American English or U.S. English is the diverse form of the English language used mostly in the United States of America. It is the primary language used in the United States. According to the 1990 census , 97 percent of U.S. residents speak English "well" or "very well". Only 0.8% (8 people out of a thousand) speak no English at all, as compared with 3.6 percent in 1890. As of 2005, more than two-thirds of native speakers of English use the American dialect.
English was inherited from British colonization. The first wave of English-speaking immigrants was settled in North America in the 17th century. In that century, there were also speakers in North America of the Dutch, French, German, Native American, Spanish, Swedish, and Finnish languages.
In many ways, compared to British English, American English is conservative in its phonology. It is sometimes claimed that certain rural areas in North America speak "Elizabethan English," and there may be some truth to this, but the standard American English of the upper Midwest has a sound profile much closer to 17th century English than contemporary speech in England. The conservatism of American English is largely the result of the fact that it represents a mixture of various dialects from the British Isles. Dialect in North America is most distinctive on the East Coast of the continent; this is largely because these areas were in contact with England, and imitated prestigious varieties of British English at a time when those varieties were undergoing changes. The interior of the country was settled by people who were no longer closely connected to England, as they had no access to the ocean during a time when journeys to Britain were always by sea. As such the inland speech is much more homogeneous than the East Coast speech, and did not imitate the changes in speech from England.
Most North American speech is rhotic, as English was everywhere in the 17th century. Rhoticity was further supported by Hiberno-English and Scottish English. In most varieties of North American English, the sound corresponding to the letter "R" is a retroflex semivowel rather than a trill or a tap. The loss of syllable-final r in North America is confined mostly to the accents of eastern New England, New York City and surrounding areas, and the coastal portions of the South. In England, lost 'r' was often changed into (schwa), giving rise to a new class of falling diphthongs. Furthermore, the 'er' sound of (stressed) fur or (unstressed) butter, which is represented in IPA as stressed [ɝ] or unstressed [ɚ] is realized in American English as a monophthongal r-colored vowel. This does not happen in the non-rhotic varieties of North American speech.
Other British English changes which most North American dialects do not participate include:
- The shift of [æ] to [ɑ] (the so-called "broad A") before [f], [s], [θ], [ð], [z], [v] alone or preceded by [n]. This is the difference between the British and American pronunciation of bath and dance. In the United States, only linguistically conservative eastern-New-England speakers took up this innovation.
- The shift of intervocalic [t] to glottal stop [ʔ], as in /bɒʔəl/ for bottle. This change is not universal for British English (and in fact is not considered to be part of Received Pronunciation), but it does not occur in most North American dialects. Newfoundland English is a notable exception.
On the other hand, North American English has undergone some sound changes not found in Britain, at least not in standard varieties. Many of these are instances of phonemic differentiation and include:
- The merger of [ɑ] and [ɒ], making father and bother rhyme. This change is nearly universal in North American English, occurring almost everywhere except for parts of eastern New England, like the Boston accent.
- The merger of mid and low front vowels [eɪ], [ɛ], and [æ] before 'r'. The words Mary, merry, and marry are homophones for many speakers of American English, although in some cases the merger is incomplete, and only two of the three are homophones.
- The merger of the vowels [ɪ] and [iː] before 'r', by which Sirius and serious become homophones, and mirror and nearer rhyme.
- The merger of the vowels [ʌ] and [ɝ] before 'r', by which furry and hurry rhyme (the second nurse merger).
- The merger of [ʊɹ] and [ɝ] after palatals in some words, so that cure, pure, mature and sure rhyme with fir in some speech registers for some speakers.
Dropping of [j] after [n], [d], [t], [s], [z], and [l], so that new, duke, Tuesday, suit, resume, lute are pronounced /nuː/, /duːk/, /tuːzdeɪ/, /suːt/, /ɹɪzuːm/, /luːt/.
[Š]-tensing in environments that vary widely from accent to accent. In some accents, particularly those from Philadelphia to New York City, [Š] and [eə] can even contrast sometimes, as in Yes, I can [kŠn] vs. tin can [keən].
- The flapping of intervocalic [t] and [d] to alveolar tap [ɾ] before non-initial reduced vowels. The words ladder and latter are mostly or entirely homophonous, possibly distinguished only by the length of preceding vowel. For some speakers, the merger is incomplete and 't' before a reduced vowel is sometimes not tapped following [eɪ] or [ɪ] when it represents underlying 't'; thus greater and grader, and unbitten and unbidden are distinguished. Others distinguish the sounds if they are preceded by the diphthongs [ɑɪ] or [ɑʊ]; these speakers tend to pronounce writer with [əɪ] and rider with [ɑɪ]. This is called Canadian raising; it is general in Canadian English, and occurs in some northerly versions of American English as well.
- The dropping of [t]s that occur between [n] and an unstressed vowel, making winter and winner sound the same. This does not occur when the t after the n belongs to a second stress syllable, as in entail.
- In many varieties of American English, [ɛ] is raised to [ɪ] before nasal consonants, making pairs like pen/pin homophonous. This merger originated in Southern American English but is now widespread in the Midwest and West as well. See map.
Some mergers found in most varieties of both American and British English include:
- The merger of the vowels [ɔ] and [oʊ] before 'r', making pairs like horse/hoarse, corps/core, for/four, morning/mourning etc. homophones. In older varieties of the eastern New England and New York-New Jersey accents, these pairs were distinct, but today the merger is widespread even in those areas. The distinction may still be made in parts of the coastal South and in AAVE, where however [oʊɹ] has generally merged with [uːɹ].
- The loss of [h] before [w], making pairs like wine/whine, wet/whet, Wales/whales, wear/where etc. homophones. Many older varieties of southern and western American English still keep these distinct, but the merger appears to be spreading.
Differences in British English and American English
Main article: American and British English differences
American English has both spelling and grammatical differences from British English, some of which were made as part of an attempt to rationalize the English spelling used by British English at the time. Unlike many 20th century language reforms (e.g., Turkey's alphabet shift, Norway's spelling reform) the American spelling changes were not driven by government, but by textbook writers and dictionary makers.
The first American dictionary was written by Noah Webster in 1828. At the time America was a relatively new country and Webster's particular contribution was to show that the region spoke a different dialect from Britain, and so he wrote a dictionary with many spellings differing from the standard. Many of these changes were initiated unilaterally by Webster.
Webster also argued for many "simplifications" to the idiomatic spelling of the period. Somewhat ironically, many, although not all, of his simplifications fell into common usage alongside the original versions, resulting in a situation even more confused than before.
Many words are shortened and differ from other versions of English. Spellings such as center are used instead of centre in other versions of English. Conversely, American English sometimes favors words that are morphologically more complex, whereas British English 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).
Loanwords not common in British English
American English has further changed due to the influx of non-English speakers whose words sometimes enter American vernacular. Many words have entered American English from Spanish, Native American languages, and so on.
For detailed differences in British English and American English see American and British English differences.
Examples of common American English loanwords, not common in British English (many, however, would be recognised due to the influence of the American entertainment industry):
okra, or a stew thickened with okra
- a small baked cake (usually flat and crisp) made from sweetened dough (a biscuit in British English)
- a small platform in front of a house reached by a set of steps
- a car at the end of a train used for observing the train and braking the train in case it separated.
From French (Some of these terms are exclusive to the state of Louisiana)
- a raised sidewalk (usage is more regional)
- a puffy square pastry covered in powdered sugar
- a spicy link sausage
cafÚ au lait
a mixture of half milk and half coffee (also sometimes used as slang for Mulatto descent)
- a thick seafood stew
- a spicy stew of vegetables and seafood (usage is more regional)
- rice cooked with herbs, spices, and ham, chicken, or seafood
- an extra or unexpected gift (usage is more regional)
- pain perdu
New Orleans-style French toast
- a canoe made from a hollowed tree trunk (usage is more regional)
- a native Louisiana style of music (usage is more regional)
- skosh (sukoshi)
- a small amount; a bit
- a swampy, slow-moving stream or outlet
- a strong wind blowing down off the mountains
a North American deciduous tree of the genus Carya
- high muckamuck
- an important person (often used ironically)
- a political independent
- that neck of the woods (naiack)
- an expression; from whence a person hails
- a gathering or meeting, esp. of Native Americans
a vegetable, similar to English marrow
- mixture of corn and other vegetables like peas, beans
- a marmot-like mammal
- a mud-and-straw construction material used exclusively for bricks (originally an Arabic word, at-taub, brick)
- dry gulch or creek bed
- neighborhood, especially an ethnic ghetto
- cowboy (vaquero, cowboy)
nerve or guts, literally testicles
- criminal (obsolete noun desperate, hopeless)
- a disparaging term meaning white, especially English-speaking (New World Spanish, foreigner <Spanish griego, Greek)
- the principal dwelling on a ranch
beat-up car (originally thought of as originating from Jalapa, Mexico)
- flat topped mountain (mesa, table)
- a small infraction, especially moral (pecadillo, a little sin)
- understand, knowledgeable (¿Sabe?, Do (you) know?)
See main article: List of English words of Yiddish origin
- small political unit, sub-district
- rural area, backcountry
- Cogon (kugon)
- tall grass
English words that arose in the US
A number of words that arose in the United States have become common, to varying degrees, in English as it is spoken internationally. Although its origin is disputed, the most famous word is probably OK, which is sometimes used in other languages as well. Other American introductions include "belittle," "gerrymander" (from Elbridge Gerry), "applesauce", "blizzard" and "teenager," and there are of course many more.
English words obsolete outside the US
A number of words that originated in the English of the British Isles are still in everyday use in North America, but are no longer used in most varieties of British English. The most conspicuous of these words are fall, the season; to quit, as in "to cease an activity" (as opposed to "to leave a location" as still used in most other Anglophone countries); and gotten as a past participle of get. Americans are likelier than Britons to name a stream whose breadth or volume is judged insufficient for it to be a river or a creek. The word diaper goes back at least to Shakespeare, and usage was maintained in the U.S. and Canada, but was replaced in the British Isles with nappy.
Some of these words are still used in various dialects of the British Isles, but not in formal standard British English. Many of these older words have cognates in Scots.
The subjunctive mood is livelier in North American English than it is in British English; it appears in some areas as a spoken usage, and is considered obligatory in more formal contexts in American English. British English has a strong tendency to replace subjunctives with auxiliary verb constructions.
Written American English is fairly standardized across the country. However, there is some variation in the spoken language. There are several recognizable regional variations (such as New York-New Jersey English), particularly in pronunciation, but also in slang vocabulary.
Most traditional sources cite General American English (occasionally referred to as Standard Midwestern) as the unofficial standard accent and dialect of American English. However, many linguists claim California English has become the de facto standard since the 1960s or 1970s due to its central role in the American entertainment industry; others argue that the entertainment industry, despite being in California, uses Midwestern. Certain features which are frequent in speakers of California English, particularly the cot-caught merger, are not often considered as part of the standard.
Regional dialects in North America are most strongly differentiated along the eastern seaboard. The distinctive speech of important cultural centers like Boston, Massachusetts (see Boston accent), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Charleston, South Carolina, and New Orleans, Louisiana imposed their marks on the surrounding areas. The Connecticut River is usually regarded as the southern/western extent of New England speech, while the Potomac River generally divides a group of Northern coastal dialects from the beginning of the Coastal Southern dialect area (distinguished from the Highland Southern or South Midland dialect treated below, although outsiders often mistakenly believe that the speech in these two areas is the same); in between these two rivers several local variations exist, chief among them the one that prevails in and around New York City and northern New Jersey.
The sounds of American speech can be identified with a number of public figures. President John F. Kennedy spoke in the Boston accent, while President Jimmy Carter speaks with a Southern coastal accent. The North Midlands speech is familiar to those who have heard Neil Armstrong and John Glenn, while the South Midland speech was the speech of President Lyndon Baines Johnson.
African American Vernacular English (AAVE, colloquially known as Ebonics) contains many distinctive forms.
Eastern New England
The accents of eastern New England, including those of Boston (see Boston accent), New Hampshire, and Maine (also called Down East), are characterized by a number of phenomena that distinguish them from General American (GenAm). Traditionally, these accents (with the exception of Martha's Vineyard) are non-rhotic, but this feature is slowly losing ground, especially with the vowel [ɝ]. Further, most accents in this region have not merged the vowels of father and bother, i.e. the two do not rhyme, as they do in GenAm.
In general, these accents undergo the cot-caught merger, making cot and caught homophonous as /kɒt/. They also have a dwindling group of words with broad A, such as past, half, aunt, can't. Among non-rhotic speakers, the broad A is identical to the sound usually spelled ar, so that past/parsed and aunt/aren't can be homophonous pairs.
The distinction between the vowels of horse and hoarse is maintained in traditional non-rhotic New England accents as [hɒs]] (with the same vowel as cot and caught) vs. [hoəs].
Words that have [ɒɹV] in RP (where V stands for any vowel), such as origin, Florida, horrible, quarrel, warren, borrow, tomorrow, sorry, sorrow, all have [ɒɹV] in eastern New England, unlike GenAm where most have [ɔɹV] (except the last four in the list, which have [ɑɹV] in GenAm as well).
The eastern New England accents have not undergone many of the vowel mergers before intervocalic [ɹ] found in General American. For example, many accents in this region preserve the distinction between [ɪəɹ] (as in nearer /nɪəɹə/) and [ɪɹ] (as in mirror /mɪɹə/, as well as the distinction between [ʌɹ] (as in hurry /hʌɹi/) and [ɜ] (as in furry /fɜɹi/.
Like some other east-coast accents as well as AAVE, some accents of eastern New England merge [oɹ] and [ʊɹ], making homophones of pairs like pour/poor, more/moor, tore/tour, cores/Coors etc.
Main article: New York-New Jersey English
As in Eastern New England, the accents of New York City and northern New Jersey are traditionally non-rhotic. But the vowels of cot ([kɑt]) and caught ([kɔət]) are distinct; the former is distinct from that of cart (/kɑət/) only by being short and monophthongal.
The accent is well attested in American movies and television shows. Bugs Bunny and Groucho Marx both had a Brooklyn accent. The accent is often exaggerated, but it still does exist to some degree with many Brooklyn natives. A more contemporary version can be found on the popular television show The Sopranos, which is set in Essex County, New Jersey.
Philadelphia and the Delaware valley
The accent of Philadelphia and nearby parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, is probably the original ancestor of General American. It is one of the few coastal accents that is rhotic, and one of the first to merge the historical [oɹ] of hoarse, mourning with the [ɔɹ] of horse, morning. It also maintains the cot-caught contrast, unlike New England and western Pennsylvania. Nevertheless there are differences between modern Philadelphia speech and General American, some of which will be outlined here.
- "Water" is sometimes pronounced /wʊdɚ/, i.e. with the vowel of wood
- Creek is sometimes pronounced as "crick"
- As in New York-New Jersey English, but unlike General American, words like orange and horrible are pronounced with [-ɑɹ-].
- Unlike New York-New Jersey English, on is pronounced [ɔn], so it rhymes with "dawn."
- The [oʊ] of goat and boat is fronted, so it is pronounced [ɞʊ], as in the Midland and South.
- The phoneme [Š] undergoes [Š]-tensing in some words; fewer words have the tense [eə] in Philadelphia than in New York City.
- As in New York City and Boston, there is a three-way distinction between Mary, marry, and merry. A recent development is a merger of the vowel of merry with Murray.
Canadian raising occurs for [aɪ] (price) but not for /aʊ/ (mouth)
- There is a split of [eɪ] (face) so at the end of a word (e.g. day) it sounds like it does in Australia, while in any other position (e.g. date) it is pronounced more like [i]. Commonly confused words include eight and eat, snake and sneak, slave and sleeve.
- South Philadelphia has been known for r-dropping, even though it has never been a characteristic of the rest of the region.
See also Baltimorese
Main article: Southern American English
monophthongization of [aɪ] as [aː], e.g. most dialects' "I" → "Ah" in the South.
- (also some East Coast:) loss of non-prevocalic r.
- Coastal Southern speech is non-rhotic.
[e] and [i] merged before nasal consonants, for example "Wendy" becomes "Windy," "pen" becomes "pin," and so forth.
- Unlike most American English, but like Commonwealth English, glides ([j], the y sound) are inserted before [u] after the consonants [t], [d], [θ], [s], [z], [n], and [l].
- In the Deep South, vowels tend to take the hard sound more often e.g. "on" and "own" are similar; "can't" and "ain't" and "glass" and "face" also might rhyme.
- Verbs can have various meanings. For example, 'cut' the light off, or 'mash' the buttons
While including such characteristics of the Southern US English as using "y'all" for second person plural, the New Orleans accent is so unlike the rest of the South and so similar to that of New York City that New Orleanians traveling in other parts of the USA are often mistaken for New Yorkers.
Many pronunciations are surprisingly similar to that found in New York City and northern New Jersey, presumably arising from a similar mix of immigrants. Parallels include the split of the historic short-a class into tense [eə] and lax [Š] versions, as well as pronunciation of "cot" and "caught" as [kɑt] and [kɔt]. The stereotypical New York r-dropping of "toity-toid street" (33rd Street) used to be a common New Orleans feature, though it has mostly receded today.
Perhaps the most distinctive New Orleans accent is locally nicknamed "yat", from a traditional greeting "Where y'at" ("Where are you at?", meaning "How are you?"). One of the most detailed phonetic depictions of an extreme "yat" accent of the early 20th century is found in the speech of the character Krazy Kat in the comic strip of the same name by George Herriman. While such extreme "yat" accents are no longer so common in the city, they can still be found in parts of Mid-City and the 9th ward, as well as in St. Bernard Parish, just east of New Orleans.
The novel A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole is generally considered the best depiction of New Orleans accents in literature.
The speech of South Florida (everything south of Orlando) is noticeable for not being a typical southern accent, because a large proportion of the inhabitants of the area are either natives of the Northeast (and therefore speakers of accents like New York-New Jersey English) or else native Spanish speakers (predominantly from Cuba.) The accents heard across this region, especially in older communities such as Aventura, Boca Raton, or West Palm Beach, are that of the typical New Yorker.
In Miami alone, as of the 2000 Census, there are over 145 different languages spoken throughout many communities in Miami and its surrounding areas. Numerically, the strongest of these is Spanish. Most people visiting Miami for the first time complain that they couldn't communicate with the locals because they didn't speak English. There are even stories of going through a drive-through at a fast food restaurant and being greeted in Spanish, then French, and then English. This is especially noteable on 8th street (or Calle Ocho) where almost everyone is a native Spanish speaker. This results in "Spanglish", a code-switching conglomeration of English and Spanish. "Escuche Maria, he said to meet him al taller, 'ta bien?" (Hey Maria, he said to meet him at the garage, okay?).
In terms of speakers, the next highest minority languages are, in from greatest to least, Hatian Creole, Brazilian Portuguese, Canadian French, Russian, and Chinese. This makes Miami a very difficult place to pinpoint any certain "accent". Instead, it is a tossed salad of new vocabulary, weird sentence structure and relatively few native English speakers trying to communicate amongst themselves. Standard linguistic rules tend to be difficult to apply in a general sense here; thus, this analysis is mostly demographic in nature.
A distinctive speech pattern was also generated by the separation of Canada from the United States, centered on the Great Lakes region. This is the Inland North dialect - the "standard Midwestern" speech that was the basis for General American in the mid-20th Century, though it has been recently modified by the northern cities vowel shift.
This area consists of western New York State (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse), parts of Michigan's Lower Peninsula (Detroit, Ann Arbor, etc.), Cleveland, Chicago, Gary, and Milwaukee.
- By the Northern cities vowel shift, cad, cod, cawed, Ked, and cut are pronounced /keəd/, [kad], /kɑd/, /k↑d/, and /kɑt/, respectively.
- The starting point of [aʊ] (e.g. mouse, down) is pronounced noticeably in the back of the mouth (/mɑʊs/, /dɑʊn/), while [aɪ] (mice, dine) is much further front: (/maɪs/, /daɪn/).
- The long-o of "bone" and "goat" is rounded and pronounced far back.
- The word "on" rhymes with "don," not with "dawn."
Canadian raising is found in areas close to the Canadian border.
The Pittsburgh accent has a number of distinctive features. Please refer to that article for more information.
West of the Appalachian Mountains begins the broad zone of what is generally called "Midland" speech. This is divided into two discrete subdivisions, the North Midland that begins north of the Ohio River valley area, and the South Midland speech; sometimes the former is designated simply Midland and the latter is reckoned as Highland Southern. The North Midland speech continues to expand westward until it becomes the closely related speech of California, although in the immediate San Francisco area the speech more closely resembles that of the mid-Atlantic region.
The South Midland or "Highland Southern" dialect follows the Ohio River in a generally southwesterly direction, moves across Arkansas and Oklahoma west of the Mississippi, and peters out in West Texas. This is the dialect associated with truck drivers on the CB radio and country music. It is a version of the Midland speech that has assimilated some coastal Southern forms, most noticeably the loss of the diphthong [ɑɪ], , which becomes [ɑː], and the second person plural pronoun "you-all" or "y'all". Unlike Coastal Southern, however, South Midland is a rhotic dialect, pronouncing /r/ wherever it has historically occurred.
This consists of the larger parts of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois which are not in the Inland North, as well as Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska, where it begins to blend into the West, and even extends into the Southern parts of Michigan's lower peninsula. Some linguists call this the "North Midland" with the Southern highlands being the "South Midland."
- In some rural areas, words like "roof" and "root" get the vowel of "book" and "hoof"
- People who pronounce "don" and "dawn" differently pronounce "on" to rhyme with "dawn" and not "don"
St. Louis has a distinctive accent, see the section on it below.
- South Indiana has a distinctive accent, locally known as the "Hoosier Twang" (a well-known speaker is actor Jim Nabors, who played Gomer Pyle on TV and has for many years sung "Back Home In Indiana" before the Indy 500 race).
South Midlands speech, found in the area from Tennessee through Texas, is characterized by:
monophthongization of [ai] as [aː], e.g. most dialects' "I" → "Ah" in the South.
- raising of initial vowel of [au] to [Šu]; the initial vowel is often lengthened and prolonged, yielding [Šːw].
- nasalization of vowels, esp. diphthongs, before [n].
- raising of [Š] to [e]; can't → cain't, etc.
- Unlike most American English, but like Commonwealth English, glides ([j], the y sound) are inserted before [u] after the consonants [t], [d], [θ], [s], [z], [n], and [l].
- South Midlands speech is rhotic. This is the principal feature that distinguishes South Midland speech from the non-rhotic coastal Southern varieties.
(Minnesota (esp. rural), Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Wisconsin, North Dakota)
- As in most North American accents, [ɒ] is merged with [ɑ], so that father rhymes with bother.
Canadian raising: see section on Canada.
- "roof", "book", and "root" all use the same vowel [ʊ]); "root" may be pronounced as rhyming with "scoot," however
- Use of German/Scandinavian "ja", pronounced as either /ya:/ or /yŠ:/, as an affirmative filler or emphatic; Standard US English "yes" is used in formal settings to answer questions and to start an explanation.
- Tendency towards a "sing-songy" intonation (the area's earliest European settlers were primarily Scandinavian, and this has influenced the local dialect). More recently, this has been reinforced by an influx of Asians, most of whom speak tonal languages.
- Known as "Yooper" in Upper Pensinsula of Michigan [UP = Yoo-Pee]
- For a stereotypical (if somewhat overdone) example of Minnesotan, refer to the movie Fargo. For a more normative example, Garrison Keillor speaks with a typical urban Minnesota accent.(Note: most southern, even rural, Minnesota accents sound more like the northern Iowan accent. Thicker accents up in the northern areas are still much less defined than in Fargo.)
- final /t/ is replaced in the speech of most individuals by /ʔ/, including after nasals, to the extent that a clearly enunciated "can" /kŠ:n/ in otherwise rapid speech is likely to be confused with "can't". ("Can" is normally pronounced as /kən/, or even with the vowel reduced to a syllabification of the /n/ itself, while "can't" is normally pronounced /kŠ:nʔ/.)
- collapse of // with /d/ and /θ/ with /t/: to use a (hilarious) anecdote from the family history of this author as an example:
- "Yozef? Are you done cleaning the barn?"
- "No, but it's about two turds done."
- (Obviously, cleaning two turds out of a barn is not a very great feat, but the meaning here is "two thirds" (2/3), not "two turds", which indicates a far greater accomplishment...)
- This pronunciation can also be found in the name of popular songs, such as De Turdy Point Buck (The 30-point Buck), a popular hunting season song.
It is noteworthy that this phoneme collapse is far more prevalent in rural areas, especially outside Upper Michigan and northeastern Wisconsin. This characteristic is likely due to the large immigrant population (in most cases notably less than a century removed from "the old country"), comprised in great part of speakers of Germanic, Slavic and Finnic languages. One notable exception, giving weight to this theory, is that it is peculiarly absent on Washington Island, in Wisconsin, in the very heart of the prevalence of this trait. Washington Island is home to the most homogeneous Icelander (over 90% of the population) immigrant community in the US, and unlike most non-English Germanic languages, the Icelandic language differentiates rigorously between the phonemes // and /d/ and between /θ/ and /t/.
- W → V, particularly well → vell and what → vaht (Rarely found in people under 35.)
- Perhaps to a greater degree than other parts of the United States, standard American English pronunciation is replacing the regional accent, probably because there is less cultural identity wrapped up in the language than elsewhere
This regional variety has been much popularized, in somewhat satirical fashion, by the popular music group "Da Yoopers " (The U-Pers, i.e., the U-P (upper peninsula (of Michigan))ers), singing such Holiday season songs as Gramma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, and Da Turdy-Point Buck.
- Some St. Louisans (probably born earlier than 1960) tend to merge the [ɔɹ] sound as in for with the [ɑɹ] sound of far. Interstates 40 and 44, both of which curve through town, are thus farty and farty-far. Similarly, "corn" is pronounced [kʵŋn]. This accent is otherwise a typical north Midland accent.
- Some younger speakers are picking up the Northern cities vowel shift heard in Chicago, eastern Wisconsin, and much of Michigan and New York State. This vowel shift causes words like cat /kŠt/ to become more like [kɛt] and talent /tŠlənt/ to be more like /tʲŠlənt/ or /tʲɛlənt/.
- Since this is in the Midland, "on" rhymes with "dawn," and the Northern cities vowel shift makes this more noticeable here than in the rest of the Midland.
- Some speakers, usually older generations, pronounce words like measure as /ˈmeɪʒ.ɚ/, and wash as /wɔɹʃ/, e.g. /ˈwɔrʃ.ɪŋ.tən/ for Washington.
- Some speakers mispronounce mostaccioli as /mʌskɑtʃoliː/. This seems ironic, with the presence of The Hill.
- Main article: California English
Some characteristics of California English include:
- Raising of the front vowels [Š, ɪ] to [e, i] before [ŋ], so that sang and sing are pronounced [seŋ, siŋ]
- Fronting of the back vowels [oʊ, u] to [ɵʊ, ʉ]. The [ʉ] may trigger palatalization of a preceding consonant, so that a phrase like too cool is pronounced [tjʉ kjʉl], a pronunciation jocularly spelled tew kewl, especially on the Internet and in instant messenger services.
- Particularly among young female speakers, high rise terminals in non-question sentences, and laryngealization or "creaky voice" of words in phrase-final position.
- In Southern California, major highways are determined by the word the: "the five" is Interstate 5, "the one oh one" is US Highway 101. In Northern California, highways are not determined with the: I-5 is simply five and US-101 is one oh one.
- The merger of [oʊ] and [ʊ] to [ʊ] before [ɫ], making pairs like the following homophonous:
- bowl / bull
- foal / full
- foley / fully
- Folsom / fulsome
- mole / mull
- poll, pole / pull
- polar / puller
diphthongization of [ɛ] as [ɛɪ]: "egg" and "leg" pronounced "ayg" and "layg", "leisure" and "pleasure" pronounced "layzhur" and "playzhur".
- in some cases, "ar" and "or" are reversed: "I was barn in a born" (I was born in a barn).
- introduction of a "T" into certain words: "teacher" pronounced "teat-chur".
- shortening of some words from several syllables to one or two: "coral" as "crall", "probably" to "probly" or "prolly".
- the use of "fer" in certain expressions, such as "fer cute", meaning "cute" or "fer ignernt": "stupid".
- due to the influence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, unique euphemisms: "oh my heck" and "gol".
- The Western Washington accent, notably the Puget Sound region, has more in common with the rest of the west coast, whereas more rural eastern parts of the state have accents closer to that of Idaho and Montana.
- [ɪl] is often pronounced as [ɛl]: milk and pillow become [mɛlk] and [pɛlo]
- Some speakers pronounce the [ɛ] vowel before a nasal as [ɪ] creating homophones of the pair pen/pin
- For the most part, accents are very similar to General American.
See main article Hawaiian English.
The American Language 4th Edition, Corrected and Enlarged, H. L. Mencken, Random House, 1948, hardcover, ISBN 0394400755
How We Talk: American Regional English Today, Allan Metcalf, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000, softcover, ISBN 0618043624
- 1st and 2nd supplements of above.
Last updated: 10-11-2005 19:28:37