American English

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American English
RegionUnited 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
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None
IETF en-US [3] [4]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For a guide to IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
English language prevalence in the United States. Darker shades of blue indicate higher concentrations of native English speakers in the corresponding states English USC2000 PHS.svg
English language prevalence in the United States. Darker shades of blue indicate higher concentrations of native English speakers in the corresponding states

American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), [5] sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, [6] [7] is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. [8] It is considered one of the most influential dialects of English globally, including on other varieties of English. [9] [10] [11] [12] [13]

In sociolinguistics, a variety, also called a lect, is a specific form of a language or language cluster. This may include languages, dialects, registers, styles, or other forms of language, as well as a standard variety. The use of the word "variety" to refer to the different forms avoids the use of the term language, which many people associate only with the standard language, and the term dialect, which is often associated with non-standard varieties thought of as less prestigious or "correct" than the standard. Linguists speak of both standard and non-standard (vernacular) varieties. "Lect" avoids the problem in ambiguous cases of deciding whether two varieties are distinct languages or dialects of a single language.

English language West Germanic language

English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and eventually became a global lingua franca. It is named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to the area of Great Britain that later took their name, as England. Both names derive from Anglia, a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. The language is closely related to Frisian and Low Saxon, and its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Norse, and to a greater extent by Latin and French.

Contents

English is the most widely spoken language in the United States and is the common language used by the federal government, to the extent that all laws and compulsory education are practiced in English. Although not an officially established language of the whole country, English is the de facto official language and given official status by 32 of the 50 state governments. [14] [15] As an example, while both Spanish and English have equivalent status in the local courts of Puerto Rico, under federal law, English is the official language for any matters being referred to the United States district court for the territory. [16]

In law and government, de facto describes practices that exist in reality, even if not officially recognized by laws. It is commonly used to refer to what happens in practice, in contrast with de jure, which refers to things that happen according to law. Unofficial customs that are widely accepted are sometimes called de facto standards.

Puerto Rico Unincorporated territory of the United States

Puerto Rico, officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and briefly called Porto Rico, is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeast Caribbean Sea, approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southeast of Miami, Florida.

United States district court type of court of the United States federal court system

The United States district courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal court system. Both civil and criminal cases are filed in the district court, which is a court of law, equity, and admiralty. There is a United States bankruptcy court associated with each United States district court. Each federal judicial district has at least one courthouse, and many districts have more than one. The formal name of a district court is "the United States District Court for" the name of the district—for example, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

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. Since then, American English has developed into new dialects, in some cases under the influence of successive immigration waves, especially of Europeans of diverse language backgrounds, to the United States. [11]

British colonization of the Americas American Colonies of England and then Great Britain and the United Kingdom

British colonisation of the Americas began in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia, and reached its peak when colonies had been established throughout the Americas. The English, and later the British, were among the most important colonisers of the Americas, and their American empire came to surpass the Spanish American colonies in military and economic might.

American English varieties form a linguistic continuum of dialects more similar to each other than to English dialects of other countries, including some common pronunciations, vocabulary, spelling, and other features found nationwide. [17] Any North American English accent perceived as free of noticeably local, ethnic, or cultural markers is popularly called "General" or "Standard" American, a fairly uniform standard of broadcast mass media and the highly educated. Otherwise, according to William Labov, with the major exception of Southern and some Inland Northern accents, regional accents throughout the country are not yielding to this standard, [18] and historical and present linguistic evidence does not support the notion of there being one single "mainstream" American accent. [19] [20] On the contrary, the sound of American English continues to evolve, with some local accents disappearing, but several larger regional accents emerging. [21]

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 and the similarities between the pronunciation, vocabulary, and accent of American English and Canadian English, the two spoken dialects are often grouped together under a single category. Due to historical and cultural factors, Canadian English and American English retain numerous distinctions from each other, with the differences being most noticeable in the two languages' written forms. Canadian spellings are primarily based on British usage as a result of Canada's longer-standing connections with the United Kingdom. Canadians are generally tolerant of both British and American spellings, with British spellings being favored in more formal settings and in Canadian print media. Spellings in American English have been highly influenced by lexicographers like Noah Webster, who sought to create a standardized form of English that was independent of British English. Despite these differences, the dialects of both Canada and the United States are similar. The United Empire Loyalists who fled the American Revolution (1765–1783) have had a large influence on Canadian English from its early roots.

In sociolinguistics, an accent is a manner of pronunciation peculiar to a particular individual, location, or nation. An accent may be identified with the locality in which its speakers reside, the socioeconomic status of its speakers, their ethnicity, their caste or social class, or influence from their first language.

In linguistics and social sciences, markedness is the state of standing out as unusual or divergent in comparison to a more common or regular form. In a marked–unmarked relation, one term of an opposition is the broader, dominant one. The dominant default or minimum-effort form is known as unmarked; the other, secondary one is marked. In other words, markedness involves the characterization of a "normal" linguistic unit against one or more of its possible "irregular" forms.

Phonology

Compared with English as spoken in England, North American English [22] is more homogeneous, and any phonologically unremarkable North American accent is known as "General American". This section mostly refers to such General American features.

English language in England Dialects of British English from England

The English language spoken and written in England encompasses a diverse range of accents and dialects. The dialect forms part of the broader British English, along with other varieties in the United Kingdom. Terms used to refer to the English language spoken and written in England include: English English, Anglo-English and British English in England.

General American is the umbrella variety of American English—the continuum of accents—spoken by a majority of Americans and popularly perceived, among Americans, as lacking any distinctly regional, ethnic, or socioeconomic characteristics. 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 continues to be debated, and the scholars who use it today admittedly do so as a convenient basis for comparison rather than for exactness. Some scholars, despite controversy, prefer the term Standard American English.

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 retained certain features contemporary British English has since lost. [23] One of these is full rhoticity, 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. [24] This preservation of rhoticity in North America was also supported by continuing waves of Scots-Irish immigrants, most intensely during the eighteenth century (and moderately during the following two centuries), where the Scots-Irish eventually made up one-seventh of the colonial population, spreading from Delaware and Pennsylvania into the larger Mid-Atlantic region, the inland regions of both the South and North, and the West, all American dialect areas that remain rhotic today. [25] The only traditionally r-dropping (or non-rhotic) regional accents of American English are spoken along the Atlantic Coast and parts of the Gulf Coast (particularly still in Louisiana), because these areas were in close historical contact with England and imitated London's r-dropping, a feature that has gained prestige and become widespread throughout England from the eighteenth century onwards. [26] Today, this non-rhoticity is confined in the United States to the accents of eastern New England, New York City, older speakers of the former plantation South, and African-American Vernacular English (though the vowel-consonant cluster found in "bird," "work," "hurt," "learn," etc. usually retains its r pronunciation, even in these non-rhotic accents). Other than these few varieties, American accents are rhotic, pronouncing every instance of the r sound. The North American sound corresponding to the letter r is a postalveolar approximant [ɹ̠] or retroflex approximant [ɻ], 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. [27]

British English is the standard dialect of English language as spoken and written in the United Kingdom. Variations exist in formal, written English in the United Kingdom. For example, the adjective wee is almost exclusively used in parts of Scotland and Ireland, and occasionally Yorkshire, whereas little is predominant elsewhere. Nevertheless, there is a meaningful degree of uniformity in written English within the United Kingdom, and this could be described by the term British English. The forms of spoken English, however, vary considerably more than in most other areas of the world where English is spoken, so a uniform concept of British English is more difficult to apply to the spoken language. According to Tom McArthur in the Oxford Guide to World English, British English shares "all the ambiguities and tensions in the word 'British' and as a result can be used and interpreted in two ways, more broadly or more narrowly, within a range of blurring and ambiguity".

Rhoticity in English is the pronunciation of the historical rhotic consonant by speakers of English. It is one of the most prominent distinctions by which varieties of English can be classified. The historical English sound is preserved in all pronunciation contexts in the "rhotic varieties" of English, which primarily include the English dialects of Scotland, Ireland, and most of the United States and Canada. However, the historical is not pronounced except before vowels in "non-rhotic varieties", which include most of the dialects of modern England, Wales, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and some parts of the southern and eastern—particularly coastal northeastern—United States.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

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. 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. Non-rhotic speech may be heard from black speakers throughout the whole country.

Having been settled longer than the American West Coast, the East Coast has had more time to develop unique dialects, and it currently comprises three or four linguistically significant regions, each of which possesses English varieties both distinct from each other as well as quite internally diverse: New England, the New York metropolitan area, the Mid-Atlantic States (centering on Philadelphia and Baltimore), and the South. Certain unique features have also developed in the twentieth century in the Great Lakes area.

Many British accents have evolved in more recent ways compared to which General American English has remained relatively more conservative, for example, regarding today's Standard British English features of a trap–bath split, fronting of // , and H-dropping, none of which is typical of General American. The innovation of /t/ glottal stopping, which does occur before a consonant (including a syllabic coronal nasal consonant, like in the words button or satin) and word-finally in General American, additionally occurs variably between vowels in British English. 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 [37]
EnvironmentDialect
Consonant after /æ/Example words New York City & New Orleans Baltimore & Philadelphia Eastern New England General American, Midland U.S., & Western U.S. Canadian, Northwestern U.S., & Upper Midwestern U.S. Southern U.S. & African American Vernacular Great Lakes
/m/,/n/
Alexander, answer, ant, band, can (the noun), can't, clam, dance, ham, hamburger, hand, handy, man, manly, pants, plan, planning, ranch, sand, slant, tan, understand, etc.; in Philadelphia, began, ran, and swam alone remain lax
[eə][æ~eə][æ~ɛə][ɛə~eə][eə]
amity, animal, can (the verb), Canada, ceramic, family (varies by speaker), [38] gamut, hammer, janitor, manager, manner, Montana, panel, planet, profanity, salmon, Spanish, etc.
[æ]
/ɡ/
agriculture, bag, crag, drag, flag, magnet, rag, sag, tag, tagging, etc.
[eə][æ][æ][æ~eə][æ~ɛə][æ~eə]
agate, agony, dragon, magazine, ragamuffin, etc.
[æ]
/b/,/d/,/dʒ/,/ʃ/,/v/,/z/,/ʒ/
absolve, abstain, add, ash, as, bad, badge, bash, cab, cash, clad, crag, dad, drab, fad, flash, glad, grab, had, halve (varies by speaker), jazz (varies by speaker), kashmir, mad, magnet, pad, plaid, rag, raspberry, rash, sad, sag, smash, splash, tab, tadpole, trash, etc. In NYC, this environment, particularly, /v/ and /z/, has a lot of variance and many exceptions to the rules. In Philadelphia, bad, mad, and glad alone in this set become tense. Similarly, in New York City, the /dʒ/ set is often tense even in words such as magic, imagine, etc.
[eə][æ~ɛə][æ]
/f/,/s/,/θ/
ask, bask, basket, bath, brass, casket, cast, class, craft, crass, daft, drastic, glass, grass, flask, half, last, laugh, laughter, mask, mast, math, pass, past, path, plastic, task, wrath, etc.
[eə]
Other consonants
act, agony, allergy, apple, aspirin, athlete, avid, back, bat, brat, café, cafeteria, cap, cashew, cat, Catholic, chap, clap, classy, diagonal, fashion, fat, flap, flat, gap, gnat, latch, magazine, mallet, map, mastiff, match, maverick, Max, pack, pal, passive, passion, pat, patch, pattern, rabid, racket, rally, rap, rat, sack, sat, Saturn, savvy, scratch, shack, slack, slap, tackle, talent, trap, travel, wrap, etc.
[æ]
Footnotes
  1. Nearly all American English speakers pronounce /æŋ/ somewhere between [æŋ] and [eɪŋ], though Western speakers specifically favor [eɪŋ] .
  2. The Great Lakes dialect traditionally tenses /æ/ in all cases, but reversals of that tensing before non-nasal consonants (while often maintaining some of the other vowel shifts of the region) has been observed recently where it has been studied, in Lansing and Syracuse.

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

Vocabulary

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. [44] Examples of such names are opossum, raccoon, squash , moose (from Algonquian), [44] wigwam , and moccasin . The languages of the other colonizing nations also added to the American vocabulary; for instance, cookie , from Dutch; kindergarten from German, [45] levee from French; and rodeo from Spanish. [46] [47] [48] [49] 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. [50] 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. [51] 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 ). [52] [53] 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); [54] [55] 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. [56] 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). [57] 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). [58]

Noun endings such as -ee (retiree), -ery (bakery), -ster (gangster) and -cian (beautician) are also particularly productive in the U.S. [56] 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." [59] Gotten (past participle of get) is often considered to be largely an Americanism. [11] [60] 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. [61] [62] [63]

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. [64] 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, [65] 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 British and American 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: 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, [66] 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." [67] 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.). [68] 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'). [69]

Vocabulary differences vary by regions. For example, autumn is used more commonly in England, whereas fall is more common in American English. Some other differences include: aerial (England) vs. antenna, biscuit (England) vs. cookie/cracker, car park (England) vs. parking lot, caravan (England) vs. trailer, city centre (England) vs. downtown, flat (England) vs. apartment, fringe (England) vs. bangs, and holiday (England) vs. vacation. [70]

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]. [71]

Varieties

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 levelling, while others are diversifying and deviating further away from one another. [73]

Great Lakes accents, Chicago being the largest city with these speakers, tend to front the LOT/ɑ/ vowel in the mouth toward [a] and tense the TRAP/æ/ vowel wholesale to [eə], triggering a series of other vowel shifts in the more innovative accents of the region, which linguists call the "Inland North". [74] Great Lakes accents share that first feature with Boston accents. Both dialects, including the larger Eastern New England dialect of which Boston is the main hub, also show a back tongue positioning of the GOOSE/u/ vowel to [u] (whereas the rest of the country slightly or greatly fronts this vowel) and the MOUTH/aʊ/ vowel to [ɑʊ~äʊ]. [75] From northern New England across the Great Lakes to Minnesota, another Northern regional marker is the variable fronting of the START /ɑːr/ sound, [76] for example appearing four times in the stereotypical Boston shibboleth Park the car in Harvard Yard. [77]

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/): [78] known by linguists as the cot–caught merger, which is rapidly expanding throughout the whole country. However, a Northeastern coastal corridor passing through Rhode Island, New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore typically preserves a cot–caught distinction, [74] as depicted in local humorous spellings of the /ɔ/ vowel, like in tawk and cawfee, which intend to represent it being tense and diphthongal: [oə]. [79] A phenomenon called r-dropping, or non-rhoticity, appears to the strongest degree only in Eastern New England and New York City accents, making a word like car sound like cah or source like sauce, [80] though this was once common in many older Southern U.S. accents too. A split of TRAP into two distinct phonemes, using different a pronunciations for example in gap[æ] versus gas[eə], also partly defines New York City and Philadelphia/Baltimore accents. [81]

The most marked and stigmatized accents of the country are New York City and Southern accents. [82] Southern speech, which Americans commonly recognize as a "country" accent, [83] is defined by the // 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. [84] The strongest Southern accents exist in southern Appalachia and certain areas of Texas. 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" (the vast band of the country between the traditional dialect regions of the North and the South). The Western U.S. has had the least amount of time to develop unique dialect distinctions and mostly falls under a General American accent umbrella.

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

Accent nameMost populous urban centerStrong // frontingStrong // frontingStrong // frontingStrong /ɑːr/ 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 CityYesNoYes [85] NoNoNosplit
North-Central (Upper Midwestern) MinneapolisNoNoNoYesYesNopre-nasal & pre-velar
Northern New England BostonNoNoNoYesYesNopre-nasal
Southern HoustonYesYesYesNoMixedYesSouthern
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. [73] 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 any 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. [note 1] 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, [86] 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

Notes

  1. 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 /ɑː/ 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~ä]. 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

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.

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 half of Vermont as recently as the mid-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 only affect 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, as Philadelphia's University of Pennsylvania is the home institution of pioneering sociolinguist William Labov. Philadelphia English shares certain features with Midland American English and New York City English, although it is very much its own distinct dialect. The closest relatives of Philadelphia accents are Baltimore accents, 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 phonemic merger, occurring in some dialects of the English language, between the phonemes that are conventionally represented in the International Phonetic Alphabet with ⟨ɔː⟩ or ⟨ɔ⟩ and ⟨ɒ⟩. In varieties in which the merger has taken place, including a few in the British Isles and many in North America, what were historically two separate phonemes have fallen together into a single sound, so that caught and cot, as well as several other pairs of words, are pronounced identically.

New England English Variety of American English

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". The 2006 Atlas of North American English (ANAE) argues that there is a division between Northern New England English 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:

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 towards 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, notably 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, 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.

Northern American English or Northern U.S. English is a class of distinct American English dialects, spoken by predominantly white Americans, best documented in the greater metropolitan areas of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Western Massachusetts, Western and Central New York, Northern Illinois, Northern Ohio, Eastern South Dakota, and the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, plus some northern areas of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and even the Canadian region of Southern Ontario. The North as a super-dialect region is considered, by the 2006 Atlas of North American English, at its core, to consist of the dialects of the Inland North and Southern New England.

Despite popular stereotypes in the media that there is a singular New Jersey accent, there are in fact several distinct accents native to the U.S. state of New Jersey, none being confined only to New Jersey. Therefore, the term New Jersey English is diverse and may refer to any of these dialects of American English, or even intermediate varieties that blend features of these multiple dialects.

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 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:

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 southern Mid-Atlantic states 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.

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.

In the sociolinguistics of the English language, raising or short-a raising is a phenomenon in most American and many Canadian English accents, by which the "short a" vowel, the North American TRAP/BATH vowel, is pronounced with a raising of the tongue. Many forms of raising are specifically tensing: occurring only in certain words or environments, with a combination of greater raising, lengthening, and gliding than in other environments. The realization of this "tense" varies from to to to, and is greatly dependent on the speaker's particular dialect. A common realization is [eə](listen), a transcription that will be used throughout this article to represent the tensed vowel. The most common context for tensing throughout North American English, regardless of dialect, is when this vowel appears before a nasal consonant.

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Bibliography

Further reading

History of American English