Subject Material

American and British Pronunciation

Published: 07.01.2010, Updated: 03.03.2017
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Americans and Britons pronounce words differently. There is a whole variety of words with different pronunciations, but in general you may learn the difference by learning the various phonemes of GA (General American) and RP (Received Pronunciation, also known as the Queen's English or Oxford English.)

Did you know that in standard British English, "r" is not pronounced if it comes after a vowel? If you didn't know this, try to listen to it when you hear people speak British English. Americans will say words like "word", "car" and "sister" with a clearly pronounced /r/ but Britons will not. They will make the vowel longer and leave it out, unless there is another vowel following the /r/. This phenomenon is the most distinct difference between American and British English. Look for it and try to learn to speak without what is called the postvocalic /r/, and you will sound much more British than you did before! Once you have mastered this, you can move on to the vowels and see if you can spot differences in words like "know", "last" and "duty".

Cockney in New York

It is easy to focus on differences. There are however a few surprising similarities as well between Cockney and the New York dialect. Listen to this audio clip by Bill Bryson.

London and New York Dialects 



Oral Task

"Different Englishes"

Two men in New York. Photo.New Yorkers - Michael and Tom    

Listen to Michael, a New Yorker, speaking very informally about
types of Englishes. See if you can find more formal ways of describing
the different Englishes.

Informal about English by New Yorker
Opphavsmann: Arild H Henriksen

Written Tasks

  1. Write a brief text in which you mention what types of Englishes we have.
  2. What do you think he means by society English?
  3. What does OMG stand for?
  4. Do you know any more popular abbreviations?
  5. What is the difference between formal and informal English?
  6. Do you think it should be allowed to write more informal English - like gonna, cuz, chill out and awesome?
  7. What is the difference between a letter and a sound?

Find Out

Visit this site and check out how some words are pronounced differently around the world. Especially listen to words with the letter /r/ in them.

Sound Comparisons