North American English (NAmE, NAE) is the most generalized variety of the English language as spoken in the United States and Canada. Because of their related histories and cultures and the similarities between the pronunciation, vocabulary, and accent of American English and Canadian English, the two spoken dialects are often grouped together under a single category. Due to historical and cultural factors, Canadian English and American English retain numerous distinctions from each other, with the differences being most noticeable in the two languages' written forms. Canadian spellings are primarily based on British usage as a result of Canada's longer-standing connections with the United Kingdom. Canadians are generally tolerant of both British and American spellings, with British spellings being favoured in more formal settings and in Canadian print media. Spellings in American English have been highly influenced by lexicographers like Noah Webster, who sought to create a standardized form of English that was independent of British English. Despite these differences, the dialects of both Canada and the United States are similar. The United Empire Loyalists who fled the American Revolution have had a large influence on Canadian English from its early roots.
Some terms in North American English are used almost exclusively in Canada and the United States (for example, the terms diaper and gasoline are widely used instead of nappy and petrol). Although many English speakers from outside North America regard such terms as distinct Americanisms, they are often just as common in Canada, mainly due to the effects of heavy cross-border trade and cultural penetration by the American mass media. The list of divergent words becomes longer if considering regional Canadian dialects, especially as spoken in the Atlantic provinces and parts of Vancouver Island where significant pockets of British culture still remain.
There are a considerable number of different accents within the regions of both the United States and Canada, originally deriving from the accents prevalent in different English, Scottish and Irish regions of the British Isles and corresponding to settlement patterns of these peoples in the colonies. These were developed and built upon as new waves of immigration, and migration across the North American continent, brought new accents and dialects to new areas, and as these ways of speaking merged and assimilated with the population. It is claimed that despite the centuries of linguistic changes there is still a resemblance between the English East Anglia accents which would have been used by early English settlers in New England (including the Pilgrims), and modern Northeastern United States accents.[clarification needed] Similarly, the accents of Newfoundland have some similarities to the accents of Scotland and Ireland.
The following numerical list, corresponding to the map, accounts only for major dialect areas of modern North America that can be identified by geographic location; therefore, it does not represent speakers of non-geographically based (ethnic, social, etc.) varieties, such as General American, African-American English, Chicano English, etc.
Below, twelve major North American dialects are defined by particular accent characteristics. (Unmentioned below, Standard Canadian English is differentiated from Western U.S. English primarily by the Canadian Vowel Shift):
|// fronting||// fronting||// fronting||// fronting||// split system||cot–caught merger||pin–pen merger|
|African American||maybe||no||no||no||no||transitional||yes |
|New York City||New York City||yes||no||no||no||yes||no||no|
|Northern New England||Boston||no||no||no||yes||no||yes||no|
|Standard Canadian and