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Dialect Guide - American Dialects

This guide gives a general introduction to a sample variety of American dialects. On each page, there will be a description of the unique aspects of the dialect, sound clip examples, and suggestions to resources within the Point Park library.

Southern Dialect Audio Resources

The Speech Accent Archive has sample sound clips organized by an interactive map.
These are two distinctive cities in this region. Listen to how differrent they are!

Library Resources

The library has several CDs in the Dialect & Spoken Word collection related to the Northern dialects.

Coastal/Lowland Southern English

Coastal/Lowland Southern English

This is the “classic southern” accent that you typically see in films about Civil War or Plantation life. In contemporary times, the accent is arguably dying out.

Prominent Features:

  • Non-rhotic. Unlike most non-rhotic dialects however, there is often no linking r between a final r and a vowel sound. So, for example, “better idea” would be pronounced “bettuh idea”
  • Vowel breaking. This means that in words with short vowels like cat and dress, these vowels can turn into diphthongs (or even triphthongs). So cat can become IPA kæjət for example (i.e. “ka-jut”).
  • The diphthong in words like ride and lime tends to be pronounced as a monopthong: i.e. IPA ɹa:d and la:m. Note that in lowland southern accents, unlike the inland south, this is still usually a diphthong before unvoiced consonants.
  • All vowels tend to be pronounced longer than in northern American accents.
  • The vowel in words like thought and long tends to be a diphthong, traditionally IPA ɔo. (That is, caught in this dialect sounds nearly like “coat” as it is pronounced in General American accents).

-Dialect Blog

Inland/Mountain Southern

This is the other Southern dialect, sometimes perceived as more guttural. You hear this accent amongst Appalachian natives, Texans, Tennesseeans and many others.

Prominent Features:

  • Pin-pen merger: This means that words ending in -in, -en, -im and -em are pronounced with the same vowel (this why when somebody from this region says “Ben” is sounds a bit like “bin” to a Northerner.)
  • Vowel breaking: see explanation under Coastal/Lowland Southern above.
  • The vowel in words like thought and dog is diphthongized, as in Coastal/Lowland Southern, although here it tends to be a lower: IPA ɑɒ.
  • The oo sound in goose is more fronted than in General American accents: IPA gʉs.
  • The long-o in words like goat is also more fronted than in General American...
  • The diphthong in words like ride and right tends to be a monophthong, as in Coastal/Lowland Southern. However, in this dialect this diphthong tends to be pronounced as a monophthong whether before an voiceless or voiced consonant.

-Dialect Blog

Video Examples of Southern American Dialect

Here are some examples of Southern Dialects in action:

Jerry Lee Lewis' speech is an example of Coastal/Lowland Southern English.

Kacey Musgraves' speech is an example of Inland/Mountain Southern dialect.