General American


General American

General American is an accent of American English within American English, General American and accents approximating it are contrasted with Southern American English, several Northeastern accents, and other distinct regional accents and social group accents like African American Vernacular English.

General American in the media

General American—like British Received Pronunciation (RP) as well as most standard language varieties of many other societies—was never the accent of the entire nation. General American is sometimes promoted as preferable to other regional accents. The well-known television journalist Linda Ellerbee, who worked hard early in her career to eliminate a Texas accent, stated, "in television you are not supposed to sound like you're "from" anywhere"; comedian Stephen Colbert worked hard as a child to reduce his South Carolina accent on account of the portrayal of Southerners as stupid on television of the day. General American is also the accent generally taught to people learning English as a second language in the United States, as well as outside the country to anyone who wishes to learn "American English." In much of Asia, for example, ESL teachers are strongly encouraged to teach American English, no matter their own origins or accents.

Regional home of General American

It is not clear where the accent originates. One fallacy is that it has its origins in the Midwestern accent. Rather the accent of the upper Midwest is distinct and quite a departure from General American English. [http://www.michigannative.com/ma_idiosyncrasies.shtml]

The Telsur Project [ [http://babel.ling.upenn.edu/phonoatlas Telsur Project home page] ] of William Labov and others examines a number of phonetic properties by which regional accents of the U.S. may be identified. The area with Midwestern regional properties is indicated on the
Nebraska (including Omaha and Lincoln), southern and central Iowa (including Des Moines), and western Illinois (including Peoria and the Quad Cities but not the Chicago area).

Since the 1960s northeastern Ohio and much of the rest of the Inland North have been affected by the Northern Cities Vowel Shift. [Harvcoltxt|Labov|Ash|Boberg|2006|p=187–208]

"The fact that the NCS is well established in Michigan is particularly interesting in light of the dominant beliefs about local speech. As research by Dennis Preston has shown, Michiganders believe they are “blessed” with a high degree of linguistic security; when surveyed, they rate their own speech as more correct and more pleasant than that of even their fellow Mid-westerners. By contrast Indianans tend to rate the speech of their state on par with that Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan. Indeed, it is not uncommon to find Michiganders who will claim that the speech of national broadcasters is modeled on their dialect. Even a cursory comparison of the speech of the network news anchors with that of the local news anchors in Detroit will reveal the fallacy of such claims.

Nevertheless, the Michiganders’ faith that they speak an accentless variety is just an extreme version of the general stereotype of Midwestern English." [http://www.pbs.org/speak/seatosea/americanvarieties/midwest/]

Particularly important in setting standards was John Kenyon, the pronunciation editor of the second edition of "Webster's New International Dictionary". [Harvcoltxt|Seabrook|2005]

Phonology

Consonants

A table containing the consonant phonemes is given below:

Characteristics

While there is not any single formal definition of General American, various features are considered to be part of it, including rhotic pronunciation, which maintains the coda IPA| [ɹ] in words like "pearl", "car", and "court". Unlike RP, General American is characterized by the merger of the vowels of words like "father" and "bother", flapping, and the reduction of vowel contrasts before IPA| [ɹ] . General American also generally has yod-dropping after alveolar consonants. Other phonemic mergers, including the cot-caught merger, the pin-pen merger, the Mary-marry-merry merger and the wine-whine merger, may be found optionally at least in informal and semiformal varieties.

One phenomenon apparently unique to General American is the [English-language vowel changes before historic r#Tory-torrent merger|behavior of words that in RP have IPA| [ɒɹV] ] where [V] stands for any vowel. These words are treated differently in different North American accents: in New York-New Jersey English they are all pronounced with IPA| [-ɑɹ-] and in Canadian English they are all pronounced with IPA| [-ɔɹ-] (thus "sorry" is pronounced by Canadians as "sore-ee"). But in General American there is a split: the majority of these words have IPA| [-ɔɹ-] , like Canadian English, but the last four words of the list below have IPA| [-ɑɹ-] , like New York-New Jersey English, for many speakers. [Harvcoltxt|Shitara|1993|p=?] Words of this class include, among others:

See also

* American English
* Pacific Northwest English
* Northern cities vowel shift
* International Phonetic Alphabet for English
* IPA chart for English
* Received Pronunciation
* Accent reduction
* Regional vocabularies of American English
* Standard Written English

External links

* [http://www.speech.cs.cmu.edu/cgi-bin/cmudict The CMU Pronouncing Dictionary]
* [http://www.hollyword.org/source/english/StyleGuide.doc Hollywords Audiovisual Industry Dictionary Project Style Guide (Includes pronunciation guides based on the American Broadcast English (ABE) accent)]

Notes

References

*Harvard reference
last=Labov
first=William
authorlink=William Labov
last2=Ash
first2=Sharon
last3=Boberg
first3=Charles
year=2006
title=The Atlas of North American English
location=Berlin
publisher=Mouton-de Gruyter
pages=187–208
ISBN=3-11-016746-8

*Harvard reference
last=Roca
first=Iggy
last2=Johnson
first2=Wyn
year=1999
title=Course in Phonology
publisher=Blackwell Publishing

*Harvard reference
last=Seabrook
first=John
title=The Academy: Talking the Tawk
journal=The New Yorker
date=May 19, 2005
url=http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/11/14/051114ta_talk_seabrook
accessdate=2008-05-14

*Harvard reference
last=Shitara
first=Yuko
title=A survey of American pronunciation preferences
journal=Speech Hearing and Language
year=1993
volume=7
pages=201–32

*Harvard reference
last=Silverstein
first=Bernard
title=NTC's Dictionary of American English Pronunciation
location=Lincolnwood, Illinois
publisher=NTC Publishing Group
year=1994
ISBN=0-8442-0726-8

*Harvard reference
last=Wells
first=John C.
authorlink=John C. Wells
title=Accents of English
location=Cambridge
publisher=Cambridge University Press
year=1982a
volume=1
ISBN=0-521-22919-7

*Harvard reference
last=Wells
first=John C.
authorlink=John C. Wells
title=Accents of English
location=Cambridge
publisher=Cambridge University Press
year=1982b
volume=2
ISBN=0-521-24224-X

*Harvard reference
last=Wells
first=John C.
authorlink=John C. Wells
title=Accents of English
location=Cambridge
publisher=Cambridge University Press
year=1982c
volume=3
ISBN=0-521-24225-8

*Harvard reference
last=Wells
first=John C.
authorlink=John C. Wells
year=2000
title=Longman Pronunciation Dictionary
edition=2nd
location=Harlow
publisher=Longman
ISBN=0-582-36468-X


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