The Battle Between American and British English in a Globalising World

The Internet has been globalising culture and interaction at an increasingly rapid rate, especially among speakers of the same language. In Facebook pages I have joined relating to French politicians or news organisations, for example, a large number of regular commenters are clearly of West African, North African, or Near Eastern origins, and I've realised that many of them are not from France nor are immigrants there. Similarly, if you go on most any website and read anonymous comments in English, it's impossible to say where that person might be from: A commenter could easily be from the Netherlands or Scandinavia - or indeed almost anywhere in the world - and write just as fluently as anyone from the U.K., U.S., Canada or so on. In that context, then, what sort of English are these people speaking? What are the prevailing norms of English used online in our ever-expanding global contacts?

One might think at first that American English has the upper hand. After all, the United States is by far the world's most populated fully Anglophone country, and American movies, television and websites hold a great deal of popularity. However, I would say that it is really British English that is taking the lead worldwide, as the Anglophones of Oceania, South Asia, Africa and Continental Europe for the most part take their linguistic cues from modern British English, rather than the American norms which diverged from the home country most notably in Noah Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language, first published in 1828. The increasingly popular Al Jazeera English, for example, have become a media voice for the developing world and consistently use British forms. I really think South Asia and the Middle East are British English's secret weapon; although English speakers from Cairo, Kolkata and Cardiff may not have a lot in common, they all couldn't give a toss about Noah Webster.

(April Fools! I do honestly think British English has the upper hand as the internet grows more global, but this blog will now go back to being Americanised in its language.)

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