North American English

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North American English (NAmE, NAE) is the broadest variety of the English language as spoken in North America, including all dialects of the United States and Canada. Because of their shared histories and cultures[1] 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.[2][3] 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.[4] 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.[5] Despite these differences, English as it is spoken in both Canada and the United States is similar, with the United Empire Loyalists who fled the American Revolution having had a large influence on the early spoken form of Canadian English.[6]

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 ubiquitous in Canada, mainly due to the effects of heavy cross-border trade and cultural penetration by the American mass media.[7] 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.[8] Similarly, the accents of Newfoundland have some similarities to the accents of Scotland and Ireland.

Major regional dialects[edit]

The following numerical list, corresponding to the map below, 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 Vernacular English, Chicano English, etc.

This map shows English dialect regions of North America, as defined by Labov et al's Atlas of North American English.[9] Undesignated regions (in white, orange, and green) represent areas with characteristics that are inconsistent from speaker to speaker, or poorly studied due to being in a state of transition. Some undesignated areas fall under the classification of "General American," an umbrella variety widely spoken throughout the United States, regardless of location.
  1. Standard Canadian English
  2. Western American English
  3. North Central American ("Upper Midwest") English
  4. Inland North American ("Great Lakes") English
  5. Midland American English
  6. Southern American English
    a. Texan English
    b. Inland ("Appalachian") Southern American English
  7. Western Pennsylvania ("Pittsburgh") English
  8. Mid-Atlantic American ("Baltimore" and "Philadelphia") English
  9. New York City English
  10. Southwestern New England English
  11. Southeastern New England ("Rhode Island") English
  12. Northwestern New England ("Vermont") English
  13. Northeastern New England ("Boston") English
  14. Canadian Maritime English
  15. Newfoundland English

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chambers, J.K. (1998). "Canadian English: 250 Years in the Making". The Canadian Oxford Dictionary (2nd ed.). p. xi. 
  2. ^ Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles (2006). Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, Phonology and Sound Change. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016746-8. 
  3. ^ Trudgill, Peter & Jean Hannah. (2002). International English: A Guide to the Varieties of Standard English, 4th. London: Arnold. ISBN 0-340-80834-9 .
  4. ^ Patti Tasko. (2004). The Canadian Press Stylebook: A Guide for Writers and Editors, 13th. Toronto: The Canadian Press. ISBN 0-920009-32-8, p. 308.
  5. ^ "Noah Webster's Spelling Reform," (2011) Merriam-Webster Online, .
  6. ^ M.H. Scargill. (1957). "Sources of Canadian English", The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 56.4, pp. 610-614.
  7. ^ John Woitkowitz (2012). "Arctic Sovereignty and the Cold War: Asymmetry, Interdependence, and Ambiguity". Retrieved 2012-03-13. 
  8. ^ Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, David Hackett Fischer, 1989.
  9. ^ Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles (2006). Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, Phonology and Sound Change. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter. p. 148. ISBN 3-11-016746-8.