English Pronunciation: How does it differ and why? We??re all native English speakers aren??t we, what??s all this about sounding different?
Everyone knows that a guy from the states sounds different to a fellow from England. But, can we break it down? Can we state a few simple rules that are continually repeating? Rules that a country??s native always follow when pronouncing a word. The rules which determine their accent. Let??s try.
Accents vary within countries, so as a starting point, let??s just take the standard English that is spoken. This is considered to be ??General American?? for the US and ??Received Pronunciation?? for England.
Rule 1: American is rhotic (i.e. pronouncing all r??s) and English is non-rhotic (pronouncing r??s only when followed by a vowel)1. However there are non-rhotic areas in America and much of Britain is rhotic.
Rule 2: Pronunciation of ??o??. The British pronounce lot as /l??t/, with rounded lips and the tongue back in the mouth. Whilst the American??s pronounce it as /la:t/, as they would ??car??, with the lips unrounded and the tongue back but more relaxed. Similarly; box, dog and hot.
The ??plummy?? quality of some English speakers is probably due to an exaggeration of this ??o?? vowel, and other vowels, by pushing the tongue as far back as possible, accomplished by speaking whilst imagining a mouth full of plums.
Rule 3: Pronunciation of ??saw??. The British pronounce saw as /s?p?z/, using the vowel sounds that an American would use for ??our??. Whilst the Americans pronounce saw as /?????/.
Rule 4: Pronunciation of ??a??. Americans tend to use the sharper ??a?? sound /ae/ when pronouncing dance, plant and demand. The English in contrast use the longer ??a?? sound /a:/
Furthermore the English pronounce the a in ??what?? as /?? / instead of /a:/.
Finally the Americans have two ways of pronouncing /a:/. In car and tar they use the standard /a:/, but in father and calm they use a shorter version which tends towards /?t/.
Rule 5: American vowels are becoming more neutral. In England where class structure is strong and enunciation can be used to affirm class, people are more likely to preserve vowel pronunciation. In American however vowel sounds are often more neutral and less sharp. This has led to the merging of some words.Hence, whilst a Brit may marry Mary to be merry, an American would simply merry merry to be merry. Here the American has merged both the /ae/ and the /ei/ sounds into the schwa (??).
The distinction between the unstressed /i/ and // is often lost in American2. It is retained by the British, partly to avoid nonrhotic homonyms.
Americans often pronounce caught and cot the same3. Similarly doll and tall.
Rule 6: Vowel shifts. Throughout the USA, many vowel shifts have been taking place during the last few decades most notably in younger people. These shifts are varied and follow no particular order. For example:
Rule 7: Americans and their d??d t??s. In many areas of America ??t?? when not the initial consonant of a word is pronounced closer to a ??d??. Thus latter and butter sound more like ladder and budder. Furthermore some d??s are dropped altogether, meaning words like twenty and dentist become twenny and Dennis.
So we have seen that the differences in pronunciation between the English spoken in America and England expands across both consonants and vowels. This variation allows us to be able to identify a person??s nationality almost immediately.
Add in dialects and pronunciation becomes a minefield, however hopefully this has been a nice little intro into the assortment of different ways to speak our native tongue.
2: http://en/wikipedia.org/wiki/American_and_British_English pronunciation_differences.
Author: Bernard Morrison
Date of post: 2006-11-20