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Different Accents in the United States — American Flag
Different Accents in the United States — American Flag
Alex Mcomie 107x107
Feb 1, 2024

Different Accents in the United States

When you think about different kinds of English, your first thought is probably about the varieties spoken in different countries.

For example, British English differs from American English in terms of vocabulary, pronunciation, and more.

If you’re a producer, you probably know that you need to localize content for each of these regions.

At the same time, there are also significant variations in English usage within individual countries.

Just as French speakers in Paris speak differently from French speakers in Marseille, the US is home to many different accents and dialects.

In this article, we’ll take a look at four of the most common English accents found in the United States.


1. Southern Accents

The most famous American English accent is the Southern accent.

While there are no clear borders between regions with southern and non-southern accents, this accent is mostly associated with the deep south.

The image below from the University of Georgia shows the rough range of the southern accent.

This region includes all of the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee as well as parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

The accent is also present in some parts of Florida and Maryland.

Different Accents in the United States — southern accent map

Of course, just because the people in those states have southern accents doesn’t mean they all speak exactly the same.

A person from Texas might use very different vocabulary and speech patterns compared to someone in Kentucky or North Carolina.

The idea of a southern accent is a general classification rather than a single way of speaking.

When you think of a southern accent, you probably think of a southern drawl.

The clearest sign of the southern drawl is the tendency to turn single vowels into diphthongs.

For example, many southern speakers pronounce the word “here” with two syllables (hee-yuh) instead of the single syllable common in other regions.

On the other hand, some words that are diphthongs in other regions are pronounced as single vowels in the south.

Instead of the usual diphthong in words like “my,” people from the south often contract the word to a single syllable that sounds more like “mah” to other Americans.

The video below covers diphthongs and other common features of southern accents.


The word “get” is usually spoken by southern Americans as “git,” meaning that it rhymes with the English word “lit” as opposed to “debt.”

With such distinctive features, southern accents are one of the easiest accents for most American speakers to recognize.


2. Boston Accents

After the deep south, Boston may have the most well-known and distinctive accent in the United States.

This accent is generally associated with a missing “R”, especially in words that end in an “ah” sound.

People from Boston often pronounce the word “car” in a way that sounds more like “ca” to other Americans.

Just as each area of the south has a slightly different accent, the northeast is home to various accents that are similar to the one found in Boston.

This video is a perfect example of Boston, New York, and Rhode Island accents.


2019 study found that the Boston accent traces its roots to 17th-century British settlers.

Like many other accents in the United States and around the world, there is concern that the Boston accent is going away.

For a long time, regional accents were preserved by a relative lack of communication and movement between different areas.

If you were born in Boston in 1710, you would probably spend most of your life in or around the city.

Travel was much more expensive and time-consuming than it is today, and there were no phones, radios, or TVs to connect you with people in other places.

These factors reduced communication between people with different accents and made each region’s accent much more distinctive than it is today.

Mass media, accessible and affordable transportation, and other social and technological trends have brought people closer together, but they have also led to a decline in regional accents.


3. California Accents

California is the most populous US state and the third largest — only Alaska and Texas have more land area.

Naturally, this leads to plenty of variation in accents.

The main divide is between southern California cities like Los Angeles and San Diego and northern cities like San Francisco.

The video below covers some slang from Los Angeles, but someone from San Francisco might not know any of these examples.


The Stanford Voices of California Project is one of the most important active studies on California accents.

Once per year, the group visits a different area to learn how people speak in that region.

They ask a series of questions — for example, having participants say the words “pin” and “pen.”

Most American English speakers pronounce them differently, but some Californians say them exactly the same.

People from Southern California also tend to replace “were” with “was.”

Along with linguistic features, the Voices of California team also studies how different communities understand themselves as a part of the state and country.

While the project has been on hiatus due to COVID-19, we hope to see an update in the near future!


4. Midwest Accents

The official midwest region includes ten states:

  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • South Dakota
  • Wisconsin

Some people also include Kansas and Missouri, but the core of the region is north of these two states.

While the midwestern accent is obvious to most Americans, most midwestern speakers see their accent as neutral.

According to author Edward McClelland, “an important element of Midwestern identity is believing you don’t have an accent.”

Naturally, midwest accents are at least as varied as those seen in California.

While the ten states above have much more combined land area than California, their overall population is about the same.

The midwest has a lower population density, but there are still many major cities including Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Cleveland.

In the video below, accent and dialect coach Keely Wolter discusses the core elements of midwestern accents.

The first one she mentions is the longer “o” sound compared to other American accents.

Most Americans pronounce the “o” as a diphthong in words like “go,” but midwesterners generally pronounce these as a single vowel.

The most famous example of a midwestern accent is probably the Fargo movie and TV show.

However, the “Fargo accent” is actually a subset of midwestern English that’s known as the north-central accent.

McClelland and most other linguistics see three distinct accents being used throughout the midwest: inland, midlands, and north-central.


The inland region starts from around Rochester on the east and goes all the way to the state of Iowa on the west.

Inland accents are related to the northern cities’ vowel shift, which leads to unique pronunciations of a variety of vowels.

Inland speakers pronounce the word “naturally” in a way that sounds closer to “neturally” to people from other areas.


The midlands are located south and west of the inland region, stretching from cities like Columbus and Indianapolis in the east to Omaha, Wichita, and even Oklahoma City in the west.

This is considered the most linguistically diverse of the three main midwest regions.

Midlands accents are also the closest of the three to a “general American” accent, especially in the northern midlands.

One clear example of the unique midlands accent is an “r” sound after the “a” in words like “wash,” “squash,” and “Washington.”

This may stem from Scottish and Irish influence due to the unique history of immigration in the midlands region.


Finally, the north-central or upper midwestern accent is what Americans think of as the “Fargo” accent.

It is most closely associated with Minnesota and Wisconsin, but it also pops up in other northern states.

North-central speakers often pronounce “absurd” with more of a “z” sound than the typical “s.”

They may also add a “t” sound to the end of words like “across,” making them rhyme with “tossed.”

Given these significant differences, the midwestern accent is really three different accents with some common features.

If you’re aiming for hyper-localization, you need to be sensitive to the differences within this region as well as the differences between the Midwest and the rest of the country.


Final Thoughts

We all know that accents vary between regions, but most people aren’t aware of the sheer linguistic diversity in the United States (and even within particular states).

Accents can make a substantial difference in the way a character is perceived.

Downton Abbey would have been much less captivating if half the actors were Americans doing fake British accents.

In the same way, Americans from a particular region will be able to tell if someone’s accent is real or not.

Understanding the distinctions between these Americans English accents will help you localize content for your unique audience.

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