British English

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Many different forms of English are spoken in the United Kingdom. It is the most linguistically diverse area in the English-speaking world. Major changes in accent and dialect may occur over the space of a few miles. The three major divisions are normally classified as Southern English dialects, Northern English dialects and Scots dialects.

The form of English known to many people outside the United Kingdom as British English is the English dialect spoken in the south east of England. This is the form of English used by the Government and by newspapers, radio and television. Within the United Kingdom it is often known as the King's (or Queen's) English.

American English, Australian English, New Zealand English and Pidgin English are among the many newer English dialects that have emerged since the period of emigration from Great Britain during the expansion of the British Empire.

There are many differences between the various English dialects. These can be a major impediment to understanding among the older dialects, generally found within the United Kingdom. A speaker of one dialect may find the speaker of another dialect incomprehensible. Thus speakers of different dialects within the United Kingdom tend to use the Queen's English as a lingua franca.

However dialect differences are not, in general, an impediment to understanding among the newer overseas dialects, which are for the most part, linguistically very close to each other and to the Queen's English. For examples of differences however, see American and British English Differences. A literate, educated English speaker will generally know many forms. Due to the combined effect of the wide reach of US media and American insularity, knowledge of American English in Britain is more common than the reverse.

The various English dialects differ in the words which they have borrowed from other languages. Scots includes many words originally borrowed from Old Norse or Gaelic, New Zealand English has many words from the Maori language, American English has borrowed words from its Spanish speaking neighbors and European immigrants.

For more on borrowed words, see the Articles on English language, American English, Australian English, etc.