american accent reductionLinguists divide the U.S. Map into four distinct American accent regions, each with a corresponding American dialect: the inland north, midland, or northern region, the south, and the west, according to respective vowel shift patterns–the Northern cities shift, the Southern shift, and the western low back merger.

  • Some linguists have advocated for an interpretation of the dialect map which doesn”t make clear distinctions between midland territories and instead uses the generalized terms north and south.

The cot/caught vowel merger causing both of these words to be pronounced similarly in the western and eastern part of the country has not completely taken hold in the Midwest, where each sound is distinct. This is an integral feature present in the Northern cities vowel shift as it continues to progress along the east coast of the country, thus preventing  the merger from becoming universal across all American dialects.

  • Northern shift speakers enunciate the short /a/ sound by placing the tongue near the front of the mouth, also utilizing this same procedure for the short /o/. Dialects that feature the merger pronounce this sound near the back of the throat.

Did Europe Influence the American Accent?

Both the New York and Boston American accents are influenced by received pronunciation of the non-rhotic British accent. Therefore the

[r] sound is dropped at the end of all words in which it appears unless followed immediately by a vowel.  These dialects also add an intrusive r when a word ending in a high vowel is followed consecutively by a vowel.

  • The elongated diphthong vowels in these dialects may come off with an unintended abrasiveness to those more accustomed with the mid-western accent for instance. Note how the /r/ sound is dropped on the words “parked” and” car” in  this councilman”s Boston accent.
  • Similar to the traditional southern accent, the New York accent has begun to wane in certain areas due to a population shift involving  people from out of state, while some younger children and teens have dropped the accent altogether, either because it is not spoken among their peers or they have made a conscious decision to avoid speaking like their family members.
  • There is  a perception that the new York accent varies slightly amongst its 5 boroughs. However as this video illustrates, diphthong vowels and pronounced similarly throughout the city, regardless if they are mainly pronounced in the throat or through the nose.

If you want to learn the standard American accent and you speak with a foreign accent you may want to consider private accent reduction training.  It will provide you with individualized attention as well as the tools, guidance, and feedback you would need to speak with the most neutral American accent.