The American Accents

North America

Public Domain / CIA

NOTE: This guide uses the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For information about this notation, please visit my page of International Phonetic Alphabet Resources.

There are obviously many North American accents. For reference, here is a list of only the most common classifications in the United States and Canada.

General American

This refers to the spectrum of ‘standard’ English spoken by newscasters, TV actors, and a large percentage of middle-class Americans.

Prominent Features:

  • The short-a (as in cat) is raised and diphthongized before nasal consonants. Hence man and can’t are pronounced something like IPA meən and keənt (“meh-uhn” and “keh-uhnt.”)
  • Rhotic, meaning the r is pronounced at the end of words like car and mother.
  • Words like lot and rod are pronounced with an unrounded vowel, as lɑt and ɹɑd (“laht” and “rahd”).
  • The diphthong in words like boat and rode is pronounced relatively back: i.e. IPA boʊt and roʊd

Accent Samples:

Eastern New England English

This describes the classic “Boston Accent.” It also refers to related accents in Eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Eastern New Hampshire and Eastern Connecticut. The most important feature of this is non-rhoticity: unlike other American accents, New Englanders drop the “r” at the end of syllables.  Hence the famous phrase “pahk yuh cahr in hahvuhd yahd” (Park your car in Harvard Yard).

Prominent Features:

  • Non-rhoticity, as mentioned above.
  • Fronted pronunciation of words like father and palm, so these are pronounced IPA faðə and pa:m (i.e. this vowel is close to the vowel in words like “cat” and “mad” in General American).
  • Unlike most other American accents, the vowel in lot and rod is rounded as in most British dialects, pronounced IPA lɒt and ɹɒd (“lawt” and “rawd”). Note that this feature is less prevalent in some sub-dialects, such as Rhode Island.

Accent Samples:

New York City English

One of the more famous American accents, the classic “New Yorkese” has been immortalized by films (“Goodfellas,” “Marty,” and “Manhattan,” among countless others), TV shows (“All in the Family,” “Seinfeld,” “King of Queens”) and plays (“A View from the Bridge,” “Lost in Yonkers,” “Guys and Dolls”).

Prominent Features:

  • Non-rhoticity: see explanation above.
  • Tense-lax split: this is a bit hard to explain. In New York City the short-a in words like cat, mad, can’t and last follows a complex set of rules whereby some words are pronounced tensely (slightly higher in the mouth) while other words are pronounced laxly (lower in the mouth).
  • The long-a in words like father and cart is often pronounced back and sometimes rounded: i.e. IPA fɒ:ðə and kɒ:t (“fawthuh” and “kawt”).
  • The vowel in words like thought, north and dog are pronounced is high and diphthongized, pronounced IPA θʊət, nʊəθ, and dʊəg (“thaw-uht,” “naw-uht” and “daw-uhg”).

Accent Samples:

Mid-Atlantic English

Not to be confused with another meaning of “mid-Atlantic English” that describes the old-fashioned British-sounding accents you hear in movies from the 1930s. This “Mid-Atlantic” refers to the American accents spoken along the urban corridor from the Philadelphia area to Baltimore. It sounds slightly similar to New York City, but with a few major differences.

Prominent Features:

  • Tense-lax split, similar to New York City (see explanation above).
  • Rhotic: unlike New York City, the r is pronounced at the end of car, mother, fur, etc.
  • The vowel in long-a words like father and palm is often back and rounded (i.e. “fawther,” “pawm,” etc.) as in New York City.
  • As in New York City, the vowel in thought and dog is pronounced with a high vowel. In the Mid-Atlantic, this tends to be further back: IPA θoət and doəg (“thoh-ut” and “doh-ug”).
  • The diphthong in words like right and kite is raised before voiceless consonants so that kite is pronounced something like IPA kəit (that is, “kuh-eet”).
  • The diphthong in words like goat and road is pronounced fronter in the mouth than in General American accents: hence coat becomes IPA kəʊt.
  • The “oo” sounds in words like goose and food is pronounced more forward in the mouth than in General American: IPA gʉs and fʉd.

Accent Samples:

Coastal/Lowland Southern English

This is the “classic southern” accent that you typically see in films about Civil War or Plantation life. In contemporary times, the accent is arguably dying out.

Prominent Features:

  • Non-rhotic. Unlike most non-rhotic dialects however, there is often no linking r between a final r and a vowel sound. So, for example, “better idea” would be pronounced “bettuh idea”
  • Vowel breaking. This means that in words with short vowels like cat and dress, these vowels can turn into diphthongs (or even triphthongs). So cat can become IPA kæjət for example (i.e. “ka-jut”).
  • The diphthong in words like ride and lime tends to be pronounced as a monopthong: i.e. IPA ɹa:d and la:m. Note that in lowland southern accents, unlike the inland south, this is still usually a diphthong before unvoiced consonants.
  • All vowels tend to be pronounced longer than in northern American accents.
  • The vowel in words like thought and long tends to be a diphthong, traditionally IPA ɔo. (That is, caught in this dialect sounds nearly like “coat” as it is pronounced in General American accents).

Accent Samples:

Inland/Mountain Southern

This is the other Southern dialect, sometimes perceived as more guttural. You hear this accent amongst Appalachian natives, Texans, Tennesseeans and many others.

Prominent Features:

  • Pin-pen merger: This means that words ending in -in, -en, -im and -em are pronounced with the same vowel (this why when somebody from this region says “Ben” is sounds a bit like “bin” to a Northerner.)
  • Vowel breaking: see explanation under Coastal/Lowland Southern above.
  • The vowel in words like thought and dog is diphthongized, as in Coastal/Lowland Southern, although here it tends to be a lower: IPA ɑɒ.
  • The oo sound in goose is more fronted than in General American accents: IPA gʉs.
  • The long-o in words like goat is also more fronted than in General American (as in Midatlantic English, described above).
  • The diphthong in words like ride and right tends to be a monophthong, as in Coastal/Lowland Southern. However, in this dialect this diphthong tends to be pronounced as a monophthong whether before an voiceless or voiced consonant.

Accent Samples:

Great Lakes English

This is the accent usually associated with a phenomenon known as the “Northern Cities Vowel Shift.” You can hear this accent in Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Rochester and Cleveland.

Prominent Features:

  • The e in bet can be retracted, to something like IPA bɜt (hence bet can sound slightly like “but.”)
  • The short a in cat and bad can be extremely raised and diphthongized, as far as IPA ɪə. To outsiders cat can sound like “kee-uht.”
  • The o in lot is forward and unrounded, so top becomes IPA tap (that is, to outsiders this can sound like “tap.”)
  • The u in but can is often back and rounded: i.e. cut becomes IPA kɔt. (But can sound to General American speakers like “bought.”)

Accent Samples:

Upper Midwestern English

This is the dialect that was made famous by the film “Fargo.” It is mostly heard in Minnesota, North Dakota and a few areas in Iowa. It is related to the Great Lakes dialect, although with some substantial differences.

Prominent Features:

  • The vowel sound in goat is often a strong monopthong, becoming IPA go:t (i.e. “gawwwt”).
  • The prosody (musicality) of the dialect is often influenced by the various Germanic languages that were spoken in the region well into the Twentieth-Century.
  • Most other features are fairly similar to Great Lakes English, with some difference depending on the specific region.

Accent Samples:

Midland American Accents

This is a vague term that applies to the American accents that lie between North and South, in states like Missouri, Southern Indiana, Southern Illisnois, Southern Pennsylvania, Kansas, Oklahoma, and pockets of a few other states. Accents here vary a good deal, but can best be described as being a combination of Northern and Southern features.

Prominent Features:There’s enough variety here that it is hard to pin down widespread features of this dialect area.

Accent Samples:

Western American Accents

This category covers the largest amount of territory, including most of the Mountain and Western states. Accents here can vary from sounding slightly Southern (as in parts of Colorado) to having a bit of a Canadian flavor (the Pacific Northwest).

Prominent Features: The one dominant feature here is something liguists call the Cot-Caught Merger meaning that words like thought, paw and caught are pronounced with the same vowel as not, cod and rock.

Accent Samples:

Central Canadian English

We include Canadian accents in this American accents survey because they are part of the same dialect spectrum as the US. This accent is probably closest to English on the West Coast of the United States, which is rather remarkable in the case of cities like Toronto that are hundreds of miles away from the Pacific!

Prominent Features:

  • Most features are fairly similar to General American accents, with slightly different placing of the vowels.
  • Caught-Cot Merger, as in Western American accents (see explanation in that section, above).
  • Canadian Raising: The diphthongs in words like about and right are raised before voiceless consonants. Hence about becomes something like IPA əbɐʊt and right becomes something like IPA ɹɐit (i.e. “uh-boat” and “ruh-eet”).

Accent Samples:

Eastern Canadian English

This curious dialect group can be found in the Provinces of the Atlantic Coast. Many of these dialects maintain some Scottish or Irish features, as they were first settled by these groups. The most notable of these accents is the Newfoundland Dialect, which in some cases sounds much more like an Irish accent than a North American one. Other areas in the region, however, sound more like Central/Western Canada.


Of course, there are many more American accents than this. These are just the largest groupings of accents. There are any number of sub-dialects that are quite unique (New Orleans, African American Vernacular English, Chicago, etc.). Hopefully this guide will serve as a good jumping off point.

Copright (c) 2011 by Ben Trawick-Smith. All rights reserved


116 Responses to The American Accents

  1. Darrensmooth says:

    something that puzzles me a bit, what is the difference between Gen-AM and Western US, they sound to me, they are both cot-caught merged arent they? The only difference I can think of is in Western US accents like Canadian the vowels are somewhat clipped, I believe Gen-Am speakers draw out the vowel sounds more. Either way they are both pretty neutral sounding.

    • trawicks says:

      Not a bad question! Most Western US accents are arguably General American. The only reason they aren’t always included in the GenAm spectrum is because of the COT-CAUGHT merger. But since that feature is rapidly spreading, West Coast accents may very well be thought of as just “sub-accents” of Gen Am.

  2. Darrensmooth says:

    I thought that gen-am was caught cot merged. So they would prounounce don and dawn differently?

    • trawicks says:

      Gen Am makes a distinction between COT and CAUGHT that is very slight. But it may very well be completely merged in a few generations. Most of us younger GenAm speakers are “transitional” in this regard. For example, one peculiar thing I’ve noticed in my own accent is that I seem to merge these vowels before voiceless consonants, but not before voiced ones. So I actually do merge or nearly merge “cot” and “caught,” but not so much “cod” and “cawed.”

    • Tad McArdle says:

      I’m from western PA and worked in NYC for a long time — a young woman also from my area was hired at my workplace and I became aware immedistely that for both of us cot and caught and Don and dawn used the same simple vowel sound, and that everybody around us twisted and bent the latter vowels to a horrifying degree, and no doubt wasted immense amounts of energy in doing so. Later I married a Jersey girl who took this process even further, and over the years I became accustomed to it, and our marriage of opposites has worked out brilliantly. Moral: (fill in the blank)

  3. Darrensmooth says:

    im merged 100 %

  4. Leo says:

    I don’t understand why you make a distinction between “Midland American English” and “General American English”. I think they’re the same thing.

    • Peter S. says:

      There are a number of features unique to the Midlands that are definitely not part of General American. For example, in my speech (and my mother’s), the short vowels a, e, o become diphthongs before g. So vague and beg rhyme, the vowel in bag is similar to the way an Australian pronounces mate, and dog is something like /dɔʊg/. I hear this in a number of speakers from the Midlands; this is definitely not a feature of General American. If you remove the features unique to Midlands speech from it, you probably get something close to General American.

    • Ed says:

      The Midland area includes some dialects that deviate quite a bit from General American, like Pittsburgh and St. Louis

  5. Ryan says:

    If you get a chance, covering the St. Louis accent might be interesting. Changing words like ‘form’ to ‘farm’ and ‘lord’ to ‘lard’.

    • A long time ago, I moved from Indiana to St. Louis. It was a shock. Highway 44 runs through St. Louis, and you can guess how St. Louisans pronounce the number “44”. It is, however, where I picked up the word “soda” and what I’ve used ever since.

    • rahul says:

      yeah coz its ameriacn accent in that a: is used in place of long oh sound!!

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  10. Carl McMahan says:

    I couldn’t help but notice 2 things regarding what you call “Inland/Mountain Southern”. First, the dialect spoken in Appalachia is quite distinct from that spoken in most of the rest of the Inland South (with the possible exception of the Ozarks) in several ways, most notable of which being the nature of their dipthongization and monophthongization of vowels. All of your dialect samples in fact are from the Non-Appalachian area, among speakers of a more distinctly Inland Southern dialect. I would refer you to the NCLLP documentary “Mountain Talk” to give you some samples of actual Appalachian speech. Further, even a cursory comparison for example between Dolly Parton (from near Clingman’s Dome TN) and Gov. Haslam (from closer to Memphis) would reveal some distinct differences.

    • Mark Littleton says:

      Governor Haslam is from Knoxville, 30 miles from Dolly Parton ‘ s hometown. Their speech pattern differences are likely more a factor of life experiences and perhaps target audience than geographical heritage.

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  14. Mary says:

    Thanks for all the info. It seems inherently difficult to give an overview like this without getting caught up in specifics, but thought some might be interested to know that Governor Paul LePage’s first language was North American French. To us in Maine, his French-Canadian influence is obvious (and common here), although we might not even also hear the Maine in his voice, which I suspect is the reason you included him here.

    • Brendan O'Gorman says:

      “North American French” arguably has more variations than N.A. English! In Quebec alone there are at least 12 dialects. Acadian French dialects spoken in the Atlantic provinces are as different from Quebecois French as modern English is from Shakespearean English. French speaking communities from Ontario to the west coast have their own dialects, and then there are the Metis Michif dialects that can combine French, English, Cree, Anishnabeg and Gaelic in varying proportions.

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  16. Nick says:

    Hi. I don’t quite know where to post this but: Have you noticed the trend lately with young American women who add “ahh” after words to add emphasis? Like “No way-ahh!” or “No-ahh!”It’s one of those things where once you notice it, you start hearing it all over the place. Mostly on reality TV with women in their early 20s.

    • Ricky says:

      I have heard what you’re talking about. When you write “ahh”, I think you’re referring to a schwa ə. That is the sound at the beginning of about. That’s the auditory impression I receive, but I don’t if that’s actually what it is. I’ll have to listen out for that in the future.

      • Nick says:

        Yes, that’s the “schwa” I’m talking about. I’ve never studied language but find dialects fascinating. Thanks. “Wow-ə!!”

        • Fish says:

          That is one of the more unfortunate tendencies of the California valley girl accent. No wayyyyyah!!!

        • Nick says:

          That and “creaky voice”. I’ve noticed both becoming more and more prevalent over the years. Sometimes to the point where a person sounds ill. Is it something someone is sub-conciously trying to convey or are they just trying to fit in? Which then leads to: Is it something a whole generation is trying to sub-consiously convey?

        • Robert says:

          Nick, you bring up a great point. I was listening to some young women commenting on Mr. Obama’s climate change speech today and they certainly have a unique “young women accent”. It isn’t unique to the USA. Canadian women of a certain demographic do the same – typically educated, relatively financially healthy and single or without child. I have no idea where it came from but has certainly spread around via mass media. Comments on origin?

    • Ken Sears says:

      Yes, this is NOT the “schwa” as someone else here has suggested, the “schwa” being the imprecise vowel that virtually any unstressed vowel may become in a word, as in “about”, where the “a-” is a fast “uh” that isn’t even a fully articulated “uh”. What you’re talking about, however, is something quite different. It is a juvenile HABIT, something I, and my contemporaries, used to do at seven years of age, extending the vocal “sounding” beyond the actual articulation of the words in order to add emphasis–the particular emotional emphasis being one of adamant, exasperated insistence (“NOOO-uhhh!”). I listen with HORROR now as GROWN WOMEN, supposedly professional journalists and “wordsmiths” indulge in this cringingly juvenile speech pattern on national television. HOW in the world they can think it sounds anything but idiotic, and HOW in the world their superiors aren’t telling them to cut it OUT, I just CAN’T imagine.

  17. Al says:

    What makes some annoying individuals people actually think it’s appropriate to pronounce “been” as “Ben,” or, even more egregiously, “beginning” as “begenning”? Is this the last stage of the Northern Cities Vowel Shift? Something else? Both/either?

    • Nadia says:

      I’m not gonna lie. I read those words over and over again and I can’t find the difference… mainly “beginning” vs “begenning”

    • Ken Sears says:

      A huge paradox, Al, is the concurrent extinction-in-process of the “eh” sound (which you bemoan the intrusion of, in “begenning”) in places where it’s SUPPOSED to be, as in the increasing tendency of Americans to say, “gineral, convintion, ixpictation”…. But they’ll say “anti-semEtic”. In short, Americans are thoroughly CONFUSED anymore… and almost neurotically second-guessing in their speech habits (and the “second guess” is almost invariably WRONG!). Accompanying the total chaos in sound is an increasing and appalling tendency to misuse, misapply and mix up words and set phrases. You hear people who are supposed to be professional ‘talkers’ on television stumbling over the most elementary of words/phrases (and my gut impresssion is, it’s because they haven’t actually read a BOOK since ninth grade)” “Well, Nancy, looks like it all over for the shouting now…”; “Well, that’s just an inconvertible fact!”; “This is what we believe to be his mode of operandi…”; “On that question I think the jury is still highly suspect….” Really, I can barely STAND it anymore, watching intellectual sixth-graders farcically emote gravitas as they opine on some “issue of the day” and produce such howlers. It suggests that arrested development, terminal adolescence, obstinate ignorance, now constitutes the golden ring of sociocultural aspiration.

  18. AB says:

    It always puzzles me how the Western states are grouped together. I was raised in Washington state then lived in Utah, Idaho, Oregon and California and the accents seem soooo different to me in every place. Utah and Idaho are very different to my ears. Why do the Eastern areas have their differences mapped more than the Western states? I speak like a Canadian from B.C., I say about and out and house like a Canadian, but I say field like felled and hill like hell and sale like sell which is very Utah. Washingtonians say their consonants while Utahns say moun un for mountain and there is a city named Hooper that is culturally pronounced huuhper. The cadences are much different also. So why the discrepancy?

    • Sam Huddy says:

      The west is full of weird little pockets. I’m from Pasadena, which sounds more like Chicago than Los Angeles, a city with which it shares a border. San Francisco also has it’s own very unusual vowel shift, and Santa Barbara sounds very conservative, almost like naturalized Transatlantic English. I’ve heard similarly about Southern Utah.

      • RobertA says:

        I’ve noticed no difference anywhere in California, except for the many ethnic accents. My grandmother from Kansas City pronounced creek as crick, and Washington as Warshington.
        It was interesting when visiting South Africa to find the most familiar accent I came across was that of a waitress in an Indian restaurant.

        • Gene says:

          I grew up in the Stockton/French Camp area in the San Joaquin Valley. My family were immigrants from the Azore Islands and Michigan. My family has been in the San Joaquin Valley since the middle 1800′s/ Not from Oklahoma or Texas. We Always pronounced almond “ahhmond” and Apricot .(long A) The inside joke was if you grow um you call um ahhmonds..Quite frankly that seems to be the case. Of course if it is the candy bar Almond Joy then the Almond is pronounced with the L sound. We do say warsh or waash . I am often teased by my So-Cal friends or Bay Area friends about what they call my “Valley Accent” I can clean it up when I choose but will forever say almond the correct way Ahhhhhmond. Some use to say its almond til you knock the L out of it when we would harvest them in the fall. We had a small ahhmond,walnut and Apricot orchard. With the influx of transplants from other places things are changing. By the way it has nothing to do with education or social status.
          Gene (its aahmond)

    • Linde Knighton says:

      AB? You speak like someone from BC? I hope not? You understand the Utah Accet? and I enjoyed what you had to say on that? What about pitcher for picture?

      (Just teasing, I’m from the state just south of you)

  19. DiDi says:

    AB, I am guessing that the majority of people who study this sort of thing live in the NE
    US. They tend to lump more together because they probably haven’t spent much time there. I was born in Oregon. I think the speech patterns sound like those of people from BC, Washington, and maybe N California. I would not lump all of the Midwest together either. There are many people in OK, MO, and even Southern Indiana with Southern accents.

    • Soren says:

      I’d be curious to know how common “squoze” instead of squeezed is in the West? Is it confined to the Mormon corridor of Utah and areas settled from it or is it spread more widely than that?

      • Linde Knighton says:

        I also wonder how Utah gets “pitcher” for “picture” and “bathing” for “Batheing”.
        Oh, and baby Tending for baby sitting.
        Idaho is it’s own unique accent. Had to describe, but I know it when I hear it.

  20. Bob says:

    Upper Midwestern English can also be found (in perhaps its strongest form) in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

  21. Chelsea says:

    I was raised in the suburbs of Boston and after living here for 21 years i have noticed that there are a few types of Boston accents. The South Shore, Revere, Southie, Dorchester areas definitely skip their “r’s”. I believe that this is the classic Boston accent that everyone thinks of, and also the least educated-sounding. The second type is a more refined dialect in pronouncing “can’t” as “cahnt” (long a) and a little less harsh on dropping the “r”. This can be found out in the suburbs where the population may not necessarily drop their “rs” but the long vowels are definitely a regular occurrence. I have also noticed that the Lowell and surrounding town randomly all have a similar classic Boston accent, often skipping “your” and shortening it to “ya”. And of course there is the accent up in Gloucester that we all know from the Perfect Storm. I think that movie depicts it perfectly.

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  23. ShadesOfBlu says:

    My accent is mixed I’ve noticed. Half Boston, New York and Detroit/Cleveland/Chicago. Very interesting because I never noticed the Detroit/Cleveland/Chicago accents.

  24. nedzad says:

    what does mean when someone says to me you have an slight american accent, thanks

  25. will.o says:

    I would say “half-metioned” is the key difference between Coastal (Lowland) and Upland Southern: Upland Southern, which is correctly stated to be the accent gaining pre-eminence, is rhotic. It is a difference between the more Gaelic influenced (rhotic, like a Scot) uplands from the English lowlands. Same reason New England retains it too I guess.

  26. Shawna says:

    First of all, Canadians have an entirely separate accent not appreciated here. While the Canadian dialect is based on the general American accent there is a slight British tinge too.
    Torontnians sound nothing like Californians! Californians stretch certain consistent clusters that Torontonians do not. You have entirely missed the various accents within the city’s suburbs influenced by the city’s ethnic communities.
    You neglected to mention Canada’s northern region, an area with it’s own unique dialect, and Canada’s Aboriginal communities.
    Perhaps you should just leave Canada out of you list entirely.

    • Linde Knighton says:

      Or learn it. I love the Nova Scotia accent. It’s fun to listen to, but the B.C. accent drives me crazy. Could it be because I live in Washington????

    • Linde Knighton says:

      Why not at least have examples of the Maritimes Accent? Ron James and Mary Walsh would do nicely.

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  28. Nathan says:

    As a central Canadian, I know that we do not say “uh-boat”, it is pronounced more like “a-Ba-oot”. If you want to make a list of all accents in North America, maybe you should realise that U.S.A isn’t the only country on the continent. You skipped Mexican, far North Americans, and aboriginals.

    • Linde Knighton says:

      I just realized there have to be those studying Canadian accents in various Canadian universities. UBC anyone?

  29. Nathan says:

    Either you add all accents of North America or simply make it an “American accents” list, because, quite frankly, you only have two accents outside of ‘Murica.

  30. Joseph says:

    Something I have recently picked up on is a very distinct accent spoken by women from the western states as exemplified by a number of talking heads on some news and cable networks. It’s a very nasal sounding accent and somewhat harsh and grating. Especially common on women from California but Dick Cheney’s daughter on Fox news has it as does Kimberly Guilfoyle on Fox and Brenda Buttner and Judith Miller (all Cali natives.)

  31. Di says:

    Thank you for this interesting post.
    I’m a Vietnamese living in Norway, currently studying phonetics and intonation. So far I haven’t been able to distinguish different American accents, so there are some questions I need to ask you:
    1/ What’s the accent of people from Florida?
    2/ Is it GA that people from Montana speak?
    3/ Mark Wahlberg speaks Eastern New England English, doesn’t he?
    4/ And Bradley Cooper speaks Mid-Atlantic English, I suppose?
    Thanks in advance.

  32. Bill Board says:

    Could someone tell me the prominent features of Transatlantic accent?

  33. Travis says:

    I love this blog, but I can’t help noticing that throughout the website there is just about no mention of non-Eurocentric or less-developed Anglophone regions; I can understand why a majority of topics would focus on the UK and US (available resources more than anything), but huge parts of the English-speaking world is ignored. India has more English speakers than the UK, Canada, and Australia combined, Nigeria and the Philippines each have more native speakers than New Zealand, and much of the Caribbean speaks dialects that are not just creoles, pidgins, and patoises. I’m not saying you should track down every speaker on Earth, and I know this is always a work in progress, but there are large populations with unique, natural, native dialects of English everywhere from many Pacific islands, Hong Kong, South Asia, Black Africa, and the Caribbean that I would love to see included in these compilations and maybe in a topic or two. Keep up the good work!

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  36. HelenaRe says:

    Please don’t list North Dakota as part of the Minnesotan accent group. The only time we sound like that is when we make fun of Minnesota and their accent by faking their accent. We really sound more like a combination between Westerners and Canadians just north of the border, which might be why I get mistaken for Canadian by Canadians just north of the border. Minnesotans and North Dakotans know that there’s a transition in accents between the two states.

  37. Emily says:

    I’m really surprised you didn’t go in to the dialects of Louisiana more. Shreveport and north louisiana talkers have a bit more of a twang like Arkansas. The people from Baton Rouge even have somewhat of a twang. You have to travel west to Acadiana (Lafayette and surrounding areas) to hear a true Cajun accent and even then, they may differ a bit from town to town. Travel further down bayou country and it’ll change even more (heard of swamp people?). And then New Orleans has a dialect all it’s own. The oil industry has made the dialect of the younger kids in the larger cities a bit more standard… But Cajun French and creole languages still have left a huge mark.

    I was born and raised in Louisiana, south of I-10. My dad is from north Georgia and my mom is pure Cajun.

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  41. Joe Amoroso says:

    What about the “r” that gets added to words in Kansas/Missouri?

    I will never forget, as a teen, moving from Boston to KCK, and hearing the neighbors mom yelling, “get your dirty clothes ready, I have to do the wash (pronounced “warsh”).

  42. G.Mitchell says:

    very interesting post
    valuable and informative article too
    Thank you

  43. Meredith Domzalski says:

    Chris Matthews has an accent common in the Philadelphia region, but I don’t think people in the area would think of his voice as having a “Philly” accent (which is really a South Philly accent). The South Philly accent seems to be disappearing from what I can tell, but I’m not a linguist, and I’m not exposed to enough diversity to really be able to tell. I’m not sure if I could describe the accent if I tried (especially since I haven’t heard it in a while), but there is one distinct feature I can point out. That feature it the way the say the word water, which is pronounced kind of like “wooder.”

  44. Alexandra says:

    Hi, people! I need your help. Since this is the blog about American Dialects and my bachelor thesis is about this topic I want to share link to my survey . I would appreciate you to fill in it for me, thank you. 🙂
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  45. Linde Knighton says:

    Your survey was probematic for me. We need to be able to chose every region we have lived in, and all ethnic groups. Some choices needed none of the above, or all of the above.
    Thanks for doing this.

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  52. Linde Knighton says:

    American Spanish is extreemly varied too. Cuban and Mexican don’t resenle each other at all, Columbians believe they speak the best Spanish, The accent of Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile is very distinct. They even use different words than used in other areas. Exapmles, “Taco’ is the heel of a boot, “Cheque” is check, and “Penna” is a pen. But in Mexico, Taco is a food, billette is a check and la pluma is a pen.

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  54. Peter Samuel says:

    Curious as to the origin of transformation of the ‘rr’ or ‘ah’ sound as in ‘ask’ or ‘staff’ or ‘laugh’ into an elongated ‘air’ sound so that we get ‘airsk’ and ‘stairff’ and ‘lairff’ with the ‘air’ drawn out and emphasized. I find it an extremely ugly sound but I guess that’s in the ear of the hearer?

    • Doug says:

      I’m assuming you don’t pronounce the R in “air”. You might be English or Australian or something. That’s the only way I can make sense of your description.

    • Tad McArdle says:

      I’d phoneticize it as “eeyask” and “steeyaff”. The r pulls the tongue too far back, in my view.

  55. Peter Samuel says:

    The comparison of a long ‘air’ middle syllable in ask, staff, last is with standard Washington DC area speech with its softer and less emphasized ‘ah’ .

    • Doug says:

      So you have a DC accent then. I stand corrected. Some Americans from the East Coast can also drop the R in “air” (making it like kind of like “eh-uh”). This is similar to what the English do

  56. Peter Samuel says:

    No my own accent is very mixed up, but it is not the issue. Having lived here about 25 years I have got used to the dominant Washington DC area accent and never think about it. It is normal English speech to my ear now. I was looking to identify the origins of the accent of a woman who spoke quite differently from others at a recent meeting in City Hall with all her ‘ah’ or ‘arr’ sounds as a harsh ‘air’.

    I guess I can just ask her, or ‘airsk’ her if I see her around!

    • Doug says:

      I was just curious about your accent because to the majority of North Americans, “airsk” and the like sound (and look) very bizarre because we pronounce the R in “air” (unlike most English people, Aussies, etc.). We have what some would call a “rhotic accent”. I just don’t see why anyone would choose to indicate the sound that way unless they had a non-rhotic accent. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld would say.

      I’ve seen English people use similar spellings in the past, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Aussies, Kiwis, South Africans and maybe even some East Coast Americans used them too sometimes. For example, I’ve seen “grass” written “grarss” by English people to show their (or maybe someone from a different part of England’s) pronunciation of that word. Most Americans and Canadians would be more likely to write “grahss” to show that pronunciation, because most of us think of “ah” and “ar” as completely different sounds. One reason (of many) it took me forever to figure out that the Led Zeppelin song title “D’yer Mak’er” was supposed to pronounced “Jamaica”, is that I think of unstressed “er” or unstressed “a” as completely different sounds. Obviously the English band who came up with that title didn’t think they were different. But they didn’t realize the title wouldn’t work too well across the pond because I guess normal people don’t think about these things.

  57. Linde Knighton says:

    I suspect your lady with the harsh Air sound could be from Nova Scotia.

  58. Eric Johnson says:

    Nicely done!

  59. Ken Sears says:

    I live in Ukraine, as I have for nearly twenty years. For a whole raft of very concrete reasons that I won’t bore anyone with here, my “American accent” is quite “neutral”, or what one might call “Standard”. It is NOT “British”, but Americans who don’t know any better sometimes ask me if I’m British. I am fascinated by language and languagES. My ears are constantly picking up what seem to be trends in American speech, most of which I find thoroughly depressing. One I want to comment on here is what I call the “Fox News accent”, because it comes through so blatantly there, but it is certainly not limited to Fox News! In fact, it seems to be snowballing in America, to my horror, and I am befuddled as to WHY. In this comment I just want to point to ONE characteristic of it, to me the most egregious one: it is the replacement of “eh” (WEdnesday, essEntial, gEneral) with the “i” of “it, fit, tin”. So you get a quite blatant “Winsday”, “uh-SIN-chul” and “GIN-er-ul”. It is so blatant that you can hardly believe the speakers are not AWARE they’re doing it and, if so… WHY? I know this is found in Texas (I have family there who say “pin” for “pen”) but I can’t believe ALL these Fox journalists (it’s mostly the females who do it, curiously) are from Texas! WHERE is this coming from, and WHY??? Does anybody know? Can anyone explain it?
    Well, since I’m here, I’ll bring up another one….
    Another regrettable development in American English is the compulsive over-pronunciation of EVERYTHING. I believe this arises from a deep-seated insecurity about pronouncing things “properly”, the recourse being to OVER-pronounce, at first self-consciously until, finally, it simply becomes a cultural norm. The result is the extinction of the schwa. So you no longer have “situation” as “si-chu-AY-shn”, but “sit-chu-AY-SHIN”, and “question” as “KWESS-CHIN”. You get “the” as “thee”, NOT in front of a vowel, where it is classically correct, but in front of a consonant, as if the speaker is telegraphing, “See, I know how to say “THEE” right: “I bought THEE fixture at THEE store.” MOST paradoxically of all, this overly self-conscious, overly “correct” (aka WRONG) pronunciation of the article is turned on its head in the opposite case–the speaker will make it a POINT to pronounce a clumsy “thuh” in front of a VOWEL, as if the slight stumble it inevitably creates is a sign the speaker is making a knowing distinction between the two words: “…all over THUH//Earth” (“See, I separated “thuh” and “earth” with a glottal stop; that proves I’m articulate!”). It’s abominable to the ear. And I can’t help wonder and wonder, “Why???” It’s such a pity/ The American English that is arising from a general complex of insecurities, uncertainties and just bad training is a stumbling, jerky, hesitant, pigeon-toed kind of inarticulately over-articulated MESS.

  60. Linde Knighton says:

    The Fox news accent seems to be a Southernish/Southwesternish attempt to make the locals in those areas feel more trusting towards the newscasters (presenters). The thee/thuh situation is probably a regionalism that is spreading.

  61. Linde Knighton says:

    Eric, so replies are rude and spammy?

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  65. Ken Sears says:

    THUS, the moral is, people from the east coast need NEVER ask of each other, “I’m sorry, did you mean “kaht” as in something you sleep on or “kaht” as in a completed process of catching?” One time in Illinois I was quite befuddled and bewildered when a woman told me her name was “Don”…. I thought maybe it was a cute form of “Donna”–you know, like you might call a Henrietta “Hen”, until she informed me it was “Don! DON! Dee-Ay-Double-Yoo-En: DOOOON!!” Egads, I thought, I’m not in…well, New York, anymore. Apparently the entirely useful, efficient, economical “aw” sound (I would type the IPA symbol here if I could) has died a bitter and cruel death east of the NJ/PA border, and a true loss it is to intelligible communication.

    • Robert says:

      No need to be prejudice towards the way people speak.

      • Ken Sears says:

        You would understand my comment better if you read the comment it is a reply to, which is Tad McCardle’s above, the one that starts: “I’m from western PA and worked in NYC for a long time…” And continues, “…I became aware immedistely that… everybody around us twisted and bent the latter vowels to a horrifying degree”, and concludes happily, “… and and our marriage of opposites has worked out brilliantly. Moral: (fill in the blank)”. Also, you might do better to lighten up, too. But if you’re really so indignant about people ribbing each other for their accents (in which case you may want to say a word to Tad, too) this page is likely a hazardous place to be for your mental health.

      • Ken Sears says:

        And I didn’t misunderstand the lady in Illinois because I woke up that morning planning to be “prejudiced” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) about how people talk. I misunderstood her because I honestly misunderstood her…because people make vowels different in Illinois than in NY.
        So sue me.

  66. Tad McArdle says:

    And I wonder who was responsible for the “bitter and cruel death” of our economical and effortless vowel sound. They, or he, or she, must be tracked down and tonguelashed before it’s too late.

    • Ken Sears says:

      You can get started on that, Tad, and I’ll try and catch up later! Keep me updated how that’s going! 🙂

  67. Ken Sears says:

    The thing is, actually, the “-ah” HASN’T died a bitter and cruel death. It’s everywhere, it’s ubiquitous, yes, even east of the PA/NJ line: not, cot, hot, top, Don, on, bomb, father, and, yes, according to East-Coast-ese, the lovely “ah” is blooming all over Orange fORests in FlORida…. A rare case of East Coasters applying the “ah” where the Midwesterners actually DON’T want it (their lovely effortless vowel succumbs paradoxically to a tortured “Aw-rinj, floor-ida and four-ist”…so, there are ALWAYS paradoxes, are there not…). But back to the point, east of the PA/NJ line, while the lovely “ah” is CERTAINLY ubiquitous, it does not quite enjoy the hegemony over “aw” that it does further west. In NY/NJ we still allow “nought, dawn, caught, haught-y (!), awn-ing (!)”, etc., their own, “propre”, distinct “place in the sun”, as old Kaiser Wilhelm might have said.

  68. Tad McArdle says:

    On it, bro, got my hounds a sniffin’!

  69. Ken Sears says:


  70. Ken Sears says:

    That would be, wouldn’t it, the same elongated “eh-uh” sound most Americans pronounce in “can’t” (particularly if emphasized)? Where my life started, in NYC/Long Island area that sound was mostly reserved for the “-an” in words like hand, can’t, stand, but not so much for words like ask, staff, hat! Clearly, the “n” drew out the more nasalized and “eh’d” version of the “a”. It was only when I was exposed to people from northern New York state and Chicago that my senses were assaulted with that sharp “eeeeh-uh” in words where the following “n” was notably absent, like “staff, hat, catch”. I have to admit, it’s like a knife through my brain. Sorry. That’s me. Now, living in a place where almost nobody around me speaks English, and where I teach English, I need to be somewhat “intentional” (which doesn’t mean “phony”!) about the English I speak. I don’t engage in woodenly “correct” (which is inevitably INcorrect) pronunciation, but at the same time I have abandoned strongly pronounced “localisms” (barring the notion that, perhaps, somebody from Alamaba might call ANY English from north of the Mason-Dixon Line a “localism”!). For example, I use a pure “ae” (approximating the IPA symbol) now in can, can’t, hand, etc. A university training in theater also contributed to my general “divestment” of strongly regional pronunciations.

  71. Ken Sears says:

    I cannot resist adding this (to me) fascinating observation. Many years ago when I first visited Chicago, I was nearly knocked off my feet by this peculiarly intense, singular accent–that I had never heard before! I had never even heard OF a “Chicago Accent”, much less been exposed to its peculiarities. It assaulted my ears everywhere, in the streets, on television. I had never dreamed something so unique and peculiar was lurking under the popular radar, holed up there in Chicago. It certainly has never gotten the “play” in the national mythology like, say, the New York accent. (And, yes, I’m quite aware I’ve over-used “peculiar”.) The central…oh, I’ll just say it…peculiarity in it is what, after some reflection, I identified for myself as a collective “shift” to the right of elements on a spectrum, each one pushing the next further over. So if you picture the words “hot” and “hat” next to each other, and pronounce them in their “Standard English” way, you have a pure “ah” sound in “hot” and the “ae” sound in “hat”. What my mind’s eye saw happening in the Chicago accent was the pronunciation of “hot” shifting right to occupy the place “standardly” occupied by “hat”. Then, “hat” in its turn gets pushed further over (since it has to be distinguished from “hot”) to take on that sharp, elongated “eeeeh-uh” sound. So instead of “h-ah-t h-ae-t” you get “h-ae-t h-eeeeh-uh-t”. Instead of a “cop’s cap” you get a “cap’s ceeh-up”. A few years after I had worked this out on my mental screen I saw a t.v. show where some linguist/scientist was hailed for recognizing and labeling this “shift”! Gosh, I coulda been a contender….

  72. Tad McArdle says:

    And I thought I was into accents. I appreciate your subtlety. I taught English in Northern Nigeria in the late 1960s, where the Hausa language predominates, and I can still do sentences in it. It’s a tonal language that steps down by stages through each sentence, with occasional ups, and when I came back, I swear I was stepping through my English sentences the same way.

    • Ken Sears says:

      I speak Russian, and I make frequent trips from where I live to teach in Armenia for a couple of weeks at a time. I don’t speak Armenian, though I’ve developed enough sensitivity to it at least to have a really good sense of where my interpreter is at in the translating, which helps make for good rhythm and flow in the lecture. Anyway, one teaching visit in particular seemed to “infect” my Russian with the Armenian accent and for at least two weeks after returning home I could only speak Russian with a strong Armenian accent. It only happened once, thank goodness, and it was very, very strange. So I relate to your experience of speaking “Hausa’d” English. It can actually be quite disconcerting.