British English in America?

When I started working with British people, I quickly realized there’s a bit of a divide between us when it comes to language.  Some British people are adamant that British English (spelling, pronunciation, etc.) is the only real English, that it is better and it is the right English.  Some Americans will argue that American English is right and British English is strange.  In fact, I’ve seen several people actually argue over this point.

But what I got to wondering about the other day is how it got to be this way.  I know there have been books written about English and its transformation, the distance between England and America, etc.  But the thought I had was whether or not the founding fathers of America spoke British or American English.  Now I know the founding fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 were all born in America and this was many years before people began arriving from England and other countries.  So perhaps the language had time to change and evolve.  But they rebelled against England and I wonder if they gave any thought to language during this.  Why didn’t they reject English?  Why didn’t they adopt another language?  Perhaps they purposefully strayed away from British English as a means of rebellion.  I wonder if people living in the Colony of Virginia, a British colony, even realized they spoke with a British accent and that their language identified them as British subjects.  Furthermore, did British people always speak with British accents?  Perhaps accents have changed over time and they didn’t always sound the same as they do now.

Anyway, I know there’s no cut and dry answer to the many questions I’ve raised so far.  But I know that some modern countries consider language a very defining part of their national identity.  So it makes sense that if a country were trying to pull away from another one, they might do the same.  It would probably take a lot of research to find answers to these questions but the point of writing this isn’t to answer these questions, just to start a dialogue and perhaps present a fresh way of looking at history.


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