American English Dialect Essay

January 17, 2022 by Essay Writer


The main focus of the project is to analyse the phonological, structural and lexical features of the American dialect. This project enables one to identify the distinct features of the English language by using American English as a case study.

Data collection

The paper relies upon the use of secondary resources. It employs books, peer reviewed journals and reputable websites that focus on the American dialect. Since it was necessary to place the stated information in context, the group also used recorded videos to understand the implications of these variations in speech. The references selected are listed in the ‘Works Cited’ section of this report.


American English is one of the most heterogeneous English dialects in the world. Different regions have their own phonological, lexical and structural peculiarities. Nonetheless, some common elements exist in most of these dialects. Furthermore, one particular form of American English that has gained general acceptance in the public is the General American sub dialect (GA).

Numerous linguistics prefer using this form because it is devoid off the many distinct features that people regard as regional ones, such as the Southern or North Eastern features (Wolfram & Ward 96). Therefore, for purposes of a scholarly analysis on the paper, this report will dwell on GA.

This form of English became popular owing to its popularity of use in the mass media. Several newscasters, film stars and commercial advertisers speak General American English. Therefore, because most people look up to these news, anchors and other media personalities as language role models, then this has become the conventional American dialect. A number of people who try to learn the English language as a second language will use GA as a reference.

However, the dialect is distinct to certain regions of the country, such as the suburban Midwest. Some of the areas that speak it include Omaha, Lincoln, Iowa, Chicago, Peoria and other parts of Western Illinois (Buffet 3). A number of stereotypes have emerged concerning this mode of the English language such as GA being an accent less dialect. However, linguistic analysts know that there is no such term; all dialects are unique in their own right and do not need to be regarded as offshoots of ‘standard’ English (Roach 240).

In terms of the phonological distinctness of General American English, the group found out that the phonetic realisations associated with the phonemes were the thing that set this dialect apart. General American English lacks the short form of the vowel ‘o’. Furthermore, it tends to centre its diphthongs.

In this regard, many speakers of this dialect can turn two vowels into one as defined in the ‘cot – caught’ merger. When pronouncing the word ‘caught’, GA speakers will turn the two vowels in the middle into one sound that will closely resemble ‘ah’. In this regard, ‘caught’ and ‘cot’ are transformed into homophones by these speakers.

This dialect does not use the prolonged vowel ‘a’ in words like ‘dance’ or ‘class’. Individuals prefer the form æ in all the words that resemble ‘cat’. Therefore, many American English speakers do not place excessive importance on vowel length as other English speakers do (Borner & Nuebert 55).

Voiced flaps are also common in the allophones of American English. For instance, words, such as ‘water’ or ‘bottle’, will treat ‘t’ as an unstressed syllable, which can be replaced with the voiced flap ‘r’. The same thing happens to words, such as ‘petal’ and ‘pedal’ because their pronunciation results in sounding the same. These words usually have the letters ‘t’ and ‘d’ appearing after a vowel or they may contain a syllabic ‘l’.

Sometimes, the same voice flaps can occur when word boundaries appear at the end of a particular sentence; for example, when one says ‘put it there’. GA speakers repeat this same pattern when pronouncing words that possess ‘n’ and ‘t’ in immediate proximity to one another.

They often merge the two words ‘nt’ with the syllable ‘r’, so the words with ‘nt’ sound indistinguishable to those without them. For instance, a word like ‘winter’ will have the same pronunciation as ‘winner’. Nonetheless, the same voice flap does not occur when ‘t’ comes before ‘n’ as in ‘catnip’.

The American English language does not include onsets like /nj/, /stj/, /dj/, /sj/ and /lj/. Words that must begin with these onsets will not include /j/. In this regard, the words such as ‘tube’, ‘during’ and ‘new’ will sound like /tu:b/, /dʊrɪŋ/ and /nu:/ accordingly (Wells 50).

Another distinguishing feature about General American English is the merger of vowels in words like ‘bother’ and ‘father’. In this regard, the short form of the vowel ‘o’ in the word ‘bother’ will be likened to the broad use of ‘a’ as in /a:/ in words, such as ‘father’.

Therefore, ‘bother’ will sound phonologically similar to the word ‘father’ owing to the treatment of its vowels. It should be noted that certain mergers may be conditional in General American English. For example, these include ‘pin’ and ‘pen’. Here, the vowels ‘i’ and ‘e’ are made indistinguishable that is why the two words sound alike when pronounced.

Maintenance of coda [ɹ] is common in the words, such as ‘pearl’, ‘court’ or ‘car’. Therefore, one may say that there is a distinct phonetic pronunciation associated with this form of the English language (Boeree par 12).

In General American English, it is also recognised that words that fall in the /ɒrV/ category tend to be treated irregularly (here, /V/ is any vowel). These words include ‘Florida’, ‘quarrel’, ‘sorry’, ‘tomorrow’, ‘origin’ and ‘sorrow’. A person speaking General American English will possess /ɔɹ/ or may have /ɑɹ/ depending on the type of GE spoken (Wells 69).

These differences illustrate that even a sub dialect like General American English can also have considerable differences depending on the region under consideration. For instance, some people in Philadelphia and New Jersey will use the first form while others from other parts of the country may choose the second form.

Most speakers of the dialect tend to place greater emphasis in vowels of the word ‘strut’ and other word categories. Nonetheless, some General American speakers may treat it as an unrounded vowel. As such, it will remain a back vowel in their speech. In essence, ‘t’ will be given greater precedence than the vowel that comes before it by this group of people.

Generally speaking, the most conspicuous component of General American English is that it does not incorporate nonstandard elements of speech. Differences may arise on particular elements, but they all represent a certain kind of neutral or region-free form of English.


American English as understood through General American has numerous distinctive features. The most conspicuous ones are the use of ‘r’ in unstressed syllables of ‘t’ and ‘d’, ‘aae’ in pronunciation and exclusion of onsets in particular words. These differences, along with the others, make the American dialect unique phonologically, lexically and structurally.

Works Cited

Boeree, George. Dialects of English. Ship. 2004. Web..

Borner, Dominik & Nuebert, Eva. Phonological characteristics of American English. Munich: GRIN publishers, Print.

Buffet, Warren. Warren Buffet interview on how to read stocks. YouTube. 7 Feb. 2009. Web.

Roach, Peter. British English: received pronunciation. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34.2(2004): 239-245. Print.

Wells, John. Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. Harlow: Longman, 2000. Print.

Wolfram, Walt & Ward, Ben. American Voices: How dialects differ from coast to coast. MA: Blackwell publishers, 2006. Print.

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