Phonological Comparison of British and American English

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It is normally known among English talkers that there are some important differences between British English and American English. In this paper I will compare these two assortments of English and discourse the systematic phonological differences between them. There are many other ways in which British and American English are different ; such as. vocabulary. grammar. map etc. However. here we will merely concentrate on pronunciation and emphasis. All phonic symbols used here for written texts are IPA symbols. First of all we need to be clear on what is meant by British English and American English. There are many assortments in pronunciation within both the United Kingdom and the United States. nevertheless. I will compare merely the two assortments with which I am most familiar for the intents of this paper. Therefore. when I mention British English ( BrE ) I am mentioning to the assortment known as RP or BBC English and when I mention American English ( AmE ) I am mentioning to the assortment known as the northern Midlands dialect which is spoken in Philadelphia. Pittsburgh and the Ohio Plains part.

This idiom has been referred to as General American ( Boeree ) . It is besides deserving observing that these two assortments of English are ‘reference varieties’ significance that other assortments are frequently compared to them. When person is larning English as a foreign linguistic communication it is normally one of these assortments that will be used as the criterion ( Melchers & A ; Shaw 79 ) . I will get down with one of the most well-known differences between BrE and AmE. AmE is rhotic while BrE is non-rhotic. Non-rhotic means that the phoneme /r/ is ne’er pronounced unless it is instantly followed by a vowel. Therefore. BrE will articulate farm as /fa: m/ and herd as /h? : d/ . AmE. on the other manus. will articulate those words /fa: rm/and /h?rd/ severally. In instances where /r/ is instantly followed by a vowel. both will articulate it the same. as in ruddy /red/ and watery-eyed /thi?ri/ . This rhotic versus non-rhotic difference besides applies to the vowel sound in words like ‘force’ . In BrE it is non-rhotic /f? : s/ whereas in AmE it is marked /fors/ .

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Another feature of non-rhotic address is the intrusive R. This is found largely in BrE. They will sometimes infix an /r/ even when it does non happen in spelling. An illustration of this would be the phrase ‘idea of it’ which you may hear pronounced as ‘the idea-r-of it’ . ( Wikipedia subscribers “Differences… ) . This characteristic about ne’er occurs in AmE. AmE has fewer diphthongs than BrE. That is chiefly because BrE is rhotic. For all the focus oning dipthongs in BrE. viz. . ?? . e? . and I? . AmE will hold the /r/ sound alternatively of the shwa ( Melchers & A ; Shaw 18 ) . The long vowel in words like ‘boat’ and ‘home is besides realized otherwise. BrE uses a dipthong with the phonic symbol being /??/ . The existent pronunciation of this vowel in AmE may non be much different ; nevertheless. in written text it is represented with a monophthong.

The symbol used is /o: / ( Wikipedia subscribers ) . Another systematic difference that can be rather easy detected is the vowel sound in words like ‘can’ and ‘fast’ . AmE will utilize a forepart /?/ sound while BrE uses a back /a: / sound. This is the instance whenever that vowel is followed by /n/ or by a labiodental. alveolar consonant. or alveolar spirant. Some more illustrations would be words like ‘plant’ . ‘path’ . ‘laugh’ . and ‘pass’ ( Wikipedia subscribers ) . A 3rd difference is the usage of a /t/ allophone. Whenever a /t/ sound occurs between two vowels. AmE normally pronounces it as an alveolar flap. ‘Better’ would hence be pronounced /be??r/ . Most talkers of RP would comprehend that sound to be a /d/ . They. on the other manus. would utilize an unaspirated /t/ in the same context. Their pronunciation of ‘better’ would be /bet?/ ( Wikipedia subscribers ) . The vowel sound in words like ‘cot’ and ‘stop’ in marked otherwise in BrE and AmE. The British pronunciation of this vowel is non rather to the full back and falls between unfastened and open-mid. The vowel is somewhat rounded ( Roach 16 ) .

The phonic symbol that is frequently used is /?/ . The AmE sound for the same vowel is more unfastened. It has a quality about precisely the same as /a: / merely it is a short vowel. In some American idioms the vowel in the above words is more like the British /? : / vowel. There is so no differentiation between words like ‘cot’ and ‘caught’ . BrE normally has a sharper contrast in length and quality of short vowels versus long vowels. In phonic written texts. that contrast is normally marked with the usage of / : / . In words like fleece. goose. thenar. and thought the vowels would be transcribed as /i: / . /u: / . /a: / . and /? : / severally. AmE uses the same symbols in written text. merely they drop the colon ( Melchers & A ; Shaw 18 ) . There is a characteristic of AmE that is known as yod-dropping.

This is another characteristic that sets AmE apart from BrE. In AmE the /j/ sound is dropped after all dental and alveolar consonants. We can see that in the American pronunciation of words such as ‘new’ /nu/ . due /du/ . and presume /? sum/ . BrE. on the other manus. will normally retain the /j/ in the same context. Their pronunciation of the old words would be /nju: / . /dju: / . and /? sju: m/ ( Wikipedia subscribers ) . There are besides some differences in emphasis forms between these two assortments of English. These differences. nevertheless. are normally much less systematic. I will advert merely the two which are most important. First. for many Gallic loan words. AmE will set the emphasis on the concluding syllable while BrE will set it on the first syllable. Examples of this are words such as wand. beret. counter. booklet. and garage ( Wikipedia subscribers. “American… ) .

The 2nd emphasis difference is stress in words that end with –ate. In this instance AmE will emphasize the first syllable whereas BrE puts emphasis on the concluding syllable. Wordss like migrate. pulsate. rotate and spectate illustrate this point ( Wikipedia subscribers ) . From the phonic features mentioned above we can clearly see some of the distinguishable phonological differences refering pronunciation and emphasis between the RP assortment of English which is spoken in the United Kingdom compared to the north Midlands dialect spoken in the United States.


Boeree. Dr. C. George. “Dialects of English. ” 2004. Web. 3 September 2011.

Melchers. Gunnel and Philip Shaw. World Englishes. London. United kingdom: Arnold. a member of the Hodder Headline Group. 2003. Print.

Roach. Peter. English Phonetics and Phonology. Third Edition. Cambridge University Press. 2001. Print.

Wikipedia subscribers. “Differences Between General American and Received Pronunciation. ” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation.Inc. . 6 September 2011. Web. 8 September. 2011.

Wikipedia subscribers. “American and British English Pronunciation Differences. ” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Inc. . 6 September 2011. Web. 8 September. 2011.

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