Southern American English

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Southern American English
Southern U.S. English
Region Southern United States
Early form
Language codes
ISO 639-3
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Southern American English or Southern U.S. English is a regional dialect [1] [2] or collection of dialects of American English spoken throughout the Southern United States, though increasingly in more rural areas and primarily by White Southerners. [3] The dialect is commonly known in the United States simply as Southern, [4] [5] [6] while formal, much more recent terms within American linguistics include Southern White Vernacular English and Rural White Southern English. [7] [8]

American English Set of dialects of the English language spoken in the United States

American English, sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. It is considered one of the most influential dialects of English globally, including on other varieties of English.

Southern United States Cultural region of the United States

The southern United States, also known as the American South, Dixie, Dixieland, or simply the South, is a region of the United States of America. It is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the western United States, with the midwestern United States and northeastern United States to its north and the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico to its south.

Rural area geographic area that is located outside towns and cities

In general, a rural area or countryside is a geographic area that is located outside towns and cities. The Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines the word rural as encompassing "...all population, housing, and territory not included within an urban area. Whatever is not urban is considered rural."


A regional Southern American English consolidated and expanded throughout all the traditional Southern States since the last quarter of the nineteenth century until around World War II, [9] [10] largely superseding the older Southern American English dialects. With this younger and more unified pronunciation system, Southern American English now comprises the largest American regional accent group by number of speakers. [11] As of 2006, a Southern accent is strongly reported throughout the U.S. states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Kentucky, as well as most of Texas, eastern and southern Oklahoma, southern Missouri, southeastern Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, northern Florida, and southeastern New Mexico. The accent of some Midland American English (often identified as a South Midland accent) is documented as sharing key features with Southern American English, though to a weaker extent, including in northern Oklahoma, eastern and central Kansas, Missouri generally, the southern halves of Illinois and Indiana, southern Ohio, western Delaware, and south-central Pennsylvania. [12]

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

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.

Phonology is a branch of linguistics concerned with the systematic organization of sounds in spoken languages and signs in sign languages. It used to be only the study of the systems of phonemes in spoken languages, but it may also cover any linguistic analysis either at a level beneath the word or at all levels of language where sound or signs are structured to convey linguistic meaning.

Southern American English as a regional dialect can be divided into various sub-dialects, the most phonologically advanced (i.e., the most innovative) ones being southern varieties of Appalachian English and certain varieties of Texan English. African-American English has many common points with Southern American English dialects due to the strong historical ties of African Americans to the South. Recently, the Southern accent has been receding among younger and more urban Southerners.

Appalachian English dialect of the English language

Appalachian English is American English native to the Appalachian mountain region of the Eastern United States. Historically, the term "Appalachian dialect" refers to a local English variety of southern Appalachia, also known as Smoky Mountain English or Southern Mountain English in the United States, both influential upon and influenced by the Southern U.S. regional dialect, which has become predominant in central and southern Appalachia today, while a Western Pennsylvania regional dialect has become predominant in northern Appalachia. The 2006 Atlas of North American English identifies the "Inland South", a dialect sub-region in which the Southern U.S. dialect's defining vowel shift is the most developed, as centering squarely in southern Appalachia: namely, the cities of Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; and Asheville, North Carolina. All Appalachian English is rhotic and characterized by distinct phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon. It is mostly oral but its features are also sometimes represented in literary works.

Texan English is the array of American English spoken in Texas, primarily falling under the regional dialects of Southern and Midland U.S. English. As one extensive study states, at the most basic level, the typical Texan accent is a "Southern accent with a twist." The "twist" refers to major features of the Lower and Upper South coming into contact with one another, as well as some notable influences derived from an early Spanish-speaking population and German immigrants. In fact, there is no single accent that covers all of Texas and few dialect features are unique to Texas. The most advanced accent features of the regional Southern U.S. dialect are reported in North and West Texas, associated with the Upper South, while elements of the same regional dialect are present but less consistent in East and South Texas, associated more with the Lower South. In South Texas, particularly, Mexican Spanish characteristics are heavily influential as well. Abilene, Austin, Corpus Christi appear to align to the Midland regional accent of the United States more than the Southern regional one; El Paso aligns to the Western regional accent; and Dallas is greatly variable.

African-American English (AAE), also known as Black English in American linguistics, is the set of English dialects primarily spoken by most black people in the United States; most commonly, it refers to a dialect continuum ranging from African-American Vernacular English to a more standard English. African-American English shows variation such as in vernacular versus standard forms, rural versus urban characteristics, features specific to singular cities or regions only, and other sociolinguistic criteria. There has also been a significant body of African-American literature and oral tradition for centuries.


The dialects collectively known as Southern American English stretch across the south-eastern and south-central United States, but exclude the southernmost areas of Florida and the extreme western and south-western parts of Texas as well as the Rio Grande Valley (Laredo to Brownsville). This linguistic region includes Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Arkansas, as well as most of Texas, Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and northern and central Florida. Southern American English dialects can also be found in extreme southern parts of Missouri, Maryland, Delaware, and Illinois. [13] [14]

Alabama State of the United States of America

Alabama is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama is the 30th largest by area and the 24th-most populous of the U.S. states. With a total of 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of inland waterways, Alabama has among the most of any state.

Georgia (U.S. state) State of the United States of America

Georgia is a state in the Southeastern United States. It began as a British colony in 1733, the last and southernmost of the original Thirteen Colonies to be established. Named after King George II of Great Britain, the Province of Georgia covered the area from South Carolina south to Spanish Florida and west to French Louisiana at the Mississippi River. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788. In 1802–1804, western Georgia was split to the Mississippi Territory, which later split to form Alabama with part of former West Florida in 1819. Georgia declared its secession from the Union on January 19, 1861, and was one of the original seven Confederate states. It was the last state to be restored to the Union, on July 15, 1870. Georgia is the 24th largest and the 8th most populous of the 50 United States. From 2007 to 2008, 14 of Georgia's counties ranked among the nation's 100 fastest-growing, second only to Texas. Georgia is known as the Peach State and the Empire State of the South. Atlanta, the state's capital and most populous city, has been named a global city. Atlanta's metropolitan area contains about 55% of the population of the entire state.

Tennessee State of the United States of America

Tennessee is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. Tennessee is the 36th largest and the 16th most populous of the 50 United States. Tennessee is bordered by Kentucky to the north, Virginia to the northeast, North Carolina to the east, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi to the south, Arkansas to the west, and Missouri to the northwest. The Appalachian Mountains dominate the eastern part of the state, and the Mississippi River forms the state's western border. Nashville is the state's capital and largest city, with a 2017 population of 667,560 and a 2017 metro population of 1,903,045. Tennessee's second largest city is Memphis, which had a population of 652,236 in 2017.

Southern dialects originated mostly from a mix of immigrants from the British Isles, who moved to the American South in the 17th and 18th centuries with minor African elements introduced by African Slaves brought to the region. Upheavals such as the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and World War II caused mass migrations of those and other settlers throughout the United States. [15]

British Isles Group of islands in northwest Europe

The British Isles are a group of islands in the North Atlantic off the north-western coast of continental Europe that consist of the islands of Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Hebrides and over six thousand smaller isles. They have a total area of about 315,159 km2 and a combined population of almost 72 million, and include two sovereign states, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The islands of Alderney, Jersey, Guernsey, and Sark, and their neighbouring smaller islands, are sometimes also taken to be part of the British Isles, even though, as islands off the coast of France, they do not form part of the archipelago.

Great Depression 20th-century worldwide economic depression

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression that took place mostly during the 1930s, beginning in the United States. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations; in most countries it started in 1929 and lasted until the late-1930s. It was the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the Great Depression is commonly used as an example of how intensely the world's economy can decline.

Dust Bowl period of severe dust storms in North America

The Dust Bowl was a period of severe dust storms that greatly damaged the ecology and agriculture of the American and Canadian prairies during the 1930s; severe drought and a failure to apply dryland farming methods to prevent the aeolian processes caused the phenomenon. The drought came in three waves, 1934, 1936, and 1939–1940, but some regions of the high plains experienced drought conditions for as many as eight years. With insufficient understanding of the ecology of the plains, farmers had conducted extensive deep plowing of the virgin topsoil of the Great Plains during the previous decade; this had displaced the native, deep-rooted grasses that normally trapped soil and moisture even during periods of drought and high winds. The rapid mechanization of farm equipment, especially small gasoline tractors, and widespread use of the combine harvester contributed to farmers' decisions to convert arid grassland to cultivated cropland.

Modern phonology

The approximate extent of Southern American English, based upon The Atlas of North American English. Southern dialect map.png
The approximate extent of Southern American English, based upon The Atlas of North American English .
A list of typical Southern vowels [18] [19]
English diaphoneme Southern phoneme Example words
Pure vowels (Monophthongs)
/æ/ [æ~æjə~æ̠ɛæ̠]act, pal, trap
[eə~æjə] ham, land, yeah
/ɑː/ [ɑ]blah, bother, father,
lot, top, wasp
[ɑɒ~ɑ] (older: [ɔo~ɑɒ])all, dog, bought,
loss, saw, taught
/ɛ/ [ɛ~ɛjə]
preceding a nasal consonant: [ɪ~ɪ(j)ə]
dress, met, bread
/ə/ [ə]about, syrup, arena
/ɪ/ [ɪ~ɪjə~iə]hit, skim, tip
// [i̞i~ɪi]beam, chic, fleet
/ʌ/ [ɜ]bus, flood, what
/ʊ/ [ʊ̈~ʏ]book, put, should
// [ʊu~ɵu~ʊ̈y~ʏy~ʉ̞u̟]food, glue, new
// [äː~äɛ]ride, shine, try
([ɐi~äɪ~äɛ]) bright, dice, psych
// [æɒ~ɛjɔ]now, ouch, scout
// [ɛi~æ̠i]lake, paid, rein
/ɔɪ/ [oi]boy, choice, moist
// [ɜʊ~ɜʊ̈~ɜʏ]
preceding /l/ or a hiatus: [ɔu]
goat, oh, show
R-colored vowels
/ɑːr/ rhotic Southern dialects: [ɒɹ~ɑɹ]
non-rhotic Southern dialects: [ɒ~ɑ]
barn, car, park
/ɛər/ rhotic: [e̞ɹ~ɛ(j)ɹ]
non-rhotic: [ɛ(j)ə]
bare, bear, there
/ɜːr/ [ɚ~ɐɹ] (older: [ɜ])burn, first, herd
/ər/ rhotic:[ɚ]
better, martyr, doctor
/ɪər/ rhotic: [iɹ]
non-rhotic: [iə]
fear, peer, tier
/ɔːr/ rhotic: [o(u)ɹ]
non-rhotic: [o(u)ə]
hoarse, horse, poor
score, tour, war
/jʊər/ rhotic: [juɹ~jɹ]
non-rhotic: [juə]
cure, Europe, pure

Most of the Southern United States underwent several major sound changes from the beginning to the middle of the twentieth century, during which a more unified, region-wide sound system developed, markedly different from the sound systems of the nineteenth-century Southern dialects.

The South as a present-day dialect region generally includes all of these pronunciation features below, which are popularly recognized in the United States as a "Southern accent". However, there is still variation in Southern speech regarding potential differences based on factors like a speaker's exact sub-region, age, ethnicity, etc. The following phonological phenomena focus on the developing sound system of the twentieth-century Southern dialects of the United States that altogether largely (though certainly not entirely) superseded the older Southern regional patterns:

The merger of pin and pen in Southern American English. In the purple areas, the merger is complete for most speakers. Note the exclusion of the New Orleans area, Southern Florida, and of the Lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia. The purple area in California consists of the Bakersfield and Kern County area, where migrants from the south-central states settled during the Dust Bowl. There is also debate whether or not Austin, Texas is an exclusion. Based on Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:68). Pin-pen.svg
The merger of pin and pen in Southern American English. In the purple areas, the merger is complete for most speakers. Note the exclusion of the New Orleans area, Southern Florida, and of the Lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia. The purple area in California consists of the Bakersfield and Kern County area, where migrants from the south-central states settled during the Dust Bowl. There is also debate whether or not Austin, Texas is an exclusion. Based on Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006 :68).

Inland South and Texas

William Labov et al. identify the "Inland South" as a large linguistic sub-region of the South located mostly in southern Appalachia (specifically naming the cities of Greenville SC, Asheville NC, Knoxville and Chattanooga TN, and Birmingham and Linden AL), inland from both the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, and the originating region of the Southern Vowel Shift. The Inland South, along with the "Texas South" (an urban core of central Texas: Dallas, Lubbock, Odessa, and San Antonio) [12] are considered the two major locations in which the Southern regional sound system is the most highly developed, and therefore the core areas of the current-day South as a dialect region. [42]

The accents of Texas are actually diverse, for example with important Spanish influences on its vocabulary; [43] however, much of the state is still an unambiguous region of modern rhotic Southern speech, strongest in the cities of Dallas, Lubbock, Odessa, and San Antonio, [12] which all firmly demonstrate the first stage of the Southern Shift, if not also further stages of the shift. [44] Texan cities that are noticeably "non-Southern" dialectally are Abilene and Austin; only marginally Southern are Houston, El Paso, and Corpus Christi. [45] In western and northern Texas, the cot–caught merger is very close to completed. [46]

Distinct phonologies

Some sub-regions of the South, and perhaps even a majority of the biggest cities, are showing a gradual shift away from the Southern accent since the second half of the twentieth century to the present. Such well-studied cities include Houston, Texas, and Raleigh, North Carolina; in Raleigh, for example, this retreat from the accent appears to have begun around 1950. [47] Other sub-regions are unique in that their inhabitants have never spoken with the Southern regional accent, instead having their own distinct accents.

Atlanta, Charleston, and Savannah

The Atlas of North American English identified Atlanta, Georgia as a dialectal "island of non-Southern speech", [48] Charleston, South Carolina likewise as "not markedly Southern in character", and the traditional local accent of Savannah, Georgia as "giving way to regional [Midland] patterns", [49] despite these being three prominent Southern cities. The dialect features of Atlanta are best described today as sporadic from speaker to speaker, with such variation increased due to a huge movement of non-Southerners into the area during the 1990s. [50] Modern-day Charleston speakers have leveled in the direction of a more generalized Midland accent, away from the city's now-defunct, traditional Charleston accent, whose features were "diametrically opposed to the Southern Shift... and differ in many other respects from the main body of Southern dialects". [51] The Savannah accent is also becoming more Midland-like. The following vowel sounds of Atlanta, Charleston, and Savannah have been unaffected by typical Southern phenomena like the Southern drawl and Southern Vowel Shift: [50]

  • /æ/ as in bad (the "default" General American nasal short-a system is in use, in which /æ/ is tensed only before /n/ or /m/). [51]
  • /aɪ/ as in bide (however, some Atlanta and Savannah speakers do variably show Southern /aɪ/ glide weakening).
  • /eɪ/ as in bait.
  • /ɛ/ as in bed.
  • /ɪ/ as in bid.
  • /i/ as in bead.
  • /ɔ/ as in bought (which is lowered, as in most of the U.S., and approaches [ɒ~ɑ]; the cot–caught merger is mostly at a transitional stage in these cities).

Today, the accents of Atlanta, Charleston, and Savannah are most similar to Midland regional accents or at least Southeastern super-regional accents. [50] [52] In all three cities, some speakers (though most consistently documented in Charleston and least consistently in Savannah) demonstrate the Southeastern fronting of /oʊ/ and the status of the pin–pen merger is highly variable. [52] Non-rhoticity (r-dropping) is now rare in these cities, yet still documented in some speakers. [53]

Southern Louisiana

Most of southern Louisiana constitutes Acadiana, a cultural region dominated for hundreds of years by monolingual speakers of Cajun French, [54] which combines elements of Acadian French with other French and Spanish words. Today, this French dialect is spoken by many older Cajun ethnic group and is said to be dying out. A related language, Louisiana Creole French, also exists. Since the early 1900s, Cajuns additionally began to develop their own vernacular dialect of English, which retains some influences and words from French, such as "cher" (dear) or "nonc" (uncle). This dialect fell out of fashion after World War II, but experienced a renewal in primarily male speakers born since the 1970s, who have been the most attracted by, and the biggest attractors for, a successful Cajun cultural renaissance. [54] The accent includes: [55] variable non-rhoticity (or r-dropping), high nasalization (including in vowels before nasal consonants), deletion of any word's final consonant(s) (hand becomes [hæ̃], food becomes [fu], rent becomes [ɹɪ̃], New York becomes [nuˈjɔə], etc.), [55] a potential for glide weakening in all gliding vowels (e.g. /oʊ/ (as in Joe), /eɪ/ as in jay, and /ɔɪ/ as in joy, have reduced glides: [oː], [eː], and [ɔː], respectively), [55] and the cot–caught merger towards [ä]. [55]

One historical English dialect spoken only by those raised in the Greater New Orleans area is traditionally non-rhotic and noticeably shares more pronunciation commonalities with the New York accent than with other Southern accents. Since at least the 1980s, this local New Orleans dialect has popularly been called "Yat", from the common local greeting "Where you at?". The New York accent features shared with the Yat accent include: [50] non-rhoticity, a short-a split system (so that bad and back, for example, have different vowels), /ɔ/ as high gliding [ɔə], /ɑr/ as rounded [ɒ~ɔ], and the coil–curl merger (traditionally, though now in decline). Yat also lacks the typical vowel changes of the Southern Shift and the pin–pen merger that are commonly heard elsewhere throughout the South. Yat is associated with the working and lower-middle classes, though a spectrum with fewer notable Yat features is often heard the higher one's socioeconomic status; such New Orleans affluence is associated with the New Orleans Uptown and the Garden District, whose speech patterns are sometimes considered distinct from the lower-class Yat dialect. [56]

Older phonologies

Prior to becoming a phonologically unified dialect region, the South was once home to an array of much more diverse accents at the local level. Features of the deeper interior Appalachian South largely became the basis for the newer Southern regional dialect; thus, older Southern American English primarily refers to the English spoken outside of Appalachia: the coastal and former plantation areas of the South, best documented before the Civil War, on the decline during the early 1900s, and basically non-existent in speakers born since the Civil Rights Movement. [57]

Little unified these older Southern dialects, since they never formed a single homogeneous dialect region to begin with. Some older Southern accents were rhotic (most strongly in Appalachia and west of the Mississippi), while the majority were non-rhotic (most strongly in plantation areas); however, wide variation existed. Some older Southern accents showed (or approximated) Stage 1 of the Southern Vowel Shiftnamely, the glide weakening of /aɪ/however, it is virtually unreported before the very late 1800s. [58] In general, the older Southern dialects clearly lacked the Mary–marry–merry, cot–caught, horse–hoarse, wine–whine, full–fool, fill–feel, and do–dew mergers, all of which are now common to, or encroaching on, all varieties of present-day Southern American English. Older Southern sound systems included those local to: [7]


These grammatical features are characteristic of both older and newer Southern American English.


In the United States, the following vocabulary is mostly unique to, or best associated with, Southern U.S. English: [39]

Unique words can occur as Southern nonstandard past-tense forms of verbs, particularly in the Southern highlands and Piney Woods, as in yesterday they riz up, come outside, drawed, and drownded, as well as participle forms like they have took it, rode it, blowed it up, and swimmed away. [60] Drug is traditionally both the past tense and participle form of the verb drag. [60]


Frequency of either "Y'all" or "You all" to address multiple people, according to an Internet survey of American dialect variation. You all and Y'all.jpg
Frequency of either "Y'all" or "You all" to address multiple people, according to an Internet survey of American dialect variation.
Frequency of just "Y'all" to address multiple people, according to an Internet survey of American dialect variation. Y'allMap.jpg
Frequency of just "Y'all" to address multiple people, according to an Internet survey of American dialect variation.

Y'all is a second person plural pronoun and the usual Southern plural form of the word you. [68] It is originally a contraction  you all which is used less frequently. [69] This term originated with the modern Southern dialect region and is not found in older Southern dialects.

Southern Louisiana

Southern Louisiana English especially is known for some unique vocabulary: long sandwiches are often called poor boys or po' boys , woodlice/roly-polies called doodle bugs, the end of a bread loaf called a nose, pedestrian islands and median strips alike called neutral ground, [39] and sidewalks called banquettes. [70]

Relationship to African-American English

Discussion of "Southern dialect" in the United States popularly refers to those English varieties spoken by white Southerners; [8] however, as a geographic term, it may also encompass the dialects developed among other social or ethnic groups in the South, most prominently including African Americans. Today, African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) is a fairly unified variety of English spoken by working- and middle-class African Americans throughout the United States. AAVE exhibits an evident relationship with both older and newer Southern dialects, though the exact nature of this relationship is poorly understood. [71] It is clear that AAVE was influenced by older speech patterns of the Southern United States, where Africans and African Americans were held as slaves until the American Civil War. These slaves originally spoke a diversity of indigenous African languages but picked up English to communicate with one another, their white masters, and the white servants and laborers they often closely worked alongside. Many features of AAVE suggest that it largely developed from nonstandard dialects of colonial English (with some features of AAVE absent from other modern American dialects, yet still existing in certain modern British dialects). However, there is also evidence of the influence of West African languages on AAE vocabulary and grammar.

It is uncertain to what extent early white Southern English borrowed elements from early African-American Vernacular English versus the other way around. Like many white accents of English once spoken in Southern plantation areasnamely, the Lowcountry, Virginia Piedmont and Tidewater, lower Mississippi Valley, and western Black Beltthe modern-day AAVE accent is mostly non-rhotic (or "r-dropping" ). The presence of non-rhoticity in both black English and older white Southern English is not merely coincidence, though, again, which dialect influenced which is unknown. It is better documented, however, that white Southerners borrowed some morphological processes from black Southerners.

Many grammatical features were used alike by older speakers of white Southern English and African-American Vernacular English more so than by contemporary speakers of the same two varieties. Even so, contemporary speakers of both continue to share these unique grammatical features: "existential it", the word y'all, double negatives, was to mean were, deletion of had and have, them to mean those, the term fixin' to, stressing the first syllable of words like hotel or guitar, and many others. [72] Both dialects also continue to share these same pronunciation features: /ɪ/ tensing, /ʌ/ raising, upgliding /ɔ/, the pin–pen merger, and the most defining sound of the current Southern accent (though rarely documented in older Southern accents): the glide weakening of /aɪ/. However, while this glide weakening has triggered among white Southerners a complicated "Southern Vowel Shift", black speakers in the South and elsewhere on the other hand are "not participating or barely participating" in much of this shift. [73] AAVE speakers also do not front the vowel starting positions of /oʊ/ and /u/, thus aligning these characteristics more with the speech of nineteenth-century white Southerners than twentieth-century white Southerners. [74]

One strong possibility for the divergence of black American English and white Southern American English (i.e., the disappearance of older Southern American English) is that the civil rights struggles caused these two racial groups "to stigmatize linguistic variables associated with the other group". [74] This may explain some of the differences outlined above, including why all traditionally non-rhotic white Southern accents have shifted to now becoming intensely rhotic. [32]

Social perceptions

In the United States, there is a general negative stigma surrounding the Southern dialect. Non-Southern Americans tend to associate a Southern accent with cognitive and verbal slowness, lack of education, ignorance, bigotry, or religious and political conservatism, [75] using common labels like "hick", "hillbilly", [76] or "redneck" accent. [77] The accent is also associated nationwide with the military, NASCAR, and country music; in fact, even non-Southern American country singers typically imitate a Southern accent in their music. [77] Meanwhile, Southerners themselves tend to have mixed judgments of their own accent, some similarly negative but others positively associating it with a laid-back, plain, or humble attitude. [78] The sum negative associations nationwide, however, are the main presumable cause of a gradual decline of Southern accent features, since the middle of the twentieth century onwards, among younger and more urban residents of the South. [47]

See also

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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:

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.

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:

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.

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.

The Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, Phonology and Sound Change is an overview of the pronunciation patterns (accents) in all the major urbanized regional dialects of the English language spoken in the United States and Canada. It is the result of a large-scale survey by linguists William Labov, Sharon Ash, and Charles Boberg. Speech data was collected, mainly during the 1990s, by means of telephone interviews with individuals in metropolitan areas in all regions of the U.S. and Canada. Using acoustic analysis of speech from these interviews, ANAE traces sound changes in progress in North American English, and defines boundaries between dialect regions based on the different sound changes taking place in them.

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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