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General American Pronunciation

Taking into consideration American English variant it’s important to mention that the sociolinguistic situation in the USA is very complicated. It’s moulded by certain linguistic, cultural, historic, demographic, geographic, political and other factors. But in spite of that fact that there are different languages on the same territory, the balance is more in favour of American English. American English shows a lesser degree of dialect that British English due to some historical factors: the existence of Standard English when first English settlers came to America, the high mobility of population, internal migrations of different communities and so on.

In the United States there may be distinguished three main types of cultivated speech: Eastern type, the Southern type, Western or General American.

The Eastern type is spoken along the east coast of New England and largely in New York City. This type of American pronunciation bears a close resemblance to the Southern English type, which is explained by the fact, that the New England States were in closer contact with Britain during the colonization of America and reflected the changes, which had taken place in the pronunciation of London English by the end of the 18 century.

There are, however, some slight differences between the Eastern American type and RP. One of these is the use of a more advanced allophone of the /a:/ phoneme than in RP: a vowel sound intermediate between [æ] and [a:] and similar to the nucleus of the RP diphthong [aυ],e.g. [a˙sk] (ask), [d˙ans] (dance), [la˙f] (laugh).

The Southern type of American pronunciation is used in the south and southeast of the United States. Its most striking distinctive feature is the so-called Southern drawl, which is a specific way of pronouncing vowels, consisting in the diphthongization and even triphthongization at the expense of prolonging (“drawling”) their nuclei and dropping the glides. Thus, that may be pronounced
[ ðæiət] this – [ ðijǝs], cute – [kjuǝt], yes – [jeiǝs], fine – [fa:n], high – [ha:]. Southern American pronunciation has some features in common with RP: the dropping of [r], after [ɜ:], and [ə], the use of clear [l] before a vowel and some others.

The most widespread type of educated American speech is, however, neither the Eastern, nor the Southern. It is the type variously named Western, Midwestern, Central Western or General American (GA). It is not only the most widespread type, but also, like RP in Great Britain, the least regional in character. The close resemblance it has with the Northern British pronunciation. But this fact should not be interpreted as indicating that American English is a dialect of that type of British English. The close resemblance between two types of English pronunciation rather points to the fact that both of them are parallel developments form, or descendants of earlier standard London English.

General American is widely spread in the central Atlantic States: New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin…General American pronunciation is known to be the pronunciation standard of the USA. There are some reasons for it. General American is the form of speech used by the radio and television. It’s mostly used in scientific, cultural and business intercourse. Also in two important business centres – New York and St. Louis –GA is the prevailing form of speech and pronunciation, through New York is situated within the territory where Eastern American is spoken, and St. Louis is within the region of Southern American.

The global innovative processes, that are typical for modern English, reflect the linguistic reality in the system of pronunciation. So, this article helps to know more about the way of language development, gives a possibility to broaden knowledge about Received Pronunciation and General American Pronunciation and finally gives its readers additional information which is subject for further scientific investigations.


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