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Northern American English

This article is about the variety of the English language spoken in the northern United States. For other uses, see Northern American English (disambiguation).

The English of the northern United States (Northern AmE, also rendered as Northern American English or Northern U.S. English) is a large class of American English dialects. Among the oldest and most pervasive set of American English pronunciation patterns, it broadly includes the varieties spoken in New England, New York, New Jersey, northeastern Pennsylvania, the Great Lakes region, and the Midwestern dialects that extend beyond the Mississippi across northern Iowa, Minnesota, and the Dakotas.[1]

Canadian English is believed by some scholars to have originated from northern American English,[1] or to simply be a variety of it.[2] Pacific Northwest English does not typically fall under the category of the historical "Northern" dialect region of the U.S.

Northern U.S. English is often distinguished from southern U.S. English by retaining // as a diphthong (unlike the South, which commonly monophthongizes this sound) and from Western U.S. English by mostly preserving the distinction between /ɔ/ and /ɑ/ in words like cot and caught (except in northern New England and the Upper Midwest).[3]

Phonology

Historical characteristics

The North has historically been one of the last U.S. regions to maintain the distinction between /ɔr/ and /or/, in which words like horse and hoarse or war and wore, for example, are not homophones;[4] however, the merger of the two is quickly spreading, with the only major exception now being in Boston English. [ɪ] was once a common northern U.S. sound in the word creek, but this has largely given way to [i], as in the rest of the country.[5]

Modern characteristics

Despite more recent General American influence, the northern United States has tended to maintain or develop certain sounds. In the North, [ʊ] is a somewhat more common alternative (but not the most common pronunciation) for [u] in the particular words root and roof.[6] A phenomenon known as "Canadian raising"—the lifting of the body of the tongue in both // and // before voiceless consonants (therefore, in words, like height, slight, advice, clout, ouch, lout, etc., but not in words like hide, slide, advise, cloud, gouge, loud, etc.)—is common in eastern New England, for example in Boston (and the traditional accent of Martha's Vineyard), as well as in the Upper Midwest. Raising of just // is found throughout the rest of the North, including in the Great Lakes area,[7] elsewhere in New England, and in New York City.[8] This second, more focused type of raising also appears to spreading beyond the North to many varieties of General American, as well as to California English, Philadelphia English, and the dialects of the Western United States overall.[9]

The recent Northern cities vowel shift now affects much of the North, strongly occurring around the Great Lakes region; it is therefore a defining feature of the Inland North dialect (most famously spoken in Chicago, Detroit, and western New York State).

Sub-varieties

References

  1. ^ a b "Canadian English." Brinton, Laurel J., and Fee, Marjery, ed. (2005). Ch. 12. in The Cambridge history of the English language. Volume VI: English in North America., Algeo, John, ed., pp. 422–440. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-521-26479-0, 978-0-521-26479-2. On p. 422: "It is now generally agreed that Canadian English originated as a variant of northern American English (the speech of New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania)."
  2. ^ "Canadian English." McArthur, T., ed. (2005). Concise Oxford companion to the English language, pp. 96–102. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280637-8. On p. 97: "Because CanE and AmE are so alike, some scholars have argued that in linguistic terms Canadian English is no more or less than a variety of (Northern) American English."
  3. ^ Labov, William; Sharon Ash, Charles Boberg (2006). The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. p. 133.
  4. ^ Schneider (2008:81)
  5. ^ Schneider (2008:80)
  6. ^ Schneider (2008:80)
  7. ^ Schneider (2008:81)
  8. ^ Schneider (2008:389)
  9. ^ A Handbook of Varieties of English, Bernd Kortmann & Edgar W. Schneider, Walter de Gruyter, 2004, p. 359.

Schneider, Edgar (2008). Varieties of English: The Americas and the Caribbean. Walter de Gruyter. 

See also

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