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Distinguishing accents in English

Even among native English speakers, as seen below, many different accents exist. Some of the regional accents are easily identified with certain characteristics.

Non-native speakers of the English language tend to carry the intonation, accent or pronunciation from their mother tongue into their English speech. For more details see Non-native pronunciations of English. This page now looks only at variations in the speech of native English speakers.

Table of contents
1 Countries and Regions (in alphabetical order)
2 Australia
3 Canada
4 England
5 Ireland
6 Scotland
7 South Africa
8 United States of America
9 Wales
10 External Links

Countries and Regions (in alphabetical order)


(See also Australian English)

The Australian accent varies between social classes and is sometimes claimed to vary from state to state, though this is disputed. Accents tend to be strongest in the more remote areas. (Note that while there are many similarities between Australian accents and New Zealand ones, there are also a number of differences.) The following are some Australian characteristics:

Australian Vowel Pronunciation in SAMPA
Australian Received Pronunciation Examples
@i/Ii i: see
{I eI day
AI aI my
VU @U no
{U aU now
1} u: soon,through
e: e@ there
a V but
a: A: fast, car

Reference: Listen to various Australian actors, singers and native speakers. Internationally known actors Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman and Sarah Wynter speak in their natural Australian accents when not acting.


(See also Canadian English; North American English)

Canadian accents vary widely across the country, and the accent of a particular region is often closer to neighbouring parts of the United States. Nevertheless, there are some characteristics that exist across the country, in varying degrees, such as Canadian raising. Canadian actors and announcers used to speak with a Mid-Atlantic accent, similar to that formerly used by actors and announcers in the United States. An exemplar of this is the actor Christopher Plummer.

Regional variations include:

British Columbia

Cape Breton Island



Ontario and Quebec



(See also
British English)

English accents and dialects vary more widely within the U.K. itself than they do in other parts of the world owing to the longer history of the language within the countries of the U.K. Here are some of the distinctions to be found:

Southern English

Home Counties

  • Estuary English (see below) is extremely prevalent in the Home Counties, but where an individual does not adopt this accent:
  • Southern and Western Home Counties (i.e. Surrey, Hampshire, Sussex, Kent, Buckinghamshire) tend to adopt a slightly "posh" (RP) accent.
  • Essex in general uses Estuary English, this is in fact where it originated.
  • Northern Home Counties (e.g. Herts) is more akin to the West Country rural accent, but with dropped 'h's being common.


  • Initial h sounds are dropped; i.e. "house" becomes "ouse"; "help" becomes "elp"
  • T sounds in the middle of words are replaced with a glottal stop; i.e. "water" becomes "wa>
  • Diphthongs shift tongue positioning distinctively, similarly to Australian English

Estuary English

Southeastern English

  • Terminal "r" is smashed; i.e. "doorway" becomes "doe-way", "forever" becomes "forevuh"
  • Unstressed vowels are also smashed


  • The tongue is more forward in the mouth
  • Words can be overpronounced
  • th becomes f or v, depending on whether or not it is voiced. "Fo'i fouzand fevvers on a frush's froat."
  • h replaced by glottal catch, as in the last example

West Country (southwestern) English

East Anglian English

  • "beautiful" pronounced as "bootiful", "huge" as "hooj", and so on
  • "eye" and "I" are pronounced "oy", "right" is "royt", and so on
  • high intonation throughout most of a sentence

Northern and Midlands English

Midlands English

  • Among other things, "bus" pronounced as "buzz", and flat "a" is used, as in the northern accents (below)
  • Dialect verbs are used, e.g. am for are, ay for is not (related to ain't), bay for are not, bin for am or, emphatically, for are. Hence the following joke dialogue about bay windows: "What sort of windas am them?" "They'm bay windas." "Well if they bay windas wot bin them?". There is also humour to be derived from the shop-owner's sign of Mr. "E. A. Wright" (i.e. "He ay [isn't] right", a phrase implying somone is saft [soft] in the jed [head]).

Northern English/Liverpool

  • The tongue is swallowed, cutting off nasal passages and making speech sound as if the speaker has a cold.
  • "th" is often pronounced as "d", for example "there" becomes "dere" usage "oarite dere la!" ("all right there, lad!")
  • distinctive rolling "ck" sound from the Welsh influence, sounds like the speaker is clearing their throat! usage:"gerr off me backk will yer!"
  • "arr, ey!" distinctive sound of a disappointed Scouser,

Northern English/Yorkshire

Northern English/Lancashire

Northern English/Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the northeast

Reference: For London accents, listen to old recordings by Petula Clark, Julie Andrews, The Rolling Stones, and The Who. Ozzy Osbourne has a Midlands accent. For Liverpool accents, recordings by The Beatles (George Harrison's accent was the thickest of the four of them), Gerry and the Pacemakers, Herman's Hermits, Echo and the Bunnymen. A Yorkshire (Leeds) accent can be detected in interviews with Melanie Brown of The Spice Girls.


(See also Irish English)


There are several Scots dialects and many Scots accents. For more information see the article,
Scots language. The information below describes how a Scots speaker will pronounce standard English when trying to make it easy for other English speakers to understand what is being said rather than when speaking to other Scots. The Edinburgh accent is exemplified by Sean Connery or the film Trainspotting; the Glasgow accent by Billy Connolly. see

South Africa

(See also South African English)

South Africa has 11 official languages, one of which is English. Afrikaners, descendants of mainly Dutch settlers, tend to pronounce English phonemes with a strong Afrikaans inflection, which is very similar to a Dutch accent. Native English speakers in South Africa have an accent that generally resembles a middle to upper class British accent modified with varying degrees of Germanic inflection, due to the Afrikaner influence. Native South African English speakers also insert a number of Afrikaans loanwords into their speech. Please add information about the English accents of native speakers of African languages.

United States of America

(See also American English; North American English)

The standard American English accent is the neutral dialect spoken by TV network announcers and typical of educated speech in the Upper Midwest, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Philadelphia. Standard American makes a good reference dialect because it has crisp consonants and more vowel distinctions than other major dialects, tends to retain distinctions between unstressed vowels, and is considered a "neutral" dialect. However, /o/ and /ah/ tend to merge in standard American (which means that "father" and "bother" rhyme). This may help readers accustomed to accents resembling British Received Pronunciation. American actors and announcers used to speak with a Mid-Atlantic accent, which was an affected hybrid of educated American and British accents.

Regional and cultural variations within the USA include the following:

African American

(Sometimes referred to as Ebonics)

This is actually a cluster of dialects with numerous regional variations. The below describes some features found in many (but not necessarily all) varieties, and emphasizes a stereotype that may or may not be true in some areas of the United States. This dialect is not exclusive to African-Americans and might be more appropriately titled Urban.


(South Midlands,
Tennessee through Texas)

Boston, Massachusetts

Reference: Speeches of John F. Kennedy

Brooklyn, New York

Reference: Old Bugs Bunny cartoons (Bugs has a Brooklyn accent). The accent is often exaggerated, but it still does exist to some degree with many Brooklyn natives. Also, Groucho Marx has a passable Brooklyn accent.

Maine and Downeast


(Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Lower Peninsula of Michigan)===

New England and East Coast

Old Northwest

(Minnesota (esp. rural), Upper Peninsula of Michigan, North Dakota)

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh accents have a number of distinctive features. Please reference that article for more information.

St. Louis and vicinity


Virginia, North Carolina through Louisiana))


Welsh accents can be heard from the actors
Richard Burton and (to a lesser extent) Anthony Hopkins, or on recordings of Dylan Thomas or in the music of Catatonia, Tom Jones or Shirley Bassey.

External Links