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As a Spanish (Spain) speaking person I can notice the differences between European and American Spanish. Is there also such a big difference between European and American English?

Vocabulary and Phoneticaly wise.

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    I'm not sure how you would quantify the differences, but anecdotally, I do know that there are sufficient differences in accent that my father from NYC had a lot of trouble understanding "the natives" when he was assisting his company's Australian division. Jun 30 at 15:33
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    You mean 'between British English and American English'. See this blog. Jun 30 at 15:49
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    An interesting question that raises a crucial problem: what measures of language might be used to quantify and compare difference? We would need measures of vocabulary, verb forms, word order, phonetic shifts from original pronunciation, declension, conjugation, syntactical parsing, and many other aspects. These matters are so broad that an answer is impossible here, being at best an informed opinion. For this (opinion reason) I suspect the question with be closed. I will not vote to close yet, because others may have a more optimistic view.
    – Anton
    Jun 30 at 17:38
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    I'd like to know the answer, if it were knowable. But this is the sort of thing you'd hafta be a native of all 4 dialects with vast linguistic knowledge of them to answer properly. I'd think Borges could have done it, if someone had asked him; but I don't know of anybody else offhand. Jun 30 at 17:50
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    @Mitch, the differences may be quantifiable on each of the dimensions you list, but there is bound to be some arbitrariness in any attempt to combine the scores for different dimensions into some kind of an overall score. Nevertheless, the question should be reopened, because the existing answer proves that it can be given a reasonable answer; that answer deserves to be exposed to competition.
    – jsw29
    Jul 5 at 16:02

1 Answer 1

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No, there is less difference between American English and European English than there is between American Spanish and European Spanish. The reason for this is that the English were about a century behind the Spanish in the colonization of America. The means there has been more time for things to drift apart. Going the other way, look how much closer to European English that Australian English is than the American English in the United States and Canada. That's because the antipodes were settled even later than America was.

It's as easy to find differences in vocabulary between England and America as it is between Spain and America. That's always going to happen in languages spoken over such a large area. The same can be said for pronunciation, where just as virtually all American Spanish speakers "don't know how to say" z's and ll's, many European English speakers "don't how how to say" their r's. So that's all a wash for vocabulary and pronunciation.

But what really stands out in the Spanish-speaking world is that the pronouns and the conjugations of the verbs are quite different. This is grammar not lexicon, so it's much more striking. That doesn't happen in any of the Englishes.

Most American Spanish speakers have no second-personal plural vosotros, vosotras pronouns and corresponding verb inflections like habláis and hablad. In American Spanish one uses the formal third-person ustedes forms instead, which is a completely different person. And some countries in America use vos for the second-person singular instead of , which brings its own verb forms like vos hablás in some countries

It's very hard to find anything in English that's so dramatically different transatlantically in terms of grammar as this is in Spanish.

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  • I was taught that the pronunciation of 'z' and 'll' in Spain itself is a "posh issue". And European English speakers not knowing how to say 'r' is more of a difference between Spanish and English. It's almost a different consonant written the same, as with the French 'r'. Jun 30 at 19:01
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    Very informative, if unavoidably brief (a thorough answer would make a book or two). It reads like the convincing basis of a substantial answer. I will not now vote to close.
    – Anton
    Jun 30 at 22:02
  • The biggest grammatical distinction I can think of is that BrE is a bit more free with some contractions than AmE. I think the description of ustedes is a little incomplete, but close enough to make your point. Jul 1 at 0:10
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    @AzorAhai-him- What does BrE do that compares to “y’all’dn’t’ve”?
    – KRyan
    Jul 1 at 4:21
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    @walen Yes, I'm sure that yeísmo is now the default. Even 40 years ago, few if any of my professors in the Facultad de Filosofía y Letras at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid made any effort to avoid yeísmo in their own speech (ni Carlos Bousoño). The history of changes in choices of second-person pronouns (tú, vos, usted, ustedes, vosotros) is far more interesting and varied. It's more complex than just the loss of vosotros alone, too, although for that we do have concrete dates showing the trends as the link shows.
    – tchrist
    Jul 1 at 12:27

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