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American and British English pronunciation differences: Map

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Differences in pronunciation between American English (AmE) and British English (BrE) can be divided into:

In the following discussion
  • superscript A2 after a word indicates the BrE pronunciation of the word is a common variant in AmE
  • superscript B2 after a word indicates the AmE pronunciation of the word is a common variant in BrE


Stress

French stress

For many loanwords from French where AmE has final-syllable stress, BrE stresses an earlier syllable. Such words include:
  • BrE first-syllable stress: adultA2,B2, balletA2, baton, beret, bidet, blasé, brevetA2, brochureB2, buffet, caféA2, canardB2, chagrin, chaletA2, chauffeurA2,B2, chiffon, clichéB2, coupé, croissant, debrisB2, debut, décor, detailA2, détenteB2, flambé, frappé, garageB2, gateau, gourmetA2, lamé, montageA2, parquet, pastel, pastille, pâté, précis, sachet, salon, soupçon, vaccine; matinée, négligée, nonchalant, nondescript; also some French names, including BernardB2, Calaismarker, Degas, Dijonmarker, Dumas, Francoise, ManetA2, Maurice, MonetA2, Pauline, Renault, RenéB2, Renoir, Rimbaud, DelacroixB2.
  • BrE second-syllable stress: attaché, consommé, décolleté, déclassé, De Beauvoir, Debussy, démodé, denouement, distingué, Dubonnet, escargot, fiancé(e), retroussé
A few French words have other stress differences:
  • AmE first-syllable, BrE last-syllable: addressA2 (postal), m(o)ustacheA2; cigaretteA2, limousineB2, magazineB2,
  • AmE first-syllable, BrE second-syllable: exposéB2, liaisonA2, macramé, Renaissance
  • AmE second-syllable, BrE last-syllable: New Orleansmarker


-ate and -atory

Most 2-syllable verbs ending -ate have first-syllable stress in AmE and second-syllable stress in BrE. This includes castrate, dictateA2, donateA2, locateA2, mandateB2, migrate, placate, prostrate, pulsate, rotate, serrateB2, spectate, striated, translateA2, vacate, vibrate; in the case of cremate, narrate, placate, the first vowel is in addition reduced to in BrE. Examples where AmE and BrE match include create, debate, equate, elate, negate, orate, relate with second-syllable stress; and mandate and probate with first-syllable stress. Derived nouns in -ator may retain the distinction, but those in -ation do not. Also, migratoryA2 and vibratory retain the distinction.

Most longer -ate verbs are pronounced the same in AmE and BrE, but a few have first-syllable stress in BrE and second-syllable stress in AmE: elongate, infiltrateA2, remonstrate, tergiversate. However, some derived adjectives ending -atory have a difference, as stress shifting to -at- can occur in BrE. Among these cases are regulatoryB2, celebratoryA2, participatoryB2, where AmE stresses the same syllable as the corresponding -ate verb; and compensatory, where AmE stresses the second syllable.

A further -atory difference is laboratory: AmE and BrE .

Miscellaneous stress

There are a number of cases where same-spelled noun, verb and/or adjective have uniform stress in one dialect but distinct stress in the other (e.g. alternate, prospect): see initial-stress-derived noun.

The following table lists words where the only difference between AmE and BrE is in stress (possibly with a consequent reduction of the unstressed vowel). Words with other points of difference are listed in a later table.
BrE AmE words with relevant syllable stressed in each dialect
1st 2nd caffeine, cannotA2, casein, Kathleen, SuezmarkerA2, communal, escalopeB2, harass, omega, paprikaB2, patina, subaltern, stalactite, stalagmite, ThanksgivingB2, transference, aristocratA2,B2, kilometre/kilometerB2
2nd 1st defense (sport), guffawA2, ice creamA2,B2, guru, mama, papa, pretense, princessA2,B2, weekendB2, Canton, anginaA2, Augustine, Bushido, Ghanaianmarker, LofotenB2, marshmallow, patronal, spread-eagle, controversy, formidableB2, hospitableB2, miscellany, predicative, saxophonistB2, submariner, ancillary, capillary, catenary, corollary, fritillary, medullary
1st 3rd ParmesanB2, partisan, premature, opportune, carburet(t)or
3rd 1st margarine, PyreneesmarkerB2, cockatoo
2nd 3rd advertisement
3rd 2nd arytenoidA2, oregano, obscurantist


Affixes

-ary -ery -ory -bury, -berry, -mony

Where the syllable preceding -ary,-ery or -ory is stressed, AmE and BrE alike pronounce all these endings . Where the preceding syllable is unstressed, however, AmE has a full vowel rather than schwa: for -ary and -ery and for -ory. BrE retains the reduced vowel , or even elides it completely to . (The elision is avoided in carefully enunciated speech, especially with endings -rary,-rery,-rory.) So military is AmE and BrE or .

Note that stress differences occur with ending -atory (explained above) and a few others like capillary (included above). A few words have the full vowel in AmE in the ending even though the preceding syllable is stressed: library, primaryA2, rosemary. Pronouncing library as rather than is highly stigmatized in AmE, whereas in BrE, is common in rapid or casual speech.

Formerly the BrE-AmE distinction for adjectives carried over to corresponding adverbs ending -arily, -erily or -orily. However, nowadays most BrE speakers adopt the AmE practice of shifting the stress to the antepenultimate syllable: militarily is thus rather than .

The placename component -bury (e.g. Canterburymarker) has a similar difference after a stressed syllable: AmE and BrE or . The ending -mony after a stressed syllable is AmE but BrE . The word -berry in compounds has a slightly different distinction: in BrE, it is reduced ( or ) after a stressed syllable, and may be full after an unstressed syllable; in AmE it is usually full in all cases. Thus, strawberry is BrE but AmE , while whortleberry is BrE and similarly AmE .

-ile

Words ending in unstressed -ile derived from Latin adjectives ending -ilis are mostly pronounced with a full vowel ( ) in BrE but a reduced vowel or syllabic in AmE (e.g. fertile rhymes with fur tile in BrE but with turtle in AmE). This difference applies:
  • generally to agile, docile, facile, fertile, fissile, fragile, futile, infertile, missile, nubile, octile, puerile, rutile, servile, stabile, sterile, tactile, tensile, virile, volatile;
  • usually to ductile, hostile, (im)mobile (adjective), projectile, textile, utile, versatile;
  • not usually to decile, domicile, infantile, juvenile, labile, mercantile, pensile, reptile, senile;
  • not to crocodile, exile, gentile, percentile, reconcile; nor to compounds of monosyllables (e.g. turnstile from stile).
Related endings -ility, -ilize, -iliary are pronounced the same in AmE as BrE. The name Savile is pronounced with ( ) in both BrE and AmE. Mobile (sculpture), camomile and febrile are sometimes pronounced with in AmE and ) in BrE. Imbecile has or in BrE and often in AmE.

-ine

The suffix -ine, when unstressed, is pronounced sometimes (e.g. feline), sometimes (e.g. morphine) and sometimes (e.g. medicine). Some words have variable pronunciation within BrE, or within AmE, or between BrE and AmE. Generally, AmE is more likely to favour or , and BrE to favour : e.g. adamantineA2, carbine, crystallineA2, labyrinthine, philistine, serpentineA2, turbineA2. However, sometimes AmE has where BrE has ; e.g. iodineB2, strychnineA2.

Weak forms

Some function words have a weak form in AmE, with a reduced vowel used when the word is unstressed, but always use the full vowel in RP. These include: or ; you ; your .

On the other hand, the titles Saint and Sir before a person's name have "weak forms" in BrE but not AmE:before vowels, and ; before consonants, and .

Miscellaneous pronunciation differences

These tables list words pronounced differently but spelled the same. See also the table of words with different pronunciation reflected in the spelling.

Single differences

Words with multiple points of difference of pronunciation are in the table after this one. Accent-based differences are ignored. For example, Moscow is RP and GAm , but only the - difference is highlighted here, since the - difference is predictable from the accent. Also, ti'ara is listed with AmE ; the marry-merry-Mary merger changes this vowel for many Americans. Some AmE types are listed as where GAm merges to .

BrE AmE Words
annato, BangladeshmarkerA2, Caracasmarker, chiantiA2, Galapagosmarker, GdańskmarkerA2, grappaA2, gulagA2, HanoimarkerA2, JanA2 (male name, e.g. Jan Palach), KantA2, kebab, Las (placenames, e.g. Las Vegasmarker), Mafia, mishmashA2, MombasamarkerA2, Natasha, Nissan, Pablo, pasta, PicassoA2, ralentando, SanA2 (names outside USA; e.g. San Juan), SlovakA2, Sri LankamarkerA2, Vivaldi, wigwamA2, YasserA2 (and A in many other foreign names and loanwords)
aesthete, anaesthetize, breveA2, catenaryA2, Daedalus, devolutionA2,B2, ecumenicalB2, epochA2, evolutionA2,B2, febrileA2, Hephaestus, KenyamarkerB2, leverA2, methane, OedipusA2, (o)estrus, penalizeA2, predecessorA2, pyrethrinA2, senileA2, hygienic
Aeroflot, compost, homosexualB2, Interpolmarker, Lodmarker, pogrom, polkaB2, produce (noun), Rosh Hashanah, sconeA2,B2, shone, sojourn, trollB2, yoghurt
(Excluding trap-bath split words) banana, javaA2, khakiA2, morale, NevadamarkerA2, scenarioA2, sopranoA2, tiaraA2, Pakistani
CecilA2,B2, crematoriumA2, cretin, depot, inherentA2,B2, leisureA2, medievalA2, reconnoitreA2, zebraB2, zenithA2,B2
compatriot, patriotB2, patronise, phalanx, plait, repatriate, Sabine, satrapA2, satyrA2, basilA2 (plant)
dynasty, housewifery, idyll, livelongA2, long-livedA2, privacyB2, simultaneous, vitamin. Also the suffix -ization. See also -ine.
AussieA2, blouse, complaisantA2, crescent, erase, GlasgowmarkerA2, parse, valise, trans-A2,B2 (in some words)
amenA2, charadeB2, cicada, galaA2, promenadeA2, pro rata, tomato, stratum
codify, goffer, ogleA2, phonetician, processor, progress (noun), slothA2,B2, wont A2, wroth
accomplice, accomplish, colanderB2, constableB2, Lombardy, monetaryA2, -mongerA2
hovelA2,B2, hover. Also the strong forms of these function words: anyb'odyA2 (likewise every-, some-, and no-), becauseA2,B2 (and clipping 'cos/'cause), o'fA2, fromA2, wasA2, whatA2
(sounded) (silent) chthonic, herbA2 (plant), KnossosmarkerB2, phthisicB2, salve, solder
Berkeley, Berkshire, clerk, Derbymarker, Hertfordmarker. (The only AmE word with = is s'ergeant).
eitherA2,B2, neitherA2,B2, Pleiades. See also -ine.
albino, migraineB2. Also the prefixes anti-A2, multi-A2, semi-A2 in loose compounds (e.g. in anti-establishment, but not in antibody). See also -ine.
hexagon, octagon, paragon, pentagon, phenomenon.
eta, beta, quayA2, theta, zeta
butylB2, diverge, minorityA2,B2, primer (schoolbook). See also -ine.
ateB2 ("et" is nonstandard in America), mêlée, chaise longue
Betelgeuse, chanteuse, chartreuseA2, masseuse
apricotA2, dahlia, digitalis, patentA2,B2, comrade
(silent) (sounded) medicineB2. See also -ary -ery -ory -bury, -berry
Amos, condom, Enoch
AsiaB2, PersiamarkerB2, versionB2
borough, thorough (see also -ory and -mony)
chirrupA2, stirrupA2, sirupA2, squirrel
cassia, CassiusA2, hessian
consortium
couponA2, fuchsine, HoustonmarkerB2
boulevard, snooker, woofA2 (weaving)
connoisseurA2, entrepreneurA2
föhnB2, MöbiusB2
DraconianA2, hurricaneB2
deityA2,B2, Helene
jaguar, Nicaraguamarker
launch, saltB2
record (noun), stridorA2,B2
Frasier, Parisianmarker, Malaysiamarker
twatB2
wrath
nougat
Utahmarker
quarkA2,B2
femme fataleA2
Isaiah
nousA2
booth
cordiality
suggestA2
template
tourniquet
MadagascarmarkerA2
figureA2 for the verb
envelopeA2,B2
Kentuckymarker
trapeze
errA2
Huguenot
MoscowmarkerA2
broochA2
pi(t)taB2
beenB2
nicheA2,B2
milieu
barracuda, puma
falconA2
asthma
scheduleB2
AnthonyA2,B2
piazzaA2
kümmel
brusque
routeA2
cantaloup(e)
covertA2,B2
Dionysius
transientA2, nausea


Multiple differences

The slashes normally used to enclose IPA phonemic transcriptions have been omitted from the following table to improve legibility.

Spelling BrE IPA AmE IPA Notes
barrage (1) 

(2) 
The AmE pronunciations are for distinct senses (1) "sustained weapon-fire" vs (2) "dam, barrier" (Compare garage below.)
boehmite (1) 

(2) 
(1) 

(2) 
The first pronunciations approximate German (spelled <ö> or <oe>) ; the second ones are anglicized.
bouquet (1) 

(2) 
 
boyar (1) 

(2) 
(1) 

(2) 
 
buoy The U.S. pronunciation would be unrecognised in the UK. The British pronunciation occurs in America, more commonly for the verb than the noun, still more in derivatives buoyant, buoyancy.
cadre (1) 

(2) 
(1) 

(2) 

(3) 

(4) 
 
canton (1) 

(2) 
difference is only in military sense "to quarter soldiers"
dilettante (1) 

(2) 
BrE reflects the word's Italian origin; AmE approximates more to French.
enquiry/inquiry (1) 

(2) 
BrE uses two spellings and one pronunciation. In AmE the word is usually spelled inquiry.
febrile (1) 

(2) 
The BrE pronunciation occurs in AmE
fracas (1) 

(2) 
The BrE plural is French fracas ; the AmE plural is anglicized fracases
garage (1) 

(2) 
The AmE reflects French stress difference. The two BrE pronunciations may represent distinct meanings for some speakers; for example, "a subterranean garage for a car" (1) vs "a petrol garage" (2). (Compare barrage above.)
glacier (1) 

(2) 
 
jalousie (1) 

(2) 
 
lapsang souchong  
lasso The BrE pronunciation is common in AmE
lieutenant (1) 

(2) 
The 2nd British pronunciation is restricted to the Royal Navy. Standard Canadian pronunciation is the same as the British.
lychee Spelling litchi has pronunciation
Molière  
oblique AmE is as BrE except in military sense "advance at an angle"
penchant The AmE pronunciation is anglicized; the BrE is French.
penult (1) 

(2) 
 
premier (1) 

(2) 
(1) 

(2) 
 
première (1) 

(2) 
 
provost (1) 

(2) 
The BrE pronunciation also occurs in AmE
quinine (1) 

(2) 
 
resource (1) 

(2) 
 
respite (1) 

(2) 
 
reveille  
slough sense "bog"; in metaphorical sense "gloom", the BrE pronunciation is common in AmE. Homograph "cast off skin" is everywhere.
Tunisiamarker (1) 

(2) 
 
untoward (1) 

(2) 
 
vase (1) 

(2) 
The BrE pronunciation also occurs in AmE
z (the letter) The spelling of this letter as a word corresponds to the pronunciation: thus Commonwealth (including, usually, Canada) zed and U.S. (and, occasionally, Canada) zee.


References




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