland taking their prestigious r-less pronunciation with them.
Perhaps the most significant difference between the development of rhoticity in American and British English, is that in the last century, there has been something of a revival in the non-prevocalic ‘r’ in the American English up and down the Eastern Seaboard. In Britain, or rather England, on the other hand rhotic ‘r’ is very much an archaic variable that is unlikely to become prestigious and is most likely to eventually become extinct. However, it is important to point out that in some parts of the UK, rhoticity is still in use and much debated. In her study ‘Postvocalic /r/ in Scottish English: Sound Change in progress?’ Romaine discusses some of the ambivalent attitudes expressed towards this feature in Scottish English. Grant (1914) is quoted as labeling it a ‘idiosyncratic speech defect’, (Romaine quoted in Trudgill 1978:145) while Spietel (1969) found it to be a marker of ‘polite Edinburgh speech.’ (Romaine quoted in Trudgill 1978:145). At the same time, other types of non-prevocalic ‘r’ are becoming widespread in the UK. The so-called ‘intrusive ‘r’’ is a special form of juncture between a word with a spelling that suggests a final ‘r’ and a word that starts with a vowel. For example, ‘four eggs’ may be pronounced ‘four reggs.’
However, in most of the UK, r-less pronunciation has diffused and replaced r-full pronunciation, while in the USA both types were spreading vigorously from opposite centres. In 1966 Levine and Crocket performed a linguistic investigation in a town called Hillsboro, which sat on the border of Midland r-full pronunciation and Southern r-less pronunciation. Speakers with high status were perceived to use both rhotic and non-rhotic pronunciation, while in more formal speech, r-full pronunciation was more common. In complete contrast to non-rhotic use in the UK, r-less speech was the variant used by the old and working class members of society. People in white-collar jobs, and the middle classes preferred r-full speech and thought it to be correct. Consequently, this community appeared to be transitional, and, under the pressure of outside norms, saw rhoticity become the prestige norm.
While the socially mobile, upper classes were responsible for the original transition to r-lessness in both America and Britain, some investigators have questioned who is responsible for this reversal of a historic pattern. Labov performed an investigation into the use of rhotic ‘r’ in New York in 1962. He observed that traditionally, New York was an r-less city during the 19th Century; however, like most of the eastern seaboard, the use of rhoticity had become more variable. In his investigation he looked at the use of rhotic ‘r’ amongst several class types in New York on the basis that ‘the linguistic variable ‘r’ is a social differentiator in all levels of New York city speech.’(Labov 1972:169). He did this by grading the class of shop assistants according to the prestige of the department store they worked in. His method was simple; by asking the assistants loaded questions that required the answer, ‘on the fourth floor’, he could record the use of rhotic ‘r’ in correlation with class. The results showed that the assistants in the more prestigious department stores were more likely to use rhoticity than those in the less prestigious stores. In later sociolinguistic interviews, the amount of r-fullness increased with the formality across all classes, however the middle class informants appeared to overtake the upper class informants in more formal contexts. This hypercorrection suggests that it is the linguistically insecure lower middle classes, and particularly women, who are the agents of this change. The curvilinear hypothesis supports these findings. It claims that linguistic change does not occur at extreme ends of a social continuum, rather, those in the upper working and lower middle classes are at the forefront of linguistic change.

3.0 Conclusion

In conclusion, the east coast of the USA, like the south east of England, has for generations been characterized by non-rhotic speech. However, rhotic speech has been the norm in the American mid-west for just as long. Those living on the east coast have looked to the historic cultural centres of Boston and Philadelphia for linguistic guidance, eschewing rhotic pronunciation as rustic. However for many reasons, there appears to be a growing perception that a rhotic ‘General American’ accent is the norm for American speakers. This may be because the connotation of British English as the most prestigious form has ceased since Britain is no longer the global super-power it once was. At the same time, according to Trask ‘radio, films and television are dominated by rhotic speakers from the Midwest.’(Trask 1996:281) In either case, the studies of Labov, Levine and Crocket serve to demonstrate that there has been a change in the social significance of rhotic ‘r’. Many linguists are unable to provide an explanation for this apparently whimsical change. Trask, however, claims ‘the solution to the problem of the apparent (linguistic) reversal is simple, almost banal. Indeed, it was hardly a linguistic change at all, but rather a social one.’ (Trask 1996:284)

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David, what are you talking about? Dennis already made the same point (correctly), uh, two and a half years ago. Also, no one is making any "arrogant" claims here (except for maybe you). If anything, Americans are often CRITICIZED (incorrectly) about using -ize. And while we're at it, I think you mean MISinformation, not DISinformation. Misinformation is incorrect information. Disinformation is intentionally false government propaganda possibly intended to mislead an enemy.

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My OED isn't clear or something; I think it says that "ize" predates "ise" in English in general. But some words, including the one under discussion, were spelled with "ise" before they were spelled with "ize". fwiw.

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I’ve never read so much disinformation in my life!

How arrogant of the Americans to assume that the -IZE spelling is their creation! Maybe if they were able to pick up a reputable (ie - NOT Websters!) English grammar book and read it, they would find out that the –IZE form predates the Anglo-Saxon recolonization of their continent; hence, realIZE is NOT an Americanism.

it's true that much of the foreign-influenced idiosyncrasies of English morphology were subsequently simplified by the Americans - maybe as a result of their lack of desire (or comprehension) to adhere to the original etymological roots of certain words (théâtre/theater, encyclopaedia/encyclopedia, maneuver/manoeuvre, dialog/dialogue) - however, the -IZE form of the factitive is NOT an Americanism! The IZE form predates 19th century Frenchification to –ISE. Hence the word REALIZE should be spelt with a Z if one should wish to adhere to the original English spelling (before Columbus ‘discovered the New World’!).

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dennis is correct.
-ize is not an american invention. I've read a lot of old british books (circa 1950 edition) and they spell "realize". Since near 1980 it becomes "realise". We dropped the -ize stuff because it looks awful. But we keep the -our on the other hand, so OED can rest on that.
As for the 'r' we mostly don't pronounce it, but in Liverpool for instance you can hear it loud and clear.

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I'm American so what do I know, but it seems to me that the Irish also pronounce the rotacized schwa (the "American" R of 'word'). What's more, as I think it was mentioned, Bostonians replace this phoneme with a vowel (like the Brits) and, while Texans flaunt it, their phonologically southern cousins to the east (Appalachians, for example) tend to replace this sound with a vowel (like Brits and Bostonians). Some of New York City's boroughs (like Brooklyn or Queens) traditionally replace this sound with a diphthong (oi, as in woid, boid, etc). Basically, the R of "word," "bird," "work," etc is not really an R at all. It is a rotacized phoneme that lingers between consonant and vowel. Since it is surrounded by consonants, the tendency is to realize it as a vowel or diphthong (in England, the American southeast, Boston, and parts of New York City). In some cases, the orthographicaly represented vowel before it gets pronounced and the rotacized schwa becomes a consonant (like in Scotland), though usually, that spelled vowel is actually just there because of English spelling (not phonological) rules. It is an incredibly rare phoneme among the world's languages (less than 1% have it). It is also found in Mandarin (especially in Beijinghua, where it is stuck onto the end of almost every word). I don't know of any languages other than some dialects of English and some dialects of Mandarin that use this sound.

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Re the "r". Although in most parts of England, poor, paw, and pour would all be pronounced the same, in Scotland they are distinctly different. The Scots do pronounce their r clearly.

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Personally I think that Bill Gates has a lot to answer for. I didn't have any problems spelling until my spell checker (English UK) changed all my izes to ises.
More seriously, it would seem that publishers have their own rules, prefering one version or the other.
For what its worth, I have noticed that the FT (Financial Times) uses both.

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Hey, I was born American but live in the U.K. I must say I prefer British English to American English. It is much more intelligible in my opinion. Using phonetics is lazy IMHO, I speak British English now as I see it as the original and correct English. I don't see myself looking back.

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"realize" is from French "réaliser" so if we're using etymology as an argument, as some people here are doing, it should be spelled with "ise".
http://www.bartleby.com/61/9/R0070900.html

And MartynB's notion that small variations in spelling mean the end of... something or other... is riduculous. This isn't the first time we've had variations in spelling - Middle English spelling was quite inconsistent. "majesty" could be spelled "majesty", "maiesty", or "magesty". And yet, English speakers survived!

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My understanding, as an Englishman educated at an English school founded before the reign or either Elizabeth, is taken from both the corporal punishment of my English grammar tutors whilst inculcating into me the immutable rules of grammar, puctuation and spelling (with obvious difficulty) and the ultimate arbiter on such matters, the Oxford English Dictionary.

The OED states that it does not publish the "ise" versions of words because the correct spelling is "ize". Apparently, the root of such words comes not from the Latin but from the Greek and therefore includes the Greek letter "Zeta" ("zed" in English).

Sadly, the English system of educatation has long abandoned the teaching of its own language just as it has abanoned virtually the whole of the remainder of its culture so one can only conclude that the "ise" will ultimately have it.

English - the living language of a dying race:-(

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For those of us maintaining that the r is dropped in British English and retained in American English, I would like to point out that American English, too, drops the r (at least in words like "word" and "bird," "are" is another story). In these words, (word and bird) the r becomes rotacized in American English, effectively serving a vocalic purpose. Imagine for a moment, if you will, that "word" and "bird" dropped the o and the i respectively, giving "wrd" and "brd." Try pronouncing those in American English. You'll find that they are still pronounced as they were before dropping the o and the i. This is because those vowels are really only spelling conventions. The rotacized r (rememer, the r sound is a liquid in American English and thus has many vocalic properties) does the work of a vowel, not a consonant.

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I'm rather late in entering this discussion, but I cannot leave it without making a couple of remarks.

Cassandra, can I gather from your distinction between dialect and language that Swedish, Danish and Norwegian are in fact no more than dialects of the same language? I'd be loth to argue the point amongst a bunch of Vikings....

Oh, and then there's using QE II's spelling of her name as evidence for something or other. Whoever came up with that one?! She's German, after all.

Finally, and perhaps most pedantically, I do so wish Americans would drop the phrase "British accent". There is no such thing. I'm from the south east, and I have trouble understanding people from the Scottish Highlands. There are more accents in the English language spoken within Britain than in the rest of the world put together - including Franglais, Chinglish and what have you. So please refrain from insulting the Scots, the Welsh, northeners and all the rest by suggesting they have the same accent as I do.

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What are you folks talking about?

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I always suspected that the differences couldn't have been natural/gradual developments, because in Canadian English we generally side with the Brits in terms of spelling, but can go either way on pronounciation.

I think it's also important to note that the first Harry Potter book is called "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone", NOT "...the Sorcerer's Stone". That's not even a dialect thing... that's just some American editors not liking the word "Philosopher", despite the fact that it derives from legends older than J K Rowling. Grrrr.....

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So who is correct

Is it ok for the american english to say bayta instead of beta or kuebec instead of quebec.

I have been informed as a british national my words with the letter r in them are silent to the point that you cannot hear them - these to me are the words i grew up with.

Its like erb and herb - to me its always said as HERB

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Brian - it's not different languages, it's different dialects. Dialectical differences account for different pronounciations and different spellings - though they remain mutually intelligible.

goossun - the american R is generally higher and farther back in the mouth. Though the southern and eastern pronunciation (or rather how they have relaxed the tongue) is closer to a British accent.

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Thought this might be a nice curiosity: http://home.comcast.net/~helenajole/Harry.html

Think that they’ve gone to so much trouble to ensure that the American readers find themselves at home with the book! I had no idea that British books have special editions for USA. (J K Rowling is a brit, isn’t she?)

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OK, nice to hear from an expert. Got any links to material that supports and enlarges upon the claim, Dennis?

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The distinction between -ise (British) and -ize (American) is incorrect.
The -ize version is the old British version and it is still used in Great Britain, for example at the University of Oxford and in academic publications.
The -ize spelling is not an American invention, it existed long before the USA were founded (~15th century).

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The distinction between -ise (British) and -ize (American) is incorrect.
The -ize version is the old British version and it is still used in Great Britain, for example at the University of Oxford and in academic publications.
The -ize spelling is not an American invention, it existed long before the USA were founded (~15th century).

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Brian, don't be sorry. I'm glad to hear that the old British ortography prevails.

My conclusion arose from the other comments to my question, and from the fact that in the largest and most prominent English-Finnish dictionary 'z' seems to be the more usual spelling. I always took it for granted that British English is the preferred version in this dictionary, but now it seems that the compilers of the dictionary never thought about it properly enough to decide. In their work they have used both British and American sources.

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I am sorry Perenna, but the "z" (and that is pronounced "zed" for all of you who would like to learn how to speak English) has not won anything. It's a simple concept: in Britain one speaks English, and one uses an "s" in words such as "realise". In America, ones speaks American English (i.e. a different language), where the letter "z" is preferred, and is also pronounced differently. Stop trying to make out as if one is right and the other is wrong. They are two different languages. Do you think the Belgians and French argue about what the correct word for "ninety" is in French? No, they simply use different words and agree that they speak a different language, despite both being known as French for simplicity's sake. I hope this clarifies everything for everyone.

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Marrie, my English teacher, a Brit by birth, told that the Brits sometimes add an r BETWEEN words where there is no r. In other words, not 'Indiar' (Indi-aa) but the r can be heard sometimes in phrases like 'India-r-and Pakistan'.

It's true that Queen Elizabeth writes her name with a z.

Well, this thing about s's and z's is what I read in textbooks about the history of the English language. Now it seems that the z has won, in other words, the American spelling.

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Your Irish <i>craic</i> is brilliant! What's more, Irish immigrant influence on certain U.S. accents, such as in the boroughs of New York, leads to some "r-dropping." "Take da El train ta Toity-Toid an' Toid" is a perhaps apocryphal set of directions, but it preserves an Irish accent in American English, complete with substituting a hard "t" for the "th" dipthong, which I don't believe is found <i>an gaeilge</i>.

Slan Go Foill

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You write "..speakers of English in England did drop the R.." - I find they didnt drop the R, they just changed it's place.
Have you heard an englishperson pronounce
"India" (-> "Indier")
"Anna" (->"Anner")
etc.

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Well,
all the versions with the s are correct... in french.

Elisabeth, realise...

British and french always had a good relationship...
*cough*cough*

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Elisabeth? That's certainly not the preferred British spelling.

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As a non-English speaker who spant ages to pronounce the word, "word" properly, I can say that that R is not droped in British accent, its just pronounce diferently than American. I have listen very very carefully to many people saying this word.
As an Persian speaker the letter R to my native ear sounds the way it is pronounced in Spanish. Neither Englishs nor American sound like that.
Can someone discribe the position of tongue in the both American and British way? I know how it is but can't discribe it.

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Well, now, that's true. I've never been to England, though. Is there an English speaker from England in the house? We could use a good breakdown of how the R drops in various dialects in England.

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Can you really say that in England the 'r' is "dropped" when they pronouce "word" differently than they would "wod"? It's not silent.

--TS

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What an interesting observation. I've always thought that the opposite was more usually true, and that spelling followed pronunciation. Of course both views are true, since languages are much older than the individual speakers could ever be, and the diversity in English, in particular, is rich and strange.

Without doing research (I am, as usual, wasting time at work), I seem to remember that the particular change from "s" to "z" resulted not from a passive growth in one direction or another, but from active spelling reforms made by Webster (he of the dictionary) and his colleagues near the beginning of the founding of the U.S. (He also is said to have advocated other phonetic spellings, such as "tuf" for "tough.") I think that since classical Greece and Rome were idealized during that period, Webster and his cronies were trying to cause written English to adhere more closely to his day's understanding of how classical Greeks and Romans might have spelled the words--but that's only my conjecture.

As far as the "r" in "word" and "bird" and "are" is concerned, the "r" would not be there in the first place unless it represented a sound, I think. I know that English is not particularly consistent in this respect, but it is not particularly inconsistent either. At some point speakers of English in England did drop the R, but I seem to recall that the dropped R began among the socioeconomic upper class and did not become widespread in England until after the US gained its independence.

I may of course point to Boston as a place where US speakers do regularly drop the R, and of course here in Texas and the South speakers often overpronounce the R in the middle of words and/or drop it at the end.

Speaking of spelling and how it conforms to pronunciation--I once made an Irish friend laugh out loud by voicing my frustration with spelling in Gaelic. What I had said was, "The rule for spelling Irish Gaelic is to take the alphabet, throw out half the letters you think should be in the word, and spell at random with the remainder."

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