- American and British English pronunciation differences
pronunciationbetween American English(AmE) and British English(BrE) can be divided into:
* differences in accent (i.e.
phoneme"inventory" and "realisation"). Accents vary widely within AmE and within BrE, so the features considered here are mainly differences between General American(GAm) and British Received Pronunciation(RP); for information about other accents see regional accents of English speakers.
* differences in the pronunciation of individual words in the
lexicon(i.e. phoneme "distribution"). In this article, transcriptions use RP to represent BrE and GAm and to represent AmE.
In the following discussion
* superscript A2 after a word indicates the BrE pronunciation of the word is a common variant in AmE
* superscript B2 after a word indicates the AmE pronunciation of the word is a common variant in BrE
Phonological history of the English language, sections After American/British split, up to the 20th century (c. AD 1725–1900) and After 1900."
* GAm is rhotic while RP is non-rhotic; that is, the letter "r" is only pronounced in RP when it is immediately followed by a vowel sound (unless it's silent). Where GAm has IPA|/r/ before a consonant, RP either has nothing (if the preceding vowel is IPA|/ɔː/ or IPA|/ɑː/, as in "bore" and "bar") or has a
schwainstead (the resulting sequences are diphthongs or triphthongs). Similarly, where GAm has r-coloured vowels (IPA|/ɚ/ or IPA|/ɝ/, as in "cupboard" or "bird"), RP has plain vowels IPA|/ə/ or IPA|/ɜː/. However many British accents, especially in Scotland and the West Country, are rhotic, and some American accents, such as the traditional Boston accent, are non-rhotic.:* The " intrusive R" of many RP speakers (in such sequences as "the idea-r-of it") is absent in GAm; this is a consequence of the rhotic/non-rhotic distinction.
* GAm has fewer vowel distinctions before intervocalic IPA|/r/ than RP; for many GAm speakers, unlike RP, "merry", "marry" and "Mary" are homophones; "mirror" rhymes with "nearer", and "furry" rhymes with "hurry". However, some eastern American accents, such as the
Boston accent, have the same distinctions as in RP.
* For some RP speakers (upper class), unlike in GAm, some or all of "tire", "tower", and "tar" are homophones; this reflects the merger of the relevant vowels; similarly the pour-poor merger is common in RP but not in GAm.
* RP has three open back vowels, where GAm has only two or even one. Most GAm speakers use the same vowel for RP "short O" IPA|/ɒ/ as for RP "broad A" IPA|/ɑː/ (the father-bother merger); many also use the same vowel for these as for RP IPA|/ɔː/ (the cot-caught merger).
* For Americans without the cot-caught merger, the "lot-cloth split" results in IPA|/ɔː/ in some words which now have IPA|/ɒ/ in RP; as reflected in the
eye dialectspelling "dawg" for "dog".
* The trap-bath split has resulted in RP having "broad A" IPA|/ɑː/ where GAm has "short A" IPA|/æ/, in most words where A is followed by either IPA|/n/ followed by another consonant, or IPA|/s/, IPA|/f/, or IPA|/θ/ (e.g. "plant, pass, laugh, path"). However, many British accents, such as most Northern English accents, agree with GAm in having short A in these words, although it is usually phonetically IPA| [a] rather than IPA| [æ] .
* RP has a marked degree of contrast of length between "short" and "long" vowels (The long vowels being the diphthongs, and IPA|/iː/, IPA|/uː/, IPA|/ɜː/, IPA|/ɔː/, IPA|/ɑː/). In GAm this contrast is much less evident, and the IPA length symbol (IPA|ː) is often omitted.
* The "long O" vowel (as in "boat") is realised differently: GAm pure IPA| [oː] or diphthongized IPA| [oʊ] ; RP central first elementIPA| [əʊ] . However there is considerable variation in this vowel on both sides of the Atlantic.
* The distinction between unstressed IPA|/ɪ/ and IPA|/ə/ (e.g. "roses" vs "Rosa's") is often lost in GAm. In RP it is retained, in part because it helps avoid nonrhotic homophones; e.g. "batted" vs "battered" as IPA|/'bætɪd/ vs IPA|/'bætəd/. It is, however, lost in Australian English (which is also non-rhotic) meaning both words are pronounced the same, unlike American or British English.
* Where GAm has IPA|/iː/ in an unstressed syllable at the end of a
morpheme, conservative RP has IPA|/ɪ/, not having undergone "happY tensing". This distinction is retained in inflected forms (e.g. "candied" and "candid" are homophones in RP, but not in GAm).
* In GAm,
flappingis common: when either a IPA|/t/ or a IPA|/d/ occurs between a sonorantphoneme and an unstressed vowelphoneme, it is realized as an alveolar-flap allophoneIPA| [ɾ] . This sounds like a IPA|/d/ to RP speakers, although many GAm speakers distinguish the two phonemes by aspirating IPA|/t/ in this environment, especially after IPA|/ɪ/ or IPA|/eɪ/ (thus "bitter" and "rated" are distinguishable from "bidder" and "raided"), or by lengthening the vowel preceding an underlying IPA|/d/. IPA| [ɾ] is an allophone of IPA|/r/ in conservative RP, which is hence caricatured in America as a "veddy British" accent.
* Yod-dropping occurs in GAm after all
alveolar consonants, including IPA|/t/, /d/, /θ/, /s/, /z/, /n/, /l/; i.e. historic IPA|/juː/ (from spellings "u", "ue", "eu", "ew"), is pronounced IPA|/uː/ in a stressed syllable. In contrast, RP speakers:
** always retain IPA|/j/ after IPA|/n/: e.g. "new" is RP IPA|/njuː/, GAm IPA|/nuː/;
** retain or coalesce it after IPA|/t/, /d/: e.g. "due" is RP IPA|/djuː/ or IPA|/dʒuː/, GAm IPA|/duː/;
** retain or drop it after IPA|/θ/, /l/: e.g. "allude" is RP IPA|/ə'ljuːd/ or (as GAm) IPA|/ə'luːd/.
** retain, coalesce or drop it after IPA|/s/, /z/: e.g. "assume" is RP IPA|/ə'sjuːm/ or IPA|/ə'ʃuːm/, or (as GAm) IPA|/ə'suːm/;
***In some words where IPA|/j/ has been coalesced in GAm, it may be retained in RP: e.g. "issue" is RP IPA|/'ɪsjuː/ or (as GAm) IPA|/'ɪʃuː/
loanwords from French where AmE has final-syllable stress, BrE stresses an earlier syllable. Such words include:
* BrE first-syllable stress: "adult"A2,B2, "ballet"A2, "baton", "beret", "bidet", "blasé", "brevet"A2, "brochure"B2, "buffet", "café"A2, "canard"B2, "chagrin", "chalet"A2, "chauffeur"A2,B2, "chiffon", "cliché"B2, "coupé", "croissant", "debris"B2, "debut", "décor", "detail"A2, "détente"B2, "flambé", "frappé", "garage"B2, "gateau", "gourmet"A2, "lamé", "montage"A2, "parquet", "pastel", "pastille", "pâté", "précis", "sachet", "salon", "soupçon", "vaccine"; "matinée", "négligée", "nonchalant", "nondescript"; also some French names, including "Bernard"B2, "
Calais", " Degas", " Dijon", " Dumas", "Francoise", "Manet"A2, "Maurice", " Monet"A2, "Pauline", " Renault", "René"B2, "Renoir", " Rimbaud", " Delacroix"B2.
* BrE second-syllable stress: "attaché", "consommé", "décolleté", "déclassé", "
De Beauvoir", " Debussy", "démodé", "denouement", "distingué", " Dubonnet", "escargot", "fiancé(e)", "retroussé"A few French words have other stress differences:
* AmE first-syllable, BrE last-syllable: "address"A2 (postal), "m(o)ustache"A2; "cigarette"A2, "limousine"B2, "magazine"B2,
* AmE first-syllable, BrE second-syllable: "exposé"B2, "liaison"A2,
macramé, " Renaissance"
* AmE second-syllable, BrE last-syllable: "
-ate and -atory
Most 2-syllable verbs ending "-ate" have first-syllable stress in AmE and second-syllable stress in BrE. This includes "castrate", "dictate"A2, "donate"A2, "locate"A2, "mandate"B2, "migrate", "placate", "prostrate", "pulsate", "rotate", "serrate"B2, "spectate", "striated", "translate"A2, "vacate", "vibrate"; in the case of "cremate", "narrate", "placate", the first vowel is in addition reduced to IPA|/ə/ in BrE. Examples where AmE and BrE match include "create", "debate", "equate", "elate", "negate", "orate", "relate" with second-syllable stress; and "mandate" and "probate" with first-syllable stress. Derived nouns in "-ator" may retain the distinction, but those in "-ation" do not. Also, "migratory"A2 and "vibratory" retain the distinction.
Most longer "-ate" verbs are pronounced the same in AmE and BrE, but a few have first-syllable stress in BrE and second-syllable stress in AmE: "elongate", "infiltrate"A2, "remonstrate", "tergiversate". However, some derived adjectives ending "-atory" have a difference, as stress shifting to "-at-" can occur in BrE. Among these cases are "regulatory"B2, "celebratory"A2, "participatory"B2, where AmE stresses the same syllable as the corresponding "-ate" verb; and "compensatory", where AmE stresses the second syllable.
A further "-atory" difference is "laboratory": AmE IPA|/'læbrɪˌtɔri/ and BrE IPA|/lə'bɒrət(ə)riː/.
There are a number of cases where same-spelled noun, verb and/or adjective have uniform stress in one dialect but distinct stress in the other (e.g. "alternate", "prospect"): see
The following table lists words where the only difference between AmE and BrE is in stress (possibly with a consequent reduction of the unstressed vowel). Words with other points of difference are listed in a later table.
List of words of disputed pronunciation
*cite book|author=Wells, John C.|year=2000|title=Longman Pronunciation Dictionary|publisher=2nd ed.
* [http://english2american.com The English-to-American Dictionary] : British words and phrases translated into American English
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