British English

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British English (BrE) is a term used to differentiate the form of the written English language in the United Kingdom from other forms of the English language. It is also used by some, particularly Americans, to describe the spoken versions of English used within England. Within the United Kingdom the term is rarely heard. British people say they speak English, they would never say that they speak British, and others speak English with accent eg a "Canadian accent". When speaking they will often drop the word "accent" and simply say Canadian, American, Jamaican etc. A less ambiguous term is English English.

Although British English is a term which can be used when describing formal written English used in the United Kingdom, the forms of spoken English used in the United Kingdom vary considerably more than in most other areas of the world in which English is spoken. Dialects and accents vary not only within regions of the UK, for example in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales but also within England. The written form of the language, as taught in schools, is universally Commonwealth English with a slight emphasis on a few words which might be more common in some areas than in others. For example although the words "wee" and "small" are interchangable, one is more likely to see "wee" written by a Scot than a Londoner.

For historical reasons dating back to the rise of London in the 9th century, the variety of language spoken in London and the East Midlands became the standard English within the Court and thus the form of language generally accepted for use in the law, government, literature and education of the British Isles. Like other forms of languages, the English used in Britain changes over time. Although British English is often used in the United States to denote the English spelling and lexicon used outside the US, the term Commonwealth English is more accurate for this purpose. The British spellings were most famously recorded in Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language (1755).

Words of the sort organize/organise and their derivatives can be spelled with either s or z in British English. The -ize forms are promoted by the Oxford English Dictionary. British English with -ize is sometimes known as OED spelling and may be marked by the registered IANA language tag en-GB-oed. It is the spelling used by the Encyclopaedia Britannica, by the United Nations, and by many international organizations and academic publications. The -ize forms were used by the London Times until the mid-1980s. The -ise forms are now generally used by the British government, by the European Union and mostly taught in the British school system. They are far more prevalent in common usage. Pam Peters (2004, -ize/-ise) relates that British National Corpus data indicates the ratio of popularity for -ise forms to -ize forms in Britain is 3:2.

Historically, the widespread usage of English across the world was attributed to the power held by the British Empire, and hence the most common form of English used by the British ruling class was the English used in south-east England (in the area around the capital city London, and the main English university towns of Oxford and Cambridge). This form of the language is associated with Received Pronunciation (RP), which is still regarded by many people outside the UK (especially in the United States) as "the British accent". From the second half of the 20th century to the present day, the pre-eminence of the English language has largely been linked to the economic, military and political dominance of the United States in world affairs, and American English is often regarded as the most prominent form of English in the world today, especially with the large amount of U.S. cultural products (films, books, music, etc) around the world, which is not matched in volume by those from other English-speaking nations.

The form of English spoken and particularly written in the United Kingdom is still a major cultural influence for the English used in many Commonwealth countries, including Australia, South Africa, and India, as well as in the European Union. Although British English is taught and used in the former British colonies of Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, American English is often taught in Chinese and Japanese schools, and throughout other schools in Asia.

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