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Dialects (American and Canadian)

Midland American Accents

This is a vague term that applies to the American accents that lie between North and South, in states like Missouri, Southern Indiana, Southern Illisnois, Southern Pennsylvania, Kansas, Oklahoma, and pockets of a few other states. Accents here vary a good deal, but can best be described as being a combination of Northern and Southern features.

Prominent Features:There’s enough variety here that it is hard to pin down widespread features of this dialect area.

Accent Samples:

Western American Accents

This category covers the largest amount of territory, including most of the Mountain and Western states. Accents here can vary from sounding slightly Southern (as in parts of Colorado) to having a bit of a Canadian flavor (the Pacific Northwest).

Prominent Features: The one dominant feature here is something liguists call the Cot-Caught Merger meaning that words like thoughtpaw and caught are pronounced with the same vowel as notcod and rock.

Accent Samples:

Central Canadian English

We include Canadian accents in this American accents survey because they are part of the same dialect spectrum as the US. This accent is probably closest to English on the West Coast of the United States, which is rather remarkable in the case of cities like Toronto that are hundreds of miles away from the Pacific!

Prominent Features:

  • Most features are fairly similar to General American accents, with slightly different placing of the vowels.
  • Caught-Cot Merger, as in Western American accents (see explanation in that section, above).
  • Canadian Raising: The diphthongs in words like about and right are raised before voiceless consonants. Hence about becomes something like IPA əbɐʊt and right becomes something like IPA ɹɐit (i.e. “uh-boat” and “ruh-eet”).

Accent Samples:

Eastern Canadian English

This curious dialect group can be found in the Provinces of the Atlantic Coast. Many of these dialects maintain some Scottish or Irish features, as they were first settled by these groups. The most notable of these accents is the Newfoundland Dialect, which in some cases sounds much more like an Irish accent than a North American one. Other areas in the region, however, sound more like Central/Western Canada.

Conclusion

Of course, there are many more American accents than this. These are just the largest groupings of accents. There are any number of sub-dialects that are quite unique (New Orleans, African American Vernacular English, Chicago, etc.). Hopefully this guide will serve as a good jumping off point.

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