American English

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American English
Region United States of America
Native speakers
225 million  (2010)[1]
Latin script
American Braille
Deseret alphabet (limited), Shavian alphabet (no longer in use)
Language codes
ISO 639-1 en-US
ISO 639-3 eng-US
English language prevalence in the United States. Darker shades of blue indicate higher concentrations of native English speakers in the corresponding states.

American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States.[2] The predominant accent of American English that is most free from regional, ethnic, or cultural distinctions is the accent known as General American.

English is the most widely spoken language in the United States. English is the common language used by the federal government and is considered the de facto language of the United States due to its widespread use. English has been given official status by 30 of the 50 state governments.[3][4] As an example, while both Spanish and English have equivalent status in the local courts of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, under federal law, English is the official language for any matters being referred to the United States District Court for the territory.[5]

The use of English in the United States is a result of British colonization. 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. Since then, American English has been influenced by the languages of West Africa, the Native American population, German, Irish, Spanish, and other languages of successive waves of immigrants to the U.S.

Phonology[edit]

Compared with English as spoken in England, North American English[6] is more homogeneous. Some distinctive accents can be found on the East Coast (for example, in eastern New England, New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore) partly because these areas were in close contact with England and imitated prestigious varieties of English at a time when these were undergoing changes.[7] In addition, many speech communities on the East Coast have existed in their present locations for centuries, while the interior of the country was settled by people from all regions of the existing United States and developed a far more general linguistic pattern.[citation needed]

The red areas are those where non-rhotic pronunciations are found among some Caucasians in the United States. AAVE-influenced non-rhotic pronunciations may be heard from AAVE speakers throughout the country.[8]

Studies on historical usage of English in the United States and the United Kingdom suggest that spoken American English did not simply evolve from British English, but rather retained many archaic features British English has since lost.[9] Most North American speech is rhotic, as English was in most places in the 17th century. Rhoticity was further supported by Hiberno-English, West Country English and Scottish English as well as the fact most regions of England at this time also had rhotic accents.[10] In most varieties of North American English, the sound corresponding to the letter r is an alveolar approximant [ɹ] or retroflex [ɻ] 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, and African American Vernacular English.

In rural tidewater Virginia and eastern New England, 'r' is non-rhotic in accented (such as "bird", "work", "first", "birthday") as well as unaccented syllables, although this is declining among the younger generation of speakers.[citation needed] Dropping of syllable-final r sometimes happens in natively rhotic dialects if r is located in unaccented syllables or words and the next syllable or word begins in a consonant (for example, many North Americans drop the first 'r' in "particular"). In England, the lost r was often changed into [ə] (schwa), giving rise to a new class of falling diphthongs.[citation needed] Furthermore, the er sound of fur or butter, is realized in AmE as a monophthongal r-colored vowel (stressed [ɝ] or unstressed [ɚ] as represented in the IPA).[citation needed] This does not happen in the non-rhotic varieties of North American speech.[citation needed]

Some other English changes in which most North American dialects do not participate:

  • The regular realization of intervocalic /t/ as a glottal stop [ʔ] (as in [ˈbɑʔɫ̩] for bottle). The only environment in which t-glottalization is standard in American English is before "n", as in "button" [ˈbʌʔn̩].

On the other hand, North American English has undergone some sound changes not found in other varieties of English speech:

  • For speakers who do not merge caught and cot: The replacement of the cot vowel with the caught vowel before voiceless fricatives (as in cloth, off [which is found in some old-fashioned varieties of RP]), as well as before /ŋ/ (as in strong, long), usually in gone, often in on, and irregularly before /ɡ/ (log, hog, dog, fog [which is not found in British English at all]).
  • The replacement of the lot vowel with the strut vowel in most utterances of the words was, of, from, what and in many utterances of the words everybody, nobody, somebody, anybody; the word because has either /ɔ/ or /ʌ/. This is directly due to influence of the Irish language.[14] Want has normally /ɔ/ or /ɑ/, sometimes /ʌ/.[15][16][17]
  • Vowel merger before intervocalic /ɹ/. Which vowels are affected varies between dialects, but the Mary-marry-merry, nearer-mirror, and hurry–furry mergers are all widespread. Americans vary slightly in their pronunciations of R-colored vowels—such as those in /ɛəɹ/ and /ɪəɹ/—sometimes monophthongizing towards [ɛɹ] and [ɪɹ] or tensing towards [eɪɹ] and [i(ə)ɹ] respectively, causing pronunciations like [pʰeɪɹ] for pair/pear and [pʰiəɹ] for peer/pier.[18] Also, /jʊər/ is often reduced to [jɚ], so that cure, pure, and mature may all end with the sound [ɚ], thus rhyming with blur and sir. The word sure is also part of this rhyming set as commonly pronounced [ʃɚ].
  • Dropping of /j/ is more extensive than in RP. In most North American accents, /j/ is dropped after all alveolar and interdental consonant, so that new, duke, Tuesday, presume are pronounced [nu], [duk], [ˈtʰuzdeɪ], [pʰɹɪˈzum].
  • /æ/ tensing in environments that vary widely from accent to accent. With most American speakers, for whom the phoneme /æ/ operates under a somewhat continuous system, /æ/ has both a tense and a lax allophone (with a kind of "continuum" of possible sounds between those two extremes, rather than a definitive split). In these accents, /æ/ is overall realized before nasal stops as more tense (approximately [eə̯]), while other environments are more lax (approximately the standard [æ]); for example, note the vowel sound in [mæs] for mass, but [meə̯n] for man). In some American accents, though, specifically those from Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City, [æ] and [eə̯] are entirely separate (or "split") phonemes, for example, in planet [pʰɫænɪ̈t̚] vs. plan it [pʰɫeənɪ̈t̚]. This is often called the Mid-Atlantic split-a system. Note that these vowels move in the opposite direction in the mouth compared to the backed British "broad A"; the phenomenon has been noted as related to the increasingly rare phenomenon of older speakers of the eastern New England (Boston) area who /æ/ to /ɑ/ (the so-called "broad A") before /f/, /s/, /θ/, /ð/, /z/, /v/ alone or when preceded by a homorganic nasal.
/æ/ tensing[13] in North American English accents:
Environment Example
words
Boston &
metropolitan
Western U.S.
Baltimore &
Philadelphia
Canada,
Dakotas, &
Northwest U.S.
General
American
&
Midland U.S.
Inland North U.S.
(Great Lakes)
New York City Southern U.S. Upper
Midwest U.S.
Consonant
following
/æ/
Syllable type
/r/ open lax [æ] (Boston)
tense [ɛ]~[ɛə] (Western U.S.)
lax [æ] tense [ɛ]~[ɛə] tense
[eə]~[ɛə]~[æ]
tense [eə] lax [æ] [æʲə] tense
[eə]~[ɛə]~[æ]
/m/, /n/ closed tense
[eə]~[ɛə]~[æ]
tense [eə] tense [ɛə]~[æ] tense [eə]
open lax [æ] tense/lax [ɛə]~[æ] lax [æ]
/g/ open lax [æ] tense [e]~[ɛ]~[æ] lax [æ] tense [eɪ]
closed tense [eə]
/b/, /d/, /dʒ/,
/ʃ/, /v/, /z/, /ʒ/
closed tense/lax [ɛə]~[æ] lax [æ] lax [æ]
/f/, /s/, /θ/ closed tense [eə]
all other consonants lax [æ] lax [æ]
  • Flapping of intervocalic /t/ and /d/ to alveolar tap [ɾ] before unstressed vowels (as in butter [ˈbʌɾəɹ], party [ˈpʰɑɹɾi]) and syllabic /l/ (bottle [ˈbɑɾəɫ]), as well as at the end of a word or morpheme before any vowel (what else [wʌˈɾɛɫs], whatever [wʌˈɾɛvəɹ]). Thus, for most speakers, pairs such as ladder/latter, metal/medal, and coating/coding are pronounced the same, except with the stressed /aɪ/ (see below).
  • Canadian raising of /aɪ/: many speakers split the sound /aɪ/ based on its presence before either a voiceless or voiced consonant, so that in writer it is pronounced [ʌɪ] but in rider it is pronounced [aɪ]. This is a form of Canadian raising but, unlike more extreme forms of that process, does not affect /aʊ/. In many areas and idiolects, a phonemic distinction between what elsewhere become homophones through this process is maintained by vowel lengthening in the vowel preceding the formerly voiced consonant, e.g., [ˈɹʌɪɾɚ] for "writer" as opposed to [ˈɹaɪɾɚ] for "rider".
  • T glottalization is common when /t/ is in the final position of a syllable or word (get, fretful: [ɡɛʔ], [ˈfɹɛʔfəɫ]), though this is always superseded by the aforementioned rules of flapping
  • L-velarization: the typical English distinction between a "clear L" (i.e. [l]) and a "dark L" (i.e. [ɫ] or sometimes even [ʟ]) is much less noticeable in most dialects of American English; it may even be altogether absent.[19] Instead, most American speakers pronounce even the "clear" variant as more or less "dark", meaning with some degree of velarization.[20]
  • Both intervocalic /nt/ and /n/ may commonly be realized as [ɾ̃] or simply [n], making winter and winner homophones. In most areas where /nt/ is reduced to /n/, it is accompanied further by nasalization of simple post-vocalic /n/[vague], so that /Vnt/ and /Vn/ remain phonemically distinct. In such cases, the preceding vowel becomes nasalized, and is followed in cases where the former /nt/ was present, by a distinct[vague] /n/. This stop-absorption by the preceding nasal /n/ does not occur when the second syllable is stressed, as in entail.
  • Weak-vowel merger of the vowel /ə/ and /ɪ/ is generally present in unstressed syllables toward the sound /ɪ̈/.

Some mergers found in most varieties of both American and British English include:[citation needed]

  • merger of the vowels /ɔ/ and /o/ before 'r', making pairs like horse/hoarse, corps/core, for/four, morning/mourning, etc. homophones.
  • wine–whine merger making pairs like wine/whine, wet/whet, Wales/whales, wear/where, etc. homophones, in most cases eliminating /ʍ/, the voiceless labiovelar fricative. Many older varieties of southern and western American English still keep these distinct, but the merger appears to be spreading.

Vocabulary[edit]

North America has given the English lexicon many thousands of words, meanings, and phrases. Several thousand are now used in English as spoken internationally.

Creation of an American lexicon[edit]

The process of coining new lexical items started as soon as the colonists began borrowing names for unfamiliar flora, fauna, and topography from the Native American languages.[21] Examples of such names are opossum, raccoon, squash and moose (from Algonquian).[22] Other Native American loanwords, such as wigwam or moccasin, describe articles in common use among Native Americans. The languages of the other colonising nations also added to the American vocabulary; for instance, cookie, cruller, stoop, and pit (of a fruit) from Dutch; angst, kindergarten, sauerkraut from German,[23] levee, portage ("carrying of boats or goods") and (probably) gopher from French; barbecue, stevedore, and rodeo from Spanish.[24][25][26][27]

Among the earliest and most notable regular "English" additions to the American vocabulary, dating from the early days of colonization through the early 19th century, are terms describing the features of the North American landscape; for instance, run, branch, fork, snag, bluff, gulch, neck (of the woods), barrens, bottomland, notch, knob, riffle, rapids, watergap, cutoff, trail, timberline and divide[citation needed]. Already existing words such as creek, slough, sleet and (in later use) watershed received new meanings that were unknown in England.[citation needed]

Other noteworthy American toponyms are found among loanwords; for example, prairie, butte (French); bayou (Choctaw via Louisiana French); coulee (Canadian French, but used also in Louisiana with a different meaning); canyon, mesa, arroyo (Spanish); vlei, skate, kill (Dutch, Hudson Valley).

The word corn, used in England to refer to wheat (or any cereal), came to denote the plant Zea mays, the most important crop in the U.S., originally named Indian corn by the earliest settlers; wheat, rye, barley, oats, etc. came to be collectively referred to as grain. Other notable farm related vocabulary additions were the new meanings assumed by barn (not only a building for hay and grain storage, but also for housing livestock) and team (not just the horses, but also the vehicle along with them), as well as, in various periods, the terms range, (corn) crib, truck, elevator, sharecropping and feedlot.[citation needed]

Ranch, later applied to a house style, derives from Mexican Spanish; most Spanish contributions came after the War of 1812, with the opening of the West. Among these are, other than toponyms, chaps (from chaparreras), plaza, lasso, bronco, buckaroo, rodeo; examples of "English" additions from the cowboy era are bad man, maverick, chuck ("food") and Boot Hill; from the California Gold Rush came such idioms as hit pay dirt or strike it rich. The word blizzard probably originated in the West. A couple of notable late 18th century additions are the verb belittle and the noun bid, both first used in writing by Thomas Jefferson.[citation needed]

With the new continent developed new forms of dwelling, and hence a large inventory of words designating real estate concepts (land office, lot, outlands, waterfront, the verbs locate and relocate, betterment, addition, subdivision), types of property (log cabin, adobe in the 18th century; frame house, apartment, tenement house, shack, shanty in the 19th century; project, condominium, townhouse, split-level, mobile home, multi-family in the 20th century), and parts thereof (driveway, breezeway, backyard, dooryard; clapboard, siding, trim, baseboard; stoop (from Dutch), family room, den; and, in recent years, HVAC, central air, walkout basement).[citation needed]

Ever since the American Revolution, a great number of terms connected with the U.S. political institutions have entered the language; examples are run (i.e, for office), gubernatorial, primary election, carpetbagger (after the Civil War), repeater, lame duck (a British term used originally in Banking)[28] and pork barrel. Some of these are internationally used (for example, caucus, gerrymander, filibuster, exit poll).

19th century onwards[edit]

The development of industry and material innovations throughout the 19th and 20th centuries were the source of a massive stock of distinctive new words, phrases and idioms. Typical examples are the vocabulary of railroading (see further at rail terminology) and transportation terminology, ranging from names of roads (from dirt roads and back roads to freeways and parkways) to road infrastructure (parking lot, overpass, rest area), and from automotive terminology to public transit (for example, in the sentence "riding the subway downtown"); such American introductions as commuter (from commutation ticket), concourse, to board (a vehicle), to park, double-park and parallel park (a car), double decker or the noun terminal have long been used in all dialects of English.[29]

Trades of various kinds have endowed (American) English with household words describing jobs and occupations (bartender, longshoreman, patrolman, hobo, bouncer, bellhop, roustabout, white collar, blue collar, employee, boss [from Dutch], intern, busboy, mortician, senior citizen), businesses and workplaces (department store, supermarket, thrift store, gift shop, drugstore, motel, main street, gas station, hardware store, savings and loan, hock [also from Dutch]), as well as general concepts and innovations (automated teller machine, smart card, cash register, dishwasher, reservation [as at hotels], pay envelope, movie, mileage, shortage, outage, blood bank).[citation needed]

Already existing English words—such as store, shop, dry goods, haberdashery, lumber—underwent shifts in meaning; some—such as mason, student, clerk, the verbs can (as in "canned goods"), ship, fix, carry, enroll (as in school), run (as in "run a business"), release and haul—were given new significations, while others (such as tradesman) have retained meanings that disappeared in England. From the world of business and finance came breakeven, merger, delisting, downsize, disintermediation, bottom line; from sports terminology came, jargon aside, Monday-morning quarterback, cheap shot, game plan (football); in the ballpark, out of left field, off base, hit and run, and many other idioms from baseball; gamblers coined bluff, blue chip, ante, bottom dollar, raw deal, pass the buck, ace in the hole, freeze-out, showdown; miners coined bedrock, bonanza, peter out, pan out and the verb prospect from the noun; and railroadmen are to be credited with make the grade, sidetrack, head-on, and the verb railroad. A number of Americanisms describing material innovations remained largely confined to North America: elevator, ground, gasoline; many automotive terms fall in this category, although many do not (hatchback, sport utility vehicle, station wagon, tailgate, motorhome, truck, pickup truck, to exhaust).[citation needed]

In addition to the above-mentioned loans from French, Spanish, Mexican Spanish, Dutch, and Native American languages, other accretions from foreign languages came with 19th and early 20th century immigration; notably, from Yiddish (chutzpah, schmooze, tush) and Germanhamburger and culinary terms like frankfurter/franks, liverwurst, sauerkraut, wiener, deli(catessen); scram, kindergarten, gesundheit;[30] musical terminology (whole note, half note, etc.); and apparently cookbook, fresh ("impudent") and what gives? Such constructions as Are you coming with? and I like to dance (for "I like dancing") may also be the result of German or Yiddish influence.[31]

Finally, 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);[32][33] 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. Among the many English idioms of U.S. origin are get the hang of, bark up the wrong tree, keep tabs, run scared, take a backseat, have an edge over, stake a claim, take a shine to, in on the ground floor, bite off more than one can chew, off/on the wagon, stay put, inside track, stiff upper lip, bad hair day, throw a monkey wrench, under the weather, jump bail, come clean, come again?, it ain't over till it's over, what goes around comes around, and will the real x please stand up?[34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49][50][51][52][53][54][55]

Morphology[edit]

American English has always shown a marked tendency to use nouns as verbs.[56] Examples of verbed nouns are interview, advocate, vacuum, lobby, pressure, rear-end, transition, feature, profile, spearhead, skyrocket, showcase, service (as a car), corner, torch, exit (as in "exit the lobby"), factor (in mathematics), gun ("shoot"), author (which disappeared in English around 1630 and was revived in the U.S. three centuries later) and, out of American material, proposition, graft (bribery), bad-mouth, vacation, major, backpack, backtrack, intern, ticket (traffic violations), hassle, blacktop, peer-review, dope and OD, and, of course verbed as used at the start of this sentence.

Compounds coined in the U.S. are for instance foothill, flatlands, badlands, landslide (in all senses), overview (the noun), backdrop, teenager, brainstorm, bandwagon, hitchhike, smalltime, deadbeat, frontman, lowbrow and highbrow, hell-bent, foolproof, nitpick, about-face (later verbed), upfront (in all senses), fixer-upper, no-show; many of these are phrases used as adverbs or (often) hyphenated attributive adjectives: non-profit, for-profit, free-for-all, ready-to-wear, catchall, low-down, down-and-out, down and dirty, in-your-face, nip and tuck; many compound nouns and adjectives are open: happy hour, fall guy, capital gain, road trip, wheat pit, head start, plea bargain; some of these are colorful (empty nester, loan shark, ambulance chaser, buzz saw, ghetto blaster, dust bunny), others are euphemistic (differently abled (physically challenged), human resources, affirmative action, correctional facility).

Many compound nouns have the form verb plus preposition: add-on, stopover, lineup, shakedown, tryout, spin-off, rundown ("summary"), shootout, holdup, hideout, comeback, cookout, kickback, makeover, takeover, rollback ("decrease"), rip-off, come-on, shoo-in, fix-up, tie-in, tie-up ("stoppage"), stand-in. These essentially are nouned phrasal verbs; some prepositional and phrasal verbs are in fact of American origin (spell out, figure out, hold up, brace up, size up, rope in, back up/off/down/out, step down, miss out, kick around, cash in, rain out, check in and check out (in all senses), fill in ("inform"), kick in or throw in ("contribute"), square off, sock in, sock away, factor in/out, come down with, give up on, lay off (from employment), run into and across ("meet"), stop by, pass up, put up (money), set up ("frame"), trade in, pick up on, pick up after, lose out).[57][58][59][60][61][62][63][64][65][66][67][68][69][70]

Noun endings such as -ee (retiree), -ery (bakery), -ster (gangster) and -cian (beautician) are also particularly productive.[56] Some verbs ending in -ize are of U.S. origin; for example, fetishize, prioritize, burglarize, accessorize, itemize, editorialize, customize, notarize, weatherize, winterize, Mirandize; and so are some back-formations (locate, fine-tune, evolute, curate, donate, emote, upholster, peeve and enthuse). Among syntactical constructions that arose in the U.S. are as of (with dates and times), outside of, headed for, meet up with, back of, convince someone to, not about to and lack for.

Americanisms formed by alteration of some existing words include notably pesky, phony, rambunctious, pry (as in "pry open", from prize), putter (verb), buddy, sundae, skeeter, sashay and kitty-corner. Adjectives that arose in the U.S. are for example, lengthy, bossy, cute and cutesy, grounded (of a child), punk (in all senses), sticky (of the weather), through (as in "through train", or meaning "finished"), and many colloquial forms such as peppy or wacky. American blends include motel, guesstimate, infomercial and televangelist.

English words that survived in the United States and not in the United Kingdom[edit]

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 dropped out in most varieties of British English; some of these have cognates in Lowland Scots. Terms such as fall ("autumn"), faucet ("tap"), diaper ("nappy"), 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".[71]

During the 17th century, English immigration to the British colonies in North America was at its peak and the new settlers took the English language with them. While the term fall gradually became obsolete in Britain, it became the more common term in North America. Gotten (past participle of get) is often considered to be an Americanism, although there are some areas of Britain, such as Lancashire and North East England, that still continue to use it and sometimes also use putten as the past participle for put (which is not done by most speakers of American English).[72]

Other words and meanings, to various extents, were brought back to Britain, especially in the second half of the 20th century; these include hire ("to employ"), quit ("to stop", which spawned quitter in the U.S.), 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 mandative subjunctive (as in "the City Attorney suggested that the case not be closed") is livelier in American English than it is in British English. It appears in some areas as a spoken usage and is considered obligatory in contexts that are more formal. The adjectives mad meaning "angry", smart meaning "intelligent", and sick meaning "ill" are also more frequent in American (these meanings are also frequent in Hiberno-English) than British English.[73][74][75]

Regional differences[edit]

While written American English is standardized across the country, there are several recognizable variations in the spoken language, both in pronunciation and in vernacular vocabulary. General American is the name given to any American accent that is relatively free of noticeable regional influences.

Eastern seaboard[edit]

After the Civil War, the settlement of the western territories by migrants from the Eastern U.S. led to dialect mixing and leveling, (koineization) so that regional dialects are most strongly differentiated along the Eastern seaboard. The Connecticut River and Long Island Sound is usually regarded as the southern/western extent of New England speech, which has its roots in the speech of the Puritans from East Anglia who settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The Potomac River generally divides a group of Northern coastal dialects from the beginning of the Coastal Southern dialect area; 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, which developed on a Dutch substratum after the English conquered New Amsterdam. The main features of Coastal Southern speech can be traced to the speech of the English from the West Country who settled in Virginia after leaving England at the time of the English Civil War.

Midwest[edit]

A distinctive speech pattern also appears near the border between Canada and the United States, centered on the Great Lakes region (but only on the American side). This is the Inland North Dialect—the "standard Midwestern" speech that was the basis for General American in the mid-20th century (although it has been recently modified by the northern cities vowel shift). Those not from this area frequently confuse it with the North Midland dialect treated below, referring to both collectively as "Midwestern" in the Mid-Atlantic region or "Northern" in the Southern US. The so-called '"Minnesotan" dialect is also prevalent in the cultural Upper Midwest, and is characterized by influences from the German and Scandinavian settlers of the region (like "yah" for yes, pronounced similarly to "ja" in German, Norwegian and Swedish). In parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio, another dialect known as Pennsylvania Dutch English is also spoken.

Interior[edit]

In the interior, the situation is very different. 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 Western dialect which contains Pacific Northwest English as well as the well-known California English, although in the immediate San Francisco area some older speakers do not possess the cot–caught merger and thus retain the distinction between words such as cot and caught which reflects a historical Mid-Atlantic heritage.

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. It is a version of the Midland speech that has assimilated some coastal Southern forms (outsiders often mistakenly believe South Midland speech and coastal South speech to be the same).

Although no longer region-specific,[76] African American Vernacular English, which remains prevalent among African Americans, has a close relationship to Southern varieties of AmE and has greatly influenced everyday speech of many Americans.

The island state of Hawaii has a distinctive Hawaiian Pidgin.

Finally, dialect development in the United States has been notably influenced by the distinctive speech of such important cultural centers as Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Charleston, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, which imposed their marks on the surrounding areas.

Differences between British and American English[edit]

American English and British English (BrE) 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, was written by Noah Webster in 1828; Webster intended to show that the United States, which was a relatively new country at the time, spoke a different dialect from that of Britain.

Differences in grammar are relatively minor, and normally do not affect mutual intelligibility; these include: different use of some verbal auxiliaries; 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); 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.[77]

Differences in orthography are also minor. The main differences are that American English uses spellings such as flavor for British flavour, fiber for fibre, defense for defence, analyze for analyse, 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".[78] Other differences are due to the francophile tastes of 19th century Victorian England (for example they preferred programme for program, manoeuvre for maneuver, cheque for check, etc.).[79] AmE uses -ize in words like realize. BrE prefers -ise, but also uses -ize (see Oxford spelling).

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). It should, however, be noted that while individuals usually use one or the other, both forms will be widely understood and mostly used alongside each other within the two systems.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ American English at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Crystal, David (1997). English as a Global Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-53032-6. 
  3. ^ Crawford, James (1 February 2012). "Language Legislation in the U.S.A.". languagepolicy.net. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "States with Official English Laws". us-english.org. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  5. ^ 48 USC § 864 – Appeals, certiorari, removal of causes, etc.; use of English language | Title 48 – Territories and Insular Possessions | U.S. Code | LII / Legal Information Ins...
  6. ^ North American English (Trudgill, p. 2) is a collective term used for the varieties of the English language that are spoken in the United States and Canada.
  7. ^ Trudgill, pp. 46–47.
  8. ^ Labov, p. 48.
  9. ^ WiseGeek.org What is the difference between Theater and Theatre?
  10. ^ "Early Mainland Residues in Southern Hiberno-English". JSTOR 25484343. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  11. ^ Merriam Webster Pronunciation Guide
  12. ^ Wells, John C. (1982). Accents of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 136–37, 203–6, 234, 245–47, 339–40, 400, 419, 443, 576. ISBN 0-521-22919-7. "0-521-22919-7 (vol. 1), ISBN 0-521-24224-X (vol. 2), ISBN 0-521-24225-8 (vol. 3)" 
  13. ^ a b Labov et al. (2006), p. 171.
  14. ^ According to Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. For speakers who merge caught and cot, /ɔ/ is to be understood as the vowel they have in both caught and cot.
  15. ^ "want: meaning and definitions". Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  16. ^ "want. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.". Archived from the original on 2008-01-09. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  17. ^ "Want – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  18. ^ J. C. Wells. Accents of English 3. Cambridge University Press. pp. 481–482. 
  19. ^ Grzegorz Dogil, Susanne Maria Reiterer, and Walter de Gruyter, ed. (2009). "general+american"+"velarized" Language Talent and Brain Activity: Trends in Applied Linguistics. Walter de Gruyter GmbH. p. 299. 
  20. ^ Jones, Roach & Hartman (2006:xi)
  21. ^ Principles of English etymology: The ... – Google Books
  22. ^ Principles of English etymology: The ... – Google Books
  23. ^ About.com – German Loan Words in English
  24. ^ "The history of Mexican folk foodways of South Texas: Street vendors, o" by Mario Montano
  25. ^ What's in a word?: etymological ... – Google Books
  26. ^ GOPHER
  27. ^ The American Language: A Preliminary ... – Google Books
  28. ^ "Lame Duck". Word Detective.com. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  29. ^ A few of these are now chiefly found, or have been more productive, outside of the U.S.; for example, jump, "to drive past a traffic signal;" block meaning "building," and center, "central point in a town" or "main area for a particular activity" (cf. Oxford English Dictionary).
  30. ^ "The Maven's Word of the Day: gesundheit". Random House. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  31. ^ Trudgill, Peter (2004). New-Dialect Formation: The Inevitability of Colonial Englishes.
  32. ^ "Definition of day noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary". Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  33. ^ "Definition of sure adjective from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary". Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  34. ^ [1][dead link]
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  36. ^ [3][dead link]
  37. ^ [4][dead link]
  38. ^ [5][dead link]
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  40. ^ [7][dead link]
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  42. ^ [9][dead link]
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  44. ^ [11][dead link]
  45. ^ [12][dead link]
  46. ^ [13][dead link]
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  51. ^ [18][dead link]
  52. ^ [19][dead link]
  53. ^ [20][dead link]
  54. ^ [21][dead link]
  55. ^ [22][dead link]
  56. ^ a b Trudgill, p. 69.
  57. ^ [23][dead link]
  58. ^ [24][dead link]
  59. ^ [25][dead link]
  60. ^ [26][dead link]
  61. ^ [27][dead link]
  62. ^ [28][dead link]
  63. ^ [29][dead link]
  64. ^ [30][dead link]
  65. ^ [31][dead link]
  66. ^ [32][dead link]
  67. ^ [33][dead link]
  68. ^ [34][dead link]
  69. ^ [35][dead link]
  70. ^ British author George Orwell (in English People, 1947, cited in OED s.v. lose) criticized an alleged "American tendency" to "burden every verb with a preposition that adds nothing to its meaning (win out, lose out, face up to, etc.)".
  71. ^ Harper, Douglas. "fall". Online Etymology Dictionary. 
  72. ^ A Handbook of Varieties of English, Bernd Kortmann & Edgar W. Schneider, Walter de Gruyter, 2004, p. 115.
  73. ^ "angry". Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  74. ^ "intelligent". Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  75. ^ "Definition of ill adjective from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary". Retrieved 29 May 2013. .
  76. ^ Cf. Trudgill, p.42.
  77. ^ Algeo, John (2006). British or American English?. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-37993-8.
  78. ^ Algeo, John. "The Effects of the Revolution on Language", in A Companion to the American Revolution. John Wiley & Sons, 2008. p.599
  79. ^ Peters, Pam (2004). The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-62181-X, pp. 34 and 511.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bartlett, John R. (1848). Dictionary of Americanisms: A Glossary of Words and Phrases Usually Regarded As Peculiar to the United States. New York: Bartlett and Welford. 
  • Garner, Bryan A. (2003). Garner's Modern American Usage. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Labov, William; Sharon Ash; Charles Boberg (2006). The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016746-8. 
  • Mencken, H. L. (1936, repr. 1977). The American Language: An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States (4th edition). New York: Knopf.  Check date values in: |date= (help) (1921 edition online: www.bartleby.com/185/).
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[edit]