Americans use the word "right" to describe their existing knowledge or awareness of a given topic, while British English speakers use it to illustrate that the information they are receiving is valuable to the ongoing conversation.
According to a recent Rutgers University research, British and American English speakers use the term "right" differently in their everyday conversations.
Are the British smarter and more knowledgeable than Americans? Americans seem to believe so, according to a recent Rutgers paper.
A new paper published in the Journal of Pragmatics investigates how American and British English speakers respond to the word "right."
Americans use the term "right" to indicate they are already familiar or knowledgeable about a given topic or situation. By contrast, British English speakers use "right" to indicate that what they hear is informative and relevant to the ongoing interaction.
Americans understand British speakers who claim to already know what they are being told — even if they don't.
Researchers claim that the British are "smarter" in conversations than Americans because of this difference in meaning between a British and an American "right."
The British accent is also a contributing factor to the American stereotype that British people are smarter because it sounds more sophisticated than their own.
The researchers used a collection of about 125 everyday conversations and work discussions to develop their conclusion. There were 70 segments in British English and 55 segments in American English.
According to its coauthor, the study "spots light on how minor linguistic differences, which we may not even recognize, impact our interactions with others and affect our perceptions of their expertise and knowledge."
When they heard a "puzzling misunderstanding" between an American and a British during a conversation, the Rutgers researchers became interested in doing this research.
The findings illustrate how speakers can express their epistemic beliefs – i.e., how they assert different degrees of knowledge – in various ways.
Further investigation may be needed to "examine the whole landscape of these kinds of response particles" (in particular positions) in the United States vs. United Kingdom data, in order to discern what kind of stances they adopt over previous discourse (i.e. what exactly they do internationally."
Galina B. Bolden, Alexa Hepburn, and Jenny Mandelbaum, 16 January 2023, Journal of Pragmatics, DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2022.12.017