American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American English is the most influential form of English worldwide. English is the most widely spoken language in the United States and is the ''de facto'' common language used by the federal and state governments, to the extent that all laws and compulsory education presume English as the primary language. English is explicitly given official status by 32 of the 50 state governments. While the local courts in some divisions of the United States grant equivalent status to both English and another language—for example, English and Spanish in Puerto Rico—under federal law, English is still the official language for any matters being referred to the United States district court for the territory. American English varieties include many patterns of pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and particularly spelling that are unified nationwide but distinct from other English dialects around the world. Any American or Canadian accent perceived as free of noticeably local, ethnic, or cultural markers is popularly called "General" or "Standard" American, a fairly uniform accent continuum native to certain regions of the U.S. and associated nationally with broadcast mass media and highly educated speech. However, historical and present linguistic evidence does not support the notion of there being one single "mainstream" American accent. The sound of American English continues to evolve, with some local accents disappearing, but several larger regional accents having emerged in the 20th century.


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


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

Conservative phonology

Studies on historical usage of English in both the United States and the United Kingdom suggest that spoken American English did not simply deviate away from period British English, but is conservative in some ways, preserving certain features contemporary British English has since lost. * Full rhoticity (or R-fulness) is typical of American accents, pronouncing the phoneme (corresponding to the letter ) in all environments, including after vowels, such as in ''pearl'', ''car'', and ''court''. Non-rhotic American accents, those that do not pronounce except before a vowel, such as some Eastern New England, New York, a specific few (often older) Southern, and African American vernacular accents, are often quickly noticed by General American listeners and perceived to sound especially ethnic, regional, or "old-fashioned". Rhoticity is common in most American accents although it is now 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. The preservation of rhoticity in North America was also supported by continuing waves of rhotic-accented Scotch-Irish immigrants, most intensely during the 18th century and moderately during the following two centuries, when the Scotch-Irish eventually made up one seventh of the colonial population. Scotch-Irish settlers spread from Delaware and Pennsylvania throughout the larger Mid-Atlantic region, the inland regions of both the South and North and throughout the West, American dialect areas that a consistently resisted upper-class non-rhotic influences and that consequently remain rhotic today. The pronunciation of is a postalveolar approximant or retroflex approximant , but 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. American accents that have not undergone the ''cot–caught'' merger (the lexical sets and ) have instead retained a – split: a 17th-century split in which certain words (labeled as the lexical set) separated away from the set. The split, which has now reversed in most British English, simultaneously shifts this relatively recent set into a merger with the (''caught'') set. Having taken place prior to the unrounding of the ''cot'' vowel, it results in lengthening and perhaps raising, merging the more recently separated vowel into the vowel in the following environments: before many instances of , , and particularly (as in ''Austria, cloth, cost, loss, off, often,'' etc.), a few instances before (as in ''strong, long, wrong''), and variably by region or speaker in ''gone'', ''on'', and certain other words. The standard accent of southern England, Received Pronunciation (RP), has evolved in other ways. General American English has remained relatively more conservative, for example, regarding today's RP features of a '' trap–bath'' split and the fronting of , neither of which is typical of General American accents. Moreover, American dialects do not participate in H-dropping, an innovative feature that now characterizes perhaps a majority of the regional dialects of England.

Innovative phonology

However, General American is more innovative than the dialects of England or elsewhere in the world in a number of its own ways: * Unrounded : The American phenomenon of the vowel (often spelled in words like ''box, don, clock, notch, pot,'' etc.) being produced without rounded lips, like the vowel, allows ''father'' and ''bother'' to rhyme, the two vowels now unified as the single phoneme . The ''father–bother'' vowel merger is in a transitional or completed stage in nearly all in North American English. Exceptions are in northeastern New England English, such as the Boston accent, as well as variably in some New York accents. *''Cot–caught'' merger in transition: There is no single American way to pronounce the vowels in words like ''cot'' (the ''ah'' vowel) versus ''caught'' (the ''aw'' vowel), largely because of a merger occurring between the two sounds in some parts of North America, but not others. American speakers with a completed merger pronounce the two historically-separate vowels with the same sound (especially in the West, northern New England, West Virginia, western Pennsylvania, and the Upper Midwest), but other speakers have no trace of a merger at all (especially in the South, the Great Lakes region, southern New England, and the Mid-Atlantic and New York metropolitan areas) and so pronounce each vowel with distinct sounds . Among speakers who distinguish between the two, the vowel of ''cot'' (usually transcribed in American English as ), is often a central or advanced back , while is pronounced with more rounded lips and/or phonetically higher in the mouth, close to or , but with only slight rounding. Among speakers who do not distinguish between them, thus producing a ''cot–caught'' merger, usually remains a back vowel, , sometimes showing lip rounding as . Therefore, even mainstream Americans vary greatly with this speech feature, with possibilities ranging from a full merger to no merger at all. A transitional stage of the merger is also common in scatterings throughout the United States, most consistently in the American Midlands lying between the historical dialect regions of the North and the South, while younger Americans in general tend to be transitioning toward the merger. According to a 2003 dialect survey carried out across the United States, about 61% of participants perceive themselves as keeping the two vowels distinct and 39% do not. A 2009 followup survey put the percentages at 58% non-merging speakers and 41% merging. * in special words: The vowel, rather than the one in or (as in Britain), is used in function words and certain other words like ''was, of, from, what, everybody, nobody, somebody, anybody'', and, for many speakers ''because'' and rarely even ''want'', when stressed. * Vowel mergers before intervocalic : The mergers of certain vowels before are typical throughout North America, the only exceptions existing primarily along the East Coast: **''Mary–marry–merry'' merger in transition: According to the 2003 dialect survey, nearly 57% of participants from around the country self-identified as merging the sounds (as in the first syllable of ''parish''), (as in the first syllable of ''perish''), and (as in ''pear'' or ''pair''). The merger is already complete everywhere except along some areas of the Atlantic Coast. **''Hurry–furry'' merger: The pre- vowels in words like ''hurry'' and ''furry'' are merged in most American accents to . Only 10% of American English speakers acknowledge the distinct ''hurry'' vowel before , according to the same dialect survey aforementioned. **''Mirror–nearer'' merger in transition: The pre- vowels in words like ''mirror'' and ''nearer'' are merged or very similar in most American accents. The quality of the historic ''mirror'' vowel in the word ''miracle'' is quite variable. *Americans vary slightly in their pronunciations of R-colored vowels such as those in and , which sometimes monophthongizes towards and or tensing towards and respectively. That causes pronunciations like for ''pair''/''pear'' and for ''peer''/''pier''. Also, is often reduced to , so that ''cure'', ''pure'', and ''mature'' may all end with the sound , thus rhyming with ''blur'' and ''sir''. The word ''sure'' is also part of the rhyming set as it is commonly pronounced . * Yod-dropping: Dropping of after a consonant is much more extensive than in most of England. In most North American accents, is "dropped" or "deleted" after all alveolar and interdental consonants (everywhere except after /p/, /b/, /f/, /h/, /k/, and /m/) and so ''new, duke, Tuesday, assume'' are pronounced , , , (compare with Standard British , , , ). * T-glottalization: is normally pronounced as a glottal stop when both after a vowel or a liquid and before a syllabic or any non-syllabic consonant, as in ''button'' or ''fruitcake'' . In absolute final position after a vowel or liquid, is also replaced by, or simultaneously articulated with, glottal constriction: thus, ''what'' or ''fruit'' . (This innovation of /t/ glottal stopping may occur in British English as well and variably between vowels.) * Flapping: or becomes a flap both after a vowel or and before an unstressed vowel or a syllabic consonant other than , including ''water'' , ''party'' and ''model'' . This results in pairs such as ''ladder/latter, metal/medal,'' and ''coating/coding'' being pronounced the same. Flapping of or before a full stressed vowel is also possible but only if that vowel begins a new word or morpheme, as in ''what is it?'' and twice in ''not at all'' . Other rules apply to flapping to such a complex degree in fact that flapping has been analyzed as being required in certain contexts, prohibited in others, and optional in still others. For instance, flapping is prohibited in words like ''seduce'' , ''retail'' , and ''monotone'' , yet optional in ''impotence'' . *Both intervocalic and may commonly be realized as (a nasalized alveolar flap) or simply , making ''winter'' and ''winner'' homophones in fast or informal speech. * L-velarization: England's typical distinction between a "clear L" (i.e. ) and a "dark L" (i.e. ) is much less noticeable in nearly all dialects of American English; it is often altogether absent, with all "L" sounds tending to be "dark," meaning having some degree of velarization, perhaps even as dark as (though in initial position, perhaps less dark than elsewhere among some speakers). The only notable exceptions to this velarization are in some Spanish-influenced American English varieties (such as East Coast Latino English, which typically shows a clear "L" in syllable onsets) and in older, moribund Southern speech, where "L" is clear in an intervocalic environment between front vowels. * Weak-vowel merger: The vowel in unstressed syllables generally merges with and so ''effect'' is pronounced like ''affect'', and ''abbot'' and ''rabbit'' rhyme. The quality of the merged vowels varies considerably but is typically closer to in word-initial or word-final position, and closer to elsewhere. * Raising of pre-voiceless : Many speakers split the sound based on whether it occurs before a voiceless consonant and so in ''rider'', it is pronounced , but in ''writer'', it is raised to (because is a voiceless consonant while is not). Thus, words like ''bright, hike, price, wipe,'' etc. with a following voiceless consonant (such as ) use a more raised vowel sound compared to ''bride, high, prize, wide'', etc. Because of this sound change, the words ''rider'' and ''writer'' , for instance, remain distinct from one another by virtue of their difference in height (and length) of the diphthong's starting point (unrelated to both the letters ''d'' and ''t'' being pronounced in these words as alveolar flaps ). The sound-change also applies across word boundaries, though the position of a word or phrase's stress may prevent the raising from taking place. For instance, a ''high school'' in the sense of "secondary school" is generally pronounced ; however, a ''high school'' in the literal sense of "a tall school" would be pronounced . The sound change began in the Northern, New England, and Mid-Atlantic regions of the country, and is becoming more common across the nation. *Many speakers in the Inland North, Upper Midwestern, and Philadelphia dialect areas raise before voiced consonants in certain words as well, particularly , and . Hence, words like ''tiny'', ''spider'', ''cider'', ''tiger'', ''dinosaur'', ''beside'', ''idle'' (but sometimes not ''idol''), and ''fire'' may contain a raised nucleus. The use of , rather than , in such words is unpredictable from phonetic environment alone, but it may have to do with their acoustic similarity to other words that with before a voiceless consonant, per the traditional Canadian-raising system. Some researchers have argued that there has been a phonemic split in those dialects, and the distribution of the two sounds is becoming more unpredictable among younger speakers. * Conditioned /æ/ raising (especially before and ): The raising of the or vowel occurs in specific environments that vary widely from region to region but most commonly before and . With most American speakers for whom the phoneme operates under a somewhat-continuous system, has both a tense and a lax allophone (with a kind of "continuum" of possible sounds between both extremes, rather than a definitive split). In those accents, is overall realized before nasal stops as more tense (approximately ), while other environments are more lax (approximately the standard ); for example, note the vowel sound in for ''mass'', but for ''man''). In some American accents, however, specifically those from Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City, and are indeed entirely-separate (or "split") phonemes, for example, in ''planet'' vs. ''plan it'' . They are called Mid-Atlantic split-''a'' systems. The vowels move in the opposite direction (high and forward) in the mouth compared to the backed Standard British "broad ''a''", but both ''a'' systems are probably related phonologically, if not phonetically, since a British-like phenomenon occurs among some older speakers of the eastern New England (Boston) area for whom changes to before alone or when preceded by a homorganic nasal. * "Short ''o''" before ''r'' before a vowel: In typical North American accents (both U.S. and Canada), the historical sequence (a short ''o'' sound followed by ''r'' and then another vowel, as in ''orange'', ''forest'', ''moral'', and ''warrant'') is realized as , thus further merging with the already-merged (''horse''–''hoarse'') set. In the U.S., four words (''tomow, sy, sow, bow,'' and ''mow'') usually contain the sound instead and thus merge with the set (thus, ''sorry'' and ''sari'' become homophones, both rhyming with ''starry''). Some mergers found in most varieties of both American and British English include the following: * ''Horse–hoarse'' merger: This merger makes the vowels and before homophones, with homophonous pairs like ''horse/hoarse, corps/core, for/four, morning/mourning, war/wore,'' etc. homophones. Many older varieties of American English still keep the sets of words distinct, particularly in the extreme Northeast, the South (especially along the Gulf Coast), and the central Midlands, but the merger is evidently spreading and younger Americans rarely show it. * ''Wine–whine'' merger: This produces pairs like ''wine/whine, wet/whet, Wales/whales, wear/where,'' etc. homophones, in most cases eliminating , also transcribed , the voiceless labiovelar fricative. However, scatterings of older speakers who do not merge these pairs still exist nationwide, perhaps most strongly in the South.


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. Examples of such names are ''opossum, raccoon, squash'', ''moose'' (from Algonquian), ''wigwam'', and ''moccasin''. The languages of the other colonizing nations also added to the American vocabulary; for instance, ''cookie'', from Dutch; ''kindergarten'' from German, ''levee'' from French; and ''rodeo'' from Spanish. 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 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 usually lack 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)''. 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. 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. 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''). 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''). 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);'' 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. 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). 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). Noun endings such as ''-ee (retiree), -ery (bakery), -ster (gangster)'' and ''-cian (beautician)'' are also particularly productive in the U.S. 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." ''Gotten'' (past participle of ''get'') is often considered to be largely an Americanism. 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. 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. 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, ''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.

Grammatical and other differences between American and British English

American English and British English (BrE) often differ at the levels of phonology, phonetics, vocabulary, and, to a much lesser extent, grammar and orthography. The first large American dictionary, ''An American Dictionary of the English Language'', known as Webster's Dictionary, was written by Noah Webster in 1828, codifying several of these spellings. Differences in grammar are relatively minor, and do not normally affect mutual intelligibility; these include: typically a lack of differentiation between adjectives and adverbs, employing the equivalent adjectives as adverbs ''he ran quick''/''he ran quickly''; different use of some auxiliary verbs; formal (rather than notional) agreement with collective nouns; different preferences for the past forms of a few verbs (for example, AmE/BrE: ''learned''/''learnt'', ''burned''/''burnt'', ''snuck/sneaked'', ''dove/dived'') although the purportedly "British" forms can occasionally be seen in American English writing as well; different prepositions and adverbs in certain contexts (for example, AmE ''in school,'' BrE ''at school''); and whether or not a definite article is used, in very few cases (AmE ''to the hospital'', BrE ''to hospital''; contrast, however, AmE ''actress Elizabeth Taylor'', BrE ''the actress Elizabeth Taylor''). Often, these differences are a matter of relative preferences rather than absolute rules; and most are not stable since the two varieties are constantly influencing each other, 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." 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.). 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'). Vocabulary differences vary by region. For example, autumn is used more commonly in the United Kingdom, whereas fall is more common in American English. Some other differences include: aerial (United Kingdom) vs. antenna, biscuit (United Kingdom) vs. cookie/cracker, car park (United Kingdom) vs. parking lot, caravan (United Kingdom) vs. trailer, city centre (United Kingdom) vs. downtown, flat (United Kingdom) vs. apartment, fringe (United Kingdom) vs. bangs, and holiday (United Kingdom) vs. vacation. 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.


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

Regional accents

The regional sounds of present-day American English are reportedly engaged in a complex phenomenon of "both convergence and divergence": some accents are homogenizing and leveling, while others are diversifying and deviating further away from one another. Having been settled longer than the American West Coast, the East Coast has had more time to develop unique accents, and it currently comprises three or four linguistically significant regions, each of which possesses English varieties both different from each other as well as quite internally diverse: New England, the Mid-Atlantic States (including a New York accent as well as a unique Philadelphia–Baltimore accent), and the South. As of the twentieth century, the middle and eastern Great Lakes area, Chicago being the largest city with these speakers, also ushered in certain unique features, including the fronting of the vowel in the mouth toward and tensing of the vowel wholesale to . These sound changes have triggered a series of other vowel shifts in the same region, known by linguists as the "Inland North". The Inland North shares with the Eastern New England dialect (including Boston accents) a backer tongue positioning of the vowel (to ) and the vowel (to ) in comparison to the rest of the country. Ranging from northern New England across the Great Lakes to Minnesota, another Northern regional marker is the variable fronting of before , for example appearing four times in the stereotypical Boston shibboleth ''Park the car in Harvard Yard''. 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 vowel with the vowel ( and , respectively): a ''cot–caught'' merger, which is rapidly spreading throughout the whole country. However, the South, Inland North, and a Northeastern coastal corridor passing through Rhode Island, New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore typically preserve an older ''cot–caught'' distinction. For that Northeastern corridor, the realization of the vowel is particularly marked, as depicted in humorous spellings, like in ''tawk'' and ''cawfee'' (''talk'' and ''coffee''), which intend to represent it being tense and diphthongal: . A split of into two separate phonemes, using different ''a'' pronunciations for example in ''gap'' versus ''gas'' , further defines New York City as well as Philadelphia–Baltimore accents. Most Americans preserve all historical sounds, using what is known as a rhotic accent. The only traditionally ''r''-dropping (or non-rhotic) regional U.S. accents are spoken in eastern New England, New York City variably, and some of the former plantation South primarily among older speakers (and consequently African-American Vernacular English variably across the country), though the vowel-consonant cluster found in "bird," "work," "hurt," "learn," etc. usually retains its ''r'' pronunciation, even in these non-rhotic American accents. Non-rhoticity among such speakers is presumed to have arisen from their upper classes' close historical contact with England, imitating London's ''r''-dropping, a feature that has continued to gain prestige throughout England from the late 18th century onwards, but which has conversely lost prestige in the U.S. since at least the early 20th century. Non-rhoticity makes a word like ''car'' sound like ''cah'' or ''source'' like ''sauce''. New York City and Southern accents are the most prominent regional accents of the country, as well as the most stigmatized in terms of perceived "incorrectness". Southern speech, strongest in southern Appalachia and certain areas of Texas, is often identified by Americans as a "country" accent,Hayes, 2013, p. 51. and is defined by the vowel losing its gliding quality: , the initiation event for a complicated Southern vowel shift, including a "Southern drawl" that makes short front vowels into distinct-sounding gliding vowels. The fronting of the vowels of , , , and tends to also define Southern accents as well as the accents spoken in the "Midland": a vast band of the country that constitutes an intermediate dialect region between the traditional North and South. Western U.S. accents mostly fall under the General American spectrum. Below, ten major American English accents are defined by their particular combinations of certain vowel sounds:

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. However, a General American sound system also has some debated degree of influence nationwide, for example, gradually beginning to oust the regional accent in urban areas of the South and at least some in the Inland North. Rather than one particular accent, General American is best defined as an umbrella covering an American accent that does not incorporate features associated with some particular region, ethnicity, or socioeconomic group. Typical General American features include rhoticity, the ''father–bother'' merger, ''Mary–marry–merry'' merger, pre-nasal "short ''a''" tensing, and other particular vowel sounds. 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, 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 bilingual Pennsylvania Dutch speakers. 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. American English also gave rise to some dialects outside the country, for example, Philippine English, beginning during the American occupation of the Philippines and subsequently the Insular Government of the Philippine Islands; Thomasites first established a variation of American English in these islands.

See also

* Dictionary of American Regional English * List of English words from indigenous languages of the Americas * International Phonetic Alphabet chart for English dialects * International Phonetic Alphabet chart for the English Language * Phonological history of English * Regional accents of English * Canadian English * North American English * International English * Received Pronunciation * Transatlantic accent * American and British English spelling differences




* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Further reading

* Bailey, Richard W. (2012). ''Speaking American: A History of English in the United States'' 20th–21st-century usage in different cities * * Garner, Bryan A. (2003). ''Garner's Modern American Usage''. New York: Oxford University Press. * ;History of American English * Bailey, Richard W. (2004). "American English: Its origins and history". In E. Finegan & J. R. Rickford (Eds.), ''Language in the USA: Themes for the twenty-first century'' (pp. 3–17). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. * Finegan, Edward. (2006). "English in North America". In R. Hogg & D. Denison (Eds.), ''A history of the English language'' (pp. 384–419). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

External links

Do You Speak American
PBS special

of the United States, by Bert Vaux ''et al.'', Harvard University.
Linguistic Atlas Projects

at the University of Pennsylvania
Speech Accent Archive

Dictionary of American Regional English

Dialect maps based on pronunciation
{{Authority control Category:Dialects of English Category:North American English Category:Languages attested from the 17th century Category:17th-century establishments in North America