Talk:American English/Archive 4

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The American English vs. British English section is lacking.

See Murphy, R., English Grammar In Use, 2nd Ed., from Cambridge University Press, Appendix 7, "American English," pages 282, 283, for a concise list of grammatical differences. I'd add them myself if I had the time, but I don't. Some examples: British: The past participle of "get" is "got." (Your English has got much better.) American: The pp is "gotten." (Your English has gotten much better.)

Americans use simple past tense in places where Brits do not, ie. "I just ate." This is not done in the U.K.. "I've just eaten," would be said. Americans might use the present perfect as well, interchangeably.

Brits live in a street, Americans live on a street.

The source lists fourteen such differences.

Cheers, peace, God bless America, save The Queen, and help us all. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 07:38, 7 December 2006 (UTC).

All this and much more in American and British English differences & spinoffs. JackLumber. 19:46, 20 December 2006 (UTC)

I disagree that British people say they live in a street. I've never said it, and I can't recall anyone ever saying it to me. There's no difference here, on a street is the standard both sides of the pond, but the other points are interesting, though there is a complete article on this topic (as mentioned by JackLumber above.) Tezp 09:03, 4 June 2007 (UTC)

I haven't seen any reference to two differences I've observed between American and British/Australian English:

1. In British/Australian English, the words "fertile" and "myrtle" do not rhyme. In American English, they do. Similarly for "missile" & possibly others.

2. Many words seem to be pronounced in American English with the accent on the first syllable, whereas in British/Australian English, the accent is on a later syllable. For exmaple, REsearch, INsurance, DISpatch Shrdlu junction 00:53, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

Second-syllable stress is possible in AmE in all those words too, though. And then there's gaRAGE... —Angr 04:21, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

- Coming from northern England (Manchester/Lancashire area), I'd like to say that I see some similarities between "my version" of English and what's used in the US compared to standard/Oxford English I hear from people from the south of England. The use of "gotten" and "putten" are familiar ("'ave putten it back") and living "on a street" as apposed to "in a street" ("he lives on Grafton Street)... however now living abroad where they don't speak English I tend not to use such "dialect" words and try and keep to the "norms" (whatever that is). --Rdiggle (talk) 13:51, 27 November 2008 (UTC)

Latino English & south-western dialects

I don't see anything here, or in American English regional differences, or any separate articles on Latino English & Southwestern dialects. Surely this is a major omission(?) It struck me today when I was talking to a friend who has spent most of her life in west Texas and who has a distinctive style of speech to other Texans. When it is noticeable to a foreigner, it has to mean something! Grant65 | Talk 05:52, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

I've noticed the accent of native English-speaking Texan Chicanos too. It's reminiscent of (but different from) the accent of Native Americans (which was parodied in the South Park episode "Red Man's Greed"). My sister lived for a while in the Rio Grande Valley and picked up the local accent--which is nothing like the Southern-influenced Texas accent of Anglos--, and when I went to visit her, I picked it up too very quickly. And I'm not the sort of person who usually picks up the local accent of wherever I'm visiting. But it can only be discussed on Wikipedia if there's published research on it that can be cited. —Angr 06:31, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
The friend I am referring to is an Anglo, rather than a Latina or native American, but seems to share some of the phonology of those groups, if not their vocabulary. I have just found Spanglish, which is semi-relevant, but is not intended as a an article about a regional variety of English, espcially not that spoken by non-Latinos. I think there should be an article called Southwestern American English or whatever. Grant65 | Talk 17:54, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Indeed, but it still needs to be based on published research so as to be verifiable. That's something of an uphill battle with articles on English dialects, but it's policy nevertheless. —Angr 19:24, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
I'll put up some refs for this (but I probably wont write anything) – ishwar  (speak) 03:26, 29 September 2007 (UTC)

Article Cleanup Co-Ordination Point

I received the notice from the bot, but I'm not clear exactly what the problem is here. Is the "Phonology" section considered too technical? The links included in the section should help anyone unfamiliar with IPA or linguistics terminology. Can we present the information in a clearer way? What needs to be done here? —Josiah Rowe (talkcontribs) 21:33, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

I tagged with need of references and cleanup cause of too many expamples on Vocabulary. Maybe need more references please discuss that. Cleanup really is needed for vocab section because of we can't catalogue all examples and forms. Maybe bit rash and reckless in tagging if after consensus cleanup, add references, or remove tags.Randalllin 06:16, 19 December 2006 (UTC) As said by another tag most info unverified.Randalllin 06:17, 19 December 2006 (UTC)


Just wanted to give mad props ;) to whoever wrote up the vocabulary section. Tis excellent, and even features correct use of itals when using words as words. Just lovely. jengod 19:49, 29 December 2006 (UTC)

En-US Redirect

Also put this comment on the En-US article talk page. I don't know where this comment should go for redirects, or how to make the necessary changes myself. I think the En-US article should lead to a disambiguation page. Not everyone who goes to En-US is looking for the entry on American English. It might also lead to ISO_639 or a more specific page that explains what en-US, en-UK, etc. are (I'm looking for a list of all the different XX-*). If this doesn't belong here please remove. Thanks, -cm, 22:18, 24 January 2007 (UTC)


I agree with the edit which removed the comment about General American English pronunciation being somehow more prestigious than pronunciation which shows identifiable regional characteristics. There might be prestige issues with people who code-switch between SAE and AAVE. I think making broad, sweeping generalizations like this is out of place.

On another topic, please sign in when making edits. Let us know that you are part of the Wiki community, even if only once in a blue moon. Cbdorsett 05:24, 25 January 2007 (UTC)

I do recall seeing in a fairly old video called "American tongues" that stated that people generally prefer to remove the aspects of their speech that is marked when they communicate professionally with members of other American speech communities but I hardly consider that a noteworthy source. Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 08:26, 25 January 2007 (UTC)
William Labov published a paper back in the 60s showing that people in New York City suppress their non-rhoticity when asked to repeat what they just said, and that rhoticity there increases with social standing. —Angr 08:30, 25 January 2007 (UTC)
Okay, you win. I agree with you. Put the text back in, together with citations to the works you guys are talking about. But reword it slightly so that it's not a sweeping generalization. Thanks for contributing. Cbdorsett 09:07, 25 January 2007 (UTC)


The phonology section fails to mention something that I found a striking feature of US pronunciation: the omission of t at words' ends. Internet becomes Inderneh, wait becomes waih and set becomes seh, at least at sentences' ends. Perhaps this is a consequence of t becoming d, but often there's really practically nothing of any consonant left. 03:02, 13 February 2007 (UTC)

That's true, it doesn't mention that. It comes close to it though. I'll see what I can do. Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 06:39, 13 February 2007 (UTC)
Could it be the reason it doesn't mention that is that there's no published evidence of such a deletion? I've heard /t/ get glottalized to a glottal stop, but I've never noticed it being omitted completely or replaced by /h/ as the above comment seems to imply. —Angr 07:05, 13 February 2007 (UTC)
Or how about "little" pronounced "lihhle"... as in "With a Little Bit of Luck", as sung by Eliza's old Cockney father (Stanley Holloway) in My Fair Lady? I've heard that pattern imitated by the Monty Python guys (by Michael Palin, specifically, I think) and I've heard Brits in my own company talk that way. How you precisely define that speech oddity, I couldn't say. Wahkeenah 09:59, 13 February 2007 (UTC)
I don't know either, but this article is about American English, so Stanley Holloway and Michael Palin are kinda irrelevant. —Angr 12:32, 13 February 2007 (UTC)
So, the argument is this only occurs in British English? Well, I've heard it in American English, just rather less often. Wahkeenah 12:40, 13 February 2007 (UTC)
T-glottalization at the end of a word (especially when the word is at the end of a breath group) is common in several varieties of English on both sides of the herring pond, and is well documented in the literature. But replacing it with /h/ or deleting it altogether without so much as a glottal stop in its place, which is what the anon seems to be talking about and what I assume you mean by "lihhle", is not as widely discussed in the literature, and I'd like it be sourced before it's added. And anything that gets added to this article needs to be about American English. —Angr 12:55, 13 February 2007 (UTC)
I think the anon was talking about T-glottalization. H is a funny letter, especially in Germanic languages and in nonstandard English spelling can be used after a vowel to attempt to indicate alternative vowel pronunciations. Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 13:52, 13 February 2007 (UTC)
Yes, the h was just to underline the perceived pronunciation: as opposed to Innerneh, Innerne might have been read as in-uhrn. Meant was merely the disappearance of the t. (PS: It even happens when it's not the word's last letter: communicate becomes communicaih.) 01:00, 18 February 2007 (UTC)
It's a clear case of the use of the glottal stop /ʔ/ in place of the /t/, 'internet' is pronounced /inɜɹnɛʔ/ try to use IPA symbols instead of normal characters else your description of the sound isn't clear.

IPA comes out as squares on my and alot of peoples screen, so phonetic spelling is clearer. I've never heard the t omitted from Internet, nor the t replaced with a d. The most common pronunciation would be "Innernet" or "Innuhnet". 12:06, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

Invention or evolution?

I heard that it was invented to try and schism from proper English as much as possible, is this correct? And if so when and why and by who? 04:56, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

I think the tone of your comment pretty well explains the "why" part. >:) Wahkeenah 05:05, 22 February 2007 (UTC)
The comment doesn't make sense, since American English is proper English. Anyway, the answer is no, of course not. Language evolves naturally over time, and on the rare occasions when someone tries to force language to change in a certain direction, it never works. In the case of American English and English English, both varieties have changed over the last 300 years; in some respects, English English is more conservative and American has evolved away from the older form, but in other respects, American is more conservative and English English has evolved away from the older form. And in still other cases, both varieties have evolved away from the older form, so that neither of them is conservative, though other varieties like Scottish English might be. —Angr 06:08, 22 February 2007 (UTC)
If he's talking about the simplified spelling (such as dropping the "u" from words like "colour"), I think Noah Webster had something to do with that. But it's true that pronunciation and spelling evolve. Look at Aussie English, for that matter. And what about the variants within the U.K. itself? Or within the U.S. itself? As a side note, it's interesting to read the U.S. Constitution, and to notice that all the Nouns are capitalized, German and/or legalese style, which is generally not done anymore except for proper nouns. Also, there's this business of "Received Pronunciation" (which I take to mean "Royal Pronunciation" or "The King's/Queen's English". Apparently one thing they apparently failed to "receive" was the trailing "R". I guess it was hijacked by the Scottish, the Irish and the Americans, don'cha know. >:) Wahkeenah 12:26, 22 February 2007 (UTC)
Apearantly, in Australia, there is a tendancy to avoid american spelling and, to a lesser extent, pronunciation, to the point that older signs are changed to adopt british spellings. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 20:46, 12 March 2007 (UTC).
Apearantly sew. Wahkeenah 23:36, 12 March 2007 (UTC)

Color Map Used Is Highly Inaccurate for MidSouth Region

It lists Tennesse, Louisania, and Kentucy as a dark blue, incicating a high prevalence of Ameerican-English speakers, when in these states there is a very high percentage of Spanish and Japanese speakers, especially in Tennessee.

I don't have a replacement, however...which goes against my mantra of "don't bitch if ya can't fix it." I'll try to look for one.

Thanks -- 17:07, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

Is this really true?

Some words with simplified spellings in American English include center, color, and maneuver, which are spelled centre, colour, and manoeuvre in other forms of English. As far as I know theese are also clear francophone changes in the Brittish English language and not simplifications in American English. They sound very French too, colour is even a French word (correct French spelling and all). My teacher told me that the words that end with re (ex. centre) and our (ex. colour) in Brittish english are a result of the francophilia.

Francophilia is what's responsible for the British fondness for -ise and -isation rather than the original -ize and -ization that predominates in American English. While some -ize words were borrowed from French, most were either borrowed directly from Greek or were formed new within English. Center, color, and maneuver, on the other hand, were all borrowed directly from French, so at least centre and manoeuvre have to be viewed as the original spellings and center and maneuver as simplifications. Since the French word for "color" is couleur, though, it looks like both British and American have simplified the spelling. —Angr 17:58, 27 May 2007 (UTC)
While both the -ise and -ize spellings have always been acceptable in Britain, when Webster pushed for the -ize ending to be the standard it was more common in both the US and Britain. Since then a shift has taken place outside the US towards the -ise ending, perhaps as a result of Francophilia. The word colour entered English from Middle French with that spelling. The spelling 'color' is another change from Webster which caught on in the US. I understand he pushed for it largely because it was the original Latin spelling. But whether you think the word should be spelt more like the original Latin or reflect its passage through Middle French is a matter of personal choice.---Potahto (talk) 15:11, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

Dialect vs. Variety

Is American English really a dialect of English? I might be wrong but it seems to me that British/American/Canadian/Australian/NZ etc speakers can all understand each other perfectly well (with the exception of a few words), so it is not really accurate to say that these countries speak different dialects. "Variety" might be a more appropriate term in this case.

Dialect is a funny word that means different things in different contexts. Variety is a more neutral term that's mostly used when you don't want to take a stand about whether you're talking about a separate language, a dialect, a sociolinguistic register, an idiolect, or what-have-you. That said, I do think "dialect" is not inappropriate; one common definition of dialect is a linguistic variety that has phonological, morphological, syntactic, and/or lexical properties that distinguish it from other varieties of the same language. The definition does not entail that it is difficult for a speaker of one dialect to understand a speaker of another dialect (though it doesn't rule that out either). Since American English can be distinguished from other varieties of English in its phonology and lexicon at least (and perhaps in morphology and syntax as well although no examples are springing to mind at the moment), it's fair to call it a dialect. —Angr 19:49, 22 June 2007 (UTC)
I feel that the differences are far from just a few words. American English, or American for short, is very different from the 'ideal' form of English, yet they are still hard to define. The reason for this is the language skills taught in schools still revolve around a refined form of classical Americanized English. I have found under intense thought of the subject that this tends to mask the fact that American is an entirely different language now with different pronoun declarations and having many words and grammatical aspects inherited from other languages. Due to scholars deadly grip onto classic Americanized English anyone studying the subject may overlook what the majority of the American public speaks and/or writes. This can be seen in classrooms all over North America whose teachers commonly understand what is written but are taught themselves that such common 'mistakes' are wrong, when in fact these common mistakes are just the evolution of the language to another form. Sadly it is these scholars who are holding onto the ideal form of classical Americanized English that define what is or isn't a separate language. -Unregistered


"The replacement of the lot vowel with the strut vowel in most utterances of the words was, of, from, what, everybody, nobody, somebody, anybody, because, and in some dialects want"

I'd say the vast majority of American English speakers pronounce "body" as "bahdy" rather than "buddy". I'm going to put it behing "in some dialects". 11:12, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

Body by itself, yes; but in everybody, nobody, somebody, anybody it's "buddy". —Angr 11:16, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

I have to strongly dispute that. Very rarely do I hear anybody pronounce "body" that way in any context. I'm not disputing that it happens, but the wording suggests that the majority of Americans would pronounce it that way, which clearly isn't true. 12:13, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

Well, we'll have to look for sources then. I have never noticed any American pronounce everybody, nobody, somebody, anybody with the same vowel as the word body. —Angr 12:20, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

You must not talk to many Americans. Very rarely have I heard it pronounced "buddy". Usually just in small children who would pronounce dog as "dug", fall as "fuhl", etc. Once again, I'm not disputing that it happens in some dialects, but certainly not the majority or in all cases as you're suggesting. In southern dialects the "ah" is stresed to the point where it's "aa". 12:45, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

I grew up in America speaking to Americans. I don't doubt there are some who say "anybahdy, everybahdy", and I may even have heard it from them; but it can't have been very many people. This is why we need to find reliable sources: both you and I are convinced that our own pronunciation is the most common one, but that's just a subjective impression on both sides. What does the actual research say? —Angr 12:56, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

Where did you grow up? I assume this page has to cite some reference which I would dispute also, assuming it explicitly states that it's the standard pronunciation. I've heard people pronounce it "buddy" and I remember thinking how odd it was. It stood out to me. The issue isn't whether it's said, as I'm sure it is, but if that's the standard pronunciation of the majority of Americans. 13:30, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

I lived in upstate New York between ages 2 and 9 and thereafter in Texas, but I don't have a Texas accent. My parents are both from Los Angeles. And you? —Angr 13:35, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

I'm from DC. 13:45, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

I say everyone, no one, someone and anyone :) Coming from the PacNW though I hear both buddy and bahdy 18:21, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

Kenyon & Knott list 3 pronunciations of -body with "ah", ʌ, and schwa. – ishwar  (speak) 04:38, 22 September 2007 (UTC)

Time Periods

Slang aside, does a General American Accent from the 1920s sound the same as the General American Accent from the 2000s? Any Tone / Dialect similarities and differences? Chantessy 16:57, 2 August 2007 (UTC)

I have a copy of American Pronunciation by John Kenyon, first published in 1924, which is a description of a fairly unmarked Ohio accent of the time, well before the Northern Cities vowel shift starting having an effect. The most noticeable difference I see between then and now is that back then, it was apparently quite common for Americans to distinguish between horse and hoarse, between morning and mourning, or between war and wore, whereas nowadays it's quite rare for people to distinguish them. Also, there's no mention of æ-tensing, not even before nasals (where it's most widespread today), and when discussing flapping, he claims that although the [t] is voiced in words like latter and putting, they do not become homophones with ladder and pudding, which they certainly are nowadays. —Angr 08:09, 22 September 2007 (UTC)

Are old recordings any help here? Even with WWII newsreels, I'm always struck by the fact that people just don't sound like that any more. Then again, it could be that the speech of radio/tv personalities just didn't sound like informal speech, which is still the case pretty often. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:38, 9 February 2008 (UTC)

Black People... ???

In one of the picture descriptions, it says

The red areas are those where non-rhotic pronunciations are found among some white people in the United States. AAVE-influenced non-rhotic pronunciations may be found among black people throughout the country.

Why are we using White and Black people? Aren't there proper names? o.O

ĞavinŤing 18:15, 30 September 2007 (UTC)

"White people" and "black people" are perfectly acceptable, unoffensive terms for (in this context) Americans of predominantly European and predominantly African ancestry, respectively. —Angr 19:13, 30 September 2007 (UTC)
I don't quite understand what can be seen as offensive in this. I know of many Black and White Americans who use these terms every day with only a small fraction of trouble-makers on either side finding the terms offensive. Usually it is not the terms which offend, but the context in which they are used as well as what people with biased viewpoints may see within the context that cause them to be the center point of discussion. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:24, 22 November 2007 (UTC)

I don't understand how black and white figures into this as the whole article seems to mention black and white more than a few times. Seems as if it was written by the ever present white terrorist who keep coming on the internet spreading their BS.—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:52, 15 September 2008 (UTC)

It's a simple linguistic fact that many blacks speak AAVE and virtually no whites do, and that AAVE has an influence on one's pronunciation of standard English. It's sociolinguistically perfectly acceptable to distinguish between how blacks (in general) speak and how whites (in general) speak; indeed, it would be scientifically irresponsible to pretend there are no differences. —Angr 05:44, 15 September 2008 (UTC)

How is "American English" not a "Creole language"?

A dialect????? The "English" spoken in the United States is very different from the English in England(Great Britain). Different in spelling and all. How is "American English" not a Creole language? (talk) 22:21, 5 January 2008 (UTC)

American English is not a creole language because it did not develop from a pidgin language through the process of creolization. Rather, it is a dialect of English. The different spelling, of course, is irrelevant, since spelling has nothing to do with language. —Angr If you've written a quality article... 22:36, 5 January 2008 (UTC)

American English = International English?

As much as I find American English used by continental Europeans, Northeast Asia, & the Americas; the English of Oceania, Southwest Asia, Africa, & the Caribbean (the Commonwealth of Nations) still seems more British. I would say American English is more international but I dispute titling it International English. I contend the last edit may have been vandalism. --Thecurran (talk) 14:59, 22 January 2008 (UTC)

It's been reverted. —Angr If you've written a quality article... 17:26, 22 January 2008 (UTC)
Thank you. Still finding my feet I guess. --Thecurran (talk) 21:07, 22 January 2008 (UTC)

Standard Accent

Under 'Regional differences' is says General American 'is not a standard accent in the way that Received Pronunciation is in England'. Although defining the term 'standard accent' is probably a minefield, the article on General American seems to contradict this. I wanted to delete that sentence unless someone thinks otherwise... To me, General American serves exactly the same role as Received Pronunciation. Potahto (talk) 11:28, 14 March 2008 (UTC)

The problem is that General American doesn't actually exist. The sum total of the features it's described as having make up a dialect nobody speaks, or if they do it's basically a coincidence. Received Pronunciation is a standard accent that people learn to speak in order to speak the standard dialect. That doesn't happen in the U.S.; people sometimes learn to tone down some of the most distinctive features of their own accents, but their isn't any real specific "general" standard that they end up with. AJD (talk) 15:34, 14 March 2008 (UTC)
I disagree. General American does actually exist, but it's nowhere near as monolithic as RP (which itself is not monolithic, but that's a topic for a different talk page). For example, General American includes both varieties that merge cot and caught and varieties that keep them separate; it includes both varieties that merge which and witch and varieties that keep them separate. GenAm is an accent (not a full-fledged dialect as it concerns nothing but pronunciation), or cluster of accents, that a great many people speak, even though not all of them speak it exactly the same way. While some people do learn to tone down some of their most obvious regionalisms, a great many Americans grow up without ever having picked up any regionalisms in their pronunciation in the first place. —Angr If you've written a quality article... 22:14, 14 March 2008 (UTC)
I think I agree and disagree with both of you :). Both General American and Received Pronunciation exist in that there are people who speak in a manner that can be put under those banners, but at the same time no-one speaks any defined accent exactly (so really we all have individual accents which are just very similar to some group or other). RP includes variations as much as General American does, for example 'resource' can have a /z/ or /s/ sound in the middle. When I said they served the same role, I meant they are the accents which non-native speakers tend to try to emulate and the accents to which native speakers modulate their voice when speaking to someone from a different region. They are also the accents widely used in the media. In this sense both are standard accents. Potahto (talk) 14:02, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
I think at the point at which you can say "General American includes both varieties that merge cot and caught and varieties that keep them separate", that's basically tantamount to saying that there is no General American accent. The presence or absence of the cot-caught merger is the principal criterion on which American accents are organized, and it has structural implications for the rest of the vowel system. Really I think it's that there are a lot of dialectological criteria which American English speakers are sociologically sensitive to, but there are a lot that they're not. And as long as you don't have any of the stigmatized features, you sound "standard" enough for people to describe you as "General American", regardless of all the other features of your accent. AJD (talk) 15:28, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
To me, that means General American is a cluster of similar accents, not that it "doesn't actually exist". —Angr If you've written a quality article... 16:05, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
But whatever we think it is, is there any way in which its role differs from RP? I don't mind if it doesn't exist, but either they both exist or both don't; both are standard accents or both not. In any case that sentence should go, don't you think? Potahto (talk) 16:38, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
Can two accents differ on major phonological criteria and still both be describable as "Received Pronunciation"? I was under the impression that that's not the case. AJD (talk) 05:37, 16 March 2008 (UTC)
No, that's not what I was saying. RP and General American are two distinct accents. I would say either both are standard accents or neither are. Each serves the same role in it's respective country, whatever that role is exactly is not important, so to say General American 'is not a standard accent in the way that Received Pronunciation is in England' is wrong and I want to delete it. Potahto (talk) 11:19, 16 March 2008 (UTC)
Yabbut... can two accents differ on major phonological criteria and still both be describable as "Received Pronunciation"? As we've said above, General American isn't an accent; at best, it's a collection of different accents all of which share some features and lack others. Is the same true of RP? If not, then that's a principled difference between the role of RP and so-called General American. AJD (talk) 14:34, 16 March 2008 (UTC)
Yes, the same can be said of RP. For example, there are at least two pronunciations of 'poor' that are considered RP, and they represent major phonological differences within RP. I would argue the same can be said of any accent. Given a group of people who might be labelled as speaking with a given accent, one can find many variations within that group. Someone can be recognised as a General American speaker verses Southern or Bostonian almost instantly, but recognising a sub-group of these may take some time (depending on what vocabulary is used). If the differences within General American were significantly greater than other accents we would almost certain have found labels for them. Potahto (talk) 12:28, 17 March 2008 (UTC)
How do the two pronunciations of poor represent major phonological differences within RP, rather than just variability in a single word? Honest question.
Also: of course there are differences between speakers of a single accent, but the accent is defined in terms of overall phonological structure and the sound changes which are in progress in the community. Also, from the way Angr describes General American, it seems to me that a person can be a General American speaker at the same time as also being a Southern or Bostonian speaker, provided the characteristic features of the Southern or Boston accent aren't very extreme. For instance, you'd probably describe me as sounding like a General American speaker, but there's no question that I have a Boston phonology, even though I'm rhotic: I merge cot and caught as a rounded vowel, distinguish marry, merry, and Mary, distinguish father and bother, have a nasal short-a system, and so on. Someone from Cleveland whose Northern Cities Vowel Shift isn't very advanced might also be describable as "General American" despite differing from me on all those criteria I mentioned. These aren't minor differences; they're the principal criteria on which dialects of American English are categorized. So it seems the description "General American" has almost no phonological content, and it can overlap with many different regional dialects. AJD (talk) 14:46, 17 March 2008 (UTC)
With the 'poor' example (ho ho) I meant the difference between /ʊə/ and /ɔː/ in words that commonly end in '-oor' or '-our' for example, like 'tour'. As for who might be considered a General American speaker, the General American page says
Within American English, General American and accents approximating it are contrasted with Southern American English, several Northeastern accents, and other distinct regional accents and social group accents like African American Vernacular English.
I have something similar in mind, so your accent could lie inside or outside that camp depending on which it is closer to --- we both agree the definitions involved are not rock solid. Although (my opinion is that) it's more widespread in the US than RP is in the UK, it's not a general term for any accent in American English. It's sometimes viewed as preferable to other American accents, is that which is taught in American accent reduction classes and the most common accent in the media. The phonological variation within it is of the same order of that in RP. So, they are essential of the same nature. Potahto (talk) 17:13, 17 March 2008 (UTC)

Another phonological difference within RP is the presence or absence of "happY tensing." RP and GenAm have a lot of things in common--they are the accents usually taught to learners of "British" and "American" English, and neither of them is a "regional accent" (anymore). However, GenAm is not really a social accent in the U.S. the way RP is in England--this is a major difference. AJD--if you don't have the father-bother merger, and if you maintain the Mary-merry-marry distinction, then you can't be considered a GenAm speaker by any stretch of the imagination ;) Jack(Lumber) 19:47, 17 March 2008 (UTC)

It's true, General American is less associated with social class than RP, but it is also more ubiquitous in the US. Now I am also thinking it seems what is meant by a 'standard accent' is important, because that difference could be said to make General American more of a 'standard accent' than RP, although it still seems a relatively small difference overall. The fact that this term doesn't seem to have a meaning, even an intuitive hand-wavey one, is even more reason to delete that sentence. Potahto (talk) 17:57, 18 March 2008 (UTC)
Okay, I deleted it. Potahto (talk) 11:20, 20 March 2008 (UTC)


I can't seem to find a mention of the Irish influence in American accents. Many Americans have Irish ancestry, and there is no doubt the American accent is partly based on the Irish. Anyone have any information on this? --Tuzapicabit (talk) 12:22, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

Why is there no doubt of this? Immigrant populations usually don't have much of an effect on the dialects of the larger communities that they become part of. AJD (talk) 20:19, 8 April 2008 (UTC)
It seems reasonable that the Irish would have had more influence on American English than most. Irish accents strike me as closer than any other English speakers to North American accents today. As native English speakers arriving as North America was being colonised it seems they would have had a greater influence than many others. I would be interested to hear from anyone who is more knowledgeable on this. Potahto (talk) 14:27, 10 April 2008 (UTC)
Well, I'm no expert, but I do have my ears :-) I am a native Englishman. English as spoken by most Americans sounds to me like a bit of a 'blend' of two of our native accents. The rhotic pronunciation and the general 'position' in which an American holds his mouth whilst speaking is very similar to a mild English 'West Country' accent. This is milder than the accent spoken in Cornwall and Devon, and mainly found within an area enclosed by, say, Bristol, Swindon, Salisbury, Weymouth and Taunton. The 'Phraseing' and 'rythym' of American speech does owe a lot to Southern Irish accents. I would say from an area centred roughly on County Waterford. Also...Is it just me, or is the American accent changing? If I watch old American war movies and Westerns, and compare them with more modern stuff (i.e. CSI / ER / Friends / House (yes, I know he is :-) / Hill Street Blues etc) the accent definitely seems to have become less intense and 'melodramatic', and more 'laid back' over the years. (talk) 07:47, 15 October 2008 (UTC)
Is it just me, or is the American accent changing? Good ear, but I think it's more likely that the acting styles have changed. The acting styles of today's television seem to be more natural rather than theatrical. Of course there are many changes taking place in the American speech, but not as dramatic as it would appear through television. Kman543210 (talk) 07:59, 15 October 2008 (UTC)
(ec) It may not be the American accent that's changing so much as the way actors speak. I think actors simply speak more naturally now than they did 50 or 80 years ago. When I watched Bringing Up Baby I was struck by how British Katharine Hepburn sounded, compared to how American Cary Grant sounded. On the hand, that was surprising because Hepburn was American and Grant British, but on the other hand it isn't surprising because Hepburn was from an upper-class New England family and Grant was from a working-class Bristol family and had lived in the States since he was 16. —Angr 08:04, 15 October 2008 (UTC)
Before WWII, many actors and actresses (like Katherine Hepburn) would use non-rhotic pronunciation, which made them sound more English. I'm not sure if those actors spoke the same way on screen as they did in real life. William Labov said non-rhotic speech was the "prestige variant" in America before the war. After a while, though, non-rhotic accents became stigmatized in America, while rhotic accents became stigmatized in England (I'm not sure when exactly that started). So if anything, Americans (including actors, of course) now sound more distinct from you guys, and more ourselves. Maybe you associate rhoticity with being "laid back". Of course, I'm sure the acting styles have changed as well, but I don't know much about that. Thegryseone (talk) 20:29, 15 October 2008 (UTC)
Thanks for that. I'm not sure that I know what you mean by rhotic accents being 'stigmatised' in the UK. I think that (to the English ear) a rhotic accent suggests a more 'rural' rather than 'urban' ancestry, but it doesn't suggest stupidity, or (Norfolk aside) that the person should really be sat on a verandah playing a banjo. It also doesn't apply to Americans, as we are attuned to expecting a rhotic sound from most of you as standard. As to the 'laid back' aspect: Well, I think it has to do with the slower phrasing and longer vowels. I speak with a non-rhotic accent; In fact I am from near Manchester, so I omit most of the rest of the alphabet as well. (If you google an interview with one of the brothers from the band 'Oasis' you will see what I mean). If I try to fake a rhotic accent I have to speak much more slowly, and change the shape of my mouth so that the sound begins somewhere lower and further back than my normal lazy 'between the teeth' speech. If I try to fake an American accent, it is much easier if I pick Noo Yoik or something similar, otherwise the muscles in my jaw ache after a while:-) Anyway; Best Wishes from jolly old Blighty (talk) 07:36, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
I thought "stigmatized" might be too harsh a word. I'm sure you guys see rhotic speech as much more "normal" and English. I'm American and I actually like to hear the few non-rhotic accents we have left here, like the Boston accent and the NYC accent. But a lot of people think they sound stupid, which of course, they don't. There is nothing inherently stupid about the vowels that people from those places use. A vowel can't be stupid. What's really funny is that many of us love to hear you guys speak with non-rhoticity, but hate it when New Yorkers and/or Bostonites do the same thing. I'm sure you would have a much easier time doing a New York accent or a Boston accent than other American accents. But I can't do a very good West Country accent, though, even though I am a rhotic speaker, so I guess that theory doesn't work both ways:). I'm much better at doing a South-East English accent or a London accent, which are both non-rhotic! It might be because those are the accents that Americans most commonly hear. Even Gordon Ramsay has that type of accent, and he's from Scotland! We rarely ever hear Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish, northern English, or anything besides South-East English accents. I think those are the accents we most associate with England, which would also explain why we always imitate those accents when told to do an English accent (as opposed to a Manchester accent or something). However, I do like hearing those northern English accents (I know there's more than one) when I get a chance. Sometimes I'll hear them on You Are What You Eat and How Clean is Your House? on BBC America. Most of the time I can't pinpoint exactly where the northern accents come from, but I usually can tell that they're northern, or at least not from the South-East. What gives them away is usually the vowel they use in words like strut, which is the same as the vowel they use in foot, the vowel they use in bath, which often sounds the same as the one in trap, except it might be a bit longer, and sometimes the vowels they use in goat and face, which can be monophthongal (Peter Kay has this feature). I think the northern ones sound really wierd, but that's probably because Americans rarely get a chance to hear those accents, like I said before. In reality, we don't speak any slower than you guys. I think that's just something that varies from person to person in both countries. I'm not offended at all; I'm just letting you know. I could teach you how to do my Midland American accent; it's really easy :). Thegryseone (talk) 20:49, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

Broad A in American Speech

The article says,

The shift of /æ/ to /ɑ/ (the so-called "broad A") before /f/, /s/, /θ/, /ð/, /z/, /v/ alone or preceded by a homorganic nasal. This is the difference between the British Received Pronunciation and American pronunciation of bath and dance. In the United States, only eastern New England speakers took up this modification, although even there it is becoming increasingly rare.

I wonder whether the shift was from /æ/ to /ɑ/ or in the other direction, or whether it was a shift at all. My impression has been that /ɑ/ came in with non-rhotic R in the late 17th Century with the arrival of a wave of rich royalists from Southern England, who became the social elite in the colonies that became our Eastern States. That would make it an overlay, not a shift, wouldn't it?

In any event, the statement about its catching on only in eastern New England is quite incorrect. The broad A was formerly widespread in Virginia, and still hangs on among the elderly, particularly among the upper classes, especially around Richmond. Many Virginians of all classes (though I've never encountered it among black Virginians) still say /tə'mɑto/.

Broad A was formerly a feature of the speech of the Eastern elite, as exemplified by, for instance, Franklin D. Roosevelt and George Plimpton. I suspect it's still to be found in the Hudson Valley and in Philadelphia among the old, rich families.

In Charleston, S.C., and environs, one used to find (and may still find) a variant of the broad A, flattened to /æ/ but not according to the standard American pattern. Thus, "tomato" is /tə'mætə/, instead of General American /tə'mejdə/; "mama" is /'mæmə/ instead of GA /'mɑmə/; "palm" is /pæ:m/ instead of GA /pɑ:m/.

--Jdcrutch (talk) 02:15, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

Well, the shift has gone back and forth. First, it was a phonologically conditioned shift from /æ/ to /ɑ/, which maybe happened only in southern England. Then it was a sociolinguistically conditioned shift in the eastern states from /æ/ to the more prestigious /ɑ/. And now there's a sociolinguistically conditioned shift from /ɑ/ back to /æ/, as the prestigiousness has shifted. And of course the sociolinguistic shifts don't necessarily apply to all words. Looking through the PEAS data for "half", "glass", and "aunt", it appears that "glass" is least likely to have broad A and "aunt" is most likely. Indeed, some people who otherwise have consistently flat A will use broad A in "aunt", probably to prevent it from being homophonous with "ant". (Garrison Keillor, for example, consistently says /ɑnt/ even though Minnesota is not a broad-A accent at all. But that's probably him being speech-conscious rather than being a characteristic of his regional accent in general. I've noticed Elizabeth Montgomery using broad A in "rather" – again, probably an effect of being speech-conscious.) You're right that broad A can be found in Virginia (South Carolina too), but even when the data for PEAS was being collected it was a minority pronunciation there. The map for "half" shows 2 people out of 13 in NYC having broad A and the rest having flat A, and no one at all in the Hudson Valley or Philadelphia. In the city-by-city vowel charts of PEAS, one of three people from NYC had broad A in "glass", and all three people had flat A in "half" and "aunt". The informant from Philadelphia and all three informant from the Hudson Valley had flat A in all three words. The informants from Alexandria and Winchester VA had broad A in all three words. The informants from Wicomico Church and Norfolk and both informants from Richmond had broad A in "aunt" only. The informant from Roanoke had broad A in "glass" and "aunt" but not "half". Both informants from Charleston SC had flat A in all three words, but the informant from Columbia had broad A in "half" only. The city-by-city vowel charts are based on "cultivated" speakers, most of whom went to college or at least prep school and most of whom were born in or before the 1890s. —Angr 16:13, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

Thanks, Angr, for the info. Are the PEAS data available on the web? --Jdcrutch (talk) 22:21, 12 June 2008 (UTC)

Since I own the book, I've never looked. Maybe Google Books has some pages of it scanned. —Angr 15:49, 13 June 2008 (UTC)

Pier-Pure Merger in American Speech

I've noticed that many speakers in the U.S. don't make a distinction between the words pier and pure. I just want to know if anyone else has anything to say about this. Thegryseone (talk) 04:45, 25 September 2008 (UTC)

How have you noticed it? I mean, have people told you that they think pier and pure are pronounced the same? Or have you just heard people saying pure in a way that sounds like pier to you (or vice versa)? Phonetic/phonological differences can be subtle enough that people who don't make the distinction in the same way don't hear the difference, while people to whom the contrast is native can. I'll grant that the distinction may be subtle—for me the difference between pier and pure is basically just a difference of syllabicity: /pir/ vs. /pjɚ/. AJD (talk) 04:18, 26 September 2008 (UTC)
I think it's also a matter of how quickly someone is speaking. If you ask me how to pronounce pier and pure, it would be obvious that I pronounce them differently. However, if I'm speaking fast, it might not be as easy to distinguish in speech. The same thing happens with pin and pen. In my mind, these words are clearly pronounced differently, but when someone is speaking quickly, the distinction may not be detectable or they may merge. I have not read about a pier-pure merger, though. Kman543210 (talk) 04:23, 26 September 2008 (UTC)

What I meant is that I often have a difficult time pronouncing the sound in words like pure, and that sometimes it comes out sounding just like pier. Thegryseone (talk) 16:58, 26 September 2008 (UTC)

Val and vowel, bull and bowl

I also notice that there is often no distinction between Val and vowel in American English, but this is much more understandable, because vowels before a word-final /l/ nearly always get screwed up, and because /aʊ/ often gets fronted to /æʊ/. Many speakers don't distinguish between bull and bowl either, but I think people have commented on that before. Thegryseone (talk) 19:53, 26 September 2008 (UTC)

I know that the val/vowel merger is in progress in Philadelphia at least; I wouldn't be surprised if it's found to some degree in other Midland communities. I've heard of the bull/bowl merger, but I don't know what region it's associated with. But in communities with heavy l-vocalization, vowel mergers before /l/ are extremely likely in the long run. AJD (talk) 20:04, 26 September 2008 (UTC)

Well I'm a young person from the Midland, and I have both of those mergers, but I don't think I have any l-vocalization. I don't know how someone could possibly distinguish between bull and bowl. I just find it extremely interesting how many mergers are going on right now. Thegryseone (talk) 20:15, 26 September 2008 (UTC)

Huh. My bull and bowl are nowhere near each other, and I have trouble imagining them sounding the same. I should say, though, that my pronunciation of bull hardly has any vowel in it at all; it's practically [bl̩] with a syllabic L. (Similarly for full and pull.) —Angr 20:36, 26 September 2008 (UTC)

Well, it's possible that I have a near-merger, and they just sound the same to my ears, or maybe I just have bad hearing. My "syllabic L" (at the end of words like bottle, etc.) seems to be pretty much a shortened, unstressed version of my merged bull and bowl vowel. Thegryseone (talk) 20:39, 26 September 2008 (UTC)

Re: val/vowel. From Webster's Third (1961), Guide to Pronunciation (page 38a, IPA notation is mine):
Although we do not show the possibility in vocabulary pronunciations, with some speakers who have [æ] as the first element of their diphthong in loud, the sequence of sounds that we transcribe /æl/ in some words and /aʊl/ in others, depending on the spelling, is probably actually /aʊl/ in both classes. Such pairs as Al : owl, Cal : cowl, Hal : howel, Halley : Howley, Alice Ide : owl aside are sometimes identical (the second member of the /l/-final pairs is subject to the intrusion of a parasitic [ə] sound after the /ʊ/, the first is not). The variety of /l/ used by most Americans outside the South in words such as those cited is known as the dark variety, in which the back of the tongue is in a position for [ʊ] or a neighboring vowel. Since the back of the tongue must reach this position before the tip makes the contact for the articulation of an /l/, the intrusion of a [ʊ] or of a closely related vowel sound seems highly probable.
I always find it fascinating to read that wonderful "Guide to Pronunciation," and to notice how things have actually changed since 50 years ago (this not being the case, however). Jack(Lumber) 00:17, 27 September 2008 (UTC)

You're saying that this is not something that has changed. People are still doing this for the same reason that they were 47 years ago. Thegryseone (talk) 01:29, 27 September 2008 (UTC)