Talk:Commonwealth English

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 Definition A blanket term for the English that developed during the British Empire separately from the United States of America. [d] [e]
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What does Commonwealth English mean?

Before even trying to begin an article of this kind, I think we need to discuss what it is, and even whether it's appropriate to refer to varieties of English in this way at all. There seems to be several potential meanings:

  • Standard written British English, as exported to current and former nations of the British Empire (often 'Commonwealth English' seems to be discussed in terms of spellings);
  • As above but including standard varieties of spoken English too, e.g. Standard Jamaican English, Standard South African English and Standard British English would all fall into this group;
  • All varieties, both standard and non-standard, of English outside the U.S. sphere of linguistic influence, including what are occasionally called 'nativised' varieties, where communities initially learned English as a second or foreign language, but over the generations developed it as a first language, influenced by the local languages: e.g. non-standard forms of Singapore English, Indian English, Chinese English and so on;
  • All varieties of what is sometimes called 'native' English but excluding 'nativised' forms, i.e. the language of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, the UK and other countries colonised by people who spoke English as a first language from the outset.

There are problems, of course. British and Irish English generally are similar - even the non-standard dialects share much in common. The written forms are virtually identical. Yet I would squirm at referring to Irish English as 'Commonwealth English' because Ireland left the Commonwealth many years ago and there are some historical issues there over terms related to the Empire, colonialism etc. Another example: Mozambique had few historic ties to the UK, but a few years ago joined the Commonwealth. Must we say that the English learnt and spoken there before this wasn't Commonwealth English, but now it is?

Additionally, this term is little-used. No-one in the UK thinks they're speaking 'Commonwealth English': I suspect this term has been developed for academic convenience, often to refer to British rather than American spelling. John Stephenson 02:46, 16 October 2007 (CDT)

I created this before reading the above; anyway I was going to put here: stub - hack it around. Ro Thorpe 18:20, 29 March 2008 (CDT)

Indeed, wise observations from John. My model seems to be his third suggestion. Ro Thorpe 18:23, 29 March 2008 (CDT)

And as he also says, the term is little used; but there are a lot of links here, rather like a disambiguation page. Ro Thorpe 18:39, 29 March 2008 (CDT)

Links to varieties of English?

At present they are links to the countries, but a true disambiguator would have the variants. Ro Thorpe 18:57, 29 March 2008 (CDT)


In or out of the C this week? Ro Thorpe 19:08, 29 March 2008 (CDT)

Commonwealth English and Ireland

Copied from Talk:British English#Northern Irish English: British or Irish?

Also, I would question the wisdom of excluding English as spoken in the Republic of Ireland (in the form of 'Hiberno-English') from 'Commonwealth English'. Hiberno-English continues to be spoken in Northern Ireland and one part of Ireland simply leaving the political institution of the Commonwealth does not render its influence and similarities invalid, or make Hiberno-English suddenly have no influence from or connection with Commonwealth English.

Hiberno-English cannot be considered, in one political jurisdiction, part of Commonwealth English while the very same dialect, as spoken in another political jurisdiction, not part of Commonwealth English. Of course, I understand that there may be some people who might not like to be associated with the Commonwealth, but that is not necessarily this encyclopaedia's concern.

This last question is relevant obviously to the article on Commonwealth English also. --Mal McKee 15:05, 9 January 2011 (UTC)

We can't label English in the Republic of Ireland as 'Commonwealth English' because the term is basically political, covering many varieties of English that are used in the countries of the Commonwealth. The fact that varieties of English either side of the border are near-identical merely reflects the fact that what linguistically would be the same language or dialect is often labelled differently by different groups (e.g. Norwegian and Swedish are largely mutually intelligible, but are regarded as different languages through having different cultures and histories). Another example: there are U.S. English dialects which are much closer to British and Irish English than the mainstream (especially in New England and, believe it or not, African-American Vernacular English or 'Ebonics'), but we would never label them 'Commonwealth English' or 'British English'. The article does point out that the UK and Ireland share spellings, for example, and that 'Commonwealth English' is an inadequate term in this respect. John Stephenson 16:07, 9 January 2011 (UTC)