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American English

American English (AmE, AE, AmEng,

USEng, en-US),[3] sometimes called United
States English or U.S. English,[4][5] is the
set of varieties of the English language
native to the United States of America.[6]
American English
Region United States
Native 225 million, all varieties of English in
speakers the United States (2010 census)[1]
25.6 million L2 speakers of English in
the United States (2003)
Language Indo-European
family Germanic
West Germanic
American English
Writing Latin (English alphabet)
system Unified English Braille[2]
Language codes
ISO 639- –
Glottolog None
English language prevalence in the United States.
Darker shades of blue indicate higher concentrations
of native English speakers in the corresponding states

English is the most widely spoken

language in the United States and is the
common language used by the federal
government, considered the de facto
language of the country because of its
widespread use but not established as the
official language of the country, despite
being given official status by 32 of the 50
state governments.[7][8] As an example,
while both Spanish and English have
equivalent status in the local courts 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.[9]

The use of English in the United States is a

result of English and British colonization of
the Americas. 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 developed into new dialects, in some
cases under the influence of West African
and Native American languages, German,
Dutch, Irish, Spanish, and other languages
of successive waves of immigrants to the
United States.

Any North American English accent

perceived as free of noticeably local,
ethnic, or cultural markers is popularly
called "General American", described by
sociolinguist William Labov as "a fairly
uniform broadcast standard in the mass
media". Otherwise, according to Labov,
with the major exception of Southern
American English, regional accents
throughout the country are not yielding to
this broadcast standard,[10] and historical
and present linguistic evidence does not
support the notion of there being a single
"mainstream" American accent.[11][12] On
the contrary, the sound of American
English continues to evolve, with some
local accents disappearing, but several
larger regional accents emerging.[13]

While written American English is (in
general) standardized across the country,
there are several recognizable variations in
the spoken language, both in
pronunciation and in vernacular
vocabulary. The regional sounds of
present-day American English are
reportedly engaged in a complex
phenomenon of "both convergence and
divergence": some accents are
homogenizing and levelling, while others
are diversifying and deviating further away
from one another.[14] In 2010, William
Labov summarized the current state of
regional American accents as follows:[15]

Some regional American English has

undergone "vigorous new sound changes"
since the mid-nineteenth century onwards,
spawning relatively recent Mid-Atlantic
(centered on Philadelphia and Baltimore),
Western Pennsylvania (centered on
Pittsburgh), Inland Northern (centered on
Chicago, Detroit, and the Great Lakes
region), Midland (centered on Indianapolis,
Columbus, and Kansas City) and Western
accents, all of which "are now more
different from each other than they were
fifty or a hundred years ago." Meanwhile,
the unique features of the Eastern New
England (centered on Boston) and New
York City accents appear to be stable. "On
the other hand, dialects of many smaller
cities have receded in favor of the new
regional patterns";[15] for example, the
traditional accents of Charleston and of
Cincinnati have given way to the general
Midland accent, and of St. Louis now
approaches the sounds of an Inland
Northern or Midland accent. At the same
time, the Southern accent, despite its huge
geographic coverage,[13] "is on the whole
slowly receding due to cultural stigma:
younger speakers everywhere in the South
are shifting away from the marked
features of Southern speech." Finally, the
"Hoi Toider" dialect shows the paradox of
receding among younger speakers in
North Carolina's Outer Banks islands, yet
strengthening in the islands of the
Chesapeake Bay.
Major regional dialects of American
Pacific Northwest



Islan WPA


California New
Mexico &
Texas Outer B
The map above shows the major regional
dialects of American English (in all caps)
plus smaller and more local dialects, as
demarcated primarily by Labov et al.'s The
Atlas of North American English,[16] as well
as the related Telsur Project's regional
maps . Any region may also contain
speakers of a "General American" accent
that resists the marked features of their
region. Furthermore, this map does not
account for speakers of ethnic or cultural
varieties (such as African-American
English, Chicano English, Cajun English,
etc.). All regional American English, unless
specifically stated otherwise, can be
assumed to be rhotic, with the father–
bother merger, Mary–marry–merry merger,
and pre-nasal "short a" tensing.[note 1]

The Western dialect, including Californian

and New Mexican sub-types (with Pacific
Northwest English also, arguably, a sub-
type), is defined by:

Cot–caught merger to [ɑ] (  listen)

/oʊ/ is [oʊ]
/uː/ is [ü~ʉ]

North Central

The North Central ("Upper Midwest")

dialect, including an Upper Michigan sub-
type, is defined by:

Cot–caught merger to [ä] (  listen)[17]

/oʊ/ is [oʊ] (and may even
monophthongize to [o])[17]
/uː/ is [u][17]

Inland Northern

The Inland Northern ("Great Lakes")

dialect, including its less advanced
Western New England (WNE) sub-types, is
defined by:
No cot–caught merger: the cot vowel
is [ä~a] and caught vowel is [ɒ]
/æ/ is universally [ɛə], the triggering
event for the Northern Cities Vowel
Shift in more advanced sub-types
([ɛə] ← /æ/ ← /ɑː/~/ɒ/ ← /ɔː/ ← /ʌ/
← /ɛ/)[18]
/oʊ/ is [oʊ~ʌo]


The Midland dialect is defined by:

Cot–caught merger is in transition[19]

/aɪ/ may be [aː], often only before /l/,
/m/, /n/, or /ɹ/
/aʊ/ is [æɵ~æo][20]
/oʊ/ is [ɜʊ~ɵʊ]


The Western Pennsylvania dialect,

including its advanced Pittsburgh sub-
type, is defined by:

Cot–caught merger to [ɒ~ɔ], the

triggering event for the Pittsburgh
Chain Shift in the city itself ([ɒ~ɔ] ←
/ɑː/ ← /ʌ/) but no trace of the
Canadian Shift[21]
/oʊ/ is [ɜʊ~ɞʊ][22]
Full–fool–foal merger to [ʊɫ~ʊw]
Specifically in Greater Pittsburgh,
/aʊ/ is [aʊ~aː], particularly before /l/
and /r/, and in unstressed function


The Southern dialects, including several

sub-types, are defined by:

No (or transitional) cot–caught

merger: the cot vowel is [ɑ] and
caught vowel is [ɑɒ]
/aɪ/ is [aː] at least before /b/, /d/, /g/,
/v/, or /z/, or word-finally, and
potentially elsewhere, the triggering
event for the Southern Shift ([aː] ←
/aɪ/ ← /eɪ/ ← /iː/)
"Southern drawl" may break short
front vowels into gliding vowels: /æ/
→ [ɛ(j)ə]; /ɛ/ → [ɪ(j)ə]; /ɪ/ → [i(j)ə][24]
/aʊ/ is [æo], the triggering event for
the Back Upglide Shift in more
advanced sub-types ([æo] ← /aʊ/ ←
/ɔː/ ← /ɔɪ/)[25]
/oʊ/ is [ɜʉ~ɜʊ]


The Mid-Atlantic ("Delaware Valley")

dialect, including Philadelphia and
Baltimore sub-types, is defined by:

No cot–caught merger: the cot vowel

is [ä~ɑ] and caught vowel is [ɔə~ʊə];
this severe distinction is the
triggering event for the Back Vowel
Shift before /r/ (/ʊər/ ← /ɔːr/ ←
Unique Mid-Atlantic /æ/ split system:
the bad vowel is [eə] and sad vowel is
/oʊ/ is [ɜʊ~əʊ]
/aʊ/ is [ɛɔ][20]
No Mary–marry–merry merger


The New York City dialect (with New

Orleans English an intermediate sub-type
between NYC and Southern) is defined by:

No cot–caught merger: the cot vowel

is [ä~ɑ] and caught vowel is [ɔə~ʊə];
this severe distinction is the
triggering event for the Back Vowel
Shift before /r/ (/ʊər/ ← /ɔːr/ ←
Non-rhoticity or variable rhoticity
Unique New York City /æ/ split
system: the bad vowel is [eə] and bat
vowel is [æ]
/oʊ/ is [oʊ~ʌʊ]
•No Mary–marry–merry merger


Eastern New England dialect, including

Maine and Boston sub-types (with Rhode
Island English an intermediate sub-type
between ENE and NYC), is defined by:

Cot–caught merger to [ɒ~ɑ] (lacking

only in Rhode Island)
Non-rhoticity or variable rhoticity[28]
/aʊ/ is [ɑʊ~äʊ][29]/oʊ/ is [oʊ~ɔʊ]
•/uː/ is [u]
• Commonly, beginnings of /aɪ/ and
/aʊ/ in a raised position when before
voiceless consonants: [əɪ~ʌɪ] and
[əʊ~ʌʊ], respectively
Possibly no Mary–marry–merry
No father–bother merger (except in
Rhode Island): the father vowel is
[a~ä] and bother vowel is [ɒ~ɑ][30]

Below, eleven major American English

accents are defined by their particular
combinations of certain characteristics:
Strong Strong Strong Strong Cot– Pin–
Accent name /aʊ/ /oʊ/ /uː/ /ɑːr/ caught pen
fronting fronting fronting fronting merger merge

African-American English Mixed No No No Mixed Yes

Chicano English No No Mixed No Yes No

Inland Northern U.S. English Chicago No No No Yes No No

Mid-Atlantic U.S. English Philadelphia Yes Yes Yes No No No

Midland U.S. English Indianapolis Yes Yes Yes No Mixed Mixed

New York
New York City English Yes No No[31] No No No

North-Central U.S. English Minneapolis No No No Yes Yes No

Northern New England English Boston No No No Yes Yes No

Southern U.S. English San Antonio Yes Yes Yes No Mixed Yes

Western U.S. English Los Angeles No No Yes No Yes No

Western Pennsylvania English Pittsburgh Yes Yes Yes No Yes Mixed

Eastern New England

Marked New England speech is mostly

associated with eastern New England,
centering on Boston and Providence, and
traditionally includes some notable degree
of r-dropping (or non-rhoticity),[28] as well
as the back tongue positioning of the /uː/
vowel (to [u]) and the /aʊ/ vowel (to
[ɑʊ~äʊ]).[29] In and north of Boston, the
/ɑːr/ sound is famously centralized or even
fronted. Boston shows a cot–caught
merger, while Providence keeps the same
two vowels sharply distinct.

New York City

New York City English, which prevails in a

relatively small but nationally recognizable
dialect region in and around New York City
(including Long Island and northeastern
New Jersey). Its features include some
notable degree of non-rhoticity and a
locally unique short-a vowel pronunciation
split. New York City English otherwise
broadly follows Northern patterns, except
that the /aʊ/ vowel is fronted. The cot–
caught merger is markedly resisted around
New York City, as depicted in popular
stereotypes like tawwk and cawwfee, with
this THOUGHT vowel being typically tensed
and diphthongal.

Most older Southern speech along the
Eastern seaboard was non-rhotic, though,
today, all local Southern dialects are
strongly rhotic, defined most recognizably
by the /aɪ/ vowel losing its gliding quality
and approaching [aː~äː], the initiating
event for the Southern Vowel Shift, which
includes the famous "Southern drawl" that
makes short front vowels into gliding

Inland North and North Central

Since the mid-twentieth century, a

distinctive new Northern speech pattern
has developed near the Canadian border
of the United States, centered on the
central and eastern Great Lakes region
(but only on the American side). Linguists
call this region the "Inland North", as
defined by its local Northern cities vowel
shift—occurring in the same region whose
"standard Midwestern" speech was the
basis for General American in the mid-20th
century (though prior to this recent vowel
shift). The Inland North accent was
famously sketched on the television show
Saturday Night Live's "Bill Swerski's
Superfans" segments. Many people view
the "North Central" or "Upper Midwestern"
accent from the stereotypical lens of the
movie Fargo.[32] The North Central accent
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 was also once
spoken among the Pennsylvania Dutch


Between the traditional American dialect

areas of the "North" and "South" is what
linguists have long called the "Midland".
This geographically overlaps with some
states situated in the lower Midwest. West
of the Appalachian Mountains begins the
broad zone of modern-day Midland speech
. Its vocabulary has been divided into two
discrete subdivisions, the "North Midland"
that begins north of the Ohio River valley
area, and the "South Midland" speech,
which to the American ear has a slight
trace of the "Southern accent" (especially
due to some degree of /aɪ/ glide
weakening). The South Midland 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.
Modern Midland speech is transitional
regarding a presence or absence of the
cot–caught merger. Historically,
Pennsylvania was a home of the Midland
dialect; however, this state of early English-
speaking settlers has now largely split off
into new dialect regions, with distinct
Philadelphia and Pittsburgh dialects
documented since the latter half of the
twentieth century.


A generalized Midland speech continues

westward until becoming a somewhat
internally diverse Western American
English that unites the entire western half
of the country. This Western dialect is
mostly unified by a firm cot–caught
merger and a conservatively backed
pronunciation of the long oh sound in goat,
toe, show, etc., but a fronted pronunciation
of the long oo sound in goose, lose, tune,
etc. Western speech itself contains such
advanced sub-types as Pacific Northwest
English and California English, with the
native-speaker English of Mexican
Americans also being a sub-type primarily
of the Western dialect. The island state of
Hawaii, though primarily English-speaking,
is also home to a creole language known
commonly as Hawaiian Pidgin, and some
Hawaii residents speak English with a
Pidgin-influenced accent.

Other varieties

Although no longer region-specific,[33]

African-American English, which remains
prevalent particularly among working- and
middle-class African Americans, has a
close relationship to Southern dialects and
has greatly influenced everyday speech of
many Americans, including hip hop
culture. The same aforementioned
socioeconomic groups, but among
Hispanic and Latino Americans, have also
developed native-speaker varieties of
English. The best-studied Latino Englishes
are Chicano English, spoken in the West
and Midwest, and New York Latino English,
spoken in the New York metropolitan area.
Additionally, ethnic varieties such as
Yeshiva English and "Yinglish" are spoken
by some American Jews, and Cajun
Vernacular English by some Cajuns in
southern Louisiana.

Compared with English as spoken in
England, North American English[34] is
more homogeneous, and any North
American accent that exhibits a majority
of the most common phonological
features is known as "General American."
This section mostly refers to such
widespread or mainstream pronunciation
features that characterize American

Studies on historical usage of English in

both the United States and the United
Kingdom suggest that spoken American
English did not simply deviate away from
period British English, but retained certain
now-archaic features contemporary British
English has since lost.[35] One of these is
the rhoticity common in most American
accents, because in the 17th century, when
English was brought to the Americas, most
English in England was also rhotic. The
preservation of rhoticity has been further
supported by the influences of Hiberno-
English, West Country English and Scottish
English.[36] In most varieties of North
American English, the sound
corresponding to the letter ⟨r⟩ is a
postalveolar approximant [ɹ̠] or retroflex
approximant [ɻ] rather than a trill or tap (as
often heard, for example, in the English
accents of Scotland or India). A unique
"bunched tongue" variant of the
approximant r sound is also associated
with the United States, and seems
particularly noticeable in the Midwest and

The red dots show every U.S. metropolitan area where

over 50% non-rhotic speech has been documented
among some of that area's local white speakers. Non-
rhotic speech may be heard from black speakers
throughout the whole country.[38]
Traditionally, the "East Coast" comprises
three or four major linguistically distinct
regions, each of which possesses English
varieties both distinct from each other as
well as quite internally diverse: New
England, the New York metropolitan area,
the Mid-Atlantic states (centering on
Philadelphia and Baltimore), and the
Southern United States. The only r-
dropping (or non-rhotic) regional accents
of American English are all spoken along
the East Coast, except the Mid-Atlantic
region, because these areas were in close
historical contact with England and
imitated prestigious varieties of English at
a time when these were undergoing
changes;[39] in particular, the London
prestige of non-rhoticity (or dropping the
⟨r⟩ sound, except before vowels) from the
17th century onwards, which is now
widespread throughout most of England.
Today, non-rhoticity is confined in the
United States to the accents of eastern
New England, the former plantation South,
New York City, and African-American
English (though the vowel-consonant
cluster found in "bird", "work", "hurt",
"learn", etc. usually retains its r
pronunciation today, even in these non-
rhotic accents). Other than these varieties,
American accents are rhotic, pronouncing
every instance of the ⟨r⟩ sound.
Many British accents have evolved in other
ways compared to which General
American English has remained relatively
more conservative, for example, regarding
the typical southern British features of a
trap–bath split, fronting of /oʊ/, and H-
dropping, none of which typical American
accents show. The innovation of /t/
glottaling, which does occur before a
consonant (including a syllabic coronal
nasal consonant, like in the words button
or satin) and word-finally in General
American, additionally occurs variably
between vowels in British English. On the
other hand, General American is more
innovative than the dialects of England, or
English elsewhere in the world, in a
number of its own ways:

The merger of /ɑ/ and /ɒ/, making

father and bother rhyme. This change,
known as the father–bother merger is in
a transitional or completed stage nearly
universally in North American English.
Exceptions are in northeastern New
England English, such as the Boston
accent, New York City English,
Philadelphia English, Baltimore English,
and many Southern dialects, such as the
Yat dialect.[40][41]
About half of all Americans merge of the
vowels /ɑ/ and /ɔ/. This is the so-called
cot–caught merger, where words like
cot and caught are homophones. This
change has occurred most firmly in
eastern New England (Boston area),
Greater Pittsburgh, and the whole
western half of the country.[42]
For speakers who do not merge caught
and cot, the lot–cloth split has taken
hold. This change took place prior to the
unrounding of the cot. It is the result of
the lengthening and raising of the cot
vowel, merging with the caught vowel in
many cases before voiceless fricatives
(as in cloth, off), which is also found in
some varieties of British English, as well
as before /ŋ/ (as in strong, long), usually
in gone, often in on, and irregularly
before /ɡ/ (log, hog, dog, fog).
The strut vowel, rather than the lot or
thought vowel, is used in the function
words was, of, from, what, everybody,
nobody, somebody, anybody, and, for
some speakers, because and want,
when stressed.[43][44][45][46]
Vowel mergers before intervocalic /ɹ/:
The Mary–marry–merry, serious–Sirius,
and hurry–furry mergers are found in
most American English dialects.
However, exceptions exist primarily
along the east coast.
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 [peɪɹ]
for pair/pear and [piəɹ] for
peer/pier.[47] 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 it is
commonly pronounced [ʃɚ].
Dropping of /j/ is much more extensive
than in most of England. In most North
American accents, /j/ is dropped after
all alveolar and interdental consonants
(i.e. everywhere except after /p/, /b/, /f/,
/h/, /k/, and /m/) so that new, duke,
Tuesday, presume are pronounced [nu],
[duk], [ˈtuzdeɪ], [pɹɪˈzum].
/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 [pɫænɪ ̈t]̚ vs. plan it
[pɫeənɪ ̈t]̚ . 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"; this phenomenon has
been noted as related to the increasingly
rare phenomenon of older speakers of
the eastern New England (Boston) area
for whom /æ/ changes to /ɑ/ before /f/,
/s/, /θ/, /ð/, /z/, /v/ alone or when
preceded by a homorganic nasal.
v t e /æ/ raising in North American English[48]

Environment Dialect

New Canadian, S
York Eastern Northwestern
Consonant Syllable Example Baltimore & Midland
City & New U.S., & Upper A
after /æ/ type words Philadelphia U.S., &
New England Midwestern A
Orleans U.S. Ve

arable, arid,
carry, carrot,
clarity, Gary,
Harry, Larry,
/r/ Open paragon, [æ] [æ~ɛ(ə)] [ɛ(ə)]
parrot, etc.;
this feature
by the
presence or
absence of
the Mary-
/m/, /n/ Closed Alexander, [eə] [æ~eə] [æ~ɛə] [ɛ
answer, ant,
band, can
(the noun),
can't, clam,
dance, ham,
hand, handy,
man, manly,
pants, plan,
ranch, sand,
slant, tan,
etc.; in
began, ran,
and swam
alone remain

Open amity, [æ]

animal, can
(the verb),
(varies by
Spanish, etc.

agriculture, [æ] [æ
bag, crag,
drag, flag,
Closed [eə]
magnet, rag,
sag, tag,
tagging, etc.
/ɡ/ [æ] [æ~e]
Open [æ]

/b/, /d/, Closed absolve, [eə] [æ~ɛə] [æ]

/dʒ/, /ʃ/, abstain, add,
/v/, /z/, ash, as, bad,
/ʒ/ badge, bash,
cab, cash,
clad, crag,
dad, drab,
fad, flash,
glad, grab,
had, halve
(varies by
jazz (varies
by speaker),
pad, plaid,
rash, sad,
sag, smash,
splash, tab,
trash, etc. In
NYC, this
/v/ and /z/,
has a lot of
variance and
to the rules.
bad, mad,
and glad
alone in this
set become
Similarly, in
New York
City, the /dʒ/
set is often
tense even
in open

/f/, /s/, /θ/ Closed ask, bask, [eə]

basket, bath,
casket, cast,
class, craft,
crass, daft,
glass, grass,
flask, half,
last, laugh,
mask, mast,
math, pass,
past, path,
plastic, task,
wrath, etc.

All other act, agony, [æ]

consonants allergy,
athlete, avid,
back, bat,
brat, café,
cap, cashew,
chap, clap,
fashion, fat,
flap, flat,
gap, gnat,
mallet, map,
Max, pack,
pal, passive,
passion, pat,
rabid, racket,
rally, rap, rat,
sack, sat,
shack, slack,
slap, tackle,
talent, trap,
travel, wrap,

1. Nearly all American English speakers pronounce /æŋ/ somewhere between [æŋ] and [eɪŋ], though
speakers specifically favor [eɪŋ].

2. The NYC, Philadelphia, and Baltimore dialects' rule of tensing /æ/ in certain closed-syllable environ
applies to words inflectionally derived from those closed-syllable /æ/ environments that now have an
æ/. For example, in addition to pass being tense (according to the general rule), so are its open-syllab
passing and passer-by, but not passive.

Flapping of intervocalic /t/ and /d/ to

alveolar tap [ɾ] before unstressed vowels
(as in butter [ˈbʌɾəɹ], party [ˈpɑɹɾi]) 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
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 [äɪ] (because [t] is a
voiceless consonant while [d] is voiced).
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 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 [ˈɹäɪɾɚ] for "rider".
Many speakers in the Inland North,
North Central American English,
and Philadelphia dialect areas raise
/aɪ/ before voiced consonants in
certain words as well, particularly
[d], [g] and [n]. Hence, words like
tiny, spider, cider, tiger, dinosaur,
cyber-, beside, idle (but sometimes
not idol), and fire may contain a
raised nucleus. The use of [ʌɪ]
rather than [aɪ] in such words is
unpredictable from phonetic
environment alone, though it may
have to do with their acoustic
similarity to other words that do
contain [ʌɪ] before a voiceless
consonant, per the traditional
Canadian-raising system. Hence,
some researchers have argued that
there has been a phonemic split in
these dialects; the distribution of
the two sounds is becoming more
unpredictable among younger
L-velarization: England's typical
distinction between a "clear L" (i.e. [l])
and a "dark L" (i.e. [ɫ] or sometimes even
[ʟ]) is much less noticeable in nearly all
dialects of American English; it may
even be altogether absent.[51] Instead,
most U.S. speakers pronounce all "L"
sounds with a tendency to be "dark",
meaning with some degree of
velarization.[52] The only notable
exceptions to this are in some Spanish-
influenced U.S. English varieties (such
as East Coast Latino English, which
typically shows a clear "L" in syllable
onsets); in New York City English, where
the /l/ is clear in prevocalic positions;[53]
and in older, moribund Southern speech
of the U.S., where "L" is clear in an
intervocalic environment between front
Both intervocalic /nt/ and /n/ may
commonly be realized as [ɾ̃] or simply [n],
making winter and winner homophones
in fast or non-careful speech.
The vowel /ɪ/ in unstressed syllables
generally merges with /ə/ (weak-vowel
merger), so effect is pronounced like

Some mergers found in most varieties of

both American and British English include:

Horse–hoarse merger, making the

vowels /ɔ/ and /o/ before 'r'
homophones, with homophonous pairs
like horse/hoarse, corps/core, for/four,
morning/mourning, war/wore, etc.
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.

The process of coining new lexical items
started as soon as English-speaking
British-American colonists began
borrowing names for unfamiliar flora,
fauna, and topography from the Native
American languages.[55] Examples of such
names are opossum, raccoon, squash,
moose (from Algonquian),[55] wigwam, and
moccasin. The languages of the other
colonizing nations also added to the
American vocabulary; for instance, cookie,
from Dutch; kindergarten from German,[56]
levee from French; and rodeo from
Spanish.[57][58][59][60] Landscape features
are often loanwords from French or
Spanish, and the word corn, used in
England to refer to wheat (or any cereal),
came to denote the maize plant, the most
important crop in the U.S.
Most Mexican Spanish contributions came
after the War of 1812, with the opening of
the West, like ranch (now a common house
style). New forms of dwelling created new
terms (lot, waterfront) and types of homes
like log cabin, adobe in the 18th century;
apartment, shanty in the 19th century;
project, condominium, townhouse, mobile
home in the 20th century; and parts
thereof (driveway, breezeway, backyard).
Industry and material innovations from the
19th century onwards provide distinctive
new words, phrases, and idioms through
railroading (see further at rail terminology)
and transportation terminology, ranging
from types of roads (dirt roads, freeways)
to infrastructure (parking lot, overpass, rest
area), to automotive terminology often
now standard in English internationally.[61]
Already existing English words—such as
store, shop, lumber—underwent shifts in
meaning; others remained in the U.S. while
changing in Britain. From the world of
business and finance came new terms
(merger, downsize, bottom line), from
sports and gambling terminology came,
specific jargon aside, common everyday
American idioms, including many idioms
related to baseball. The names of some
American inventions remained largely
confined to North America (elevator,
gasoline) as did certain automotive terms
(truck, trunk).

New foreign loanwords came with 19th

and early 20th century European
immigration to the U.S.; notably, from
Yiddish (chutzpah, schmooze) and German
(hamburger, wiener).[62][63] 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);[64][65] 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.

American English has always shown a

marked tendency to use nouns as
verbs.[66] Examples of nouns that are now
also verbs are interview, advocate, vacuum,
lobby, pressure, rear-end, transition, feature,
profile, spearhead, skyrocket, showcase,
bad-mouth, vacation, major, and many
others. Compounds coined in the U.S. are
for instance foothill, landslide (in all
senses), backdrop, teenager, brainstorm,
bandwagon, hitchhike, smalltime, and a
huge number of others. Some are
euphemistic (human resources, affirmative
action, correctional facility). Many
compound nouns have the verb-and-
preposition combination: stopover, lineup,
tryout, spin-off, shootout, holdup, hideout,
comeback, makeover, and many more.
Some prepositional and phrasal verbs are
in fact of American origin (win out, hold up,
back up/off/down/out, face up to and
many others).[67]

Noun endings such as -ee (retiree), -ery

(bakery), -ster (gangster) and -cian
(beautician) are also particularly
productive in the U.S.[66] Several verbs
ending in -ize are of U.S. origin; for
example, fetishize, prioritize, burglarize,
accessorize, weatherize, etc; and so are
some back-formations (locate, fine-tune,
curate, donate, emote, upholster and
enthuse). Among syntactical constructions
that arose are outside of, headed for, meet
up with, back of, etc. Americanisms
formed by alteration of some existing
words include notably pesky, phony,
rambunctious, buddy, sundae, skeeter,
sashay and kitty-corner. Adjectives that
arose in the U.S. are, for example, lengthy,
bossy, cute and cutesy, punk (in all
senses), sticky (of the weather), through
(as in "finished"), and many colloquial
forms such as peppy or wacky.
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 have
since disappeared 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".[68] Gotten (past
participle of get) is often considered to be
largely an Americanism..[69] Other words
and meanings were brought back to Britain
from the U.S., especially in the second half
of the 20th century; these include hire ("to
employ"), 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 adjectives mad
meaning "angry", smart meaning
"intelligent", and sick meaning "ill" are also
more frequent in American (and Irish)
English than British English.[70][71][72]
Linguist Bert Vaux created a survey,
completed in 2003, polling English
speakers across the United States about
their specific everyday word choices,
hoping to identify regionalisms.[73] The
study found that most Americans prefer
the term sub for a long sandwich, soda
(but pop in the Great Lakes region and
generic coke in the South) for a sweet and
bubbly soft drink,[74] you or you guys for
the plural of you (but y'all in the South),
sneakers for athletic shoes (but often
tennis shoes outside the Northeast), and
shopping cart for a cart used for carrying
supermarket goods.
Differences between British
and American English
American English and British English (BrE)
often 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, known as Webster's Dictionary,
was written by Noah Webster in 1828,
codifying several of these spellings.

Differences in grammar are relatively

minor, and do not normally affect mutual
intelligibility; these include: different use of
some auxiliary verbs; 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) although the
purportedly "British" forms can
occasionally be seen in American English
writing as well; 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,[75] and American English is not
a standardized set of dialects.

Differences in orthography are also minor.

The main differences are that American
English usually uses spellings such as
flavor for British flavour, fiber for fibre,
defense for defence, analyze for analyse,
license for licence, 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".[76] Other differences are due
to the francophile tastes of the 19th
century Victorian era Britain (for example
they preferred programme for program,
manoeuvre for maneuver, cheque for
check, etc.).[77] AmE almost always uses -
ize in words like realize. BrE prefers -ise,
but also uses -ize on occasion (see Oxford

There are a few differences in punctuation

rules. British English is more tolerant of
run-on sentences, called "comma splices"
in American English, and American English
requires that periods and commas be
placed inside closing quotation marks
even in cases in which British rules would
place them outside. American English also
favors the double quotation mark over

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). However, while individuals usually
use one or the other, both forms will be
widely understood and mostly used
alongside each other within the two
British English also differs from American
English in that "schedule" can be
pronounced with either [sk] or [ʃ].[79]

See also
Dictionary of American Regional English
List of English words from indigenous
languages of the Americas
IPA chart for English
Regional accents of English speakers
Canadian English
North American English
International English
Received Pronunciation
Transatlantic accent
American and British English spelling

1. Dialects are considered "rhotic" if they
pronounce the r sound in all historical
environments, without ever "dropping" this
sound. The father–bother merger is the
pronunciation of the unrounded /ɒ/ vowel
variant (as in cot, lot, bother, etc.) the same
as the /ɑː/ vowel (as in spa, haha, Ma),
causing words like con and Kahn and like
sob and Saab to sound identical, with the
vowel usually realized in the back or middle
of the mouth as [ɑ~ä]. Finally, most of the
U.S. participates in a continuous nasal
system of the "short a" vowel (in cat, trap,
bath, etc.), causing /æ/ to be pronounced
with the tongue raised and with a glide
quality (typically sounding like [ɛə])
particularly when before a nasal consonant;
thus, mad is [mæd], but man is more like

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16. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 148
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30. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:231)
31. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:107)
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34. North American English (Trudgill, p. 2)
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the English language that are spoken in
both the United States and Canada.
35. "What Is the Difference between
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36. "Early Mainland Residues in Southern
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Further reading
Bailey, Richard W. (2012). Speaking
American: A History of English in the
United States 20th-21st century usage in
different cities
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
Garner, Bryan A. (2003). Garner's Modern
American Usage. New York: Oxford
University Press.
Mencken, H. L. (1977) [1921]. The
American Language: An Inquiry into the
Development of English in the United
States (4th ed.). New York: Knopf.
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
Look up American English in Wiktionary,
the free dictionary.

Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New

International Encyclopedia article

Wikiversity has learning resources about

American English

Do You Speak American : PBS special

Dialect Survey of the United States, by
Bert Vaux et al., Harvard University.
Linguistic Atlas Projects
Phonological Atlas of North America at
the University of Pennsylvania
Speech Accent Archive
Dictionary of American Regional
Dialect maps based on pronunciation

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