There is No “Normal” American English Accent

Did you know that there’s no official standard accent for American English?

2848390389_5b612c5130In the UK, they have a great many accents, but there is one that is called the standard (Received Pronunciation, or the Queen’s English). From what I understand, the standard is not the most popular or the most common accent, but it’s a starting point.

In the US, we have a great many accents, and none of them are called the standard. The closest we have is how most TV news anchors speak, but I don’t think we all agree on this.

This means that every speaker of American English sounds weird in a pretty large region of the USA. And we often disagree about how things “should” be pronounced.

My Accent

I grew up on Long Island, near New York City. I spent about eight years in Minnesota, then moved to Maryland. I have a Master’s degree.

My accent is not super strong, but it’s definitely North and it’s definitely East. It likely sounds educated, too.

A few details about my accent:

  • Harry and hairy are different. In much of the Midwest, they’re the same.
  • Cot and caught are different. On the West Coast, they’re often the same.
  • Pen and pin are different. In many places, particularly near the middle and south of the country, they’re the same.

A couple of things I’ve changed over the years:

  • I pronounce my husband’s name the way he pronounces it, which is Midwestern.
  • I used to pronounce orange as “ar-ringe” (this is common on Long Island) but I’ve switched to “ore-ringe.”

Think About This

  1. If you are learning American English, you are learning an accent. Even if you learn to speak exactly like a native speaker, you will not always sound “just normal” depending on where you go in the country. None of us do.
  2. If you listen to my recordings on this blog, you are listening to my accent. This is not what everyone from the USA sounds like. This is not what everyone from the USA should sound like. My accent is just one out of many.

Listen to Emily read this post (a new window will open).

Photo Credit: Sam Beebe on Flickr

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