North American English

North American English (NAmE, NAE) is the most generalized variety of the English language as spoken in the United States and Canada.[2] Because of their related histories and cultures[3] and the similarities between the pronunciation, vocabulary, and accent of American English and Canadian English, the two spoken varieties are often grouped together under a single category.[4][5] Due to historical and cultural factors, Canadian English and American English can be distinguished from each other, with the differences being most noticeable in the two languages' written forms. Canadian spellings are primarily based on British usage as a result of Canada's longer-standing connections with the United Kingdom. Canadians are generally tolerant of both British and American spellings, with British spellings being favored in more formal settings and in Canadian print media.[6] Spellings in American English have been highly influenced by lexicographers like Noah Webster, who sought to create a standardized form of English that was independent of British English.[7] Despite these differences, the dialects of both Canada and the United States are similar. The United Empire Loyalists who fled the American Revolution (1765–1783) have had a large influence on Canadian English from its early roots.[8]

North American English
RegionNorthern America (United States, Canada)
DialectsAmerican English, Canadian English and their subdivisions
Latin (English alphabet)
Unified English Braille[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Some terms in North American English are used almost exclusively in Canada and the United States (for example, the terms diaper and gasoline are widely used instead of nappy and petrol). Although many English speakers from outside North America regard such terms as distinct Americanisms, they are often just as common in Canada, mainly due to the effects of heavy cross-border trade and cultural penetration by the American mass media.[9] The list of divergent words becomes longer if considering regional Canadian dialects, especially as spoken in the Atlantic provinces and parts of Vancouver Island where significant pockets of British culture still remain.

There are a considerable number of different accents within the regions of both the United States and Canada, originally deriving from the accents prevalent in different English, Scottish and Irish regions of the British Isles and corresponding to settlement patterns of these peoples in the colonies. These were developed and built upon as new waves of immigration, and migration across the North American continent, brought new accents and dialects to new areas, and as these ways of speaking merged and assimilated with the population. It is claimed that despite the centuries of linguistic changes there is still a resemblance between the English East Anglia accents which would have been used by early English settlers in New England (including the Pilgrims), and modern Northeastern United States accents.[10] Similarly, the accents of Newfoundland have some similarities to the accents of Scotland and Ireland.


American English

Ethnic American English

Regional American English

Canadian English

Table of dialects

Below, twelve major North American dialects are defined by particular accent characteristics. (Unmentioned below, Standard Canadian English is differentiated from Western U.S. English primarily by the Canadian Vowel Shift):

DialectMost populous
urban center
// fronting// fronting// fronting/ɑːr/ fronting/æ/ split systemcot–caught mergerpin–pen merger
African Americanmaybenonononotransitionalyes [12]
Atlantic CanadianHalifaxsomewhatnoyesyesnoyesno
Inland Northern AmericanChicagonononovariablenonono
Mid-Atlantic AmericanPhiladelphiayesyesyesnoyesnono
Midland AmericanIndianapolisyesyesyesnonotransitionaltransitional
New York CityNew York Cityyes[13]no[13]no[13]noyesnono
Northern New EnglandBostonnononoyesnoyesno
North-Central AmericanMinneapolisnononononoyesno
Southern AmericanHoustonyesyesyesnonotransitionalyes[14]
Western American


Standard Canadian

Los Angeles,


Western PennsylvaniaPittsburghyesyesyesnonoyestransitional


A majority of North American English (for example, in contrast to British English) includes phonological features that concern consonants, such as rhoticity (full pronunciation of all /r/ sounds), conditioned T-glottalization (with satin pronounced [ˈsæʔn̩], not [ˈsætn̩]), T- and D-flapping (with metal and medal pronounced the same, as [ˈmɛɾɫ̩]), L-velarization (with filling pronounced [ˈfɪɫɪŋ], not [ˈfɪlɪŋ]), as well as features that concern vowel sounds, such as various vowel mergers before /r/ (so that, Mary, marry, and merry are all commonly pronounced the same), raising of pre-voiceless /aɪ/ (with price and bright using a higher vowel sound than prize and bride), the weak vowel merger (with affected and effected often pronounced the same), at least one of the LOT vowel mergers (the LOTPALM merger is completed among virtually all Americans and the LOTTHOUGHT merger among nearly half, while both are completed among virtually all Canadians), and yod-dropping (with new pronounced /nu/, not /nju/). The last item is more advanced in American English than Canadian English.

See also


  1. "Unified English Braille (UEB)". Braille Authority of North America (BANA). 2 November 2016. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  2. Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms
  3. Chambers, J.K. (1998). "Canadian English: 250 Years in the Making". The Canadian Oxford Dictionary (2nd ed.). p. xi.
  4. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006)
  5. Trudgill, Peter & Jean Hannah. (2002). International English: A Guide to the Varieties of Standard English, 4th. London: Arnold. ISBN 0-340-80834-9 .
  6. Patti Tasko. (2004). The Canadian Press Stylebook: A Guide for Writers and Editors, 13th. Toronto: The Canadian Press. ISBN 0-920009-32-8, p. 308.
  7. "Noah Webster's Spelling Reform," (2011) Merriam-Webster Online
  8. M.H. Scargill. (1957). "Sources of Canadian English", The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 56.4, pp. 610-614.
  9. John Woitkowitz (2012). "Arctic Sovereignty and the Cold War: Asymmetry, Interdependence, and Ambiguity". Retrieved 2012-03-13.
  10. Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, David Hackett Fischer, 1989.
  11. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:148)
  12. Labov (1972), p. 19.
  13. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 166
  14. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 137


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