The word-stock of the English vocabulary is divided into literary vocabulary and colloquial vocabulary or the literary layer and the colloquial layer in accordance with the generally recognized division of language into literary and colloquial. The general aspect of the literary layer is its markedly bookish formal character. The general aspect of the colloquial layer is its spoken lively character. These two layers stand in opposition to neutral vocabulary.
The general aspect of the neutral layer is its universal character. It is unrestricted in its use and can be employed in written and spoken varieties, in all spheres of human activity, in all styles of language. Neutral words carry some information which may be called basic and which conveys the main idea of an object, process, action, etc. Literary and colloquial words besides basic information are encumbered by additional characteristics about the quality, manner of speech of the speaker, his social, educational, cultural status and emotional state, etc. So neutral words are said to have no special stylistic colouring, whereas
literary and colloquial words have a definite stylistic colouring. Literary words, both general and special, contribute to the message the tone of seriousness, sophistication, sobmnity, elevation; they are learned, bookish and high-flown. Colloquial words contribute to the message the tone of informality; they are nonofficial, conversational.
According to the generally accepted stylistic classification of the English . vocabulary the literary layer consists of the following groups of words: 1) common literary; 2) special literary: terms and learned words; poetic words; archaic words; barbarisms and foreign words; literary coinages including nonce-words; the colloquial layer consists of the following groups: 1) common colloquial; 2) special colloquial: slang; jargonisms; professional words; dialectal words; vulgar words; colloquial coinages.
The common literary, neutral and common colloquial words are grouped under the term Standard English vocabulary.
The maim variants and dialects of the English language
1. General Characteristics of „the English Language in Different Parts of the English-Speaking World
It is natural that the English language is not used with uniformity in the British Isles and in Australia, in the USA and in New Zealand, in Canada and in India, etc. The English language also has some peculiarities in Wales, Scotland, in other parts of the British Isles and America.
Modern linguistics distinguishes territorial variants of a national language and local dialects. Variants of a language are regional varieties of a standard literary language characterised by some minor peculiarities in the sound system, vocabulary and grammar and by their own literary norms. Dialects are varieties of a language used as a means of oral communication in small localities, they are set off (more or less sharply) from other varieties by some distinctive features of pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary.
The differences between the English language as spoken in Britain, the USA,
Australia and Canada are immediately noticeable in the field of phonetics. They are confined to the articulatory-acoustic characteristics of some phonemes, to some differences in the use of others and to the differences in the rhythm and intonation of speech. The variations in vocabulary are not very numerous and are found in the semantic structure of words and in their usage. The dissimilarities in grammar consist in the preference of this or that grammatical category or form to some others.
Since BE, AE and AuE have essentially the same grammar system, phonetic system and vocabulary, they cannot be regarded as different languages. Nor can they be referred to local dialects.
Lexical Differences of Territorial Variants
Speaking about the lexical distinctions between the territorial variants of the English language it is necessary to point out that all lexical units may be divided into general English, those common to all the variants and locally-marked, those specific to present-day usage in one of the variants and not found in the others. The latter may be subdivided into
lexical units denoting some realia that have no counterparts elsewhere and those denoting phenomena observable in other English-speaking countries but expressed there in a different way.
Less obvious are the regional differences of another kind, the so-called derivational variants of words, having the same root and identical in lexical meaning though differing in derivational affixes (e.g. BE acclimate — AE acclimatize, BE aluminium — AE aluminum).
When speaking about the territorial lexical divergences it is not sufficient to bring into comparison separate words, it is necessary to compare lexico-semantic groups of words or synonymic sets, to study the relations within these groups and sets.
Thus, the lexical distinctions between different variants of English are intricate and varied, but they do not make a system. For the most part they are partial divergences in the semantic structure and usage of some words.