A few months ago, we came out with an article exploring the phenomena of lexical (word) and phonological (sound) differences in the United States. Out of the 100 maps of these features, we only looked at two in depth. In this article, we’ll look at how learning what to say and where to say it, can facilitate Accent Reduction. Knowing certain linguistic features in America benefits the speaker by helping them sound like a native in the region. One would stick out like a sore thumb using ‘pop’ on the East Coast instead of ‘soda’. It’s the little things like that can make a difference!
Credit: Joshua Katz, Ph.D student who created these dialect maps
Accent Reduction: The Lexical Side of the Dialect Maps
1. you guys vs. you vs. y’all vs. you all
The phrase ‘you guys’ seems to be the overwhelming norm everywhere in the country but the south. The south then, tends to stick to “y’all” to describe a group of two or more people. Tennessee, dares to be different and uses ‘you all’ instead of the latter two.
2. sub vs. hoagie vs. hero vs. other
It seems the vast majority of the U.S. uses the term ‘sub’ to describe a long sandwich that contains cold cuts, lettuce, etc. The areas that sticks out from this are the states of Pennsylvania and (some of) New Jersey. These areas use ‘hoagie’ instead.
3. Water fountain vs. drinking fountain vs. bubbler
In the southern, eastern, and some central and midwestern parts of the United States, ‘water fountain’ would be the term to call the thing from which you might drink water in a school. On the other hand, ‘drinking fountain’ is used mostly in the western states, and Michigan. Lastly, is the ‘bubbler’ term, which is popular in eastern Wisconsin and Rhode Island.
Accent Reduction: The Phonological Side of the Dialect Maps
1. Caramel: car-mel vs. car-a-mel (vs. use both, same meaning vs. use both, different meanings)
- Two syllable (car-mel) areas: Western, Central, Midwest, and western half of the South
- Three syllable (car-a-mel) areas: most of the East coast and eastern part of the South
2. Pecan: pee-KHAN vs. pick-AHN vs. PEE-can vs. PEE-khan
- ‘Pee-KHAN’, the most popular use, shows up mainly everywhere across the United States except for New York and New England areas.
- Second most popular would be ‘PEE-can’, being used in New York, New England, and coasts of the Carolinas.
- Third most used way to say pecan is ‘pick-AHN’. A few areas of Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama say it this way.
- Lastly, are the sparse areas of northern Wisconsin, northern Minnesota, South Dakota, and Michigan (the Upper Peninsula) that pronounce it as ‘PEE-kahn’.
3. The second vowel in pajamas: /æ/ (as in jam) vs. /a/ (as in father)
While there are a few outliers, it seems that the northern half of the U.S. pronounces pajamas with the /æ/ sound (as in jam), and the southern half pronounces it with the /a/ sound (as in father).
Accent Reduction: Where to learn more about it
This is just one of our many blog articles that help educate and inform the public on Accent Reduction. If you’re interested in learning more about ways to reduce your foreign accent, check out our free Accent Reduction screening. Within 48 hours you will receive results regarding your accent on a severity scale of 1 (very heavy) to 7 (very mild) accent. If you’re looking to start on your Accent Reduction, we have office and online starter program options! Within 12 sessions, all clients have demonstrated accent reduction of 50% or more.