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Why Do Americans and Brits Have Different Accents?

In 1776, whether you were declaring America independent from the crown or swearing your loyalty to King George III, your pronunciation would have been much the same. At that time, American and British accents hadn't yet diverged. What's surprising, though, is that Hollywood costume dramas get it all wrong: The Patriots and the Redcoats spoke with accents that were much closer to the contemporary American accent than to the Queen's English.

It is the standard British accent that has drastically changed in the past two centuries, while the typical American accent has changed only subtly.

Traditional English, whether spoken in the British Isles or the American colonies, was largely "rhotic." Rhotic speakers pronounce the "R" sound in such words as "hard" and "winter," while non-rhotic speakers do not. Today, however, non-rhotic speech is common throughout most of Britain. For example, most modern Brits would tell you it's been a "hahd wintuh."

It was around the time of the American Revolution that non-rhotic speech came into use among the upper class in southern England , in and around London. According to John Algeo in "The Cambridge History of the English Language" (Cambridge University Press, 2001), this shift occurred because people of low birth rank who had become wealthy during the Industrial Revolution were seeking ways to distinguish themselves from other commoners; they cultivated the prestigious non-rhotic pronunciation in order to demonstrate their new upper-class status .

"London pronunciation became the prerogative of a new breed of specialists — orthoepists and teachers of elocution. The orthoepists decided upon correct pronunciations, compiled pronouncing dictionaries and, in private and expensive tutoring sessions, drilled enterprising citizens in fashionable articulation," Algeo wrote.

The lofty manner of speech developed by these specialists gradually became standardized — it is officially called "Received Pronunciation" — and it spread across Britain. However, people in the north of England, Scotland and Ireland have largely maintained their traditional rhotic accents.

Most American accents have also remained rhotic, with some exceptions: New York and Boston accents have become non-rhotic. According to Algeo, after the Revolutionary War, these cities were "under the strongest influence by the British elite."

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419 comments
 
My British accent is the Barnsley type it's amazing but I don't shut up anyway
 
The same way brazilian characters in movies have "spanish" accent. Brazilians speak only portuguese.
 
Funny I still pronounce the 'R' properly but most of my sayings are rather soft compared to many peoples alot of people where I live will say 'floo er' for 'floor' and 'oil' instead of 'hole' so annoying
George Cohn
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And all this time I thought it was because we let a lot of foreigners (and everybody was a foreigner by definition) into the country and assimilated their ways of speaking English.
 
As I always say. British accents make everything better!!!!!
 
As Cary Elwes said while playing the title character in Robin Hood, Men in Tights, "Unlike others who have played this role, I can speak with a British accent."
 
Always fascinating to learn about our accents.  Two books I found to be very informative:  Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America and The Story of English.
 
I'm a born and raised, a currently residing Canadian. When I attempt to speak in a British accent a lot of the time I end up sounding Australian. What's the connection there?
 

"It's a flamin' herd o' wild brumbies!"

"I daresay there presents a herd of undomesticated equestrians."

Well, if there's a connection I can't see it.
 
+David Lefebvre well originally Colonized by britain so there accent is sort of a drawn out British accent with grit to it. A bit similar to cockney.
 
-I mean Australia was originally colonized by britain
 
If I had a British accent, my mom would smack me in the head :P
 
The american accent is what all people with a british accent sing with.
 
Beyond the accent is choice of words.  I loved the series Deadwood for the way David Milch imagined a Victorian style of language mixed with rich vibrant profanity.
 
+James Lewandowski actually that's not true, a lot of British ppl get famous for singing and they sing in there accents! It's really weird that I'm aamerican and like, my favorite bands/musicians are british ppl who got famous in America, and not from my generation, I like older music. I'm weird like that. (I love being weird!)
 
Is there a standard british or american accent?  People speak differently mainly if they are not talking to another group of people for any amount of time.  That explain why in one nation people speak differently too.  Seems very obvios if you ever traveled in america.
 
I have a British accent and I work in a museum in NYC. Always conversing with people. 
 
I'll tell you right now my british accent really just sucks.
 
I am a true Cockney but when I visit the USA everybody tinks I am Australian.  Weird.
 
Why do people use the word "accent" when they really mean "dialect"? An accent is a holdover from your native language. A dialect is the different ways a single language can sound. Very informative post tho, I'd been wondering why we sound so different.
 
That's funny, bc they never shut up themselves. 
 
I find it funny when an american tries to do a british accent it always comes out posh!
 
People who think foreign accents are sexy are ridiculous. At first you might find it interesting, but it gets old really fast. Especially when it turns out the foreign person is just as much of an undereducated asshole as everyone else.
 
so true. don't call me stupid because you never know they might not have had the chance to have an education.
 
RP is very '70s.  Nowadays afrocarribean appears to be the vogue.
 
+Kathryn Beattie No, what it means is someone that has a british accent usually isn't any smarter than anyone else. Someone with a italian accent usually isn't any more romantic than anyone else. Someone with a german accent usually isn't anymore industrious than anyone else. Someone with a french accent usually isn't anymore artistic than anyone else. These are just moronic stereotypes with very little basis in reality and anyone that buys into it deserves whatever disappointment they get.
 
My accent is all messed up. Having been born in raised in England for ten years, I had a great British accent. Now, after living in the US for the last 25 years, I've lost my accent, but it has become mixed. I now have an Upper Midwestern British accent. Yikes!
 
i know right i love that kind of way to talk!!!
 
I always that question in mind. Thanks for enlightening me on this.
 
So back in 1776, Washington was like, y'all want to go get some vittles? Tryon was like, yauntu? George said yassir, and they feasted at the sizzler on all you can eat fried foods and instant delicacies, the end. I'm just saying....
 
thats gotta be awkward for british people...
 
I think English people are the most introvert of any country, lol. Most of us know when to shut up and will even hesitate when in a crowd, and those who don't shut up are annoying. We are delightful haha :P
 
I have a hybrid New York and California accent.
 
Is British still have r or is it a weird uah

genesee
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"two nations divided by a common language" George Bernard Shaw
 
This is only one element of our accent.  Accents where already noticably different, but yet, Brits did say their r's.
 
Especially in Movie, the American actor/actress never seem to able to speak British accent, while the British actor/actress can speak with American accent just fine.
 
The injuns called them maze, we called them fritters!!!
 
hahd wintuh?

That sounds boston to me....(maybe wintah.....)
 
Interesting. Now I will never again endeavor to play a British Accent. This actually makes me that much more proud of my accent-less Central North American speak. By the book, all the way.

Only idiots deliberately mispronounce their words and still think themselves better than the rest.
 
I blame the Germans.
Why not, they have big shoulders and everyone else is doing it.
 
My beginning in life was most humble...I was a War Bay in Australia.  My father was a dishonorable Captain in the US Medical Corps.  Back in the 1940's Australians were about 95% British descended.  I would be as rich as Croesus if I had a penny for every time I heard an Australian say "The Yanks murdered the English language!!!"  The Australian TV Morning Shows are introducing more and more long "A's".   An irony:  The Japanese car names Nissan--Datsun--Mazda are long "Ayed" in the US but short "Ayed" in Australia.  There can be no doubt that the Kiwis have more long "A's" than the Ockers.   Homophonia:  shaw and shore in Australia...not in the US.
 
I finally got my answer! I was so curious about this.
 
An English professor taught me that the accent in England during Shakespeare was very similar to modern-day Kentuckian, so the relative divergence is even more pronounced over time.
 
If I had a British accent, I'd cut out my own larynx. It's so painful to listen to....like bad southern drawl or something.
 
This is great news. I love my American accent, now I don't have to excuse myself for it. jejeje
 
I couldn't really tell you what type of British accent I have, its Northern English but unique at the same time. I can also do good Irish, Welsh and Scottish accents on demand but I'd much rather lose my accent. 
 
nah, if you really listen to true southerners or Brits, they really do resemble one another....but whatever....what's pleasing to one's ear is puke to another's
 
If you want to know what the standard American accent is, pay close attention to the national news network broadcasters.  All of them sound like they came from the Upper Midwest (Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and the Dakotas), and even the OED at one time claimed this was "unaccented English" because EVERY LAST MOTHERFUCKER ON THE PLANET could best comprehend what what said with this accent.
 
brilliant....or is it "brilllleeant"?
 
Appalachian Mountains; hence the background in mu pic.  
 
OMG My language nerd gland is now so happy. 
 
well I personally hate a southern accent but I love British Accents
 
Need to save this for later...
 
My cousins hate me because of this
 
I'm Czech and apparently I have the Scottish accent. Well.. That's what the people of England say to me all the time.
I have never been in Scotland in my entire life, so I can't tell.
 
The American is easier to understand than the English man....
 
All I know is that I don't like other english speaking peoples converging their pronunciation with our American English. I don't care if the Recieved Pronunciation was contrived in London, people copying the American English they hear in our movies does not make the world more colorful.
 
Wow, I always thought it was the other way around. Damn Hollywood lied to me.
 
my dad is the same way, just without the British accent 
Jay M
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Old world Southerners (like from Charleston) also have a non-rhotic accent, because of the heavy influence of the British crown in the Southern Episcopal bastions.  That's why that sort of "Foghorn Legorn" accent sounds somewhat non-rhotic -- springs from the same source as the contrived British accent.
 
Of course, they spoke with relatively similar accents; however, even back then there was a great deal of diversity in British dialect and diction and some were immigrants to America were immigrants to England before they came here, so they'd have somewhat different accents too.

One of the sad things about American dialect and diction is that the Southern/Appalachian style is considered uneducated and lower class, and that may or may not be the case; however, in some ways it's actually more like what some of the Americans sounded like when they originally immigrated. The regions overall isolation had kept it from incorporating some of the sounds and idioms that the rest of the nation adopted over time. For example, the word "reckon" is still used with a certain frequency in contemporary British English by BBC reporters, but Stateside it's out of fashion and considered almost illiterate.

But as far as the novelty of the British accent in the States and its overall attraction, I think that perhaps Don Black & Sir Andrew captured the American sentiment best in "English Girls" from "Song & Dance." Some of the lyrics are as follows:

…He loves to hear me talk. How lucky can you be?
He loves to hear me say, "When does the post arrive?"
So I keep talking, I just keep talking,
and he keeps saying he can't live without me.

English girls get all their own way.
English girls don't need much to say.
An accent works wonders,
that's why English girls do great in L.A.
(Oh, excuse me....I've got to go to the loo........the loo!
Oh, yes, from London. We'd love to come to your party!)

He introduces me to all his famous friends.
They love to hear me talk, the talking never ends.
He loves to hear me sing "I could have danced all night."
And it's so easy, it couldn't be more easy…
 
Thanks for increasing my knowledge..
 
Love the high British accent.   Can't understand accents from Mersey-side or cockney.
 
"Retarted" = made into a delicious pastry again? Lol, looks like autocorrect is your friend.
 
I use a feminine British voice for my Android phone's GPS. For some reason I find it generally more intelligible, although the occasional mispronunciations add some entertainment value.
 
+Jay Morgan Yes, it is a form of confectioner's recycling, as in "hey boss, I'm retarting the leftovers."

There is a certain element of irony in claiming that another person is "retarted."
 
+Daniel Finkelstein - I've heard that, too, and I am from Kentucky originally.  But I understood the KY accent also could be heard in most of what I'll call the Cumberland highlands including parts of WV, TN and NC.  You can find another interesting old English accent among the remaining original families on NC's Outer Banks.  

But didn't rhotic English originate in the late 16th century with pirates? ;-)
 
This solved a question I've had for a long time. Thnx
 
I was just wondering about this as well as where the southern accents in the U.S. over time have come from.
Lanier
 
#dope I actually thought about this a few times. Lol
 
i told this to my sister and she called me weird
 
There is no NEw York Accent. There are Multiple Accents and dialects in NYC. The City, The Bronx and Brooklyn all have strong differences. The upper eastside upper class. The Upper eastside Jewish. Brooklyn Jews. Queens Jews. All different.
 
I read somewhere that Australian and New Zealand accents are probably the closest you'll find to the original English accent.  That said what is a British accent?  The regional differences are huge from a Geordie to Cockney to Yorkshireman.
 
what about the differences in spellings? Whats the reason?
 
I have American accent.. Love to have British accent :)
 
I wish I had a Welsh accent then no one would understand me
 
so how would you explain the accent In Australia and New Zealand?
 
The UK has so many different accents though. Cockney, Scouse, Scottish, Welsh. America is much more similar across the board.
 
Oh I love british accents so much! I fall in love with anyone that has one.
Naomi U
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This is the most interesting post I've read in weeks! Thank you!
 
This is so bizarre, I was googling this exact topic about 3 hours ago!!
 
+Paul Giuressi the same as you would any "British colony"

+Michael Watson indeed NY may have no one true accent, however in comparison to the rest of the country, compared to the world, NY has it's own accent and most of us would be hard pressed to tell the difference. Though NY mafia does sound like Chicago mafia.
 
Really interesting and useful. Tnks!
 
I have relatives who try to keep there accents after living in the states for a wile and they sound as phony as the people doing Infomercials 
 
Being a Brit in the U.S. the attention it bring does get a little tiresome at times, but it would come in very useful if i wasn't married.. :D 
 
It's funny, my history teacher told me this in 12th grade and it kind of blew my mind. Still does, too. Nice to see interesting information crop up again. :)
 
I told a British friend of mine something close to this, he said "You know, you could have had one.  But, that pesky revolution ended that."
 
The American accent is a lot like the Australian accent in that due to both nations not being as intelligent as us Brits their standards just slipped!
 
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about diversiitty of accent it also is differ state to stae and one more reason is the origin of different sect ex. french origin will speak english in a diffferent accent than a spanish and thus it will contribute to the major accent of that place.
 
yeah you would, people constantly ask you to say random stuff and it gets soooooooo annoying. It's awful.
genesee
 
+Raymond Lulling Of all places, parts of Louisiana have an accent indistinguishable from NYC.
 
The author clearly has no clue what they're talking about. 

There is no "american" accent. There is a New England accent, a midwest accent, an Appalachian accent, a floridian accent, a texan accent, and several other accents all located in America. Also, England has several as well. To lump them all together is just asinine.
 
I seriously doubt the accuracy of this. Even in colonial times different areas of the colonies had different accents depending upon what parts of England and Europe the settlers derived from. Likewise, today there is no one American accent or one English accent. The author would do well to visit Plymouth Plantation or Sturbridge Village, in Massachusetts, and study their linguistic databases. Or easier yet, read some Shakespeare or the King James Bible (original edition) to get a sense of how English has changed.
 
How do you fix your about info? Says I'm a male
 
It depends what part of great Britian a person is from. There are parts where it's not so classy.
 
i wish i could remember who said it "america and Britain are two countries separated by a common language" 
 
Interesting. There was a similar article which said that the way Americans use forks & knives was the original usage in Europe. But then Europe diverged to use their forks exclusively by their left hand.
E Moran
 
Do Brits ever pull out an American accent after a few drinks? If so, would it be Southern? Western? Downeast??? Guess it depends on the drink..
 
In England you can drive 30 mins down the road and local people will speak with a different accent!
 
I imagine hearing there is A British accent, sounds a generalized as saying there is A (an) American accent. Ascents are very regional and caricature versions exist for each nation.
 
Winston Churchill said America and Britain are two countries separated by a common language
 
Us English folk talk with Regional Accents and depending upon Which region whether it is a Rhotic or Non Rhotic sound but also if you live amongst long enough you can also find micro regional accents that typify a single city or even part of a city  -  It appears that   English in England has moved a long way from the English of the 1770's whilst American English is actually more akin to Olde Worlde English  

Eee Bah gum that's some fine mess tha's made o' how I spek Grommit
 
I wish I had an awesome accent!!:(
 
Great article +Linda Lawrey thanks for the share.
What's interesting to note, is that as an Australian we seem to be the only nation that doesn't have an accent.
Bizarre, eh?
 
If I had a British accent, I'd have far more subscribers lol
 
i dont know what you thinks about that,can you explain in again? Please !!!!
 
+Linda Lawrey I totally disagree.
The rhotic non-rhotic thing is subtle compared to intonation, stress and tone. American accent has changed subtly?! So the immigrants that went to US after XVIII haven't influenced at all the pronunciation of the language? I thought that NY English got the Italian vowels (and gestures) because of Italian immigrants. Like +Joe Glsty said the accent are so different that I cannot see how American accent has changed subtly. By the way the 100% non-rhotic Hollywood's Brit accent is a late fashion: there are a lot of old films where the Brits sound "devilish" rhotic.

People of low birth rank who had become wealthy during the Industrial Revolution were seeking ways to distinguish themselves from other commoners; they cultivated the prestigious non-rhotic pronunciation in order to demonstrate their new upper-class status.
This might be really misleading if not explained well. The non rhotic accent was already in use before the Industrial Revolution. Yes in 1776 there were already non-rhotic speaker in Southern England! As John Walker wrote in his "Critical Pronouncing Dictionary" (printed in 1791 and started in 1775) the pronounce of Bard, Card, Regard sounded like baad , caad , regaad with an Italian A.
http://books.google.it/books?id=9OsIAAAAQAAJ&vq=card&hl=it&pg=PR5#v=onepage&q=regaad&f=false

Cheers.
 
I thought the rich Brits invented the accent to distinguish themselves from us common folk.
 
U would shut up if i punched u in the mouth lol theres no BRITISH accent. Theres Scottish, Irish, Welsh an English accents
 
ha try the bermudian accent which is a cross of the two
most Brits say we sound American most americans say we sound like brits
genesee
 
I read a piece many years ago, possibly in National Geographic, about members of the Royal Shakespeare Company going to Jamaica (the island, not the neighborhood in Queens) to study diction and pronunciation, regarding it as closer to what was heard during The Bard's lifetime than anywhere else in the modern world.
 
So the English are speaking English wrong. Yet we still call it English.
 
So true about the picture
 
As a person whose mother tongue isn't english,I feel so confused between british english and american english that maybe my accent is more weird than anybody else here..╮╯.╰╭..When I was a child..I didn't know the distinctions..Just I followed my teacher's pronounciation..However..there are different teachers from primary school to university..Some of them speak with B E and some of them speak with A E..So many students in my country speak with a language which is neither B E nor A E..╯□╰..
 
May be due their difference in their attitude
Rich aromatic attitude difference and environment
I THINK SO
 
Red Coats, then Turn Coats, Turn Coat English, I am a bit Archaic, when it come to Linguistics, even to Religion before the Corruptions. Vocem Sanquinem or is it Vocem Sanguinis, any way English is considered Germanic, remember the Translator who was Burned at the Stake for the Latin to English Sacra Doctrina!  I have one it was William Tyndale he was betrayed to his enemies who executed him and burned him at the stake in October of 1536. Nope TurnCoats Miss, like rotating a variable in Forensic Science now. Turn Coats...... even in todays world. how I hear the term double edged tongue,  well any way blah blah blah, gotta go but yeah makes me think in terms of the turn into WW1 and again WW2. cmon back.
 
Or you can make up your own accent like Cary Grant.
mani S
 
very informative and truthful insight. 
Rob Abe
 
who gives monkeys,anyway.
 
Turn Coat English or even Turn Coat Linguistics.....
 
wOw! This is such a lifechanger for me...
 
One direction has british accents :) <3
Marjo B
 
Is that why I'm always talking?
 
Better have a stiff upper lip, before you suck down that Banger. Cheery Hoe!
 
Yeah, like that. Now you got the moves like Jagger.
 
But +DAVID ALAN JONES RIDGE isn't "My Fair Lady" mostly about British accents? Also, I believe that the UK has the highest number of accents per unit area.
 
You did not mention Portland Oregonians which are known to have the most perfect Dictionary American English. I know as I was born and raised here, and still today, I get people asking me if I am an NPR radio announcer. My deep baritone voice probably helps. Recent word is that Portland has become the new voice-over capital of the continent for this clean perfect American English that we speak here. We are so fortunate in Portland to sound like we don't come from anywhere but instead possibly the people who sound like we wrote the Webster’s Dictionary. Here is a 15 minute sample of my voice, although roughly recorded on the streets in May ~ June 2000-  I recorded over 100 hours of the general public on sidewalks across American during a 10,000 mile solo road trip I made as I asked them to observe the sun through a special research-grade hydrogen-alpha filter solar telescope. *Note that many of the images in the slightly animated yet accurately documented slide show will indicate somewhat accurately as to where the locations were. From my home town of Portland Oregon to Eastern Canada you will hear responses from people who speak, Russian, Vietnamese, French, German, Bulgarian, etc, and in their broken foreign English as I ask the same question to all, others standing nearby translated into English. I also ask how they say “Hello, How are you?” in their language so as to learn the proper foreign greetings. I’ve been dong this now for over a decade as a sidewalk astronomy social process experiment. I’ve also called into NPR’s Talk of the Nation and spoke briefly about it many times. (I think I hold the record for call-ins to NPR’s Talk of the Nation over a dozen times, and twice to Science Friday.)

MarkSeibold InterviewsWithPublic_SidewalkAstronomy10,000MileRoadTrip_6WeeksInMay-June2000
 
THE WORLD MUST BE TIRED OF CHEWING THIS SUBJECT
 
Wonderful!  Thanks for posting.  It's one of those things that you are curious about, but don't know you are curious about it, until another curious soul takes time to teach.  Each one teach one.  Thanks for the history lesson. :)
genesee
 
+Cysix Sage He stole it from George Bernard Shaw, who said it first, and might have lifted it from Oscar Wilde. 
 
and here I thought it had something to do with their dentistry...i kid, i kid, but seriously, #goodtoknow  
 
Very interesting. Thank you for the history lesson, I had no idea.
 
Americans have an American accent but they never seem to shut the hell up
 
Great read thanks for sharing!

Love the different pronunciations in Deadwood, and in general -

When I go to use my GPS it had better be Anthony Daniels himself
 
Doesn't matter the way we talk I still consider a Brit my brother. From the country that founded my own, I'd drink a pint to that.
 
becoz some britishers are rude in nature
 
I have heard this before. Entirely believable. I once told this theory to a British friend and she almost disowned me!
 
As a Brit this information was totally new to me and it was never touched upon when i was learning British History at school. It seems that the research is really London centred and doesn't take into account the vast accents that exist throughout the UK. and one big mistake is that a whole nation was omitted in the writing . i.e. Wales was totally ignored and thats a country that has its own language. The UK is made up of 4 countires. Something a lot of writers seem to ignore. There is no common accent in the UK unless you want to look at the media and even that has changed in recent times bringing the diverse accents into homes through the medium of television. In Wales itself theres a big difference between north and south and west of its country. and for the person that speaks Welsh as their first language , when speaking English one finds that the sentence structures are spoken backwards because English is a backwards language when it comes to many European based languages. The south west of England is originally part of the Celtic groupings that existed with Wales, Scotland ,Ireland and Northern France. Anyone who looks at the comments of spoken language really needs to dig deeper because its not as straightforward as it seems. Just a few thoughts about the original article .

 
If I had a british accent, somebody would shut me up! Lee J.
 
+Linda Lawrey Isn't the earlier Tudor English of the time of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I more like the dialect spoken in the American South?

I have always imagined the Shakespeare works spoken as if they were Tennessee Williams plays.
 
YOU CAN HAVE ALL THE ACCENT YOU WANT WHAT IS IMPORTANT IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD ....
 
yeah right hahah !
sad that not all of us can speak different accents...
but Filipinos can ..
hahah lol :)
 
Very informative article and comments... 'cept for the self centered ones... LOL...
 
thans for the info
 
So we really are speaking the true English, its no wonder we are the only remaining superpower its all in the rhotic! =-)
 
You might sound Tunney at night,sleeping much?
 
Or Wisconsin... Oh Aaron Rodgers is such a cutie pa tutie eh?
 
if i had a british accent i would kill myself beacause they r annoying as hell
 
I'm from Newcastle and where ever i go no one can understand me (even in england) wy aye man. Ah yi gannin ooot.
 
can u tell why indian accent dosnt match brits accnt evn though we use same english as them...
 
R U THE SAME JOHNSON WHO PLAY CRICKET FOR AUSTRALIA?
 
I think what you will find if you travel the world is that more ladies like the english accent than men. In most asian regions there is a facination to be fluent in english and what can be more authentic than an "english"man speaking english. Someone wrote b4 than enhlish singers sing with american accent. Hello does Oasis sound like their from Utah? What about beatles, stereophinics, adelle etc
 
The British accent is great at attracting old women, jokes about bad teeth, and questions about the meaning of bollocks and wanker. However, trying to order a glass of water in a restaurant proves difficult and 'water' is the only word I have been tempted to pronounce in a more American way to avoid confusion. Saying wah-der not war-ter with a 't' is the only way apparently. 
 
This post is an excellent account of the evolution of our language.
 
Interesting fact, I learned something today.
 
I'm a Geordie from as you say " the north of England" ans I'm glad we don't sound the same.
 
+Avinash Pujala I somehow seriously doubt they counted all of the accents in the US to know that. Just reading these comments people are lumping "the South" together as if someone from Miami sounds like someone from New Orleans (where a good 50% of the pop speaks with a Creo-French accent).

Hell, People in Miami don't even sound like people from Orlando much less the smaller central Florida towns. Another one is California. People are familar with the Valley girl speech but are they familiar with Compton speech? It's like night and day.

Or take a smaller state like Connecticut. Are you aware that people born and raised in the state capitol tend to drop their L's and R's yet people raised just ten minutes away in the burbs not only pronounce their L but have a very hard R when they speak.

You can tell in that state who is from Hartford based on if they say,"HA-fod" vs "HaRT-FoRd"

My point is I doubt they studied the cities and towns vs the states as a whole. Having lived in central Florida I can tell you I've heard at least 15 accents and I'm not counting the far northern part of the state.

Funny enough the hardest one  for me to understand is the one spoken by people in heavily populated areas of Orlando (the more city looking areas as opposed to the suburbs of Orlando) for a few generations. Sometimes it doesn't even sound like English at all.
 
I speak English with a Kiswahili accent and I do not have to worry about the long and shirt vowels, no diphthongs....ah the rhotic thing, //r// is consonant sound. Full stop. Not a vowel elongate-r! Wintuh winteer whatever. For me it is winta......
 
I am currently in Ireland, and just yesterday I asked some I met from Kildare why they sound so American. He chuked it up to having to work with a lot of Americans, but this explains a lot. Like I could still not a few differences like emphasis on the "o" sound that is slightly different.

Awesome! Thanks for clearing this up
 
On a random note, New Yorkers, no matter what their racial background, always sound like they are speaking with an Italian accent to me.
 
You can argue and debate different accents/dialects all you like, but at least we haven't butchered the spelling of words...yes USA, I'm looking at you.
 
so why india accent are totally different than british accent?
 
I wish i had a dirty American accent
 
Some might say I speak English with a Canadian accent. I was once told that I spoke (broken) Cantonese with an accent! Oh, the written word bears no accent. Wait, when I read Ricky Gervais' tweets, I can hear his Bri' ish accent!
 
American english is much easier for me to pronounce it..straight forward
 
myself as a foraigner from non english spoken country who lived few years in US and then moved to UK, got to admit that americans are way easir to understand than brits. Yankees speak easy and clear language, even those from tenesee.
 
I thought having a British accent meant you could easily land the part of a villain in a play, a TV show or a Hollywood film?
 
I would reallllllllllllllllllllllllllyyyyyyyyyyyyyy love a brittish accent T.T
 
Well, as an Asian guy who grew up with a Cali accent, I like to fool people around here by putting on a Brit accent and telling them I'm from Hong Kong. Works everytime. Especially when you want good services :)
 
I say ask Jessica. "Ask, Jessica what?" Ask me ANYTHING.
 
interesting but down with the patriots! long live United Empire Loyalists! 
 
Oh dear. This is somewhat weak. They've been mistaking watching the idiot box for life experience again, ladies and gentlemen. Received pronunciation is bollox, obviously, but it is still not, nor has it ever been, The British Accent, which is in actual fact a complete chimera anyhow.
 
parvin cn eww temme hw to add frends on g+
 
parvin cn eww temme hw to add frends on g+
Ray H M
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Why? Jessica!, why!!! Why? did you do it!
 
Very interesting.

I feel, in the coming decades, two versions of English accents will dominate - and neither of them is British.

One is obviously the American and the other is the Indian subcontinent one. I suspect there are more English speakers in the subcontinent than in any other English speaking region of the world. 
ad go
 
i find it nice to know how to speak British Accent but not using it all the way.... 
 
As a Scot (meaning 60% of the British Isles doesn't understand my dialect, and 90% of the world doesn't! - made up fact), I have to disagree with the story - I know very few people who don't pronounce their R's when talking, and this is in a city where the language has been completely trashed!!
 
Keep every single lovely accent of english, except for our danish foreign ministers english/danish accent. Now thats stRange
 
Jeremy Zano, not true. In some regions Brazilians speak a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese called Portuñol. So, it's possible for them to have a more Spanish accent. And if they're speaking English, there's not a lot of difference in the accent between the two. Btw I'm a language student...
 
I think English speaking countries have had a dilution of vocabulary and accent, down to modern day television, radio and travel. Everyone is used to hearing different dialects on a daily basis, as such people's natural accent picks up different bits of others from the English speaking world.
 
I sound like Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins :-))
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It makes me laugh every time i see this. There is no such thing as a British accent. There are english accents, hundreds of them. Scottish accents, hundreds of those too, Welsh and Irish all have lots of accents of their own as well but a British accent doesnt exist.....
 
Chinese cant pronounce their R too!
 
reason is they are of a landform that requires a different idea...larry
Translate
 
Wow, a post on linguistics at the top of the Explore stream! You don't see that every day :-)
 
So... the British (technically, "non-rhotic") accent came about because new money likes to act pretentious?
 
The "Hoi Toiders" (High Tiders) is a nickname for the rural folk of the Outer Banks islands of North Carolina.  Their dialect can be traced back to Elizabethan English.
 
Then why is it that when british singer, sing, you cant hear their "accent"? They sound like U.S. english. The same goes for Spanish (Spain) singers or south American singers.
 
This is totally interesting!
Accents are very divergent depending on culture and social status.
 
some times i speak english in iranian accent!
 
Tha dunt nos wot thas on abart!only joking,my queens english is fine!
 
I do not have accents.... I want to have one of those.
 
Because they drive on the wrong side of the road brummies drive on a spaghetti
 
Language is the beauty about humanity we rarely look at as such. You know it's in that diversity, that we can learn from each other, and yet we all sprung from the same root. It's riveting stuff this language thing!
 
That doesn't mean Brits Speak American! It does mean that British are more sophisticated and with the times!

I rate it's all lies. South Africans also often Pronounce R sounds... but the R sound doesn't make a language! And the British tend to use different IPA sounds entirely than Americans do! The R may have disappeared, that doesn't mean Brits speak 'American'! 
 
Haven't read all 396 comments, and I'm sure that someone has already pointed this out, but Britain is a mix of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - all very different accents.  Even within those countries, the accents and dialects vary enormously.  In fact, the Welsh teach and speak their own language in schools, alongside English.  There isn't a "British" accent, any more than there's an "American" accent...
 
In the film Fargo the people speak english with a sing song effect. They all seem to have Swedish sounding names. Is this accent for real and due to their Swedish lineage?
 
Me ether Harry Styles does.......no hate

 
Was it Kierkegaard or Dick Van Patten who said, "If you label me, you negate me?
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I have russian-hebrew accent but I feel like people understand it better then texan or british! Is it right?
 
Extremely interesting article!
 
I read the first paragraph and got the idea, ty for that piece of information :3
 
I have a British accent, its not all its cracked up to be :D
 
British accents are massively diverse today given the size of the UK mainland. I can suppose it was even more so before mass transportation. The colonists who rebelled were mostly middle class so likely would try and retain the mother tongue for status.

The pronunciation of 'hard winter' reads aloud like Yorkshire accent. Geordies (Newcastle residents) would put greater emphasis on the r in hard but drop it in winter (haRd wint'a). Even tho two locations are ~100miles apart. North east England is more close to Scandinavian! 
 
That's quite interesting, so you saying we (the Brits) used to sound like Americans! Its us that's messed up the English language, not the Americans lol
jen doe
 
Very interesting, I love these kind of facts. Thank you:)
 
In the main yes, but there are areas in Sydney where the accents are recognisably different even suburb to suburb (eg Cabramatta and Hornsby or Bondi). In the 'outback', however, there is not such great variation.
 
I don't find this information correct. Rhotic versus non-rhotic alone is but one factor to consider. Dialects that are rhotic generally have but that one trait in common. Even the quality of the r will differ. How the is produced will differ. Non-rhotic pronunciation most likely developed amongst the people of a given region rather than as a distinction of higher social class that spread unto the masses.
 
Do Australia next! Where did our accents come from?
 
Becareful about lumping all brits together, the scots pronounce the r quite emphatically. Sometimes to much.
 
i love british accents my nan is british and she is trying to show me how to talk like that but its not working :)
Z Tan
 
All those period pieces need to be performed in American accents.
Kate L
 
oh yeah... i <3 british accents... my friend is a master at it..
 
British accent what the hell is that?...........English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh are worlds apart
 
stupid n radical.........................
 
You can't beat the American accent, and thank goodness you guys don't sound anything like the english rich, money educated in-breds. Frank Sinatra summed it up exquisitely when he said 'The english speak as if they hate it!' Good on ya Frank!
 
Struth! Wonder what could be said about my Aussie accent then! LOL
 
In the inner-cities of UK (or should I say British - know the difference?) the trend amongst some white and black youth is to speak with a Jamaican accent. The impact of TV and music is accelerating and, on a large scale,homogenising accent evolution.
 
Sounds reasonable.. I assume there was less of a cockney accent influence on the American accent, unlike where I am from; Australia. I would also think there would have been a strong influence from the Irish (which there is here in Australia as well). America was also a convict colony for a period during British rule.. Although there was a large migration of Dutch, German, French and Spanish which would have had a great influence on the local accents as well.. So, maybe the American accent diverged more than this article implies..
 
As I understand it, people on both sides of the battle for American Independence spoke with the same accent. Since then, the British accent has changed and the American one has not (or at least not as much).
I assume this would mean the New England accent.

Edit - sorry, I hadn't read the original post in full - which is the reason I said more or less the same thing - non-rhotically of course :-)
 
Very interesting article. You mention that the American accent has not changed that much. However, I have noticed that in the last 30 years or so, a strange manner of pronouncing words such as "history" with a very pronounced "sh", has reared its ugly head. So, instead of a clear, sibilant 's', we have a word sounding much like "hishtory". "Strong" is another victim,evolving into "shtrong". Has the author noticed this as well?
 
Agree +bob hills. Im from northern England and sound nothing like somebody from the welsh valleys.
 
interestingly there is a shift in accidents between north Bristol & south Bristol. South Bristolians emphasis the L & sometimes add L to the end of a word whereas the north Bristolians emphasis the R and sometimes add R to the end if a word
 
The 'geordie' accent has a lot of simalarities and 'sayings' that mirror the Norwegian language. Just thought I would throw that one into the mix!

For the record Im NOT a geordie.
 
It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between some Irish accents and some American accents on first hearing. 

I am British and speak RP (received pronunciation), aka the Queen's English. I was once mistaken for an Australian by an American in DC. Should I have been flattered or horrified?
 
I wonder why Indians pronounce it as "hharrrrd winturrrrrrr" :) they were a British colony once.
 
Recently reported; A group of American tourists complained that they could not understand their UK guide; "We speak English, but you only speak British".
 
Now this is the English ...If you go by the number of people speaking English then whatever accent in which Indians speak is the English ..forget about brits and Americans.. !
 
I like my English accent, however when i'm in the states i often get asked to repeat myself and then comes the question "are you Australian?" [facepalm]
 
i do not only like my english in fact i love it so much cos it makes girls giggle
 
Clinging to antiquated modes of speech is a symptom of a wider inability to adapt inherent in conservatism. RP has stayed where it is while the centre has shifted, transforming it from archetype to patois.
 
while I lived in UK, even within regions there are different accents eg: Northshields accent. how do you explain that
 
That's why they say, you can tell a brit, but you can't tell'm much.
 
There's no such thing as a British accent... It's either English, Scottish, Welsh or (northern) Irish accents :@
munju s
 
The Queen's English has the most clear and PROPAH accent
 
An American exchange student asked me if I spoke Pakistani - he couldn't understand my sarf london accent lol
 
Disassociation from England over a few decades combined with natural individual accents perhaps?
 
I suspect this material has been misinterpreted... I live in the UK. I have wondered about accents in period drama before. I have also noticed similarities between the accents of isolated US communities (eg Amish) in documentaries, Australian and New Zealand, and elderly residents of London's East End. Although not the same, I think it's not hard to hear a common ancestor - this is what I imagine was spoken in England and America in the early days. At the same time, even a Brit like me will recognise the difference between east coast, west coast and deep south accents within the US. How can anyone claim these accents have diverged 'only subtly'? At the same time I can confirm that regional accents are very much alive and well in the UK, even if they are not reflected in the media. Received pronunciation has not taken over the UK, I suspect the media had more influence in spreading it than speech therapists, like today the youth is influenced by media and might develop a 'mockney' accent even though they live in the north or elsewhere where there is a predominant regional accent.
 
"For example, most modern Brits would tell you it's been a "hahd wintuh.""

This is total crap, most of us "modern Brits" don't sound like that at all whoever wrote has not got clue one. Where I'm from everyone talks like a pirate, they sound like  Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean. This is because what is considered a pirate accent is actually a west country accent or a Cornish accent because the actor who played Long John Silver in Disney produced films of “Treasure Island” used a west country accent.

Can you imagine Barbbosa saying "hahd wintuh.""?? NO he would say Harrrrd Winterrrrr Arrrrrrrr!
can you hear the R yes you bloody can!
http://dialectblog.com/2011/05/24/pirate-accent/
 
An American now re-writes the English Oxford dictionary. "What to do?"
 
I've moved around Britain quite a bit so my accent doesn't really accentuate, but I still have that wonderful British accent.
 
Never met anyone with a British accent. I grew up in yorkshire, I know a lot of people with various English, scottish Irish and welsh accents but I have never spoken to anyone with a british accent.
 
There is no such thing as a British accent, just as there is no such thing as an American accent. There is a geordie accent, a scouse accent, a brummie accent etc but no British accent.
 
I can recognize an east Londoner from a north Londoner by their accents even though they are just a couple of miles apart.
Ant Jay
 
...and back in the day...the "American" accent would have also been Geordie, Scot, Irish, Welsh, German and so on and so forth!
 
I had a friend from Boston who spoke American English, we once had dinner with some of the people from his hometown everyone got engaged in a conversation that was my interest as well and he asked me why I was being quiet I said "I am having a hard time understanding your British friends" and boy those Boston people felt good
 
that is tru . i wndr how long till there became an "amrrican" accent.
 
reminds me of that movie(love actually)&that english young man who spent his christmas vacation in america where 6 american pretty girls took good car of him ,just coz he uttered words the typical english way.loooooool
 
i was born in california so i have a California accent


it's good to be the king
 
Who is it? The firmly protested "spare o spare our mother tongue" when Americans got the nasty habit of inventing ugly words like "actionable".
 
I  have and I do shut up at time so I can hear what others are saying ,and my accent is Scottish not British which has many different accents depending of where you come from.
 
North America was populated before the great vowel shift so has more in common with northern English which resisted the change. Australia was populated mostly by southern English after the change occurred so sound more like them. For the record, there is no such thing as a British accent. There are many dozens. I am a Scouser :)
 
but kidding aside Filipinos can really speak different accents..
once we heard it we could definitely say it...
 
Wow! 40+ on my comment. I don't think I've had that many plus ones on any of my content on here and I've been on since July ! I like how I've ended up with first comment!
 
This is one of those perfect posts and one I have thoroughly enjoyed. Great work, +Linda Lawrey!
 
Many early transatlantic migrants from UK will have emigrated from the west country ports such as Plymouth and Bristol, where ‘rhotic’ pronunciation is still predominant. It is very interesting that Bristolian dialect and colloquialisms survive in parts of Newfoundland (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newfoundland_English ). Communities in Newfoundland may be isolated, and unaffected by outside influences over many generations, but it is surprising that in the city of Bristol, which is a diverse melting-pot community, the local dialect has been basically unaffected over time and is certainly used by the majority. ‘Received  pronunciation’ can be heard throughout the UK, but is only used by a minority of people.
This is a very interesting subject to consider, and clearly many factors influence the way we speak, so I’m sure all contradictory opinions can be seen as correct.
 
Who cares? If people can understand I don't give a shit
 
There are much stronger differences between British and American accents than the Rhotic/non-rhotic dichotomy. The accent from Northern England is even more distinctive and it has little to do with the upper class status of their speakers. I tend to believe that their accent is closer to the ancestral pronunciation and that the American has evolved separately in the last two centuries by contact with other accents (Scottish, Irish, Welsh, German, Swede, Dutch, Italian, Polish, Yiddish, Russian, Norwegian, Greek, French, and Spanish). As a matter of fact, the Northeastern American accent is closer to the British accent than, say Midwestern, Southern, or Californian accents.
Interestingly, Australian accents are closer to the British ones, whereas Canadian accents are more similar to some American accents. Perhaps because of the similarities between the immigrant origin of their respective populations.
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+Laura Beachum: "Why do people use the word "accent" when they really mean "dialect"? An accent is a holdover from your native language. A dialect is the different ways a single language can sound. Very informative post tho, I'd been wondering why we sound so different."

- A dialect also includes particularities in grammar and vocabulary, whereas accent only refers to pronunciation, rhythm, stress, and intonation, out of here the use of the word accent. Even in the English courses by the Oxford and Cambridge Universities is used the expression "accents in English" to refer to the different dialectal accents: 

In linguistics, an accent is a manner of pronunciation peculiar to a particular individual, location, or nation. An accent may identify the locality in which its speakers reside (a geographical or regional accent), the socio-economic status of its speakers, their ethnicity, their caste or social class, their first language (when the language in which the accent is heard is not their native language), and so on.
Accents typically differ in quality of voice, pronunciation of vowels and consonants, stress, and prosody. Although grammar, semantics, vocabulary, and other language characteristics often vary concurrently with accent, the word 'accent' refers specifically to the differences in pronunciation, whereas the word 'dialect' encompasses the broader set of linguistic differences. Often 'accent' is a subset of 'dialect'.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accent_(linguistics)
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+Jeremy R: "Is there a standard british or american accent?  People speak differently mainly if they are not talking to another group of people for any amount of time.  That explain why in one nation people speak differently too.  Seems very obvios if you ever traveled in america."

<<Standard English (often shortened to S.E. within linguistic circles) refers to whatever form of the English language is accepted as a national norm in an Anglophone country.
In the British Isles, particularly in England and Wales, it is often associated with: the "Received Pronunciation" accent (there are several variants of the accent) and UKSE (United Kingdom Standard English), which refers to grammar and vocabulary.
In the United States it is generally associated with the "General American" accent,>>
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_english

<<Received Pronunciation (RP), also called the Queen's (or King's) English, is the standard accent of Standard English in Great Britain, with a relationship to regional accents similar to the relationship in other European languages between their standard varieties and their regional forms. RP is defined in the Concise Oxford Dictionary as "the standard accent of English as spoken in the south of England", although some have argued that it can be heard from native speakers throughout England and Wales. RP is sometimes referred to as Oxford English or BBC English because those organisations are often considered standard-bearers for it. Although there is nothing intrinsic about RP that marks it as superior to any other variety, sociolinguistic factors have given Received Pronunciation particular prestige in parts of Britain. It has thus been the accent of those with power, money and influence since the early to mid 20th century, though it has more recently been criticised as a symbol of undeserved privilege. However, since the 1960s, a greater permissiveness towards allowing regional English varieties has taken hold in education and the media in Britain; in some contexts conservative RP is now perceived negatively.>>
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Received_Pronunciation

<<General American (GA), also known as Standard American English (SAE), is a major accent of American English. The accent is not restricted to the United States. Within American English, General American and accents approximating it are contrasted with Southern American English, several Northeastern accents, and other distinct regional accents and social group accents like African American Vernacular English.>>
...
<<It is commonly believed that General American English evolved as a result of an aggregation of rural and suburban Midwestern dialects, though the English of the Upper Midwest can deviate quite dramatically from what would be considered a "regular" American Accent. The local accent often gets more distinct the farther north one goes within the Midwest, and the more rural the area, with the Northern Midwest featuring its own dialect North Central American English. The fact that a Midwestern dialect became the basis of what is General American English is often attributed to the mass migration of Midwestern farmers to California and the Pacific Northwest from where it spread.>>
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_American
 
I have a Brit accent but its one of the worst sort,Im from Birmingham so I always sound really bored and depressed,Still its better than having an American accent no offense
 
I'm Croatian...but even I've learned, at first, American accent, I've always preffered British english....I never liked copy of anything and American english I found a copy of British english....so, no offense to Americans, they're so far away from being perfect in english language....only British english is ORIGINAL....any other english is and could be a copy....sorry, but that's my oppinion and nobody can't be offended by that....
 
the majority of people speaking or learning English around the globe, learn and prefer the British accent. American accents are the minority and sort of like the red headed step child. 
 
that's true the British accent is spoken more and more then American
because it has many contraction and short accent.
 
In my oppinion, British English is original English and more beautiful to listen than American English...but that's me...some of you won't agree with me, but I respect other people oppinion
 
Dunno man think people are forgetting that there's many accents in both nations.A Geordie does'nt sound like a Cockney.Just as a Texan does'nt sound like someone from say New York
 
It may possibly be that in the evolution of the American accent it may at one stage have been like the Canadian accent which is effectively a North American British received pronunciation.Basically Canada could be described as the USA/Dominion of America model if General George Washington had come a cropper in the rebellion vs King George Hanover of Britain.
 
its reasons are political and identity.read sociolinguistics if u want to know more
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