Talk:Commonwealth English

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Commonwealth English[edit]

Looking through the first few pages of Google Books results, it looks like this term may be strictly a sum-of-parts phrase denoting geographic or political scope, meaning “English, within the bounds of the Commonwealth of Nations,” and not referring to some specific variety of spoken or written English language. Searching for the phrase in quotations “Commonwealth English language” or “Commonwealth English dialect” yields practically nothing meaningful.

I also see no evidence that it refers specifically to “an orthography,” rather than the language in general.

By the way, Commonwealth English is not recognized as a variety of the language in linguistics or lexicography. The Commonwealth of Nations is a political organization whose membership changes regularly. Its boundaries split Irish English in half, and encompass Canadian English, which is most closely related to (U.S.) American English.

I've only found one clear case (p 170) where it is essentially a synonym for British English as the prototype language and its world-wide variations, although here it is glossed in great detail by its author and summed up as “differs little from ‘British English,’” and indexed as “See Britishisms” (p 267). Still, this is not clearly more than sum-of-parts, to me.

I think it fails the fried egg test.

(The string often occurs as part of a longer sum-of-parts phrase or compound term: UK and Commonwealth English language rights, Commonwealth English Language Information Centre, Commonwealth English literature. There are also decoy mentions of the w:Commonwealth of England, or “Commonwealth, English”.) Michael Z. 2009-02-25 20:01 z

I'm going to have to respectfully disagree. It certainly isn't sum of parts, since as you mentioned, it has at best a loose correspondence to the shifting political boundaries of the Commonwealth. Rather it is an attempt to express non-American (U.S.) English in a positive manner rather than a negative manner without falling back into old view that there existed only American English and British English as standard varieties of spelling. It probably would be better from a viewpoint of precision to replace {{Commonwealth}} with {{nonUS}} (non-US) and perhaps {{nonNA}} (non-North American) for markers of usage where brevity is desired and achievable. The fact that Commonwealth English is not the best choice of words to convey the intended meaning does not detract from the fact that it is used for that meaning as a PC version of British English. Carolina wren 23:27, 25 February 2009 (UTC)
This is not the right forum for sum of parts questions. To recap:
"I question whether this word/sense has been used three times in durable media" -> RFV.
"I know or suspect that this word/sense is used, but I don't think it merits inclusion for other reasons" -> RFD.
One of the good things about RFV is that it allows the citation-adders to have some confidence that their work will not be in vain; the "add some cites and then we'll decide to delete the entry anyway" game gets old really quickly. -- Visviva 03:35, 26 February 2009 (UTC)
That gripe aside, when I was looking at the cites, it seemed to me that there are two senses in play. One sense, in vogue in the mid-20th century, uses "Commonwealth English" in distinction to both British and American English; often the writer seems to have specifically Asian and African Englishes in mind. The other sense, mostly more recent, uses it to refer to "macro-British" in the same way it has been used (correctly or not) on Wiktionary. Per your own and Carolina wren's arguments above, neither seems quite sum of parts to me; at least I'm not familiar with "Commonwealth" being used by itself in either of these senses. -- Visviva 03:35, 26 February 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for the references. Sorry, I thought this would be the place to confirm, adjust, or debunk the definition in the entry; I had already tried the Tea Room.
Anyway, I had already found the Merriam–Webster quote; since it was the one and only occurrence of that term in that large volume, with no explanation. Elsewhere it considers British English to be the language of the Commonwealth nations:[1]
  • 202: . . . both Briton and Britisher are in reputable use for “a native of England, Great Britain, or the United Kingdom”—and they are sometimes taken to include people from the Commonwealth nations—often in contrast to American.”
  • 454: “Our only two fairly recent examples of British folks—and these both from Commonwealth sources—are of this construction:” [followed by quotations from Melbourne and Barbados]
  • 611: “In the following examples, the first three are British, in the broad sense that comprehends the Commonwealth nations: . . .”
  • 944: “It seems not improbable that the post-World War II revival in British English resulted as much from latent native memory as from American stimulation. Here, for instace, it crops up in a work by an Australian author: [quotation] In any case, examples for wait on from other parts of the Commonwealth are not hard to find: [quotations from NZ, Ireland, Ireland, England, Scotland] This quick survey takes in a fair number of varieties of British English and drops us back in Scotland where we began with Carlyle. It is really not surprising, then, that wait on has reappeared in mainstream British English.”
I don't believe this quotation supports Commonwealth English in distinction to British English. I think it is part of the inclusive phrase British and Commonwealth English as a clarifying expansion of British English, or an attributive use of Britain and the CommonwealthMichael Z. 2009-02-26 15:47 z
You're probably right. I picked it because it was the most recent one (and because it was the MWDEU), but it does seem like an outlier. Will replace. -- Visviva 16:34, 26 February 2009 (UTC)

Also have a look at my edits to British English[2] and American English.[3] Michael Z. 2009-02-26 17:34 z

  • I'd say it's not sum of parts, because Commonwealth English includes English as used in the Republic of Ireland, which is not in the Commonwealth of Nations. Also, Canadian spelling is a mishmash of American spellings and Commonwealth spellings, so it's in the Commonwealth but not always part of Commonwealth English. Angr 20:47, 1 March 2009 (UTC)
After looking at the citations, I'd accept Commonwealth English as an uncommon synonym for British English. People using the word word aren't that interested in who left or joined the Commonwealth and when they did it, so it is implied to include Irish but not Canadian English. It is unusual in academic use. Instances of the second sense are very hard to find.
Any objection to marking these as rare and very rareMichael Z. 2009-03-02 20:55 z
I added uncommon and rareMichael Z. 2009-03-03 18:24 z

I've added a long quotation from Sheard 2006, but I'm still not confident what it shows: he writes only about spelling, and uses Commonwealth English a bit loosely, but if you scan pp 164–70 it's clearly in distinction from British or U.K. English.

I thought the quotation from Disturbances was conspicuously unique in a 500-page reference work. Turns out it is credited to Wikipedia. See p x: “All entries marked [WP] are adapted from articles created by contributors to, the free encyclopedia under a copyleft GNU . . . ”. To cite this properly, we'd have to find a revision w:Amnesia which matched the quotation, and cite the year it was written.

I still think the attestations are not really adequate to firmly support the two senses. At best I would combine them into a single loose definition, marked rareMichael Z. 2009-03-24 21:15 z

The Disturbances 2008 quotation originates in w:Amnesia, between 28 Sept 2005 and 2 May 2006. It should be cited with the first date it was published. Michael Z. 2009-03-24 21:32 z

RFV passed. Thanks for the cites, Visviva, and cite, Mzajac. —RuakhTALK 16:14, 7 June 2009 (UTC)

Tea room discussion[edit]

Note: the below discussion was moved from the Wiktionary:Tea room.

Is this definition supported by any published dictionaries? It's absent from the NOAD, CanOD,, and M–W online. Michael Z. 2009-02-24 06:46 z

I agree. I once challenged someone to prove its existance. The Commonwealth is a political organisation, it's like saying there is a version of NATO English. Nor can anyone convince me that the same English is spoken in Kenya, Australia, India, Canada, and Belize. And what do we call English spoken outside of the USA if the country is not a member of the commonwealth, such as Ireland, or the version of English used in continental Europe. Why not just call it English, with American English being considered the other version.--Dmol 09:12, 25 February 2009 (UTC)
Surely you mean another, not the other.
Claiming only two varieties of English (American and UK or Commonwealth or whatever) is just a step away from Centrism. Yes, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and other varieties of English are different. Some even have their own dictionaries! These varieties have added words from the respective countries - some of which have become mainstream, with others remaining regional. In Singapore, I understand, people move during a single conversation between Chinese, Chinese with some English words, English with some Chinese words, English, and back again. I presume some Canadians can do the same with French. India must be at least as complicated, with many languages spoken in the country, but English used when something needs to be understood by all. And this without mentioning that Scots / Scottish English is at least as old as Middle English.
The difference between American and "English" English is minuscule in comparison with the variation in the language called English. Pingku 15:58, 25 February 2009 (UTC)

The question isn't really whether Commonwealth English exists, or what it is. The question is whether the term Commonwealth English has a conventional meaning (i.e., whether it meets our criteria for inclusion). I don't see it in dictionaries, and from a quick Google Books search it appears to be a sum-of-parts term meaning English in the Commonwealth, and nothing more (i.e., not a recognized variety of the language, or orthographic convention, or something else).

So I've filed an RfVMichael Z. 2009-02-25 20:03 z