A Dictionary of Varieties of English
Author: Hickey R.
The present dictionary is intended as a tool for students and scholars alike. Essentially, this book contains two types of definition: (i) varieties of English and the regions/countries where these are spoken and (ii) terms and concepts from the linguistic analysis of varieties. The book is intended to give information about present-day varieties around the world, but in order to do this some historical facts must also be covered, both for English in England and at other locations. The time depth for varieties stretches back a few centuries, to the beginning of the colonial period. A discussion of English spoken before then, roughly before 1600, properly belongs in histories of the English language, rather than in treatments of varieties. However, there are some references in this book to variation in English prior to the seventeenth century where this throws light on later developments.
All varieties of English are essentially sets of varieties and more fine-grained treatments of these are found in individual studies (see the Reference Guide) which reveal many more levels of detail than can be covered here. Nonetheless, the purpose of the definitions is that readers appreciate the broad picture. Many statements in the dictionary entries are true as a first approximation and are useful in delimiting groups of varieties. For instance, Southern Hemisphere Englishes have a raising of short front vowels when compared to Northern Hemisphere Englishes in general. However, in Australian English the vowel in words like hat, sat, pat has been lowered in recent decades, representing a trend in the opposite direction to the overall picture (Cox 2012 [8.1]).
A further point is that by its very nature a dictionary treats its subject matter as a collection of discrete entities. However, the reality of the subject matter may well be different. In the present case the varieties of English which are listed individually are not always clearly separated from each other. It is more common for speakers to position themselves on a continuum whose extremes are represented by the most vernacular and the least vernacular forms of their English. Indeed many speakers deliberately move along this continuum depending on the nature or purpose of a specific situation.
The rise of varieties of English is essentially about language change as no variety is identical to its historical source. This change took place both internally in speech communities and through contact with others at the locations where new varieties arose. Matters concerning language contact and change are thus dealt with throughout the present book.
An effort has been made in this dictionary to indicate the directions of research in variety studies so that students can appreciate what research avenues are currently topical should they be considering pursuing their studies in varieties of English. The introduction concentrates on research questions and many definitions address these as well.
There is a website accompanying the present book which can be accessed at http://www.unidue. de/SVE. There, readers will find more information, especially visual material – maps, charts, tables – which supplements what is available here. There is also a special text file that contains more definitions and references which were too late for the present edition. This file can be accessed under ‘Dictionary update’ and is continually updated.
Towards the end of this book there is a structured bibliography for varieties of English. Much of the literature there is referenced in the dictionary definitions as well as in the introduction.