Open Access Articles- Top Results for Upper Midwest American English

Upper Midwest American English

Upper Midwest American English
Region Upper Midwest
Native speakers
(no estimate available)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None

The Upper Midwest (or North Central) is an American English dialect region that includes the Upper Midwestern United States, while excluding the dialect of the geographically overlapping Inland North region and areas to its east.[1] This dialect region includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, parts of Iowa, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and eastern Montana.

Its pronunciation quality is popularly (though narrowly) called a Minnesota accent. It is considered a residual region, distinct from the neighboring regions of the West, the North, and Canada.[2]


Not all of these characteristics are unique to the North Central region.


  • /uː/ and /oʊ/ are "conservative", and are often not fronted to [u̟] or [öʊ̯], as they are in many other dialects.
  • /eɪ/ and /oʊ/ are sometimes pronounced as a monophthong, either short or long: [e~eː], [o~oː]. /oʊ/ is more commonly pronounced as a monophthong than /eɪ/, and a monophthong is more common in coat than in ago or road, which indicates phonological conditioning. Monophthongs are more common in the northern states like Minnesota and the Dakotas than in Iowa and Nebraska.[1]
  • In the Dakotas and Minnesota, the near-close vowel Listeni/æ/ is raised (/æ/ tensing) before voiced velars /ɡ/ and /ŋ/ to open-mid [ɛ] or close-mid [e], or to a diphthong like [eɪ]. Thus, the vowel in bag and magazine /ˈbæg mægəziːn/ is similar to the vowel in beg /ˈbɛg/ or the vowel in the first syllable of bagel /ˈbeɪgəl/. The vowels of flag, lag, sag, tag often merge with those of plague and vague, so that these words rhyme. The same change occurs in longer words like magazine, dragon, and agriculture.[2]
  • Canadian raising, by which the first part of the diphthongs /aɪ aʊ/ is raised to [ɐ] or [ə] in certain words, is found in this region. Raising of /aɪ/ is more common than raising of /aʊ/.[3] Raising mostly occurs before voiceless consonants, but sometimes before voiced consonants, in words like fire, tiger, and spider.[4] Raising of /aʊ/ is less common, and may result in a diphthong like [oʊ].
  • The diphthong /aʊ/, when not subject to raising, often starts with a back vowel: [ɑʊ].
  • The cot–caught merger is common throughout the region.[2]
  • The vowels of roof and root, usually pronounced as /ˈruf ˈrut/, with the same vowel as boot, are sometimes shortened and pronounced with /ʊ/, the same vowel as foot. This change occurs in other dialects.
  • Mary–marry–merry merger: Words containing /æ/, /ɛ/, or /eɪ/ before an r and a vowel are all pronounced [ɛɹ], so that Mary, marry, and merry all rhyme with each other, and have the same first vowel as Sharon, Sarah, and bearing. This merger is widespread throughout the Midwest, West, and Canada.
  • There is no pen–pin merger[citation needed] or Canadian shift.[2]


  • North Central speech is rhotic.


Traces of a pitch accent as in Norwegian persist in some areas of heavy Norwegian or Swedish settlement, and among people who grew up in those areas, some of whom are not of Scandinavian descent.


The appearance of monophthongs in this region is sometimes explained as a consequence of the high degree of Scandinavian and German immigration to these northern states in the late nineteenth century. Erik R. Thomas argues that these monophthongs are the product of language contact and notes that other areas where they occur are places where speakers of other languages have had an influence such as the Pennsylvania "Dutch" region.[5] An alternative account posits that these monophthongal variants represent historical retentions. Diphthongization of the mid vowels seems to have been a relatively recent phenomenon, appearing within the last few centuries, and did not affect all dialects in the U.K. The monophthongs heard in this region may stem from the influence of Scots-Irish or other British dialects that maintain such forms. The fact that the monophthongs also appear in Canadian English may lend support to this account since Scots-Irish speech is known as an important influence in Canada.


In this dialect, the preposition with is used without an object as an adverb in phrases like come with, as in Do you want to come with? for standard Do you want to come with me? or with us?. In standard English, other prepositions can be used as adverbs, like go down (down as adverb) for go down the stairs (down as preposition). With is not typically used in this way in standard English, and this feature likely came from languages spoken by immigrants, such as German, Norwegian, Swedish, or Dutch, all of which have this construction, like Swedish kom med.[6][7]

Also, sometimes the comparative form of adjectives are used in place of the root form of the adjective (e.g., saying "the sky is bluer" when the person means "the sky is blue" is common in Minnesota).[citation needed]


Notable lifelong native speakers

See also


  1. ^ a b Allen, Harold B. (1973). The Linguistic Atlas of the Upper Midwest. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-0686-2. 
  2. ^ a b c d Labov, William; Sharon Ash,, Charles Boberg (2006). The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016746-8. 
  3. ^ Kurath, Hans; Raven I. McDavid (1961). The Pronunciation of English in the Atlantic States. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-8173-0129-1. 
  4. ^ Vance, Timothy J. (1987). ""Canadian Raising" in Some Dialects of the Northern United States". American Speech (Durham, NC: Duke University Press) 62 (3): 195–210. JSTOR 454805. doi:10.2307/454805. 
  5. ^ Thomas, Erik R. (2001). An Acoustic Analysis of Vowel Variation in New World English. Publication of the American Dialect Society 85. Durham: Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-6494-8
  6. ^ Spartz, John M (2008). Do you want to come with?: A cross-dialectal, multi-field, variationist investigation of with as particle selected by motion verbs in the Minnesota dialect of English (Ph.D.). Purdue University. 
  7. ^ Heidi Stevens (December 8, 2010). "What's with 'come with'? Investigating the origins (and proper use) of this and other Midwesternisms". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 

Further reading