American English

Last updated

American English
Region United States
Native speakers
225 million, all varieties of English in the United States (2010 census) [1]
25.6 million L2 speakers of English in the United States (2003)
Early forms
Latin (English alphabet)
Unified English Braille [2]
Official status
Official language in
32 US states, 5 non-state US territories [lower-alpha 1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None
IETF en-US [3] [4]
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American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), [lower-alpha 2] sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, [5] [6] is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. [7] Currently, American English is the most influential form of English worldwide. [8] [9] [10] [11]


English is the most widely spoken language in the United States and is the de facto common language used by the federal and state governments, to the extent that all laws and compulsory education presume English as the primary language. English is explicitly given official status by 32 of the 50 state governments. [12] [13] While the local courts in some divisions of the United States grant equivalent status to both English and another language—for example, English and Spanish in Puerto Rico—under federal law, English is still the official language for any matters being referred to the United States district court for the territory. [14]

The use of English in the United States is a result of British colonization of the Americas. The first wave of English-speaking settlers arrived in North America during the 17th century, followed by further migrations in the 18th and 19th centuries. During the 17th century, dialects from many different regions of England existed in every American colony, allowing a process of extensive dialect mixture and leveling in which English varieties across the colonies became more homogeneous compared with varieties in England. [15] [16] English thus predominated in the colonies even by the end of the 17th century's first massive immigration of non-English speakers from Europe and Africa, and firsthand descriptions of a fairly uniform American English became common after the mid-18th century. [17] Since then, American English has developed into some new varieties, including regional dialects that, in some cases, show minor influences in the last two centuries from successive waves of immigrant speakers of diverse languages, [18] primarily European languages. [10]

American English varieties include many patterns of pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and particularly spelling that are unified nationwide but distinct from other English dialects around the world. [19] Any American or Canadian accent perceived as free of noticeably local, ethnic, or cultural markers is popularly called "General" or "Standard" American, a fairly uniform accent continuum native to certain regions of the U.S. and associated nationally with broadcast mass media and highly educated speech. However, historical and present linguistic evidence does not support the notion of there being one single "mainstream" American accent. [20] [21] The sound of American English continues to evolve, with some local accents disappearing, but several larger regional accents having emerged in the 20th century. [22]


Compared with English as spoken in the United Kingdom, North American English [23] is more homogeneous and any phonologically unremarkable North American accent is known as "General American". This section mostly refers to such General American features.

Conservative phonology

Studies on historical usage of English in both the United States and the United Kingdom suggest that spoken American English did not simply deviate away from period British English, but is conservative in some ways, preserving certain features contemporary British English has since lost. [24]

Full rhoticity (or R-fulness) is typical of American accents, pronouncing the phoneme /r/ (corresponding to the letter r) in all environments, including after vowels, such as in pearl, car, and court. [25] [26] Non-rhotic American accents, those that do not pronounce r except before a vowel, such as some Eastern New England, New York, a specific few (often older) Southern, and African American vernacular accents, are often quickly noticed by General American listeners and perceived to sound especially ethnic, regional, or "old-fashioned". [25] [27] [28]

Rhoticity is common in most American accents (yet nowadays rare in England), because, during the 17th-century British colonization, nearly all dialects of English were rhotic, and most North American English simply remained that way. [29] This preservation of rhoticity in North America was also supported by continuing waves of rhotic-accented Scotch-Irish immigrants, most intensely during the 18th century (and moderately during the following two centuries), when the Scotch-Irish eventually made up one-seventh of the colonial population. Scotch-Irish settlers spread from Delaware and Pennsylvania throughout the larger Mid-Atlantic region, the inland regions of both the South and North and throughout the West, all American dialect areas that consistently resisted upper-class non-rhotic influences and that consequently remain rhotic today. [30] The pronunciation of r is a postalveolar approximant [ ɹ̠ ]( Loudspeaker.svg listen ) or retroflex approximant [ ɻ ]( Loudspeaker.svg listen ), [31] though a unique "bunched tongue" variant of the approximant r sound is also associated with the United States, and perhaps mostly in the Midwest and the South. [32]

For those American accents that have not undergone the cot–caught merger (the lexical sets LOT and THOUGHT), they have instead retained a LOTCLOTH split: a 17th-century split in which certain words (labeled as the CLOTH lexical set) separated away from the LOT set. This split, which has now reversed in most British English, simultaneously shifts this relatively recent CLOTH set into a merger with the THOUGHT (caught) set. Having taken place prior to the unrounding of the cot vowel, this results in lengthening and perhaps raising, merging the more recently separated vowel into the THOUGHT vowel in the following environments: before many instances of /f/, /θ/, and particularly /s/ (as in Austria, cloth, cost, loss, off, often, etc.), a few instances before /ŋ/ (as in strong, long, wrong), and variably by region or speaker in gone, on, and certain other words. [33]

The standard accent of southern England, Received Pronunciation (RP), has evolved in other ways too, compared to which General American English has remained relatively more conservative, for example, regarding today's RP features of a trap–bath split and the fronting of /oʊ/, neither of which is typical of General American accents. Moreover, American dialects do not participate in H-dropping, an innovative feature that now characterizes perhaps a majority of the regional dialects of England.

Innovative phonology

On the other hand, General American is more innovative than the dialects of England, or English elsewhere in the world, in a number of its own ways:

/æ/ raising in North American English [59]
words [60]
New York
, [60] New
[60] [62]
New England,
Western US
Midland US,
/m, n/
fan, lamb, stand[ɛə] [63] [upper-alpha 1] [upper-alpha 2] [ɛə] [63] [ɛə][ɛə~ɛjə] [65] [ɛə] [66] [ɛə] [67] [63]
/m, n/
animal, planet,
/ŋ/ [68] frank, language[eɪ] [69] [æ] [68] [æ~æɛə] [65] [ɛː~ɛj] [66] [eː~ej] [70]
bag, drag[ɛə] [upper-alpha 1] [æ] [upper-alpha 3] [æ] [63]
Prevocalic /ɡ/dragon, magazine[æ]
/b, d, ʃ/
grab, flash, sad[ɛə] [upper-alpha 1] [æ] [71] [ɛə] [71]
/f, θ, s/
ask, bath, half,
[ɛə] [upper-alpha 1]
Otherwiseas, back, happy,
[æ] [upper-alpha 4]
  1. 1 2 3 4 In New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, most function words (am, can, had, etc.) and some learned or less common words (Afghan, alas, asterisk, etc.) have [æ].
  2. In Philadelphia, the irregular verbs began, ran, swam, and wan (a local variant of won) have [æ]. [64]
  3. In Philadelphia, bad, mad, and glad alone have [ɛə].
  4. In New York City, exceptional [ɛə] is found notably in avenue and variably before /dʒ/ as in imagine and magic. [72]
  • "Short o" before r before a vowel: In typical North American accents (U.S. and Canada alike), the historical sequence /ɒr/ (a short o sound followed by r and then another vowel, as in orange, forest, moral, and warrant) is realized as [oɹ~ɔɹ], thus further merging with the already-merged /ɔr/–/oʊr/ (horsehoarse) set. In the U.S., four words (tomorrow, sorry, sorrow, borrow and, for some speakers, morrow) usually contain the sound [ɑɹ] instead, and merge with the /ɑr/ set (thus, sorry and sari become homophones, both rhyming with starry). [37]
General American /ɑr/ and /ɔr/ followed by a vowel, compared with other dialects
Some New England, NYC,
Mid-Atlantic, Southern American
Only borrow, sorry, sorrow, (to)morrow /ɒr/ /ɑːr/ /ɒr/ or /ɑːr/ /ɔːr/
Forest, Florida, historic, moral, orange, etc. /ɔːr/
Forum, memorial, oral, storage, story, etc. /ɔːr/ /ɔːr/

Some mergers found in most varieties of both American and British English include:

  • Horse–hoarse merger: This merger makes the vowels /ɔ/ and /o/ before /r/ homophones, with homophonous pairs like horse/hoarse, corps/core, for/four, morning/mourning, war/wore, etc. homophones. Many older varieties of American English still keep these sets of words distinct, particularly in the extreme Northeast, the South (especially along the Gulf Coast), and the central Midlands, [73] but the merger is evidently spreading and younger Americans rarely show it.
  • Wine–whine merger: This produces pairs like wine/whine, wet/whet, Wales/whales, wear/where, etc. homophones, in most cases eliminating /ʍ/, also transcribed /hw/, the voiceless labiovelar fricative. However, scatterings of older speakers who do not merge these pairs still exist nationwide and perhaps most strongly in the South. [73]


The process of coining new lexical items started as soon as English-speaking British-American colonists began borrowing names for unfamiliar flora, fauna, and topography from the Native American languages. [74] Examples of such names are opossum, raccoon, squash , moose (from Algonquian), [74] wigwam , and moccasin . The languages of the other colonizing nations also added to the American vocabulary; for instance, cookie , from Dutch; kindergarten from German, [75] levee from French; and rodeo from Spanish. [76] [77] [78] [79] Landscape features are often loanwords from French or Spanish, and the word corn , used in England to refer to wheat (or any cereal), came to denote the maize plant, the most important crop in the U.S.

Most Mexican Spanish contributions came after the War of 1812, with the opening of the West, like ranch (now a common house style). Due to the Mexican culinary influence, many Spanish words are incorporated in general use when talking about certain popular dishes: cilantro (instead of coriander), queso, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, tostadas, fajitas, burritos, and guacamole. These words don't really have an English equivalent and are found in popular restaurants. New forms of dwelling created new terms (lot, waterfront) and types of homes like log cabin, adobe in the 18th century; apartment, shanty in the 19th century; project, condominium, townhouse, mobile home in the 20th century; and parts thereof (driveway, breezeway, backyard).[ citation needed ] Industry and material innovations from the 19th century onwards provide distinctive new words, phrases, and idioms through railroading (see further at rail terminology) and transportation terminology, ranging from types of roads (dirt roads, freeways ) to infrastructure (parking lot, overpass, rest area), to automotive terminology often now standard in English internationally. [80] Already existing English words—such as store, shop, lumber —underwent shifts in meaning; others remained in the U.S. while changing in Britain. Science, urbanization, and democracy have been important factors in bringing about changes in the written and spoken language of the United States. [81] From the world of business and finance came new terms ( merger, downsize, bottom line ), from sports and gambling terminology came, specific jargon aside, common everyday American idioms, including many idioms related to baseball. The names of some American inventions remained largely confined to North America ( elevator, gasoline ) as did certain automotive terms ( truck , trunk ).[ citation needed ]

New foreign loanwords came with 19th and early 20th century European immigration to the U.S.; notably, from Yiddish (chutzpah, schmooze) and German ( hamburger, wiener ). [82] [83] A large number of English colloquialisms from various periods are American in origin; some have lost their American flavor (from OK and cool to nerd and 24/7), while others have not (have a nice day, for sure); [84] [85] many are now distinctly old-fashioned (swell, groovy). Some English words now in general use, such as hijacking, disc jockey, boost, bulldoze and jazz, originated as American slang.

American English has always shown a marked tendency to use words in different parts of speech and nouns are often used as verbs. [86] Examples of nouns that are now also verbs are interview, advocate, vacuum, lobby, pressure, rear-end, transition, feature, profile, hashtag, head, divorce, loan, estimate, X-ray, spearhead, skyrocket, showcase, bad-mouth, vacation, major, and many others. Compounds coined in the U.S. are for instance foothill, landslide (in all senses), backdrop, teenager, brainstorm, bandwagon, hitchhike, smalltime, and a huge number of others. Other compound words have been founded based on industrialization and the wave of the automobile: five-passenger car, four-door sedan, two-door sedan, and station-wagon (called an estate car in England). [87] Some are euphemistic (human resources, affirmative action, correctional facility). Many compound nouns have the verb-and-preposition combination: stopover, lineup, tryout, spin-off, shootout, holdup, hideout, comeback, makeover, and many more. Some prepositional and phrasal verbs are in fact of American origin (win out, hold up, back up/off/down/out, face up to and many others). [88]

Noun endings such as -ee (retiree), -ery (bakery), -ster (gangster) and -cian (beautician) are also particularly productive in the U.S. [86] Several verbs ending in -ize are of U.S. origin; for example, fetishize, prioritize, burglarize, accessorize, weatherize, etc.; and so are some back-formations (locate, fine-tune, curate, donate, emote, upholster and enthuse). Among syntactical constructions that arose are outside of, headed for, meet up with, back of, etc. Americanisms formed by alteration of some existing words include notably pesky, phony, rambunctious, buddy, sundae, skeeter, sashay and kitty-corner. Adjectives that arose in the U.S. are, for example, lengthy, bossy, cute and cutesy, punk (in all senses), sticky (of the weather), through (as in "finished"), and many colloquial forms such as peppy or wacky.

A number of words and meanings that originated in Middle English or Early Modern English and that have been in everyday use in the United States have since disappeared in most varieties of British English; some of these have cognates in Lowland Scots. Terms such as fall ("autumn"), faucet ("tap"), diaper ("nappy"; itself unused in the U.S.), candy ("sweets"), skillet , eyeglasses , and obligate are often regarded as Americanisms. Fall for example came to denote the season in 16th century England, a contraction of Middle English expressions like "fall of the leaf" and "fall of the year." [89] Gotten (past participle of get) is often considered to be largely an Americanism. [10] [90] Other words and meanings were brought back to Britain from the U.S., especially in the second half of the 20th century; these include hire ("to employ"), I guess (famously criticized by H. W. Fowler), baggage , hit (a place), and the adverbs overly and presently ("currently"). Some of these, for example, monkey wrench and wastebasket , originated in 19th century Britain. The adjectives mad meaning "angry," smart meaning "intelligent," and sick meaning "ill" are also more frequent in American (and Irish) English than British English. [91] [92] [93]

Linguist Bert Vaux created a survey, completed in 2003, polling English speakers across the United States about their specific everyday word choices, hoping to identify regionalisms. [94] The study found that most Americans prefer the term sub for a long sandwich, soda (but pop in the Great Lakes region and generic coke in the South) for a sweet and bubbly soft drink, [95] you or you guys for the plural of you (but y'all in the South), sneakers for athletic shoes (but often tennis shoes outside the Northeast), and shopping cart for a cart used for carrying supermarket goods.

Differences between American and British English

American English and British English (BrE) often differ at the levels of phonology, phonetics, vocabulary, and, to a much lesser extent, grammar and orthography. The first large American dictionary, An American Dictionary of the English Language, known as Webster's Dictionary, was written by Noah Webster in 1828, codifying several of these spellings.

Differences in grammar are relatively minor, and do not normally affect mutual intelligibility; these include: typically a lack of differentiation between adjectives and adverbs, employing the equivalent adjectives as adverbs he ran quick/he ran quickly; different use of some auxiliary verbs; formal (rather than notional) agreement with collective nouns; different preferences for the past forms of a few verbs (for example, AmE/BrE: learned/learnt, burned/burnt, snuck/sneaked, dove/dived) although the purportedly "British" forms can occasionally be seen in American English writing as well; different prepositions and adverbs in certain contexts (for example, AmE in school, BrE at school); and whether or not a definite article is used, in very few cases (AmE to the hospital, BrE to hospital; contrast, however, AmE actress Elizabeth Taylor, BrE the actress Elizabeth Taylor). Often, these differences are a matter of relative preferences rather than absolute rules; and most are not stable since the two varieties are constantly influencing each other, [96] and American English is not a standardized set of dialects.

Differences in orthography are also minor. The main differences are that American English usually uses spellings such as flavor for British flavour, fiber for fibre, defense for defence, analyze for analyse, license for licence, catalog for catalogue and traveling for travelling. Noah Webster popularized such spellings in America, but he did not invent most of them. Rather, "he chose already existing options on such grounds as simplicity, analogy or etymology." [97] Other differences are due to the francophile tastes of the 19th century Victorian era Britain (for example they preferred programme for program, manoeuvre for maneuver, cheque for check, etc.). [98] AmE almost always uses -ize in words like realize. BrE prefers -ise, but also uses -ize on occasion (see Oxford spelling).

There are a few differences in punctuation rules. British English is more tolerant of run-on sentences, called "comma splices" in American English, and American English requires that periods and commas be placed inside closing quotation marks even in cases in which British rules would place them outside. American English also favors the double quotation mark ("like this") over single ('as here'). [99]

Vocabulary differences vary by region. For example, autumn is used more commonly in the United Kingdom, whereas fall is more common in American English. Some other differences include: aerial (United Kingdom) vs. antenna, biscuit (United Kingdom) vs. cookie/cracker, car park (United Kingdom) vs. parking lot, caravan (United Kingdom) vs. trailer, city centre (United Kingdom) vs. downtown, flat (United Kingdom) vs. apartment, fringe (United Kingdom) vs. bangs, and holiday (United Kingdom) vs. vacation. [100]

AmE sometimes favors words that are morphologically more complex, whereas BrE uses clipped forms, such as AmE transportation and BrE transport or where the British form is a back-formation, such as AmE burglarize and BrE burgle (from burglar). However, while individuals usually use one or the other, both forms will be widely understood and mostly used alongside each other within the two systems.

British English also differs from American English in that "schedule" can be pronounced with either [sk] or [ʃ]. [101]


While written American English is largely standardized across the country and spoken American English dialects are highly mutually intelligible, there are still several recognizable regional and ethnic accents and lexical distinctions.

Regional accents

The regional sounds of present-day American English are reportedly engaged in a complex phenomenon of "both convergence and divergence": some accents are homogenizing and leveling, while others are diversifying and deviating further away from one another. [103]

Having been settled longer than the American West Coast, the East Coast has had more time to develop unique accents, and it currently comprises three or four linguistically significant regions, each of which possesses English varieties both different from each other as well as quite internally diverse: New England, the Mid-Atlantic States (including a New York accent as well as a unique Philadelphia–Baltimore accent), and the South. As of the twentieth century, the middle and eastern Great Lakes area, Chicago being the largest city with these speakers, also ushered in certain unique features, including the fronting of the LOT/ɑ/ vowel in the mouth toward [a] and tensing of the TRAP/æ/ vowel wholesale to [eə]. These sound changes have triggered a series of other vowel shifts in the same region, known by linguists as the "Inland North". [104] The Inland North shares with the Eastern New England dialect (including Boston accents) a backer tongue positioning of the GOOSE/u/ vowel (to [u]) and the MOUTH/aʊ/ vowel (to [ɑʊ~äʊ]) in comparison to the rest of the country. [105] Ranging from northern New England across the Great Lakes to Minnesota, another Northern regional marker is the variable fronting of /ɑ/ before /r/, [106] for example appearing four times in the stereotypical Boston shibboleth Park the car in Harvard Yard. [107]

The red dots show every U.S. metropolitan area where over 50% non-rhotic speech has been documented among some of that area's local white speakers in the twenty-first century. Non-rhotic speech may be heard from black speakers throughout the whole country. Non-RhoticityUSA.png
The red dots show every U.S. metropolitan area where over 50% non-rhotic speech has been documented among some of that area's local white speakers in the twenty-first century. Non-rhotic speech may be heard from black speakers throughout the whole country.

Several other phenomena serve to distinguish regional U.S. accents. Boston, Pittsburgh, Upper Midwestern, and Western U.S. accents have fully completed a merger of the LOT vowel with the THOUGHT vowel (/ɑ/ and /ɔ/, respectively): [109] a cot–caught merger, which is rapidly spreading throughout the whole country. However, the South, Inland North, and a Northeastern coastal corridor passing through Rhode Island, New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore typically preserve an older cot–caught distinction. [104] For that Northeastern corridor, the realization of the THOUGHT vowel is particularly marked, as depicted in humorous spellings, like in tawk and cawfee (talk and coffee), which intend to represent it being tense and diphthongal: [oə]. [110] A split of TRAP into two separate phonemes, using different a pronunciations for example in gap[æ] versus gas[eə], further defines New York City as well as Philadelphia–Baltimore accents. [111]

Most Americans preserve all historical /ɹ/ sounds, using what is known as a rhotic accent. The only traditionally r-dropping (or non-rhotic) regional U.S. accents are spoken in eastern New England, New York City variably, and some of the former plantation South primarily among older speakers (and consequently African-American Vernacular English variably across the country), though the vowel-consonant cluster found in "bird," "work," "hurt," "learn," etc. usually retains its r pronunciation, even in these non-rhotic American accents. Non-rhoticity among such speakers is presumed to have arisen from their upper classes' close historical contact with England, imitating London's r-dropping, a feature that has continued to gain prestige throughout England from the late 18th century onwards, [112] but which has conversely lost prestige in the U.S. since at least the early 20th century. [113] Non-rhoticity makes a word like car sound like cah or source like sauce. [114]

The most prominent and stigmatized regional accents of the country are New York City and Southern accents. [115] Southern speech, strongest in southern Appalachia and certain areas of Texas, is commonly identified among Americans as a "country" accent, [115] and is defined by the /aɪ/ vowel losing its gliding quality: [aː], the initiation event for a complicated Southern vowel shift, including a "Southern drawl" that makes short front vowels into distinct-sounding gliding vowels. [116] The fronting of the vowels of GOOSE, GOAT, MOUTH, and STRUT tends to also define Southern accents as well as the accents spoken in the "Midland": a vast band of the country that constitutes an intermediate dialect region between the traditional North and South. Western U.S. accents mostly fall under the General American spectrum.

Below, ten major American English accents are defined by their particular combinations of certain vowel sounds:

Accent nameMost populous urban centerStrong /aʊ/ frontingStrong /oʊ/ frontingStrong /u/ frontingStrong /ɑr/ fronting Cot–caught merger Pin–pen merger /æ/ raising system
General American NoNoNoNoMixedNopre-nasal
Inland Northern ChicagoNoNoNoYesNoNogeneral
Mid-Atlantic States PhiladelphiaYesYesYesNoNoNosplit
Midland IndianapolisYesYesYesNoMixedMixedpre-nasal
New York City New York CityYesNoNo [117] NoNoNosplit
North-Central (Upper Midwestern) MinneapolisNoNoNoYesYesNopre-nasal & pre-velar
Northern New England BostonNoNoNoYesYesNopre-nasal
Southern San AntonioYesYesYesNoMixedYesSouthern
Western Los AngelesNoNoYesNoYesNopre-nasal
Western Pennsylvania PittsburghYesYesYesNoYesMixedpre-nasal

General American

In 2010, William Labov noted that Great Lakes, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and West Coast accents have undergone "vigorous new sound changes" since the mid-nineteenth century onwards, so they "are now more different from each other than they were 50 or 100 years ago", while other accents, like of New York City and Boston, have remained stable in that same time-frame. [103] However, a General American sound system also has some debated degree of influence nationwide, for example, gradually beginning to oust the regional accent in urban areas of the South and at least some in the Inland North. Rather than one particular accent, General American is best defined as an umbrella covering an American accent that does not incorporate features associated with some particular region, ethnicity, or socioeconomic group. Typical General American features include rhoticity, the father–bother merger, Mary–marry–merry merger, pre-nasal "short a" tensing, and other particular vowel sounds. [lower-alpha 3] General American features are embraced most by Americans who are highly educated or in the most formal contexts, and regional accents with the most General American native features include North Midland, Western New England, and Western accents.

Other varieties

Although no longer region-specific, [118] African-American Vernacular English, which remains the native variety of most working- and middle-class African Americans, has a close relationship to Southern dialects and has greatly influenced everyday speech of many Americans, including hip hop culture. Hispanic and Latino Americans have also developed native-speaker varieties of English. The best-studied Latino Englishes are Chicano English, spoken in the West and Midwest, and New York Latino English, spoken in the New York metropolitan area. Additionally, ethnic varieties such as Yeshiva English and "Yinglish" are spoken by some American Orthodox Jews, Cajun Vernacular English by some Cajuns in southern Louisiana, and Pennsylvania Dutch English by some Pennsylvania Dutch in Pennsylvania and the Midwest. American Indian Englishes have been documented among diverse Indian tribes. The island state of Hawaii, though primarily English-speaking, is also home to a creole language known commonly as Hawaiian Pidgin, and some Hawaii residents speak English with a Pidgin-influenced accent.

See also


  1. English and Hawaiian are both official languages in Hawaii, and English and 20 Indigenous languages are official in Alaska. Algonquian, Cherokee, and Sioux are among many other official languages in Native-controlled lands throughout the country. French is a de facto, but unofficial, language in Maine and Louisiana, while New Mexico law grants Spanish a special status. In five territories, English as well as one or more indigenous languages are official: Spanish in Puerto Rico, Samoan in American Samoa, Chamorro in both Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Carolinian is also an official language in the Northern Mariana Islands. [119] [120]
  2. en-US is the language code for U.S. English, as defined by ISO standards (see ISO 639-1 and ISO 3166-1 alpha-2) and Internet standards (see IETF language tag).
  3. Dialects are considered "rhotic" if they pronounce the r sound in all historical environments, without ever "dropping" this sound. The father–bother merger is the pronunciation of the unrounded /ɒ/ vowel variant (as in cot, lot, bother, etc.) the same as the /ɑ/ vowel (as in spa, haha, Ma), causing words like con and Kahn and like sob and Saab to sound identical, with the vowel usually realized in the back or middle of the mouth as [ɑ~ɑ̈]. Finally, most of the U.S. participates in a continuous nasal system of the "short a" vowel (in cat, trap, bath, etc.), causing /æ/ to be pronounced with the tongue raised and with a glide quality (typically sounding like [ɛə]) particularly when before a nasal consonant; thus, mad is [mæd], but man is more like [mɛən].

Related Research Articles

North American English is the most generalized variety of the English language as spoken in the United States and Canada. Because of their related histories and cultures, plus the similarities between the pronunciation (accent), vocabulary, and grammar of American English and Canadian English, the two spoken varieties are often grouped together under a single category. Canadians are generally tolerant of both British and American spellings, with British spellings being favored in more formal settings and in Canadian print media.

General American English or General American is the umbrella accent of American English spoken by a majority of Americans and widely perceived, among Americans, as lacking any distinctly regional, ethnic, or socioeconomic characteristics. In reality, it encompasses a continuum of accents rather than a single unified accent. Americans with high education, or from the North Midland, Western New England, and Western regions of the country, are the most likely to be perceived as having "General American" accents. The precise definition and usefulness of the term "General American" continue to be debated, and the scholars who use it today admittedly do so as a convenient basis for comparison rather than for exactness. Other scholars prefer the term Standard American English.

The phonology of the open back vowels of the English language has undergone changes both overall and with regional variations, through Old and Middle English to the present. The sounds heard in modern English were significantly influenced by the Great Vowel Shift, as well as more recent developments such as the cot–caught merger.

Southern American English or Southern U.S. English is a regional dialect or collection of dialects of American English spoken throughout the Southern United States, though increasingly in more rural areas and primarily by White Southerners. The dialect is commonly known in the United States simply as Southern, while formal, much more recent terms within American linguistics include Southern White Vernacular English and Rural White Southern English.

The Boston accent is a local accent of Eastern New England English native specifically to the city of Boston and its suburbs. Eastern New England English also traditionally includes New Hampshire, Maine, all of eastern Massachusetts, and arguably Rhode Island, though some uniquely local vocabulary appears only around Boston. Some of the characteristics of traditional Boston accents may be retreating, particularly among younger residents. Linguist William Labov, however, claims that, in the twenty-first century, there remains a relatively stable Boston accent.

Eastern New England English, historically known as the Yankee dialect since at least the nineteenth century, is the traditional regional dialect of Maine, New Hampshire, and the eastern half of Massachusetts. Features of this variety once spanned an even larger dialect area of New England, for example, including the eastern halves of Vermont and Connecticut for those born as recently as the early twentieth century. Studies vary as to whether the unique dialect of Rhode Island falls within the Eastern New England dialect region.

In English, many vowel shifts affect only vowels followed by in rhotic dialects, or vowels that were historically followed by an that has since been elided in non-rhotic dialects. Most of them involve merging of vowel distinctions, so that fewer vowel phonemes occur before than in other positions in a word.

Philadelphia English is a variety or dialect of American English native to Philadelphia and extending into Philadelphia's metropolitan area throughout the Delaware Valley and South Jersey, including Atlantic City and Wilmington, Delaware. Philadelphia English is one of the best-studied types of English, as Philadelphia's University of Pennsylvania is the home institution of pioneering sociolinguist William Labov. Philadelphia English shares certain features with New York City English and Midland American English, although it is a distinct dialect. The closest relative of the Philadelphia accent is the Baltimore accent, both of which constitute what Labov describes as a single "Mid-Atlantic" regional dialect.

North American English regional phonology is the study of variations in the pronunciation of spoken North American English —what are commonly known simply as "regional accents". Though studies of regional dialects can be based on multiple characteristics, often including characteristics that are phonemic, phonetic, lexical (vocabulary-based), and syntactic (grammar-based), this article focuses only on the former two items. North American English includes American English, which has several highly developed and distinct regional varieties, along with the closely related Canadian English, which is more homogeneous geographically. American English and Canadian English have more in common with each other than with varieties of English outside North America.

The cotcaught merger is a sound change present in some dialects of English where speakers do not distinguish the vowels in "cot" and "caught". Names like "cot–caught merger" and lot–thought merger come from the minimal pairs that are lost as a result of this sound change. The phonemes involved in the cot-caught merger are represented in the International Phonetic Alphabet as and, respectively. These vowels are both low and back—as can be seen in the IPA chart—and is sometimes referred to as the low back merger. The father-bother merger that spread through North America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries has resulted in many dialects having no vowel difference in words like "father", "lot", and "thought".

New England English collectively refers to the various distinct dialects and varieties of American English originating in the New England area. Most of eastern and central New England once spoke the "Yankee dialect", and many of those accent features still remain in eastern New England, such as "R-dropping". One linguistic division of New England is into Eastern and Western New England English, as defined in the 1939 Linguistic Atlas of New England and the 2006 Atlas of North American English (ANAE). The ANAE further argues for a division between Northern and Southern New England English, especially on the basis of the cot–caught merger and fronting. The ANAE also categorizes the strongest differentiated New England accents into four combinations of the above dichotomies, simply defined as follows:

Atlantic Canadian English Dialects of Canadian English

Atlantic Canadian English is a class of Canadian English dialects spoken in the Atlantic provinces of Canada and is notably distinct from Standard Canadian English. It is composed of Maritime English and Newfoundland English. It is mostly influenced by British and Irish English, Irish and Scottish Gaelic, and some Acadian French. Atlantic Canada is the easternmost region of Canada, comprising four provinces located on the Atlantic coast – the three Maritime provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador. The population of the Atlantic Provinces in 2016 was about 2,300,000 on a land area of approximately half a million square kilometres, with Nova Scotia being the most populous province, and its capital, Halifax, the most populous city. Regions such as Miramichi and Cape Breton have a wide variety of phrases and words not spoken outside of their respected regions.

Older Southern American English former set of dialects

Older Southern American English was a set of American English dialects of the Southern United States, primarily spoken by white Southerners up until the American Civil War, moving toward a state of decline by the turn of the nineteenth century, further accelerated after World War II and again, finally, by the Civil Rights Movement. These dialects have since largely given way, on a larger regional level, to a more unified and younger Southern American English, recognized today by a unique vowel shift and certain other vocabulary and accent characteristics. Some features unique to older Southern U.S. English persist today, like non-rhoticity, though typically in only very localized dialects or speakers.

Western American English Dialect of American English

Western American English is a variety of American English that largely unites the entire western half of the United States as a single dialect region, including the states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. It also generally encompasses Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, some of whose speakers are classified additionally under Pacific Northwest English.

Midland American English Variety of English spoken in the United States

Midland American English is a regional dialect or super-dialect of American English, geographically lying between the traditionally-defined Northern and Southern United States. The boundaries of Midland American English are not entirely clear, being revised and reduced by linguists due to definitional changes and several Midland sub-regions undergoing rapid and diverging pronunciation shifts since the early-middle twentieth century onwards.

The sound system of New York City English is popularly known as a New York accent. The New York metropolitan accent is one of the most recognizable accents of the United States, largely due to its popular stereotypes and portrayal in radio, film, and television. The accent is strongest among white members of the middle and lower class in New York City proper, western Long Island, and northeastern New Jersey, though it may be spoken to various extents by all classes in the New York City metropolitan area, and some of its features have diffused to many other areas; for example, the accent spoken by natives of New Orleans, Louisiana, locally known as Yat, is strikingly similar to the New York accent. The New York accent is not spoken in the rest of New York state beyond the immediate metropolitan area; Upstate New York speakers instead generally fall under the Hudson Valley and Inland North dialects. The traditional New York accent is predominantly characterized by the following sounds and speech patterns:

Rhoticity in English is the pronunciation of the historical rhotic consonant in all contexts by speakers of certain varieties of English. The presence or absence of rhoticity is one of the most prominent distinctions by which varieties of English can be classified. In rhotic varieties, the historical English sound is preserved in all pronunciation contexts. In non-rhotic varieties, speakers no longer pronounce in postvocalic environments—that is, when it is immediately after a vowel and not followed by another vowel. For example, a rhotic English speaker pronounces the words hard and butter as /ˈhɑːrd/ and /ˈbʌtər/, whereas a non-rhotic speaker "drops" or "deletes" the sound, pronouncing them as /ˈhɑːd/ and /ˈbʌtə/. When an r is at the end of a word but the next word begins with a vowel, as in the phrase "tuner amp", most non-rhotic speakers will pronounce the in that position, since it is followed by a vowel in this case. Not all non-rhotic varieties use the linking R; for example, it is absent in non-rhotic varieties of Southern American English.

Mid-Atlantic American English, Middle Atlantic American English, or Delaware Valley English is a class of American English, considered by The Atlas of North American English to be a single dialect, spoken in the southernmost Mid-Atlantic area of the United States.

Standard Canadian English dialect of English

Standard Canadian English is the greatly homogeneous variety of Canadian English spoken particularly all across central and western Canada, as well as throughout Canada among urban middle-class speakers from English-speaking families, excluding the regional dialects of Atlantic Canadian English. English mostly has a uniform phonology and very little diversity of dialects in Canada compared with the neighbouring English of the United States. The Standard Canadian English dialect region is defined by the cot–caught merger to [ɒ](listen) and an accompanying chain shift of vowel sounds, called the Canadian Shift. A subset of this dialect geographically at its central core, excluding British Columbia to the west and everything east of Montreal, has been called Inland Canadian English, and is further defined by both of the phenomena known as Canadian raising, the production of and with back starting points in the mouth, and the production of with a front starting point and very little glide, almost in the Prairie Provinces.

Western New England English refers to the varieties of New England English native to Vermont, Connecticut, and the western half of Massachusetts; New York State's Hudson Valley also aligns to this classification. Sound patterns historically associated with Western New England English include the features of rhoticity, the horse–hoarse merger, and the father–bother merger, none of which are features traditionally shared in neighboring Eastern New England English. The status of the cot–caught merger in Western New England is inconsistent, being complete in the north of this dialect region (Vermont), but incomplete or absent in the south, with a "cot–caught approximation" in the middle area.


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Further reading

History of American English