OED 100: World English programme
One of the main goals in the lead up to the centenary of OED’s first edition in 2028 is widening the geographical coverage of the dictionary. This is in recognition of the fundamental changes that the English-speaking world has undergone since the OED was first conceived: the emerging language communities of 19th century now speak established varieties of English that are developing their own standards of grammar, pronunciation, and lexis. Our World English programme acknowledges that with the current status of English as a world language, no longer is British English to be regarded as the dominant form of English – it is only one of the many individual varieties of the language that share a common lexical core but develop their own unique vocabularies.
Giving proportionate and balanced treatment to words from all over the English-speaking world is an enormous challenge, but it is one that the editors of the OED have the ability to take on, as we now have access to a wealth of information that was unavailable to editors of previous editions. The Internet enables us to instantly consult databases, newspapers, journals, and books from across the globe, as well as a number of dictionaries and grammars of specific varieties of English. We are also aided by contributions from members of the public, and specialist advice from an international network of consultants. Various forms of social media have also given us a view into current, informal, idiosyncratic uses of words from many different places, and even allow us to reach out to people who speak varieties of Englishes to ask them about the words that characterize their local speech.
English is undoubtedly not the same language that it was when the first edition of the OED was published in 1928. Since then, it has become a truly global language, spoken by billions of people of immensely varied origins and backgrounds – and as these people continue to contribute to the richness and diversity of the English lexicon, so will the OED continue to adapt its policies and practices in order to ensure that these contributions are represented in the dictionary.
Part of our ongoing work to represent English around the world involves adding written and spoken pronunciations to OED entries in the relevant variety, alongside the British and U.S. English pronunciations which are given for all non-obsolete words. As we expand our coverage, we develop pronunciation models for the transcriptions of different varieties of English, and supply pronunciations using these models for entries which originate in or are associated with that part of the English-speaking world.
The phonetic transcriptions are accompanied by live-voice recordings, created by someone who speaks the relevant variety, allowing OED users to hear the pronunciations as well. This significantly widens the range of audio pronunciations that we offer, and pronunciations for new and existing entries are being researched and recorded all the time. Pronunciation coverage of further varieties is planned as we continue with the OED100 project. Find out more about our work on pronunciations here.
Varieties of English hub:
The Varieties of English hub is home to our content and resources on World Englishes in the OED including free resources, blog content, webinars, teaching resources, pronunciation information, and more. You can also find information on the Covid multilingual project, academic publications, news features, and how to suggest World English terms for inclusion in the OED.
We are constantly adding new varieties to the hub, most recently Australian English, Bermudian English, Canadian English, Hong Kong English, Indian English, Irish English, Malaysian English, New Zealand English, Philippine English, and South African English. Upcoming batches include Nigerian English and East African English.
Oxford World English Symposium:
Recordings coming soon of the Oxford World English Symposium 2022. Hear from academic researchers, teachers, lexicographers, and other language practitioners sharing research findings, experiences, and insights on World Englishes and their documentation in dictionaries.
Learn more about why the OED documents World Englishes:
The opinions and other information contained in the OED blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.