English language prevalence in the
Darker shades of blue indicate higher concentrations of native
English speakers in the corresponding states.
[[Image:USA State Languages.svg|thumb|Official language status of
states and territories.
is the language code
, as defined by ISO
(see ISO 639-1
and ISO 3166-1 alpha-2
) and Internet standards
(see IETF language tag
). also known as
United States English
, or U.S.
English) is a set of
dialects of the English language used mostly in the
States. Approximately two thirds of native speakers of English live in the
English is the most common language in the United States. Though
the U.S. federal
has no official language, English is considered the
, "in practice but not
necessarily ordained by law", language of the United States because
of its widespread use. English has been given official status by 30
of the 50 state governments.
The use of English in the United States was inherited from British colonization
The first wave of English-speaking settlers arrived in North
America in the 17th century. During that time, there were also speakers in
North America of Spanish, French, Dutch,
German, Norwegian, Swedish, Scots, Welsh,
Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Finnish, Russian (Alaska) and
numerous Native American
In many ways, compared to English English
, North American
English is conservative in its phonology
Some distinctive accents can be found on the East Coast
(for example, in
Eastern New England and New York City), partly because these areas
were in contact with England, and imitated prestigious varieties of
British English at a time when those varieties were undergoing
changes. In addition, many speech communities on the East Coast
have existed in their present locations longer than others. The
interior of the United States, however, was settled by people from
all regions of the existing United States and, therefore, developed
a far more generic linguistic pattern.
Most North American speech is rhotic
, as English was in most
places in the 17th century. Rhoticity was further supported by
and Scottish English
as well as the fact most
regions of England at this time also had rhotic accents. In most
varieties of North American English, the sound corresponding to the
is a retroflex
or alveolar approximant
rather than a
trill or a tap. The loss of syllable-final r
America is confined mostly to the accents of eastern New England
, New York City
areas and the coastal portions of the South
, and African American Vernacular
. In rural tidewater Virginia and eastern New England, 'r' is non-rhotic in accented (such as "bird",
"work", "first", "birthday") as well as unaccented syllables,
although this is declining among the younger generation of
Dropping of syllable-final r
happens in natively rhotic dialects if r
is located in
unaccented syllables or words and the next syllable or word begins
in a consonant. In England, the lost r
was often changed
), giving rise to a new class of
. Furthermore, the
sound of f'
, is realized in AmE as a monophthongal r-colored vowel
(stressed or unstressed as
represented in the IPA
). This does not happen
in the non-rhotic varieties of North American speech.
Some other English English changes in which most North American
dialects do not participate:
- The shift of to (the so-called "broad
A") before alone or preceded by a homorganic nasal. This is the difference between
the British Received
Pronunciation and American pronunciation of bath and
dance. In the United States, only eastern New England
speakers took up this modification, although even there it is
becoming increasingly rare.
- The realization of intervocalic as a glottal stop (as in for
bottle). This change is not universal for British English
and is not considered a feature of Received Pronunciation. This is not a
property of most North American dialects. Newfoundland English is a notable
On the other hand, North American English has undergone some sound
changes not found in the standard varieties of English speech:
merger of and , making father and bother
rhyme. This change is nearly universal in North American English,
occurring almost everywhere except for parts of eastern New
England, hence the Boston accent.
- The merger of and . This is the so-called cot-caught
merger, where cot and caught are homophones. This change has occurred in eastern New
England, in Pittsburgh and
surrounding areas, and from the Great Plains westward.
- For speakers who do not merge caught and cot:
The replacement of the cot vowel with the caught
vowel before voiceless
fricatives (as in cloth, off [which is found in some
old-fashioned varieties of RP]), as well as before (as in
strong, long), usually in gone, often in
on, and irregularly before (log, hog, dog, fog
[which is not found in British English at all]).
- The replacement of the lot vowel with the
strut vowel in most utterances of the words was, of,
from, what and in many utterances of the words everybody,
nobody, somebody, anybody; the word because has
either or ; want has normally or , sometimes .
merger before intervocalic . Which vowels are affected varies
between dialects, but the
hurry-furry mergers are all widespread. Another such change is
the laxing of , and to , and before , causing pronunciations like ,
and for pair, peer and pure. The resulting sound
is often further reduced to , especially after palatals, so that cure, pure,
mature and sure rhyme with fir.
of is more extensive than in RP. In most North American
accents, is dropped after all alveolar and interdental consonant, so
that new, duke, Tuesday,resume are pronounced , , , .
in environments that vary widely from accent to accent; for
example, for many speakers, is approximately realized as before
nasal consonants. In some accents,
particularly those from Philadelphia to New York
City, and can even contrast sometimes, as in Yes, I
'can vs. tin 'can
- The flapping of intervocalic and to
alveolar tap before unstressed vowels
(as in bu'tter,
party) and syllabic
(bottle), as well as at the end of a word
or morpheme before any vowel (what
whatever). Thus, for
most speakers, pairs such as ladder/latter, metal/medal,
and coating/coding are pronounced the
same. For many speakers, this merger is
incomplete and does not occur after ; these speakers tend to
pronounce writer with and rider with
. This is a form of Canadian raising but, unlike more extreme
forms of that process, does not affect .
In some areas and idiolects, a phonemic distinction
between what elsewhere become homophones through this process is
maintained by vowel lengthening in the vowel preceding the formerly
voiced consonant, e.g., [læ:·ɾɹ̩] for "ladder" as opposed
to [læ·ɾɹ̩] for "latter".
- Both intervocalic and may be realized as or , rarely making
winter and winner homophones. Most areas in which
/nt/ is reduced to /n/, it is accompanied further by nasalization
of simple post-vocalic /n/, so that V/nt/ and V/n/ remain
phonemically distinct. In such cases, the preceding vowel becomes
nasalized, and is followed in cases where the former /nt/ was
present, by a distinct /n/. This stop-absorption by the preceding
nasal /n/ does not occur when the second syllable is stressed, as
- The pin-pen
merger, by which is raised to before nasal consonants, making
pairs like pen/pin homophonous. This merger originated in
Southern American English
but is now also sometimes found in parts of the Midwest and West as
well, especially in people with roots in the mountainous areas of
the Southeastern United
Some mergers found in most varieties of both American and British
merger of the vowels and before 'r', making pairs like
horse/hoarse, corps/core, for/four, morning/mourning, etc.
- The wine-whine merger making
pairs like wine/whine, wet/whet, Wales/whales, wear/where,
etc. homophones, in most cases eliminating
, the voiceless
labiovelar fricative. Many older varieties of southern and
western AmE still keep these distinct, but the merger appears to be
North America has given the English lexicon
many thousands of words, meanings, and phrases. Several thousand
are now used in English as spoken internationally; others, however,
died within a few years of their creation.
Creation of an American lexicon
The process of coining new lexical items started as soon as the
colonists began borrowing names for unfamiliar flora, fauna, and
topography from the Native
. Examples of such names are opossum, raccoon, squash
). Other Native American loanwords,
such as wigwam
, describe artificial objects in
common use among Native Americans. The languages of the other
colonizing nations also added to the American vocabulary; for
instance, cookie, cruller
(of a fruit) from Dutch
("carrying of boats or
goods") and (probably) gopher
; barbecue, stevedore, and
Among the earliest and most notable regular "English" additions to
the American vocabulary, dating from the early days of colonization
through the early 19th century, are terms describing the features
of the North American landscape; for instance, run, branch,
fork, snag, bluff,
(of the woods), barrens,
bottomland, notch, knob, riffle, rapids, watergap, cutoff, trail,
. Already existing words such as
creek, slough, sleet
(in later use) watershed
received new meanings that were unknown in England.
Other noteworthy American toponyms are found among loanwords; for
example, prairie, butte
Louisiana French); coulee
French, but used also in Louisiana with a different meaning);
(Dutch, Hudson Valley
The word corn
, used in England to
refer to wheat (or any cereal), came to denote the plant Zea
, the most important crop in the U.S., originally named
by the earliest
settlers; wheat, rye, barley, oats, etc. came to be collectively
referred to as grain
). Other notable farm related vocabulary
additions were the new meanings assumed by barn
(not only a building for hay and grain
storage, but also for housing livestock) and team
just the horses, but also the vehicle along with them), as well as,
in various periods, the terms range,
later applied to a house style
, derives from Mexican Spanish
; most Spanish contributions
came after the War of 1812
, with the
opening of the West. Among these are, other than toponyms,
plaza, lasso, bronco, buckaroo, rodeo;
examples of "English" additions from the
era are bad man, maverick,
("food") and Boot
from the California
came such idioms as hit pay dirt
strike it rich.
The word blizzard
originated in the West. A couple of notable late 18th century
additions are the verb belittle
and the noun bid,
both first used in writing by Thomas
With the new continent developed new forms of dwelling, and hence a
large inventory of words designating real estate concepts (land
office, lot, outlands, waterfront,
the verbs locate
relocate, betterment, addition, subdivision),
property (log cabin, adobe
in the 18th century; frame house, apartment,
tenement house, shack, shanty
in the 19th century; project,
condominium, townhouse, split-level, mobile
in the 20th century), and parts thereof
(driveway, breezeway, backyard, dooryard; clapboard, siding, trim,
family room, den;
and, in recent years, HVAC, central air, walkout
Ever since the American
, a great number of terms connected with the U.S.
political institutions have entered the language; examples are
run, gubernatorial, primary
the Civil War
and pork barrel.
Some of these are
internationally used (e.g. caucus,
gerrymander, filibuster, exit
The rise of capitalism, the development of industry and material
innovations throughout the 19th and 20th centuries were the source
of a massive stock of distinctive new words, phrases and idioms.
Typical examples are the vocabulary of railroading
(see further at rail terminology
) and transportation
terminology, ranging from
names of roads (from dirt roads
and back roads
to road infrastructure (parking lot, overpass,
and from automotive
terminology to public
(e.g. in the sentence "riding
"); such American introductions as
(from commutation ticket), concourse, to board
(a vehicle), to park,
and parallel park
(a car), double decker
or the noun
have long been used in all dialects of English.
Trades of various kinds have endowed (American) English with
household words describing jobs and occupations (bartender, longshoreman, patrolman, hobo, bouncer,
bellhop, roustabout, white collar, blue collar, employee,
[from Dutch], intern, busboy, mortician, senior citizen),
workplaces (department store,
supermarket, thrift store, gift
shop, drugstore, motel, main street,
gas station, hardware store, savings and loan, hock
Dutch]), as well as general concepts and innovations (automated teller machine, smart card, cash
[as at hotels], pay envelope, movie, mileage, shortage,
Already existing English words —such as store, shop, dry goods, haberdashery, lumber
— underwent shifts in meaning; some —such
as mason, student, clerk
, the verbs can
"canned goods"), ship, fix, carry, enroll
(as in school),
(as in "run a business"), release
— were given new significations, while others (such as
have retained meanings
that disappeared in England. From the world of business and finance
came breakeven, merger, delisting, downsize, disintermediation, bottom line;
from sports terminology came,
jargon aside, Monday-morning quarterback, cheap shot, game
); in the
ballpark, out of left
field, off base, hit and run,
and many other
; gamblers coined
chip, ante, bottom dollar, raw deal, pass
the buck, ace in the hole, freeze-out, showdown;
bedrock, bonanza, peter out, pan
and the verb prospect
from the noun; and
railroadmen are to be credited with make the grade, sidetrack, head-on,
and the verb
A number of Americanisms describing material
innovations remained largely confined to North America:
elevator, ground, gasoline;
many automotive terms fall in this
category, although many do not (hatchback, SUV, station wagon, tailgate, motorhome,
truck, to exhaust).
In addition to the above-mentioned loans from French, Spanish,
Mexican Spanish, Dutch, and Native American languages, other
accretions from foreign languages came with 19th and early 20th
century immigration; notably, from Yiddish (chutzpah, schmooze, tush
and such idioms as
need something like a hole in the head)
and culinary terms like
frankfurter/franks, liverwurst, sauerkraut, wiener, deli; scram, kindergarten,
(whole note, half note,
etc.); and apparently cookbook, fresh
("impudent") and what
Such constructions as Are you coming with?
I like to dance
(for "I like dancing") may also be the
result of German or Yiddish influence.
Finally, a large number of English colloquialisms from various
periods are American in origin; some have lost their American
flavor (from OK
while others have not (have a nice day, sure);
many are now
distinctly old-fashioned (swell, groovy).
words now in general use, such as hijacking, disc jockey, boost, bulldoze
originated as American slang.
Among the many English idioms of U.S. origin are get the hang
of, take for a ride, bark up the wrong tree, keep tabs, run scared,
take a backseat, have an edge over, stake a claim, take a shine to,
in on the ground floor, bite off more than one can chew, off/on the
wagon, stay put, inside track, stiff
upper lip, bad hair day, throw a
monkey wrench, under the weather, jump bail, come clean, come
again?, it ain't over till it's over, what goes around comes
and will the real x please stand up?
American English has always shown a marked tendency to use nouns as verbs
. Examples of verbed
nouns are interview, advocate, vacuum, lobby, room, pressure,
rear-end, transition, feature, profile, belly-ache, spearhead,
skyrocket, showcase, service
(as a car), corner, torch,
(as in "exit the lobby"), factor
disappeared in English around 1630 and was revived in the U.S.
three centuries later) and, out of American material,
(bribery), bad-mouth, vacation, major, backpack,
backtrack, intern, ticket
violations), hassle, blacktop,
coined in the U.S.
are for instance foothill, flatlands, badlands,
(in all senses),
(the noun), backdrop, teenager,
brainstorm, bandwagon, hitchhike,
smalltime, deadbeat, frontman, lowbrow
and highbrow, hell-bent,
foolproof, nitpick, about-face
(in all senses), fixer-upper, no-show;
many of these are phrases used as adverbs or (often) hyphenated
attributive adjectives: non-profit,
for-profit, free-for-all, ready-to-wear,
catchall, low-down, down-and-out, down and dirty, in-your-face, nip
many compound nouns and adjectives are open:
happy hour, fall
guy, capital gain, road trip, wheat pit, head start, plea bargain;
some of these are colorful
(empty nester, loan shark, ambulance chaser, buzz saw, ghetto
blaster, dust bunny),
others are euphemistic (differently abled, human resources, physically challenged,
affirmative action, correctional facility).
Many compound nouns have the form verb plus preposition:
add-on, stopover, lineup, shakedown, tryout, spin-off, rundown
("summary"), shootout, holdup, hideout,
comeback, cookout, kickback, makeover, takeover,
("decrease"), rip-off, come-on, shoo-in, fix-up,
essentially are nouned phrasal verbs
some prepositional and phrasal verbs are in fact of American origin
(spell out, figure out, hold up, brace up, size up, rope in,
back up/off/down/out, step down, miss out on, kick around, cash in,
rain out, check in
and check out
(in all senses),
("inform"), kick in
square off, sock in, sock away, factor in/out, come down with,
give up on, lay off
(from employment), run into
("meet"), stop by, pass up, put up
(money), set up
("frame"), trade in, pick up on, pick
up after, lose out.
Noun endings such as -ee (retiree), -ery (bakery), -ster
and -cian (beautician)
particularly productive. Some verbs ending in -ize
U.S. origin; for example, fetishize, prioritize, burglarize,
accessorize, itemize, editorialize, customize, notarize, weatherize, winterize, Mirandize;
and so are some back-formations (locate, fine-tune,
evolute, curate, donate, emote, upholster, peeve
Among syntactical constructions that arose in
the U.S. are as of
(with dates and times), outside of,
headed for, meet up with, back of, convince someone to…, not to be
and lack for.
Americanisms formed by alteration of existing words include notably
pesky, phony, rambunctious, pry
(as in "pry open," from
(verb), buddy, sundae, skeeter, sashay
Adjectives that arose in the U.S. are for
example, lengthy, bossy, cute
(of a child), punk
(of the weather), through
"through train," or meaning "finished"), and many colloquial forms
such as peppy
. American blends
English words that survived in the United States
A number of words and meanings that originated in Middle English
or Early Modern English
and that always
have been in everyday use in the United States dropped out in most
varieties of British English; some of these have cognates in
. Terms such as
(to mean "road surface",
where in Britain, as in Philadelphia, it is the equivalent of
"sidewalk"), faucet, diaper, candy, skillet, eyeglasses,
(for a baby),
and raise a child
are often regarded as
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". During
the 17th century, English immigration to the colonies in North America
was at its peak, and the new
settlers took their language with them, and while the term
gradually became obsolete in Britain, it became the
more common term in North America. Gotten
) is often
considered to be an Americanism, although there are some areas of
Britain, such as Lancashire and North-eastern England, that still
continue to use it and sometimes also use putten
past participle for put
(which is not done by most
speakers of American English).
Other words and meanings, to various extents, were brought back to
Britain, especially in the second half of the 20th century; these
("to employ"), quit
which spawned quitter
in the U.S.), I guess
(famously criticized by H. W. Fowler
and the adverbs overly
("currently"). Some of these, for example monkey wrench
, originated in 19th-century
The mandative subjunctive
"the City Attorney suggested that the case not be closed
is livelier in AmE than it is in British English; it appears in
some areas as a spoken usage, and is considered obligatory in
contexts that are more formal. The adjectives mad
meaning "intelligent", and sick
meaning "ill" are also more frequent in American than British
While written AmE is standardized across the country, there are
several recognizable variations in the spoken language, both in
pronunciation and in vernacular vocabulary. General American
is the name given to
any American accent that is relatively free of noticeable regional
After the Civil War
settlement of the western territories by migrants from the Eastern
U.S. led to dialect mixing and leveling, so that regional dialects
are most strongly differentiated along the Eastern seaboard
. The Connecticut River and Long Island
Sound is usually regarded as the southern/western extent
of New England speech, which has its roots in the speech of the
Puritans from East
Anglia who settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Potomac River generally divides a
group of Northern coastal dialects from the beginning of the
Coastal Southern dialect area; in between these two rivers several
local variations exist, chief among them the one that prevails in
and around New York
City and northern New Jersey, which developed on a Dutch substratum after the British conquered New
The main features of Coastal Southern speech can
be traced to the speech of the English from the West Country
who settled in Virginia after
leaving England at the time of the English Civil War
, and to the African influences
the African Americans who were enslaved in the South.
Although no longer region-specific, African American Vernacular
, which remains prevalent among African Americans
, has a close relationship
to Southern varieties of AmE and has greatly influenced everyday
speech of many Americans.
distinctive speech pattern also appears near the border between
Canada and the United States, centered on the Great Lakes region (but only on the American side).
is the Inland North
—the "standard Midwestern" speech that was the basis for
General American in the mid-20th Century (although it has been
recently modified by the northern cities vowel shift
Those not from this area frequently confuse it with the North
Midland dialect treated below, referring to both collectively as
"Midwestern" in the mid-Atlantic region or "Northern" in the
Southern US. The so-called '"Minnesotan
" dialect is also
prevalent in the cultural Upper
, and is characterized by influences from the German and
Scandinavian settlers of the region (yah for yes/ja in German,
pronounced the same way).
In the interior, the situation is very different. West of the Appalachian
Mountains begins the broad zone of what is generally called
This is divided into two discrete subdivisions, the North Midland
that begins north of the Ohio River
valley area, and the South Midland speech; sometimes the former is
designated simply "Midland" and the latter is reckoned as "Highland
Southern." The North Midland speech continues to expand
westward until it becomes the closely related Western dialect which
contains Pacific Northwest
English as well as the well-known California English, although in the
Francisco area some
older speakers do not possess the cot-caught merger and thus retain the
distinction between words such as cot and caught which reflects a
historical Mid-Atlantic heritage.
Midland or Highland Southern 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.
It is a version of the Midland
speech that has assimilated some coastal Southern forms (outsiders
often mistakenly believe South Midland speech and coastal South
speech to be the same).
The island state of Hawaii has a distinctive Hawaiian Pidgin
dialect development in the United States has been notably
influenced by the distinctive speech of such important cultural
centers as Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Charleston, New
Orleans, New York
City, and Detroit, which imposed their marks on the surrounding
Differences between British English and American English
American English and British English
(BrE) differ at the levels of phonology, phonetics, vocabulary,
and, to a lesser extent, grammar and orthography.The first large
American dictionary, An
American Dictionary of the English Language
, was written
by Noah Webster
in 1828; Webster
intended to show that the United States, which was a relatively new
country at the time, spoke a different dialect from that of
Differences in grammar are relatively minor, and normally do not
affect mutual intelligibility; these include: different use of some
(rather than notional) agreement with collective nouns
; different preferences for
the past forms of a few verbs (e.g. AmE/BrE:
and in sneak
prepositions and adverbs in certain contexts (e.g. AmE in
, BrE at school
); and whether or not a definite
article is used, in very few cases (AmE to the hospital
BrE to hospital
). 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
Differences in orthography
trivial. Some of the forms that now serve to distinguish American
from British spelling (color
, etc.) were introduced by Noah Webster himself;
others are due to spelling tendencies in Britain from the 17th
century until the present day (e.g. -ise
, although the Oxford English Dictionary still prefers
ending) and cases favored by the francophile
tastes of 19th century Victorian England
, which had little effect
on AmE (e.g. programme
AmE sometimes favors words that are morphologically
whereas BrE uses clipped forms, such as AmE transportation
and BrE transport
or where the British form is a back-formation
, such as AmE
and BrE burgle
The most noticeable differences between AmE and BrE are at the
levels of pronunciation and vocabulary.
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Rajend; & Upton, Clive (Eds.). (2004). A handbook of
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Mouton de Gruyter.
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variation in New World English. Publication of American
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(Trudgill, p. 2) is a collective term used for the varieties of the
English language that are spoken in the United States and
- Trudgill, pp. 46–47.
- Labov, p. 48.
- According to Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary,
Eleventh Edition. For speakers who merge caught and
cot, is to be understood as the vowel they have in both
caught and cot.
- , , 
- A few of these are now chiefly found, or have been more
productive, outside of the U.S.; for example, jump, "to
drive past a traffic signal;" block meaning "building,"
and center, "central point in a town" or "main area for a
particular activity" (cf. Oxford English Dictionary).
- The Maven's Word of the Day, Random House. Retrieved
February 8, 2007.
Peter (2004). New-Dialect Formation: The Inevitability of
- ,  Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary.
Retrieved April 24, 2007.
- , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 
- Trudgill, p. 69.
-             
- British author George Orwell (in English People,
1947, cited in OED s.v. lose) criticized an alleged
"American tendency" to "burden every verb with a preposition that
adds nothing to its meaning (win out, lose out,
face up to, etc.)."
- Possible entries for pavement
- A Handbook of Varieties of English,Bernd Kortmann
& Edgar W. Schneider, Walter de Gruyter, 2004, page 115
- Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary.   . Retrieved March 23, 2007.
- Cf. Trudgill, p.42.
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