American English

American English
RegionUnited States
Native speakers
225 million, all varieties of English in the United States (2010 census)[1]
25.6 million L2 speakers of English in the United States (2003)
Early forms
Latin (English alphabet)
Unified English Braille[2]
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For a guide to IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
English language prevalence in the United States. Darker shades of blue indicate higher concentrations of native English speakers in the corresponding states

American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US),[5] sometimes called United States English or U.S. English,[6][7] is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States.[8] It is considered one of the most influential dialects of English globally, including on other varieties of English.[9][10][11][12][13]

English is the most widely spoken language in the United States and is the common language used by the federal government, to the extent that all laws and compulsory education are practiced in English. Although not an officially established language of the whole country, English is the de facto official language and given official status by 32 of the 50 state governments.[14][15] As an example, while both Spanish and English have equivalent status in the local courts of Puerto Rico, under federal law, English is the official language for any matters being referred to the United States district court for the territory.[16]

The use of English in the United States is a result of British colonization of the Americas. The first wave of English-speaking settlers arrived in North America during the 17th century, followed by further migrations in the 18th and 19th centuries. Since then, American English has developed into new dialects, in some cases under the influence of successive immigration waves, especially of Europeans of diverse language backgrounds, to the United States.[11]

American English varieties form a linguistic continuum of dialects more similar to each other than to English dialects of other countries, including some common pronunciations, vocabulary, spelling, and other features found nationwide.[17] Any North American English accent perceived as free of noticeably local, ethnic, or cultural markers is popularly called "General" or "Standard" American, a fairly uniform standard of broadcast mass media and the highly educated. Otherwise, according to William Labov, with the major exception of Southern and some Inland Northern accents, regional accents throughout the country are not yielding to this standard,[18] and historical and present linguistic evidence does not support the notion of there being one single "mainstream" American accent.[19][20] On the contrary, the sound of American English continues to evolve, with some local accents disappearing, but several larger regional accents emerging.[21]


While written American English is largely standardized across the country and its dialects are mutually intelligible, there are several recognizable regional and ethnic accents and lexical differences.

Regional accents

The regional sounds of present-day American English are reportedly engaged in a complex phenomenon of "both convergence and divergence": some accents are homogenizing and levelling, while others are diversifying and deviating further away from one another.[23]

Great Lakes accents, Chicago being the largest city with these speakers, tend to front the ɑː/ vowel in the mouth and tense the short-a vowel wholesale, triggering a series of other vowel shifts in the more innovative accents of the region, which linguists call the "Inland North."[24] Great Lakes accents share that first feature with Boston accents. Both dialects, including the larger Eastern New England dialect of which Boston is the main hub, also show a back tongue positioning of: the / vowel (to [u]) and the / vowel (to [ɑʊ~äʊ]).[25] In the Northern U.S., from northern New England across the Great Lakes to Minnesota, the ɑːr/ sound tends to move forward,[26] for example appearing four times in the stereotypical Boston shibboleth Park the car in Harvard Yard.[27] Boston, Pittsburgh, Upper Midwestern, and Western accents all merge the vowels of cot versus caught,[28] a feature rapidly expanding throughout the whole country; however, a Northeastern coastal corridor passing through Rhode Island, New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore typically preserves a cot–caught distinction,[24] as depicted in popular humorous spellings of the caught vowel, as in tawk and cawfee, which intend to represent it being tense and diphthongal.[29] Eastern New England and New York City accents are the only American regional dialects with some strong degree of r-dropping (or non-rhoticity) in words like store, far, and weird,[30] though this was also once common in old Plantation Southern accents. New York City and Philadelphia/Baltimore accents are the only regions to split the short-a vowel into two distinct phonemes, using different a pronunciations for example in gap versus gas.[31]

The most marked accents of the country are New York City and Southern accents. Southern speech is defined by the / vowel losing its gliding quality to approach [aː~äː], the initiation event for a complicated Southern vowel shift, including a "Southern drawl" that makes short front vowels into distinct-sounding gliding vowels.[32] The strongest Southern sub-varieties exist in southern Appalachia and certain areas of Texas. Non-Southern Americans tend to stereotype Southern accents negatively, as "hick," "hillbilly," or "country" accents,[33] while Southerners themselves tend to have mixed judgments of their own accents, including positive associations of easygoingness and humility.[34] Southern accents, plus those spoken in the "Midland" (the vast band between the traditional dialect regions of the North and the South), tend to front the vowels of GOOSE, GOAT, MOUTH, and STRUT.

Below, ten major American English accents are defined by their particular combinations of certain vowel sounds:

Accent name Most populous urban center Strong / fronting Strong / fronting Strong / fronting Strong ɑːr/ fronting Cot–caught merger Pin–pen merger /æ/ raising system
General American No No No No Mixed No pre-nasal
Inland Northern Chicago No No No Yes No No general
Mid-Atlantic States Philadelphia Yes Yes Yes No No No split
Midland Indianapolis Yes Yes Yes No Mixed Mixed pre-nasal
New York City New York City Yes No Yes[35] No No No split
North-Central (Upper Midwestern) Minneapolis No No No Yes Yes No pre-nasal & pre-velar
Northern New England Boston No No No Yes Yes No pre-nasal
Southern Houston Yes Yes Yes No Mixed Yes Southern
Western Los Angeles No No Yes No Yes No pre-nasal
Western Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Yes Yes Yes No Yes Mixed pre-nasal

General American

In 2010, William Labov noted that Great Lakes, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and West Coast accents have undergone "vigorous new sound changes" since the mid-nineteenth century onwards, so they "are now more different from each other than they were 50 or 100 years ago", while other accents, like of New York City and Boston, have remained stable in that same time-frame.[23] However, a General American sound system also has some debated degree of influence nationwide, for example, gradually beginning to oust the regional accent in urban areas of the South and at least some in the Inland North. Rather than one particular accent, General American is best defined as an umbrella covering any American accent that does not incorporate features associated with some particular region, ethnicity, or socioeconomic group. Typical General American features include rhoticity, the father–bother merger, Mary–marry–merry merger, pre-nasal "short a" tensing, and other particular vowel sounds.[note 1] General American features are embraced most by Americans who are highly educated or in the most formal contexts, and regional accents with the most General American native features include North Midland, Western New England, and Western accents.

Other varieties

Although no longer region-specific,[36] African-American Vernacular English, which remains the native variety of most working- and middle-class African Americans, has a close relationship to Southern dialects and has greatly influenced everyday speech of many Americans, including hip hop culture. Hispanic and Latino Americans have also developed native-speaker varieties of English. The best-studied Latino Englishes are Chicano English, spoken in the West and Midwest, and New York Latino English, spoken in the New York metropolitan area. Additionally, ethnic varieties such as Yeshiva English and "Yinglish" are spoken by some American Orthodox Jews, Cajun Vernacular English by some Cajuns in southern Louisiana, and Pennsylvania Dutch English by some Pennsylvania Dutch in Pennsylvania and the Midwest. American Indian Englishes have been documented among diverse Indian tribes. The island state of Hawaii, though primarily English-speaking, is also home to a creole language known commonly as Hawaiian Pidgin, and some Hawaii residents speak English with a Pidgin-influenced accent.

Other Languages
azərbaycanca: Amerikan ingiliscəsi
Bân-lâm-gú: Bí-kok Eng-gí
brezhoneg: Saozneg SUA
한국어: 미국 영어
Bahasa Indonesia: Bahasa Inggris Amerika
interlingua: Anglese american
Nederlands: Amerikaans-Engels
norsk nynorsk: Angloamerikansk
português: Inglês americano
Simple English: American English
српски / srpski: Američki engleski jezik
Tiếng Việt: Tiếng Anh Mỹ
粵語: 美國英文
中文: 美国英语