North American English Dialects, Based on Pronunciation Patterns

Recent Additions

Whats New

Sections

Help me complete this map!

Record your own voice!

Print the map!

View the Layers!

(12-Aug.-2014)

Special Interest and Historical Articles

Individual Words
(27-June-2013)

 

The Map

1. Click on the map to enlarge it, selecting either the U. S. or Canada.

2. Click again to zoom in more.

3. Click on a state or province to listen to audio or video samples for each location.

(Full instructions)

$Mapping1 1

Western dialects:

7. North Central

8. The West

Dialects that start from the eastern seaboard:

1. Canada

2. Northern New England

3. The North

4. Greater New York City

5. The Midland

6. The South

 

 

Most Common Second and Third Languages by State in the U.S.

The following page is interesting, and was pointed out to me by several people, although it probably has no direct correlation to the data presented here: gizmodo.com/the-most-common-languages-spoken-in-the-u-s-state-by-1575719698. 19-Aug.-2014

 

Web-Based Survey now completed

A group of linguists had been gathering data on North American English dialects using a web-based survey. They asked for our help, and some of you helped with this survey. This survey is now closed, with 3903 total responses in December 2012. You can see some preliminary results at: pantheon.yale.edu/~clb3/NorthAmericanDialects.

However, I find that some of their samples definitely do not represent the local dialect! 26-Dec.-2012

 

This is just a hobby of mine, that I thought might be interesting to a lot of people. Some people collect stamps. Others collect coins. I collect dialects. - Rick Aschmann. (Page last updated: March 12, 2016.)

Finally! I hadnt updated this page since November 12, because I discovered a lot of new information about New Orleans and other places, and had to do a lot of reorganizing! But there is lots of new information! See Recent Additions and Whats New.

Please continue to be patient! I had worked through well over half of the e-mails I had received since the huge jump in popularity of this site over the 2010 Christmas break, due to a number of web forums about it, but suddenly it has happened again, with two more huge surges recently, one since late April, 2013, and one the result of this article on May 9, making me doubt if there is any way I can ever keep up! 15-May-2013

Thanks to all of you who have written expressing appreciation for the page! I dont promise to respond to every e-mail, but I am still trying to answer all those who sent in a sample or other information, or even a complaint. Unfortunately, my life is always very busy, and I can only dedicate a small portion of my time to this, so I have trouble even keeping up with current correspondence about this page. Worse yet, from time to time this page gets posted to another popular blog, and I get a new surge of e-mail, so I have doubts of ever being able to answer it all. But Ill keep working at it! 12-Aug.-2014

 

There are 8 major English dialect areas in North America, listed below the map at left. These are shown in blue, each with its number, on the map and in the Dialect Description Chart below, and are also outlined with blue lines on the map. The first 6 of these begin at the eastern seaboard and proceed west, reflecting western settlement patterns.

The many subdialects are shown in red on the map and in the chart, and are outlined with red lines on the map. All of these are listed in the margins of the map as well.

(If after looking at the map it is still not clear what the dialect boundaries are, check out the new Simplified Map.) Adj. 13-Aug.-2010

In the Dialect Description Chart additional features not shown on the map are provided for distinguishing the dialects.

 

Recent additions

 

 I have now been able to define more clearly the New Orleans dialect situation, thanks to samples sent in by contributors (though I still have others to process). This required me to increase the size of the map at the bottom, but this also allowed me to rearrange some other things so that the map is not so cramped. New! 11-Mar.-2016

 I have been reducing the size of the dots for cities and towns, except for the larger population centers, to reduce the clutter on the map. I have now completed this for the U.S. states, and I plan to continue until I have applied it to all states and provinces. New! 11-Mar.-2016

 I recently made several adjustments to the lines through northern Montana, realizing that I had not analyzed correctly several samples, being influenced by how the ANAE drew the lines for Great Falls, which I think now were in error. 12-Aug.-2014

 Oops! I recently realized that I had failed to extend the yellow long /ō/ [oʊ] fronting line through Maine and into Canada, even though this is clearly indicated on Map 20.2 in ANAE chapter 20. I have now done this, and have even gone further: I have extended two of the long /ō/ [oʊ] fronting lines all the way up into part of Nunavut, as well as the bout-bite line, though I need more data to continue extending them north. In the process I have now finally added some samples from Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. 25-Sep.-2013

 Every U.S. state and Canadian province now has at least one sample, so they are all now clickable! I have also changed the color scheme slightly. 25-Sep.-2013

 Continuing survey: I only discovered in 2011 that many if not most Americans pronounce the l in words like calm and other words ending in -alm, which surprised me very much, since I dont. Some also pronounce the l in folk, and even a few may pronounce the l in talk. See The Pronunciation of -alm and -olk and -alk for more details. I would love to know if you do or do not pronounce the l in such words, and where you grew up! Yes, I know many of you have sent in data, and I am still trying to get it all compiled. One thing that has discouraged me is that so far no very discernible pattern is emerging! 8-Dec.-2014

 I made a major adjustment to the southern part of San Francisco Bay, straightening out a number of the lines. 18-July-2013

 Contributor Joshua Katz recently sent in a link for a Dialect Survey of Individual Words, which is a completely separate study, but very interesting. 27-June-2013

 I fixed the Small-Scale Dialect Map so that when you click on it, it actually goes to the right section of the full-scale map! New! 24-Dec.-2012

 I added the Sō kŏŏd wē rīt ŧħə wā wē spēk? section. New! 21-Dec.-2012

 I have added a new subdialect in the North Central dialect area, the Iron Ranges, Minnesota dialect. This had been suggested by others in the past, but I was not able to properly evaluate it until I received several very helpful samples from contributor Adam Jarvi. New! 25-Mar.-2011

 The curl-coil merger has not completely died out! I have recently found a couple of samples of living people that retain it. New! 3-Mar.-2011

 Oops! I have completed reevaluated Ohio as far as the pin-pen line is concerned! Because of Cincinnati and Dayton (which clearly have pin≠pen), and because I made the invalid assumption that Gavin Veris from Chillicothe, who also has pin≠pen, represented the local white dialect, I assumed that the pin-pen line ran below Cincinnati and Chillicothe, so I failed to listen carefully to the samples for Urbana and for Yellow Springs, not noticing that they had pin=pen. It was only when I was watching a documentary in which all of the people interviewed were from Chillicothe that I realized my mistake, and listened again to the samples for Urbana and for Yellow Springs. Since then I have found samples for Columbus and for Washington Court House which are also clearly pin=pen. The good thing is that the shape of the pin-pen line through the Midland now makes a lot more sense: How likely was it that the pin-pen line would take two deep bends across the Midlands? Now it only takes one: the Saint Louis corridor is well established, but the Cincinnati corridor was not. Instead, Cincinnati turns out to be a linguistic island, which matches the conclusions of the ANAE, Dayton having apparently been included in its sphere, and Portsmouth, home of Roy Rogers, which was already clearly identified as pin=pen, is no longer an island. 21-Dec.-2010

 I have made the cot-caught line a visible light-blue line now, rather than simply allowing the hatching to indicate where it would be. I also adjusted the map colors slightly. 16-Nov.-2010

 Finally! Now all of the maps are fully clickable, including the Full-Scale map. (The only states and provinces that are still not clickable are those for which there are no samples yet.) 4-Nov.-2010

 

Whats New? All additions or changes within the last two or three months are marked with New! and the date, or with Adj. (for Adjusted.) To see this new information, simply search for these words.

 

Web Forums: There are several web forums or blogs that refer to my map. The most recent ones that I know of are: 12-Dec.-2011

this one, set up on December 5, 2011, primarily for German speakers 12-Dec.-2011

this one, set up on November 15, 2011

 

There are several much older ones, which are mostly no longer active: 28-Nov.-2011

this one, set up on December 31, 2010

this one (specifically for actors and dialect coaches), set up on December 31, 2010

this one, set up on January 1, 2011

this one, set up on December 30, 2010

this one, set up on December 27, 2010.

this one, set up on June 7, 2010

this one, set up on November, 2009.

 

Map Format

I have made a number of adjustments to the map format based on comments and suggestions from people who write in. However, the main complaint, that the map is too complicated and confusing, I cant really fix: the subject is complicated, and I am well aware that I have tried to include too many features. However, if people have ideas on how to make the map or web page less confusing, I am all ears! 8-May-2013

One thing that may help is that you can now view the file in layers. 16-Sep.-2014

 

Dialect Survey of Individual Words
(27-June-2013)

Many of you have written in to ask, What about such-and-such a word? What is its distribution across North America? And my answer has always been, Thats not what this map is about, its about sound patterns affecting many words at once, its about phonemic patterns. Not that Im not interested, I am, its just that there is no place for this sort of information on my map. (The only such word that does appear on the map is the on line.) Adj. 17-Dec.-2015

However, finally someone has done just what many of you have wanted, they have mapped the distribution of lots of these individual words, as well as some grammatical constructions, and you can enjoy browsing through them here. If you dont want to struggle through the whole list, a selection of some of the most interesting with whimsical comments can be found here. 21-Aug.-2013

The link for this site was sent in by Joshua Katz. Thanks! Also, Joshua has redone the maps to make a lot of them more readable, as for example his map of words for carbonated beverage. (Oops, these links seem to be obsolete. He still has this page, but most of the links on it do not work, though the one for the poster does, and this does have the carbonated beverage map and a few others. The last link in the previous paragraph shows several more, though some of the links dont work there either.) Adj. 17-Dec.-2015

Sadly, they still dont have some of the ones Im interested in, like greasy/greazy, which has a north-south distribution similar to on! Does anyone know of a map of this? Adj. 11-Nov.-2015
I have found a description of the line at the American Heritage Dictionary entry for greasy (copied from the Dictionary of American Regional English), which simply shows that it largely follows the on line (or perhaps runs slightly to the south of it), except of course that it continues across areas with the cot-caught merger, such as Allegheny Midland or the West, where the on line is undefined, and the description specifically states that the greazy region includes all of New Mexico. Adj. 17-Dec.-2015
This site says that the use of greazy extends as far as southern California, and specifically says that about 1/5 of all So. Cal. residents, but half of rural Riversiders, used greazy rather than greasy. Adj. 17-Dec.-2015
Based on the comment in the AHD entry, I suspect that the subscription-only Dictionary of American Regional English has a map of this, but since I presently live in South America I cant go to a library and check it out. New! 11-Nov.-2015

Guide to the Sounds of North American English

How Many Vowels are there in American English?

How Many Consonants are there?

The Stress Pattern of English, and How it Messes with the Pronunciation

R-Coloring 8-July-2013
Rs Between Vowels: To Color or Not to Color 8-July-2013

The horse-hoarse Merger and the card-cord Merger New! 11-Mar.-2016

Writing the Way We Speak

Sō kŏŏd wē rīt ŧħə wā wē spēk, yōōzĭng dĭkshənrē sĭmbəlz? 19-June-2013

Soh kuud wee riyt thə way wee speek, yoozing just playn letərz? 19-June-2013

Key to the Spelling Systems 21-Aug.-2013

How I Use the IPA (and how I dont)

John Wellss Lexical Sets

Rick Aschmanns Lexical Sets

 

Special Interest and Historical Articles:

The Cot-Caught Merger

Did the cot-caught merger come from Scotland?

The Father-Bother Distinction

The Pronunciation of -alm and -olk and -alk

Inland and Lowland Southern and their relationship to the extent of slavery before the Civil War 17-Apr.-2013
Whats the Difference between Inland Southern and Lowland Southern?
My Theory of the Settlement of the American South
Southern Areas Settled after the Civil War
Possible Southern Class Distinction?
My Theory about the Original Area of Inland Southern

Classical Southern and African American Vernacular English (AAVE)
[ɜɪ] instead of [ɝ] in some Classical Southern dialects New! 23-Sep.-2015

The Pin-Pen Merger, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and the Texas Cattle Drives

New York City and Its Offspring

New Orleans

Where do they speak without an accent? Or where do they speak General American?

Do some geographic features coincide with dialect boundaries or areas?

Do state or provincial borders coincide with dialect boundaries?

Which states are the most linguistically complex?

The Unique Position of Nebraska

The U.S. - Canada Border and the Badge of Identity

 

About Me

 

Print the Map!

Several people have asked if I intend to make posters of this map. I do not! Im not going to get into marketing my hobby!

However, I wanted a poster myself, so I figured out how to print it out in pieces and tape it together. You can do the same. It will print out on 9 pieces of standard letter size paper (81/2 x 11 inches), and you will then need to trim the inner margins with scissors or a paper cutter, and then tape the pieces together. I ended up with a nice poster, and you can too.

Click here to open the printable PDF file.

After you have opened it, you can print it directly to your printer.

I dont promise to update this PDF each time I update the map, but Ill try to update it fairly frequently. This PDF was last updated on: March 12, 2016.

 

If you want to use the original file to print a full-sized poster or for other purposes, or if I havent updated the PDF for a while, right click here to download it. 16-Sep.-2014

 

View the Layers!

If you want to see the layered file that the map is based on, click here. This will allow you to see individual features without the clutter of the other features. 12-Aug.-2014

This map was created using the Paint.NET program, and can probably only be displayed using that program. I still have not learned a simple way to display these layers on the screen and still have clickable maps as I now have. If anyone can tell me how I can do that, I would be grateful! 12-Aug.-2014

A description of each layer and suggestions can be found here.

 

Small-Scale Dialect Map

The small map below is the same as the Full-Scale Dialect Map that follows, but shows the entire width of the map (on most monitors). 24-Aug.-2010

Click on any part of this map to move to the equivalent part of the Full-Scale Dialect Map. (For now this only moves to the far left or the far right of the Full-Scale Dialect Map, so unfortunately it doesnt work well for the middle portions, and you will just have to scroll over.) 24-Aug.-2010

$Mapping2 $$width=1000 height=909$$



 

Full-Scale Dialect Map

Instructions

For many of the cities or towns on this map, you can listen to an audio or video sample of speech of a native (more specifically, someone who was raised there, though not necessarily born there, and whose dialect clearly represents that place). All of the cities or towns with a green center have such an audio or video sample that can be listened to (and a few of the ones with pink centers do also). I will continue adding new audio and video samples, so check back from time to time. So far there are over 900 samples listed, more and more of which are from contributors! Thanks! 1-Sep.-2014

Use the scroll bars to move around on this map, or, even simpler, start at the tiny map above and click the country (U.S. or Canada) that you want to look at. This will take you to the Small-Scale Dialect Map. Click again to zoom in further on your location. (For now this only moves to the far left or the far right of the Full-Scale Dialect Map, so unfortunately it doesnt work well for the middle portions, and you will just have to scroll over.) 24-Aug.-2010

The entire map is clickable, taking you to the list of samples for that state or province. Only those locations with green centers, and a few with pink centers, have a sample so far. There will be a few areas of the oceans and the legends that are not clickable, but all of the states and provinces now are. Place the mouse over a particular state or province to see its name. (The map guides, showing the meaning of all the colors, are on the top right and bottom left of the map.) 25-Sep.-2013

 

Help! For many places I havent found an audio sample yet. If you know of an audio or video sample on the Internet that features a speaker who was raised in a particular place, and whose dialect clearly represents that place, please let me know, whether that place is currently listed or not! Although many of the people in these samples are prominent people, I actually prefer ordinary local people, but anyone at all will do, as long as their pronunciation represents the local dialect. (The ones I especially need, and cannot find, are those with an orange-yellow center.) Also, if you think that one of the audio examples does not truly represent the local dialect, please let me know in the same way. (Oh, but please keep the samples clean. I have a policy of not using a sample if it uses a word you cant say on TV in the U.S.!) I will normally list your name as the contributor, to make this more of a community project, unless youd rather I didnt, in which case I will use initials. However, I will not publish anyones e-mail address. 10-May-2011

Numbered Locations: Thanks mostly to enthusiastic contributor Eli K. in 2010, much of Kentucky and Tennessee and neighboring areas are about as thoroughly mapped as they possibly can be. Thats the kind of help needed to really fill out this map! In fact, I was forced to go to a numbering system for such areas, since the scale of the map is already big enough! I put the key to the numbers off the east coast of Canada. 1-Sep.-2014

 

 

$Mapping3 $$width=2717 height=2470$$

 

 

 

Data from the Atlas of North American English (ANAE)

I am grateful to the Atlas of North American English (ANAE) by William Labov, Sharon Ash, and Charles Boberg, for a good part of the data on which this map was based. Specifically, much of the information on the map above and in the Dialect Description Chart below was obtained from ANAE chapter 11 (a draft version available on the Internet), as well as from many other chapters of the same work, with a few ideas from a much older version of the same: ling.upenn.edu/phono_atlas/home.html. (The Table of Contents of the draft version of the atlas can be seen at: www.ling.upenn.edu/phonoatlas/ANAE_ToC.pdf, but this does not link directly to the chapters. Links to each chapter are: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23.) Adj. first link 11-Nov.-2015

However, the names of a number of the dialects are my own, and I have made many adjustments to their borders (especially Inland and Lowland South, West Midland, and Allegheny Midland). Also, a lot of the data is from my own research and analysis. - Rick Aschmann

I discovered in late 2011 that much or all of the audio data upon which the atlas was based is now available on the Internet, on this website (select North American English Dialects). (Replaced bad link.) I will be adding samples from this site as I have time, marked as ANAE info and audio. 26-Jan.-2013

 

Map Notes

The following notes refer to numbers on the map, and show the corresponding section of the ANAE:

1: Pin-pen merger: See Map 9.5 in ANAE chapter 9 and www.ling.upenn.edu/phono_atlas/maps/Map3.html. This is the only feature in which I find myself in significant disagreement with the ANAE: I have found that the pin-pen merger area is much larger than they show, especially in the west.[1] (See The Pin-Pen Merger, The Kansas-Nebraska Act, and the Texas Cattle Drives below.) 6-Aug.-2011

2: Long /ō/ [oʊ] fronting: See Map 20.2 in ANAE chapter 20. 2: The boundary between central-back and central-front (the yellow dots) was used by the ANAE to define the boundary between North and Midland, but this line then extends into the West. The deep dip that it takes southwards in Utah and Nevada would seem to indicate settlement of these areas by Northerners, probably represented by the Mormon settlement. Thus this dip corresponds to a large degree to the Mormon Corridor. Many of these settlers were originally from the Palmyra, New York, area and from Kirtland, Ohio. Another northern contribution may have been the early northeastern organized crime influence in Las Vegas. Now Im not saying that people in these areas sound like northeasterners: they dont, they sound like westerners, with this one feature being dragged south because of this origin. 20-Jan.-2010

3: R-dropping: See Map 7.1 in ANAE chapter 7. R-droppers are also called non-rhotic English speakers, though I find this term rather obscure and academic, and prefer not to use it on a site like this, which is not for academics. There are two types of r-droppers, which I call Systematic R-droppers and Simple R-droppers. Adj. 11-May-2015

Systematic R-droppers are found in the northeastern U. S., in much of England, and in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, much of the Caribbean, and other places. Systematic R-droppers have linking and intrusive rs. John F. Kennedy is an excellent example of a Systematic r-dropper. In a speech he gave prior to being elected, he says The hungry children I sawr in West Vaginia. This quote has one intrusive r, and one dropped r, both highlighted in red. In another speech during the Cuban missile crisis he says, starting at 4:55: ...Soviet foreign minista Gromyko told me in my office that he was instructed to make it cleah once again, as he said his govament had already done, Soviet assistance to Cubar, and I quote, ..., which again has one intrusive r, and three dropped rs, again highlighted in red. Adj. 11-May-2015

Simple R-droppers are found in parts of the Lowland South. As a general rule, they do not have linking and intrusive rs. All of the areas in the South marked as r-droppers on my map are Simple R-dropper areas, though New Orleans shows some tendency to retain final rs before a vowel, though not enough to make it systematic. (It turns out that Hawaii Creole English is also of this type.) Adj. 11-Mar.-2016

Numerous examples of both kinds of r-droppers are given in the audio samples below. This pattern is receding, so occasionally only much older speakers retain the r-dropping in a given location. These are surrounded on the map by a dotted green circle, and in the chart below will be indicated with the phrase Older r-dropper. 3-Apr.-2010

4: Canadian and Tidewater raising: See Map 15.5 in ANAE chapter 15, noting only the info for the /ou/ [aʊ] vowel (which he writes /aw/), not the /ī/ [aɪ] vowel (which he writes /ay/). The ANAE does not show this information on any map for the Tidewater South, so I have gleaned the info from various sources, including stray comments in ANAE. Adj. 11-May-2015

5: Bite-bout line: See Map 14.1 in ANAE chapter 14.

6: On line: See Map 14.2 in ANAE chapter 14. This is the only lexical item included in this analysis, but it seems to correlate with the phonological data, and as the ANAE points out, largely follows the North-Midland boundary. Why it turns north at its western end in the Dakotas and does some contortions is unclear. (The ANAE did not have Mitchell, SD or Ashley, ND, which are the surprises. I had earlier thought Mitchell was north of the line, but actually it is south of it.) Miles City, Montana, an outlier of Western North, is also below the line. In San Francisco the pattern seems to be reversed, with the Don group possibly representing a later influx of some type. Adj. 17-Dec.-2015

 

Dialect Description Chart
(Titles and many other details Adj. 17-Aug.-2015)

 

vowel

of lot

/ŏ/ [a]

fronted

almost

as much

as vowel

of let

/ĕ/ [ɛ]

vowel

of cot

/ŏ/ [a]

more

fronted

than

vowel

of cut

/ŭ/ [ʌ]

vowel

of too

/ōō/ [ᵿʉ]

much

more

fronted

than

vowel

of toe

/ō/ [o(ʊ)]

Vowel

of far

/r/ [aɹ]

fronted

Vowel

of

caught

// [oə]

strongly

raised

hoarse

=

horse,

mourning

=

morning,

four

=

for

Unique

Features

Chapter

and

map in

ANAE

Chapter and map in ANAE

14.8

14.8

10.24,

20.2

10.34

10.31

8.2

7. North Central

 

yes

Like Western North, but cot=caught.

14

Iron Range, Minnesota *

 

yes

Subtle differences from the rest of the North Central, particularly /ŧħ/ [] becomes /d/ [d].

Mat-Su Valley, Alaska *

yes

 

yes

Strongly like North Central, but with some admixture from the main Alaska dialect. (See Sarah Palin.)

8. West

yes

 

yes

Vowel of too significantly more fronted than vowel of toe, cot=caught.

20

Alaska

yes

 

yes

Same as West (ANAE chapter 11 says there are significant differences, but does not make clear what they are.)

(11, 20)

Silver City, NM

yes

 

yes

Same as West, but cot≠caught.

1. Canada (main area)

yes

very little

 

yes

Same as West, plus Canadian vowel shift, vowel of cat central, raising of bite, bout.

15

Atlantic Provinces

mixed?

yes

 

yes

Vowel of far fronted (but not father).

15

Irish Newfoundland

yes

yes

 

yes

Like the Atlantic Provinces, but with a strong Irish component.

2. Northern New England

Eastern New England (ENE)

yes

 

no

far & father fronted to [a], systematic r-dropping, cot=caught, father [a] & bother [ɒə] dont rhyme.

16

NW New England

very little

very little

yes

 

yes

Vowel of far fronted (but not father), cot=caught.

16, (14)

3. The North

mixed

mixed

mostly

 

almost all

Back vowels strongly backed, defined as the cot≠caught area north of the line of yellow dots, except for the St. Louis Corridor.[2]

14

Western North

mixed

mixed

mostly

 

yes

Least distinctive dialect of the North, some sections are General American.

14

Inland North

yes

yes

mostly

 

almost all

Northern Cities Shift: /ă/ in bat strongly raised to [eə], most short vowels shifted.

14

St. Louis Corridor

yes

yes

Mixed

 

mixed

Northern Cities Shift: /ă/ in bat strongly raised to [eə], most short vowels shifted, but many other vowels like Midland.

19, 14

Indiana North[3]

no

no

yes

Very similar to Western North, but separated from it geographically[4].

14

Eastern North

yes

yes

very little

mixed

yes

Mostly like Western North, but some similarities to Greater New York City.

14, 16

Albany

yes

yes

very little

yes

yes

Many vowels like Greater New York City, but no r-dropping.

Providence

yes

 

no

/ă/ in cat central [a], systematic r-dropping, cart=cot, which is not seen anywhere else in the world!

14

4. Greater New York City (GNYC)

yes

yes

Various unusual vowels, systematic r-dropping, bad [eə] & had [] dont rhyme, and father [ɑə] & bother [a] dont rhyme for many speakers. For more details, see New York City and Its Offspring. Adj. 11-Mar.-2016

17

The Hamptons

 

yes

A lot like Greater New York City, but more research needed!

Downtown New Orleans

 

no?

More like Greater New York City than anything else, although bad & had probably rhyme, and on rhymes with Dawn. For more details, see New Orleans. Adj. 11-Mar.-2016

18

5. The Midland

 

almost all

In many ways is intermediate between Northern and Southern[5].

19

Central Midland

 

almost all

Least distinctive dialect in the U.S., many sections are General American

Canton, Ohio

 

yes

bat strongly raised, on rhymes with Don, not Dawn

11, (14)

Cincinnati, Ohio

 

yes

Many vowels are pronounced like Greater New York City, pin≠pen, unlike the surrounding area[6].

19, 11

West Midland *

 

yes

cot=caught, unlike most of Midland.

(19)

Allegheny Midland[7]

 

yes

cot=caught, unlike most of Midland.

19

Pittsburgh

 

yes

Pittsburgh vowel shift: out is pronounced [ˈat], with no diphthong, the way a Bostonian says art.

19

Oklahoma City * [8]

 

yes

Like the parts of the Central Midland south of the pin-pen line.

19

East Midland *

yes

yes

Like the Central Midland, with influences from Atlantic Midland.

17

Atlantic Midland[9]

yes

yes

bad does not rhyme with had, like Greater New York City, but otherwise like East Midland.

17

North Florida

 

yes

Like Central Midland, pin=pen.

11, 18

South Florida

 

yes

Like Central Midland, pin≠pen.

11

El Paso

 

yes

cot≠caught like Central Midland, pin=pen.

11

Galveston *

 

yes

Very similar to East Midland, or even to Atlantic Midland, except that bad rhymes with had

San Francisco Bay

yes

yes

Very similar to East Midland, or even to Atlantic Midland, except that bad rhymes with had

(11)

6. The South

 

mixed

Partial to full Southern shift: vowels of ride and buy have no diphthong: long /ī/ is [a]. In almost entire area pin=pen, except as noted below or on map.

18

Lowland South

 

mixed

Partial Southern shift: long /ī/ vowels of ride and buy have [a], with no diphthong, but right is [aɪ].

Classical Southern

 

mixed

Outlined in dark green rather than red, a catch-all for all R-dropping dialects in the South, includes or cuts across some of the dialects below.

7

The Tidewater

 

mixed

Outlined in pink rather than red, a catch-all for those parts of the coastal south that have the Tidewater raising, as explained on the map. It actually includes two areas that lack the Southern shift, Down East & Outer Banks, and Charleston.

Note 4

Savannah

 

yes

R-dropping, pin≠pen.

18

Cajun English[10]

 

yes

East is R-dropping, west apparently not, pin=pen, French influence, th > t,d.

New Orleans, Mid City

 

no?

See the New Orleans inset on the map and the New Orleans section below.

18

New Orleans, Irish Channel

 

no?

See the New Orleans inset on the map and the New Orleans section below.

18

New Orleans, St. Bernard Parish

 

no?

See the New Orleans inset on the map and the New Orleans section below. New! 17-Dec.-2015

18

New Orleans, Peripheral

 

no?

See the New Orleans inset on the map and the New Orleans section below. New! 17-Dec.-2015

18

Inland South

 

almost all

Full Southern shift: vowels of ride, buy, and right all have [a], with no diphthong.

18

Anomalous peripheral areas in the southeast that resisted the Southern shift:

 

Charleston

 

yes

No Southern shift, R-dropping, vowels of bait and boat are not diphthongs, but simple [e] and [o].

11, 18

Down East & Outer Banks *

 

 

 

 

 

yes

No Southern shift, long /ī/ [ɒɪ] vowel often almost like /oi/ [ɔɪ], pin=pen[11].

(18, 11)

Chesapeake Islands *

 

 

 

 

 

yes

No Southern shift, long /ī/ [ɒɪ] vowel less like /oi/ [ɔɪ] than Down East & Outer Banks, pin≠pen.

 

 

* Those dialects marked with an asterisk are not in the Atlas of North American English (ANAE).

 

Colors:

Transitional areas within main dialects

Distinctive or innovative features of a given dialect

Transitional areas outside main dialects

Intermediate or partial features

 

Other Sources

I have added and adjusted a lot of the information on the map based on the following audio and non-audio data. - Rick Aschmann

Regional non-audio data

Location

Source

English, French, and indigenous mother-tongue areas of Canada

atlas.nrcan.gc.ca/site/english/maps/population.html#language 25-Sep.-2013

French mother-tongue areas of Maine

Wikipedia, www.francomaine.org/English/Carto/carto.htm

Indigenous languages

ethnologue.com/region/NAM 9-Sep.-2013

the eastern boundary of Inland North

ling.upenn.edu/~dinkin/GapHandout.pdf

Greater New York City

ling.upenn.edu/~wlabov/Papers/TD.pdf

Eastern boundary between Eastern New England and Providence

ling.upenn.edu/~johnson4/pwpl_draft.pdf 30-Mar.-2010

Multiple-region audio samples found on the Internet

Location

Source

Comment

Samples from almost all U. S. states and a few from Canada

International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA) (or new clickable map: www.dialectsarchive.com/globalmap)

This site has been completely redone, perhaps in 2013, and is vastly improved, since it now provides a lot more information about the speakers, including place of birth and sometimes a list of places where they have lived, plus a lot of other information!

However, I still find that many of the samples do not represent well the bedrock pronunciation of the area, but instead represent those who have tried to sound less local. Also, locations are often limited (though I see that more have been added recently), and often only urban locations are given.

Even so, in many cases the data is useful, and I have used it in the sound samples below, especially when clearer indications are given of nativeness, and now that more information has been provided, I will probably add more. If anyone finds any of these that I have left out and shouldnt have, please let me know!

(Because this site changed its entire structure, none of the old links worked anymore, and I have redone them all. The original site was web.ku.edu/~idea or web.ku.edu/~idea.) 8-Nov.-2013

Samples only from north-central U. S.

csumc.wisc.edu/AmericanLanguages/english/eng_us.htm

Again, it is not always clear if the speakers are natives of the area in which they were interviewed, or if they represent well the local dialect. However, it includes rural speakers, which can help fill in holes. Used occasionally. If anyone finds any of these that I have left out and shouldnt have, please let me know! Adj. 11-Mar.-2016

 

Guide to the Sounds of North American English

In many places on this web page the pronunciation of a name or other word will be given after it. These pronunciation guides will have two forms: a phonemic guide between slashes / /, based on the Traditional Dictionary Pronunciation System (TDPS) that is found in many dictionaries, especially American ones[12], and a phonetic guide (providing the phonetic details) between square brackets [ ], based on the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). (Thanks, Maria Mikkonen![13]) 26-Aug.-2013

The advantage of the phonemic guide is that it allows different dialects to use the same pronunciation key and get the right result for each dialect. For this guide I have mostly followed the TDPS system used in the American Heritage Dictionary[14], rather than the one used by Merriam-Webster or others, since it is more complete and applies to more dialects. Adj. 31-Aug.-2015

However, I have included the phonetic guide as well, partly to give a more precise phonetic pronunciation of local variants, and partly because many have complained that they prefer the IPA or are familiar only with it. (This guide includes allophonic variation such as aspiration on voiceless consonants, which is conditioned by stress and word position. However, it would be impractical to represent all the fine detail, such as the rounding that many English consonants have, or the differences between clear l [l] and dark l [ɫ].) 18-July-2013

 

In the phonemic guide I have followed the American Heritage Dictionary system (a more complete analysis can be found on this Wikipedia page) to the letter, except for a few minor adjustments in the vowel system[15] and one in the consonant system (/ŧħ/ instead of /th/), and the following differences: Adj. 11-Mar.-2016

1.       I write the syllable with primary stress using bold and underline, and syllables with secondary stress with just bold, rather than using an apostrophe after it like the AHD. In other words, I show the pronunciation of underneath as /ŭndərnēth/, whereas the AHD does it as /ŭn'dər-nēth'/. Adj. links 31-Aug.-2015

2. I do not separate syllables with a hyphen except when absolutely necessary, as in cartridge /krtrij/ versus cartwright /krt-rīt/, or mission /mĭshən/ versus mishap /mĭs-hăp/; although technically in these two cases the underlining of the primary-stressed syllable gives enough information, even so the hyphens help to clarify.

3.  I show the pronunciation of words like needle and sudden as /nēdəl/ and /sǔdən/, rather than treating them as having syllabic /l/ or /n/, which they clearly have phonetically: [ˈniɾl̩, ˈsʌdn̩]. 2-Jan.-2012

 

The ANAE does not use either the TDPS or the IPA, but instead uses a completely different transcription system, described in ANAE chapter 2. This system is phonemic, like the TDPS.[16] Adj. links 31-Aug.-2015

 

How Many Vowels are there in American English?

No, the answer is not: Five: a, e, i, o u. Granted, in traditional English spelling those are the vowel letters, yes, but Im talking about our spoken language: How many significant vowel sounds are there? Well, if you consult any popular American English dictionary, and study the Pronunciation Key, there will be a long list of vowels. In the Pronunciation Key to the American Heritage Dictionary, 19 different vowel symbols are listed (not counting the ones only used in foreign words)! However, some of these are special vowels that only occur before the /r/ sound, which are colored by the /r/, so these can be separated out as special cases. And one of these vowels, /ə/, only occurs in weak syllables (completely unstressed syllables), never in stressed syllables, so it also can be separated out as a special case. This leaves us with 15 Ordinary Vowels that can occur in stressed syllables. Very few North American English speakers have all of these vowels: Many have 14 (lacking the // vowel), and many have only 13 (lacking both // and //). Greater New York City has 16 Ordinary Stressed Vowels, the 15 in the American Heritage list plus one that is not usually listed in dictionary pronunciation guides, found in the word bad, which it makes sense to spell //, since in this dialect it is the same as the r-colored vowel that occurs before /r/ in words like bearing! This vowel also occurs in the Atlantic Midland dialect. (I had initially spelled this vowel as /ăə/, but there is no need to use additional symbols when this is not necessary.) Adj. link 31-Aug.-2015

These 16 vowels are listed below in the second column, with sample words shown in the first column. Those with a breve ˘ over them, /ă,ĕ,ĭ,ŏ,ŭ,ŏŏ/, are those vowels that historically were short vowels in English (and still are in British English), while those with a macron ˉ over them, /ā,ē,ī,ō,ōō/, are those vowels that historically were long vowels in English (and still are in British English). In American English these vowels are no longer phonetically long or short, though the short ones tend to be phonetically lax, and the long ones tense. As a general rule the short/lax ones do not occur at the end of a word or syllable, only before a consonant; this rule has no exceptions in British English, though it does seem to have a few in American English. (The remaining Ordinary Stressed Vowels //, // (in Greater New York City and Atlantic Midland), //, /oi/, and /ou/ fit in more with the long/tense group in terms of their pronunciation, history, and distribution.) (See also the section How I Use the IPA (and how I dont) for more discussion about this.) Adj. 10-Nov.-2015

The remaining columns show what happens to vowels before final r, showing the R-colored vowels used in most of North America, and showing the Southern System in the final column, representing the system used in much of the South, which does not have R-colored vowels.

(I have included the IPA equivalents of these vowels in brackets [ ] as well. However, keep in mind that the actual pronunciation of a given phonemic vowel may vary greatly from region to region. For example, the /ŏ/ vowel is pronounced as [a], an open front unrounded vowel, in much of the Inland North, but is pronounced as [ɔ], an open-mid back rounded vowel, in England. A whole gamut of vowel sounds in between these two occurs somewhere in North America: in much of Canada and in some other cot=caught areas the pronunciation is [ɒ], whereas most others use [ɑ] or [a] or something in between. Many other vowels have similar variants. The most distinctive Southern pronunciation is shown in a separate column. However, keep in mind that I have not listed all possible variants for any region.) 3-July-2010

If anyone finds that any of the symbols in the chart do not display properly on their web browsers, please let me know. Most of them are standard Unicode characters.

On Android phones and tablets: up until Android version 4.3 in 2013, in the standard Android browser and in Chrome the symbols /ȯ/, one of the R-colored vowels below, and uppercase /Ə/, used in the phonemic respelling section, did not display correctly. And up until version 5 they still hadnt fixed a few of the IPA characters, like [ᵿ], which I use to show the Southern pronunciation of the vowel in boot, nor had they fixed other font problems, like for Ancient Greek, leaving me frustrated with my Android phone for a long time! However, now in version 5 they finally seem to have fixed all of these issues. However, if you have an older version of Android the solution is simple: just use the Firefox browser, which displays these characters properly in spite of Android. Adj. 31-Aug.-2015

 

Ordinary Stressed Vowels

 

R-colored Stressed Vowels

Final Wells (sample words)

phonemic

IPA

 

 

IPA

South

 

keepers

droppers

Southern System

beat bee fleece feel

ē

[i]

 

 

[ɪi]

 

fear, pier,
peer, near

r

[ɪɹ]

[ɪə]

intermediate
between /ē/ and /ĭ/

/ēər/ [ɪiə(ɹ)], rhymes with skier

bit kit fill

ĭ

[ɪ]

 

 

[iə]

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bait bay face fail

ā

[eɪ/e]

 

 

[ɛɪ]

 

fair, bear,
care, square,
pair, hair

r

[eɹ]

[eə]

(British

[ɛə])

For most speakers
intermediate between
/ā/ and /ĕ/,
but [eə(ɹ)] in GNYC,
Atlantic Midland,
and E. New England

/ăr/ [ɹ/ə]: hairy=Harry /hărĭ/ [ˈhɹɪ]

which rhyme with marry /mărĭ/ [ˈmɹɪ],

but merry /mĕrĭ/ [ˈmeɹɪ] and

Mary /rĭ/ [ˈmɛɪɹɪ] are different.

bet dress fell

ĕ

[ɛ]

 

 

[e]

 

bat trap had

ă

[]

 

[(ɪə)]

 

bad man

[eə]

(GNYC,

Atlantic Midland)

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ah palm father Bachs

[a/ɑə]

(E. New England

[a], GNYC [ɑə])

 

 

far, farther,
heart, start

r

[aɹ/ɑɹ/ɒɹ]

[a/ɑ/ɑə]

Nearly everyone has this![17]

/r/ [ɑɹ/ɑə(ɹ)/ɒɹ] for many speakers,

/r/ [ɔə(ɹ)] for others

cot lot bother box
doll, yacht, watch

ŏ

[a/ɑ/ɒ/ɒəENE]

 

[ɑ]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

caught awe thought balks
paw fall, cough, talk

[ɒ/ɔ/oə/ɒəENE]

(Eastern U.S.

See map.)

[ɒʊ]

 

for, horse,
morning, north

r **

[ɔɹ]

[ɒəENE]

See ANAE map 8.2

/r/ [ɑɹ/ɑə(ɹ)/ɒɹ] for many speakers,

/r/ [ɔə(ɹ)] for others

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

boat toe goat foal

ō

[o(ʊ)]

 

 

[əʊ]

 

four, hoarse,
mourning, force

ȯr **

[oɹ]

[oə]

For most speakers,
intermediate between
// and /ō/

/ər/ [ɒʊə(ɹ)], rhymes with rawer

/ȯr/ [oə(ɹ)] in much of New Orleans

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cut strut rush, love, rough

ŭ

[ʌ]

 

 

[ə]

 

fur, urge, nurse,
term, firm,
word, heard

r

[ɝ]

[ɝ/ɜ/ɜɪ]

Varies.

/r/ [ɝ] or /ŭr/ [ʌɹ] or /ŏŏy/ [ɜɪ]

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

foot foot full, took, put, bush

ŏŏ *

[ʊ]

 

 

[ʏ]

 

poor, tour

cure, pure

ŏŏr

(yŏŏr)

[ʊɹ],

etc.

([jʊɹ])

[ʊə],

etc.

([jʊə])

Many lack this,
using /ōōər/, /ȯr/,
or /r/ instead

/ōōər/ [ᵿʉə(ɹ)],

poor often /pər/ [ˈpʰɒʊə(ɹ)]

boot true goose fool, spook
through

ōō *

[u]

 

 

[ᵿʉ]

 

(cute) cue beauty
you

(yōō)

[ju]

 

 

[ɪʊ]

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bite by price

ī

[aɪ/ɑɪ]

 

 

[a/aɛ/aɪ]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bout now mouth

ou

[ʊ/aʊ/ɑʊ]

 

 

[ə]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hoyt boy choice noise

oi

[ɔɪ]

 

 

[ɒʊɛ/ɔɛ]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vowel that Only Occurs in Weak (Completely Unstressed) Syllables

 

R-colored Vowel that Only Occurs in Weak (Completely Unstressed) Syllables

about, item, civil, gallop, circus

ə

[ə]

 

 

[ə]

 

butter, motor, solar

ər

[ɚ]

[ə]

 

Same

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Vowels that Can Occur in Weak (Completely Unstressed) Syllables

 

 

permit (noun), colic, impose

ĭ

[ɪ]

 

 

[ɪ]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

funny, linear

ē (ĭ)

[i] ([ɪ])

 

 

[i/ɪ]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

situate, fruition, issue

ōō

[u/ʊ]

 

 

[u/ʊ/əw/ə]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

billowing, pillow, potato

ō

[o/ʊ]

 

 

[o/ʊ/əw/ə]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Adj. 17-Dec.-2015)

Black: The black vowels are those which all Americans have as distinct vowels.

 

Red: The red vowels are those which many but not all Americans have, as distinguished from the other vowels. I decided to make /ŏ/ the default vowel of the //ŏ// group for all but Eastern New England, since for those who make the distinction it is by far the most common. In other words, for those who say all three the same, only /ŏ/ will be used in the phonemic spelling. However, in Eastern New England it makes more sense to make the default vowel //, because of the way it interacts with a following dropped r; e.g. wad and ward are pronounced the same in Eastern New England, but nowhere else in the world! They both come out [wɒəd], which phonemically would be /wd/ or perhaps /w(r)d/. Adj. 17-Dec.-2015

Green: The green vowels are those which a small minority of Americans have, as distinguished from the other vowels, in particular regions or dialects.

 

The pronunciation given here shows the most distinctive Southern pronunciation, specifically those areas which have experienced both Stage 2 and Stage 3 of the Southern Shift, as shown on Map 18.6 in ANAE chapter 18. Stage 2 covers most of the South, whereas Stage 3 only covers much of Alabama and parts of neighboring states. These stages are independent of and cut across the boundary between Inland Southern and Lowland Southern. 8-July-2013

 

* These two sounds are actually spelled as // and // instead of /ŏŏ/ and /ōō/ in the AHD and most other dictionary pronunciation systems, but since there is not a practical way to display such a combination in Unicode, I have followed the example of this web site (part of reference.com, though they do not now use the AHD pronunciation system), and this Wikipedia page, which is one of the most complete treatments of the system. (Technically there is a way to do // and // in Unicode, as contributor Brian Ewins showed me[18], but I have tried them in various browsers, and they will not display consistently.) Adj. 11-Mar.-2016

 

** Actually, some speakers have /r/ instead of /ȯr/, but all speakers have one or the other! See The horse-hoarse Merger and the card-cord merger. Adj. 17-Dec.-2015

 

The /yōō/ sound is not a single sound, but is simply /y/ followed by /ōō/.[19] Thus, there really is no long /ū/ vowel. Similarly, /yŏŏr/ is simply /y/ followed by /ŏŏr/.

 

This vowel is often pronounced as /ĭ/ [ɪ] by Southern Americans and Britishers. 8-Feb.-2013

 

According to Merriam-Webster, these two vowels are actually pronounced the same, and are more properly represented as a neutral weak diphthong /əw/. They may be right for many speakers, and are probably right for me in many cases, but no other dictionary that I have found agrees with them. They are probably right for most Southerners, and possibly for most Britishers. 8-Feb.-2013

 

[ENE] Pronunciations marked with this are only found in Eastern New England. New! 17-Dec.-2015

 

How Many Consonants are there?
(1-Aug.-2012)

The answer to this one is a bit less complicated, but again the answer is not based on the traditional English alphabet. Most English speakers have 24. (The /hw/ [ʍ] sound, which is usually spelled wh in English, is really just a combination of /h/ followed by /w/, and was originally spelled this way in Old English. Most English speakers no longer have this sound, though I and many other older speakers do in many parts of North America, and in certain regions, particularly the South, nearly all speakers do.) 8-July-2013

The AHD uses /th/, in italics, for the voiced th sound, as in this (which is different from the voiceless th sound, as in thin), and for a long time I did the same on this page, but I am now using /ŧħ/ for this sound, for several reasons, one of which is that using a formatting feature like italics limits the places this writing system can be used, and anyway I would prefer to keep italics for their usual purpose. Adj. link 31-Aug.-2015

Note that the letters c, q, and x are not listed. This is because they are simply different ways of spelling sounds already listed: /k/ or /s/, /kw/, and /ks/ or /gz/. I show the comparison below:

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

 

 

Dictionary symbol

b

ch

d

f

g

h

j

k

l

m

n

ng

p

r

s

sh

t

th

ŧħ

v

w

y

z

zh

 

(hw)

IPA

b

tʃ*

d

f

ɡ

h

k*

l

m

n

ŋ

p*

ɹ

s

ʃ

t*

θ

v

w

j

z

ʒ

 

(ʍ)

 

 

church,

nature

 

 

 

 

judge

 

 

 

 

sing,

singer,

finger

 

 

 

shush,

nation

 

thin,

bath

this,

bathe

 

 

 

 

pleasure,

vision,

genre,

rouge

 

(which,

whale)

*These often have an aspirated allophone, e.g. [kʰ], which I have represented in the phonetic guide for many names, though not in the phonemic guide.

(Adj. link 31-Aug.-2015)

 

The Stress Pattern of English, and How it Messes with the Pronunciation
(8-Feb.-2013)

American English (and most other varieties of English) has three levels of stress on each syllable of a word, primary stress, secondary stress, or no stress. Only one syllable in the word can have primary stress, and this is the syllable that is pronounced with the greatest intensity or loudness. The other syllables can have either secondary stress or no stress. An example is the word counterrevolutionary, pronounced /kountərrĕvəlōōshənrē/ [ˌkʰaʊɾ̃ɚˌɹɛvəˈluʃəˌneɹi]. This word has 8 syllables, divided with hyphens as /koun-tər-rĕv-ə-lōō-shə-nr-ē/ [ˌkʰaʊ-ɾ̃ɚ-ˌɹɛv-ə-ˈlu-ʃə-ˌneɹ-i]. It has one syllable with primary stress, /lōō/ [ˈlu], marked with bold and underline in the dictionary spelling and with [ˈ] before it in the IPA. It has three syllables with secondary stress, syllables 1, 3, and 7, marked with bold in the dictionary spelling and with [ˌ] before them in the IPA, and four with no stress, syllables 2, 4, 6, and 8. As is true with many words in English, especially long ones, every other syllable is weak (unstressed). 10-Aug.-2013

In stressed syllables (whether primary or secondary) all of the Stressed Vowels in the chart above can occur, but in completely unstressed syllables (weak syllables) in English a phenomenon called vowel weakening or neutralization occurs. As a result, most of the vowels in these syllables are weakened or neutralized to the vowel /ə/, and the rest of the vowels are weakened or neutralized to a very small group, listed under Other Vowels that Can Occur in Weak (Completely Unstressed) Syllables above. This vowel weakening is a characteristic of English in particular (though it does occur in other languages as well), but it does not occur at all in some languages, like Spanish, which makes it especially hard for English speakers to speak good Spanish or vice versa, since they are each always subconsciously trying to apply their own pattern to the other language. 22-Mar.-2013

We can see this weakening process in action in many groups of words in English. For example, melody, melodious, and melodic are spelled as if they should have the same vowel sounds, but in fact they do not, being /mĕlədē/ [ˈmɛlədi], /mədēəs/ [məˈloʊdiəs], and /məlŏdĭk/ [məˈlɑdɪk]. The vowel in the second syllable has three pronunciations, two stressed and one unstressed (weak), and the vowel in the first syllable has two. Spanish has equivalents of these three words, meloda, melodioso, meldico, but unlike English, the vowels are pronounced exactly as they are spelled in IPA, with no changes at all in the vowel quality, even though the stress falls on a different syllable in each word. 22-Mar.-2013

So, just to see if youve got the idea, take the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, invented for the Walt Disney movie Mary Poppins. How many syllables does it have? Which syllables are completely unstressed (weak)? Which syllable has the primary stress? The answers can be found in the endnote.[20] 22-Mar.-2013

 

R-coloring
(8-July-2013)

In the vowel section above, we saw that there are a limited number of vowel sounds that can come before /r/ at the end of a word, or when the /r/ comes before another consonant, and that these are usually colored by the /r/, that is, they are changed so that they dont really match any of the ordinary vowels. (These vowels are also known as r-controlled vowels.[21]) Some speakers have as few as 5 of these r-colored vowels in stressed syllables, others have 6 or 7, and this variation is found in both North America and Great Britain. Adj. 11-Mar.-2016

What about words like hire or sour? Arent these additional vowels that can come before /r/? At first glance it might seem so, but in fact, in most if not all English dialects, these words actually rhyme with words like higher and power, meaning that they are actually two-syllable words pronounced /ər/ [ˈhaɪɚ] and /souər/ [ˈsaʊɚ], so no new vowel before /r/ occurs.

For r-droppers the /r/ itself is usually dropped, but the vowel still remains unique, in most cases different from the ordinary vowels.

 

Vowels Before /r/ in One-syllable Words[22]

 

r-colored vowels →

r

r

r

r

ȯr

 

r

 

ŏŏr

(yŏŏr)

word final:

fear

jeer

beard

fierce

fair

mare

there

their

far

card

barn

heart

for

war

cord

horse

four

bore

cored

hoarse

her

were

heard

fern

fir

bird

first

dirt

fur

curd

burn

purse

poor

tour

boor

lure

(cure)

(pure)

(demure)

Scottish pronunciation, not r-colored →

ēr

ār

ăr

r

ōr

ĕr

ĭr

ŭr

ōōr

(yōōr)

(original system)

[iɾ]

[eɾ]

[aɾ]

[ɔɾ]

[oɾ]

[ɛɾ]

[ɪɾ]

[ʌɾ]

[ʉɾ]

[jʉɾ]

(New! 11-Mar.-2016)

 

Originally these rs were not colored, but were just like all the other vowels, and at least one dialect retains this old system, Scottish English, which does not color these vowels at all, pronouncing them instead very much the way they are spelled. This system can be seen at the bottom of the table above. Adj. 11-Mar.-2016

Thus in Scotland bird has a vowel close to that of beard for many Americans, whereas beard has the same vowel as beet! (I have shown all of the /r/s in the Scottish pronunciation in the preceding chart as [ɾ], an alveolar flap, though the [ɹ] used in North America is also common in Scotland.) Adj. 11-Mar.-2016

 

The following chart shows how this system works in a selection of dialects, both in and outside of North America. Those items in dark red have a one-syllable r-colored vowel. Those items in orange have a two-syllable r-colored vowel sequence (these do not actually add any new distinct vowels to the system). Those items in blue are not r-colored in the indicated dialect, but are r-colored by many Americans. In each column the number and nature of the one-syllable r-colored vowels is given at the top of the column. As always on this page, if you know for sure that I have the pronunciation of one of these words wrong, please let me know. New! 11-Mar.-2016

 

 

Standard British:

6 r-colored vowels:

/r,r,r,r,r,ŏŏr/

(Older and regional has

7, like Eastern

New England.)

Greater New

York City:

6 r-colored

vowels:

/r,r,r,r,r,ŏŏr/

Eastern New

England:

7 r-colored vowels:

/r,r,r,r,ȯr,r,ŏŏr/[23]

Scottish:

No r‑colored

vowels

Older Southern:[24]

No distinct one‑syllable

r‑colored vowels

except sometimes /r/

New Orleans

My pattern,

General American:

6 r-colored

vowels:

/r,r,r,r,r,ŏŏr/[25]

My wife,

West Midland:

5 r-colored

vowels:

/r,r,r,r,r/ [25]

fear, jeer, beard, fierce

/fr/ [ˈfɪə][26]

/fr/ [ˈfɪə] [26]

/fr/ [ˈfɪə] [26]

/fēr/ [ˈfiɾ]

/ə(r)/ [ˈfɪiə(ɹ)]

/fr/ [ˈfɪə] [26]

/frər/ [ˈfɪɹɚ]

/frər/ [ˈfɪɹɚ]

fair, mare, there, their

/fr/ [ˈfɛə]

/fr/ [ˈfeə]

/fr/ [ˈfeə]

/fār/ [ˈfeɾ]

/făr/ [ˈfɪ] or [ˈfə]

/fr/ [ˈfeə]

/fr/ [ˈfeɹ]

/fr/ [ˈfeɹ]

far, card, barn, heart

/fr/ [ˈfɑː]

/fr/ [ˈfɑə]

/fr/ [ˈfa]

/făr/ [ˈfaɾ]

/fr/ [ˈfɒɹ] or /f/ [ˈfɒʊ]

/fr/ [ˈfɔə]

/fr/ [ˈfɑɹ]

/fr/ [ˈfɑɹ]

for, war, cord, horse

/fr/ [ˈfoː]

/fr/ [ˈfoə]

/fr/ [ˈfɒə]

/fr/ [ˈfɔɾ]

/fr/ [ˈfɒɹ] or /f/ [ˈfɒʊ]

/fr/ [ˈfɔə]

/fȯr/ [ˈfoɹ]

/fȯr/ [ˈfoɹ]

four, bore, cored, hoarse

/fr/ [ˈfoː]

(or /fȯr/ [ˈfoə])

/fr/ [ˈfoə]

/fȯr/ [ˈfoə]

/fōr/ [ˈfoɾ]

/fə/ [ˈfɒʊə(ɹ)]

/fȯr/ [ˈfoə]

/fȯr/ [ˈfoɹ]

/fȯr/ [ˈfoɹ]

her, were, heard, fern

/hr/ [ˈhɜː]

/hr/ [ˈhɝ]

/hr/ [ˈhɝ]

/hĕr/ [ˈhɛɾ]

/hŭr/ [ˈhʌɹ] or /hr/ [ˈhɝ]

/hr/ [ˈhɝ]

/hr/ [ˈhɝ]

/hr/ [ˈhɝ]

fir, bird, first, dirt

/fr/ [ˈfɜː]

/fr/ [ˈfɝ]

/fr/ [ˈfɝ]

/fĭr/ [ˈfɪɾ]

/fŭr/ [ˈfʌɹ] or /fr/ [ˈfɝ]

/fr/ [ˈfɝ]

/fr/ [ˈfɝ]

/fr/ [ˈfɝ]

fur, curd, burn, purse

/fr/ [ˈfɜː]

/fr/ [ˈfɝ]

/fr/ [ˈfɝ]

/fŭr/ [ˈfʌɾ]

/fŭr/ [ˈfʌɹ] or /fr/ [ˈfɝ]

/fr/ [ˈfɝ]

/fr/ [ˈfɝ]

/fr/ [ˈfɝ]

poor

/pŏŏr/ [ˈpʰʊə]

/pŏŏr/ [ˈpʰʊə]

/pŏŏr/ [ˈpʰʊə]

/pōōr/ [ˈpʰʉɾ]

/pə(r)/ [ˈpʰɒʊə(ɹ)]

/pŏŏr/ [ˈpʰʊə]??

/pŏŏr/ [ˈpʰʊɹ]

/pȯr/ [ˈpʰoɹ]

tour, lure

/tŏŏr/ [ˈtʰʊə]

/tŏŏr/ [ˈtʰʊə]

/tŏŏr/ [ˈtʰʊə]

/tōōr/ [ˈtʰʉɾ]

/tōōə(r)/ [ˈtʰᵿʉə(ɹ)]

/tŏŏr/ [ˈtʰʊə]

/tŏŏr/ [ˈtʰʊɹ]

/tōōər/ [ˈtʰuɚ]

(cure), (pure), (demure)

/kyŏŏr/ [ˈkʰjʊə]

/kyŏŏr/ [ˈkʰjʊə]

/kyŏŏr/ [ˈkʰjʊə]

/kyōōr/ [ˈkʰyʉɾ]

/kyōōə(r)/ [ˈkʰjᵿʉə(ɹ)]

/kyŏŏr/ [ˈkʰjʊə]

/kyŏŏr/ [ˈkʰjʊɹ]

/kyōōər/ [ˈkʰjuɚ]

fire, tire

/ər/ [ˈfaɪə]

/ər/ [ˈfɑɪə]

/ər/ [ˈfaɪə]

/r/ [ˈfʌɪɾ]??

/r/ [ˈfaɹ] or /ər/ [ˈfaɪə]

/ər/ [ˈfaɪə]

/ər/ [ˈfaɪɚ]

/ər/ [ˈfaɪɚ]

sour, hour

/souər/ [ˈsaʊə]

/souər/ [ˈsaʊə]

/souər/ [ˈsaʊə]

/sour/ [ˈsʌʊɾ]

/souər/ [ˈsʊə(ɹ)]

/souər/ [ˈsʊə]

/souər/ [ˈsʊɚ]

/souər/ [ˈsʊɚ]

(New! 11-Mar.-2016)

 

See The horse-hoarse Merger and the card-cord Merger. New! 11-Mar.-2016

 

Rs Between Vowels: To Color or Not to Color
(8-July-2013)

Okay, but what about rs in the middle of words, with a vowel on both sides? Are the vowels before the /r/ still limited to these few r-colored vowels in the dialects that color their rs? Well, no, certainly not, we can have words like rerun, payroll, and prorate. In other words, vowels that commonly occur at the end of a word, especially the historically long vowels, can freely occur before an /r/ in the middle of a word, when there is a clear syllable break before the r. Adj. 17-Dec.-2015

But what about the historically short vowels like /ă,ĕ,ĭ,ŏ,ŭ/? Surprisingly, these do occur in many dialects, especially in Britain but also in parts of eastern North America, but most Americans replace them with the r-colored vowels. Thus, the word marry is pronounced /mărē/ [ˈmɹi] by Britishers and by many speakers in the Eastern U.S., From Maine to the South (and apparently also in Montreal), and most of these speakers would pronounce the words marry, merry, and Mary with three different vowels, but most Americans pronounce all three of these exactly the same, as /mrē/ [ˈmeɹi]. This feature of allowing /ă,ĕ,ĭ,ŏ,ŭ/ to occur before /r/ in the middle of a word (but not at the end) is one of the features that makes speakers from the east coast sound different from other Americans, even in the case of radio and television personalities who have otherwise modified their speech to General American. So how many vowels can come before an r followed by another vowel? It varies hugely from one dialect to the next! Adj. 17-Dec.-2015

The following chart shows a lot of these variations, though there are certainly others. Those items in black are not r-colored in any dialect. Those items in dark red have a one-syllable r-colored vowel. Those items in orange have a two-syllable r-colored vowel sequence (these do not actually add any new distinct vowels to the system). Those items in blue are not r-colored in the indicated dialect, but are r-colored by many Americans. In each column the number and nature of the one-syllable r-colored vowels is given at the top of the column. This does not count tiring, in which the r-coloring is two syllables, not one. As always on this page, if you know for sure that I have the pronunciation of one of these words wrong, please let me know. 21-Aug.-2013

 

 

Standard British:

6 r-colored vowels:

/r,r,r,r,r,ŏŏr/

(Older and regional has

7, like Eastern

New England.)

Greater New

York City:

6 r-colored

vowels:

/r,r,r,r,r,ŏŏr/

Eastern New

England:

7 r-colored vowels:

/r,r,r,r,ȯr,r,ŏŏr/ [23]

Scottish:

No r‑colored

vowels

 

Older Southern: [24]

No distinct one‑syllable

r‑colored vowels

except sometimes /r/

 

My pattern,

General American:

6 r-colored

vowels:

/r,r,r,r,r,ŏŏr/ [25]

My wife,

West Midland:

5 r-colored

vowels:

/r,r,r,r,r/ [25]

Rerun

/rŭn/ [ˈɹiːˌɹʌn]

/rŭn/ [ˈɹiˌɹʌn]

/rŭn/ [ˈɹiˌɹʌn]

/rŭn/ [ˈɾiˌɾʌn]

 

/rŭn/ [ˈɹɪiˌɹʌn]

 

/rŭn/ [ˈɹiˌɹʌn]

/rŭn/ [ˈɹiˌɹʌn]

hero, zero, Nero

/hrō/ [ˈhɪəɹəʊ]

/hrō/ [ˈhɪəɹoʊ]

/hrō/ [ˈhɪəɹoʊ]

// [ˈhiˌɾo]

 

// [ˈhɪiˌɹəʊ]

 

/hrō/ [ˈhɪɹoʊ]

/hērō/ [ˈhiɹoʊ]

hearer, weary, nearing

/hrə/ [ˈhɪəɹə]

/hrə/ [ˈhɪəɹə]

/hrə/ [ˈhɪəɹə]

/hērər/ [ˈhiɾəɾ]

 

/hērə(r)/ [ˈhɪiɹə(ɹ)]

 

/hrər/ [ˈhɪɹɚ]

/hrər/ [ˈhɪɹɚ]

mirror, miracle, pirouette

/mĭrə/ [ˈmɪɹə]

/mĭrə/ [ˈmɪɹə]

/mĭrə/ [ˈmɪɹə]

/mĭrər/ [ˈmɪɾəɾ]

 

/mĭrə/ [ˈmiəɹə]

 

/mrər/ [ˈmɪɹɚ]

/mrər/ [ˈmɪɹɚ]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

payroll

/rōl/ [ˈpʰeɪˌɹəʊl]

/rōl/ [ˈpʰeɪˌɹoʊl]

/rōl/ [ˈpʰeɪˌɹoʊl]

/rōl/ [ˈpʰeˌɾol]

 

/rōl/ [ˈpʰɛɪˌɹəʊl]

 

/rōl/ [ˈpʰeɪˌɹoʊl]

/rōl/ [ˈpʰeɪˌɹoʊl]

Mary, vary, Sarah, pharaoh

/mrĭ/ [ˈmɛəɹɪ]

/mrē/ [ˈmeəɹi]

/mrē/ [ˈmeəɹi]

/rĭ/ [ˈmeɾɪ]

 

/rĭ/ [ˈmɛɪɹɪ]

 

/mrē/ [ˈmeɹi]

/mrē/ [ˈmeɹi]

scary, hairy, parent, caring

/skrĭ/ [ˈskɛəɹɪ]

/skrē/ [ˈskeəɹi]

/skrē/ [ˈskeəɹi]

/skārĭ/ [ˈskeɾɪ]

 

/skărĭ/ [ˈskɹɪ]

 

/skrē/ [ˈskeɹi]

/skrē/ [ˈskeɹi]

merry, very, heritage

/mĕrĭ/ [ˈmeɹɪ]

/mĕrē/ [ˈmɛɹi]

/mĕrē/ [ˈmɛɹi]

/mĕrĭ/ [ˈmɛɾɪ]

 

/mĕrĭ/ [ˈmeɹɪ]

 

/mrē/ [ˈmeɹi]

/mrē/ [ˈmeɹi]

marry, Harry, narrow, parish

/mărĭ/ [ˈmɹɪ]

/mărē/ [ˈmɹi]

/mărē/ [ˈmɹi]

/mărĭ/ [ˈmaɾɪ]

 

/mărĭ/ [ˈmɹɪ]

 

/mrē/ [ˈmeɹi]

/mrē/ [ˈmeɹi]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

starry, sparring

/strĭ/ [ˈstɑːɹɪ]

/strē/ [ˈstɑəɹi]

/strē/ [ˈstaɹi]

/stărĭ/ [ˈstaɾɪ]

 

/strĭ/ [ˈstɑɹɪ]

 

/strē/ [ˈstɑɹi]

/strē/ [ˈstɑɹi]

sorry, borrow

/sŏrĭ/ [ˈsɔɹɪ]

/sŏrē/ [ˈsaɹi]

/srē/ [ˈsɒəɹi]

/sŏrĭ/ [ˈsɔɾɪ]

 

/srĭ/ [ˈsɑɹɪ]

 

/srē/ [ˈsɑɹi]

/srē/ [ˈsɑɹi]

foreign, coral, horrible, Florida

/fŏrĭn/ [ˈfɔɹɪn]

/fŏrən/ [ˈfaɹən]

/frən/ [ˈfɒəɹən]

/fŏrən/ [ˈfɔɾən]

 

/frən/ [ˈfɑɹən]

 

/fȯrən/ [ˈfoɹən]

/fȯrən/ [ˈfoɹən]

drawing, sawing[27]

/drrĭng/ [ˈdɹoːɹɪŋ]

/drrĭng/ [ˈdɹoəɹɪŋ]