For historical and economic reasons the English language has spread over vast territories where it got peculiarities typical for this or that variant. Variants of the language are regional variety of a standard literal language, characterised by some miner peculiarities in the sound form, vocabulary, grammar and by the own normalised literary norms. There are five of them.
British English. What might be called the standard English of Britain is the speech of the educated people who live in London and the southeastern part of England. But this is only one of the regional dialects that has, over the centuries, achieved more extensive use than others. Other dialects include the class dialect London Cockney and Northern dialects, Midland dialects, South Western dialects, Welsh dialects, Lowland and Highland Scottish, Cornish, and Irish.
American English. In spite of the standardizing effects of radio and television, there are still a number of dialect regions across the United States. Black Americans and Hispanics have made significant contributions to the creation of new dialects. Neither of these groups, however, has a uniform dialect. Each has its regional variations. The influence of the United States on Canadian English has been strong because there is no natural boundary between the two countries. Most Americans would be hard pressed to distinguish the English used in the western provinces from that spoken in the United States.
Australia and New Zealand. Both Australia and New Zealand were settled by the British, and the English language taken there came from a variety of British dialects. New terms were coined to describe the unusual plants and animals, and some words were picked up from the speech of the native aborigines in Australia and Maoris in New Zealand. There is little regional variation in Australia, but there is significant social variation, as in Britain. The language of New Zealand is quite similar to that of Australia
South Asia is made up of the countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan. The area is a vast complex of ethnic and linguistic differences; there are more than 1,600 dialects and languages in India alone. English, brought by a colonizing nation, became a second language. Today it exhibits wide diversity, depending on the background of those who adopt it and the native vocabularies they bring to it.
South Africa,the oldest British settlement in Africa, has two accepted European languages--English and Afrikaans, or Cape Dutch. Although the English spoken in South Africa differs somewhat from standard British English, its speakers do not regard it as a separate dialect. Residents have added many Afrikanerisms to the language to denote features of the landscape.
Elsewhere in Africa, the most multilingual area of the world, English helps answer the needs of wider communication. It functions as an official language in Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Uganda, and Kenya. The West African states of The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana, and Liberia have English as the official language.
British English also presupposes the division into dialects. Dialects are varieties of a language peculiar to some small locations, used in everyday speech as a means of oral communication and having non-normalised literary form. They differ from Standard English and from one another in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary.
Dialects can be social and regional, traditional and mainstream.
There is no doubt that the dialect of English that has the highest social status is the dialect, which is widely known as Standard English. Standard English is the dialect, which is normally used, in printed books and newspapers; it is the dialect used in the education system; and it is the dialect found in dictionaries and grammar books. Standard English uses grammatical forms such as: I don't want any. / She hasn't done it. / those people over there / They did it yesterday. / The person who went / He hurt himself.
The Standard English dialect itself is not entirely uniform. Scottish Standard English, e.g., is clearly different from the Standard English of England at a number of points. It uses words such as outwith 'outside', rone 'drainpipe', and ashet 'serving dish’ that are not known in England or Wales. And Scottish Standard English speakers also use grammatical forms that are not found in the Standard English elsewhere, such as: Had you a good time last night? My clothes need washed. Will I shut the door? whereas similar speakers in England and Wales would say: Did you have a good time last night? My clothes need washing. and Shall I shut the door?
There are also differences between the north and south of England. In the south, for example, people are more likely to say: I haven't seen him. She won't do it, while in the north of England you are more likely to hear people say: I've not seen him. She'll not do it.
Generally speaking, however, there is relatively little geographical variation within Standard English. It is as you go further down the social scale that regional differences become more apparent. The most regional of regional dialect forms are to be found at the 'bottom' of the social scale. Thus, the Standard English relative pronoun who corresponds to a number of different nonstandard forms in different parts of the country: Standard English dialect: the woman who taught us; nonstandard dialects: the woman what taught us, the woman as taught us, the woman at taught us, the woman which taught us
This relationship between social and regional variation, with more regional variation at the bottom of the social scale and less at the top, also applies to accents. Accent simply refers to pronunciation. A dialect, on the other hand, has to do also with the grammatical forms, as well, perhaps, as any regional vocabulary that is employed. It is important to make this distinction between dialect and accent, in order to be able to show that it is possible to speak Standard English with a regional accent. Standard English has nothing to do with pronunciation. In fact, most people who speak Standard English do so with some form of regional pronunciation, so that you can tell where they come from much more by their accent than by their grammar or vocabulary. There is only a small minority of the population, perhaps 3 to 5 per cent, who speak Standard English with the totally regionless accent we sometimes call the 'BBC' accent.
In addition to regional and social dialects and accents, English also has different styles, which are used in different social situations, and different registers, which are used for different topics.
Trudgill writes that dialects of English can be divided into two other types: Traditional Dialects, which are most often spoken by older people in geographically peripheral, more rural parts of the country, and Mainstream Dialects, which are more like Standard English, and are more associated with younger, urban speakers.
Traditional Dialects are mostly, but by no means exclusively, spoken by older people, and are clearly gradually disappearing, they are being replaced by Mainstream Dialects. Their most typical characteristic, however, is that they are linguistically very different from one another and from Standard English. Mainstream Dialects, on the other hand, which are spoken by a majority of the population, particularly younger speakers in urban areas, are linguistically more similar to one another and to Standard English. Standard English itself has to be considered a Mainstream Dialect. E.g., She's not going. She isn't going. She ain't going.are all Mainstream Dialect forms, although the first two are Standard and the third is Nonstandard. On the other hand, She byun't a-goin. Hoo inno goin. Her bain't a-goin.are typical Traditional Dialect forms. Most people have never heard such forms used, although it is perfectly possible to find speakers of such dialects if you know where to look.
In pronunciation, too, we can see the same sorts of differences. In different parts of the country, accents associated with Mainstream Dialects might pronounce a word like bone as bown or bawn or houn.On the other hand, Traditional Dialect pronunciations might include bwoon or bane or bee-yan.
To make this point clearer, we can point out that it is at the level of Mainstream Dialects that you find accent differences of the following types:
1) In the Midlands and north of England, and some areas of northern Wales, put and but rhyme, and words like cut, hush, mud, on the one hand, and words like foot, push, could, on the other, have the same vowel. In the south of England, and in Scotland and Northern Ireland, put and but do not rhyme, and the two sets of words have different vowels.
2) In southwestern England, parts of Lancashire, Scotland and Ireland, the r in words like car, for and butter is actually pronounced. In the other areas of England it is not, so that these words sound like cah, faw, butta.
3) In most of England and Wales, people with local accents don't always pronounce h in words like house, hill and hat. In Ireland, Scotland, Northumberland, Durham and parts of East Anglia, the local accents still consistently preserve the pronunciation with h.
On the other hand, Traditional Dialect pronunciations that can no longer be found in the Mainstream Dialects include the following:
1) In the southwestern peninsula of England, words which begin in the spelling with f, s, sh are pronounced with v, z, zh.So farmer is pronounced varmer,Somerset is Zummerzetand sheep is zheep.
2) In the Lowlands of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Northumberland, Cumbria, Durham and north Yorkshire, words like long, wrong, song are pronounced lang, rang, sang.
3) In the Lowlands of Scotland and Northern Ireland, words like night, right, light are pronounced nicht, richt, lichtwith the chsound that you find in German. In Northumberland, Cumbria, Durham, Yorkshire, and parts of Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, they are pronounced neet, reet, leet.