British English – American English: Pronunciation


Video credit: Anglo-Link, “British vs American | English Pronunciation Lesson” April 25, 2013, via YouTube.

Dear All,
Today I would like to discuss with you two varieties (dialects) of the English language: British English (BrE) and American English (AmE).

First of all, let us define BrE and AmE. BrE can be defined as the form of English used in the United Kingdom including all the dialects. However, for the purpose of comparison, when we say “BrE”, we usually have in mind Received Pronunciation (RP), in other words Standard English in England. AmE can be defined as the form of English used in the United States including all the dialects. However, for the purpose of comparison, when we say “AmE”, we usually mean General American (GA) or, as it is also known, Standard American English (SAE), in other words Standard English in the United States.

Traditionally, it is the BrE form which is usually taught as the standard form of English in different in Europe and elsewhere. However, AmE is becoming more and more popular among learners due to the development of educational contacts between continents and cultural exchanges through various media, including cinematography, popular music, literature, and Web communication. For example, in Ukraine where BrE has been taught almost exclusively AmE is now in demand. AmE language courses are offered in many big cities. These courses are taught at least in part by American and Canadian instructors (it should noted that English in Canada has its own peculiarities as compared to AmE or BrE). In fact, both BrE and AmE are very important and interesting not only to linguists who study the mutual influence between these two varieties, but also to tourists who want to avoid embarassing moments when they travel. Therefore, the following four posts will focus on differences between BrE and AmE. The differences which exist between BrE and AmE can be divided into four major groups: (1) pronunciation (phonetics), (2) spelling (orthography), (3) vocabulary (lexis), and (4) grammar. In this post I would like to focus on pronunciation.

The video above discusses the differences in pronunciation of words containing the sound [r] as well as some other differences. Let’s start with [r]. Words which contain [r] may be pronounced either in the same way or differently in BrE and AmE. The pronunciation of words with the sound [r] depends on the position of the sound in a given word. In the initial position, [r] is always pronounced in both BrE and AmE (e.g. rate: [reɪt] – [reɪt]). However, when [r] follows a vowel or when [r] is at the end of a word, it is not pronounced in BrE and is pronounced in AmE:
far: [fɑ:] – [fɑːr]* (CDO, 2014; MW, 2014; ABBY Lingvo, 2014)**
fork: [fɔːk] – [fɔːrk]

Let us now discuss other differences in pronunciation between BrE and AmE (the following differences are not necessarily discussed in the video). In order to make the comparison easier and more systematic, first I am going to mention those differences which follow certain pattern. One of the most common differences between BrE and AmE is a word stress. Some words of French origin in BrE have changed their stress (in French it is always on the last syllable of a word), while in AmE the stress is on the last syllable which is similar to French:
adult: [ˈædʌlt] – [əˈdʌlt]
ballet: [ˈbæleɪ] – [bælˈeɪ]
beret: [ˈbereɪ] – [bəˈreɪ]
brochure:[ˈbrəʊʃʊr] – [broʊˈʃʊr]
café: [ˈkæfeɪ] – [kəˈfeɪ]
cliché: [ˈkliːʃeɪ] – [kliːˈʃeɪ]
croissant: [ˈkrwɑːsɑːŋ] – [krwɑːˈsɑːŋ]
detail: [ˈdiːteɪl] – [dɪˈteɪl]
précis: [ˈpreɪsi] – [preɪˈsi]
vaccine: [ˈvæksiːn] – [vəkˈsiːn]
fiancé(e): [fiˈɒnseɪ] – [ˌfiːɑːnˈseɪ]

At the same time it is worth noting that certain AmE words have stress on the final syllable in the words of French origin, whereas BrE has the stress on the last syllable:
address: [əˈdres] – [ˈædres]
moustache: [mʊˈstɑːʃ] – [ˈmʌstæʃ]
limousine: [ˌlɪməˈziːn] – [ˈlɪməˌzin]

Some two-syllable words ending in -ate (French origin too) are pronounced differently in BrE and AmE:
dictate: [dɪkˈteɪt] – [ˈdɪkteɪt]
donate: [dəʊˈneɪt] – [ˈdoʊ.neɪt]
locate: [ləʊˈkeɪt] – [ˈloʊkeɪt]
mandate: [ˈmændeɪt] – [ˈmændeɪt]
migrate: [maɪˈɡreɪt] – [ˈmaɪɡreɪt]
pulsate: [pʌlˈseɪt] – [ˈpʌlseɪt]
rotate: [rəʊˈteɪt] – [ˈroʊteɪt]
translate: [trænsˈleɪt] – [ˈtræns·leɪt]
vacate [veɪˈkeɪt] – [ˈveɪkeɪt]
vibrate: [vaɪˈbreɪt] – [ˈvaɪbreɪt]

Other stress differences between BrE and AmE include the following words (which are not of French origin):
kilometre: [ˈkɪləˌmiːtə] – [kəˈlɑmətər]
margarine: [ˌmɑːdʒəˈriːn] – [ˈmɑrdʒərɪn]
princess: [prɪnˈses] – [ˈprɪnses]
weekend: [ˌwiːkˈend] – [ˈwiːkend]

Differences in pronunciation can also be observed frequently in a number of words with such affixes as -ary, -ory, -ile, -ine. In this case, pronunciation differences are not necessarily related to word stress:
inventory: [ˈɪnvəntəri] – [ˈɪnvənˌtɔri]
fragile: [ˈfrædʒaɪl] – [ˈfrædʒəl]
futile: [ˈfjuːtaɪl] – [ˈfjutəl]
sterile: [ˈsteraɪl] – [ˈsterəl]
volatile: [ˈvɒlətaɪl] – [ˈvɑːlətəl]
turbine: [ˈtɜːbaɪn] – [ˈtɜrbən]

In addition to the pronunciation differences above, there are other differences in pronunciation. These differences can be illustrated by the following examples:
pasta: [ˈpæstə] – [ˈpɑːstə]
aesthete: [ˈiːsθiːt] – [ˈesθiːt]
ecumenical: [ˌiːkjʊˈmenɪkəl] – [ekjʊˈmenɪkəl]
evolution: [ˌiːvəˈluːʃən] – [ˌevəˈluːʃən]
Kenya: [‘ki:njə] – [‘kenjə]
predecessor: [ˈpriːdɪˌsesə] – [ˈpredəsesər]
compost: [ˈkɒmpɒst] – [ˈkɑːmpoʊst]
yogurt: [ˈjɒɡət] – [ˈjoʊərɡ]
banana: [bəˈnɑːnə] – [bəˈnænə]
leisure: [ˈleʒə] – [ˈliːʒər]
zebra: [ˈzebrə] – [ˈziːbrə]
(com)patriot: [(kəm)ˈpætriət] – [(kəm)ˈpeɪtriət]
advertisement: [ədˈvɜːtɪsmənt] – [ˈædvɜːtaɪzmənt]
dynasty: [ˈdɪnəsti] – [ˈdaɪnəsti]
vitamin: [ˈvɪtəmɪn] – [ˈvaɪtəmin]
erase: [ɪˈreɪz] – [ɪˈreɪs]
amen: [ˌɑːˈmen] – [ˌeɪˈmen]
tomato: [təˈmɑːtəʊ] – [təˈmeɪtoʊ]
codify: [ˈkəʊdɪfaɪ] – [ˈkɑːdɪfaɪ]
processor: [ˈprəʊsesə] – [ˈprɑːsesər]
progress (noun): [ˈprəʊɡres] – [ˈprɑːɡres]
(n)either: [(n)ˈaɪðə] – [(n)ˈiːðə]
Amazon: [ˈæməzən] – [ˈæməzɑːn]
phenomenon: [fəˈnɒmɪnən] – [fəˈnɑːmənɑːn]
minority: [maɪˈnɒrɪti] – [maɪˈnɑːrəti]
ate: [et] – [eɪt]
apricot: [ˈeɪprɪkɒt] – [ˈeɪprɪkɑːt]
patent: [ˈpeɪtənt] – [ˈpætənt]
medicine: [ˈmedɪsən] – [ˈmedsən]
version: [ˈvɜːʃən] – [ˈvɜːʒən]
squirrel: [ˈskwɪrəl] – [ˈskwɜːrl]
coupon: [ˈkuːpɒn] – [ˈkuːpɑːn]
entrepreneur: [ˌɒntrəprəˈnɜː] – [ˌɑːntrəprəˈnɜːr]
hurricane: [ˈhʌrɪkən] [-kein] – [ˈhɜːrɪkən] [-kein]
jaguar: [ˈdʒæɡjʊə] – [ˈdʒæɡjuːɑːr]
record (noun): [rɪˈkɔːd] – [riˈkɔːrd]
wrath: [rɒθ] – [rɑːθ]
Isaiah: [ˈaɪzaɪə] – [ˈeɪzeɪə]
again: [əˈɡen] – [əˈɡeɪn]
template: [ˈtempleɪt] – [ˈtemplət]
schedule: [ˈʃedjuːl] – [ˈskedjuːl]
route: [ruːt] – [raʊt]
clothes: [kloʊðz] – [kloʊz]

The pronunciation differences above involve only one major difference in each word. However, there are also words in English which have multiple major differences in their pronunciation when we compare BrE and AmE, for instance:
bouquet: [bʊˈkeɪ] – [boʊˈkeɪ], [buˈkeɪ]
enquiry: [ɪnˈkwaɪəri] – [ˈɪnkwəri], [ɪŋˈkwaɪri]
garage: [ˈɡærɑːʒ], [ˈɡærɪdʒ] – [ɡəˈrɑːʒ]
resource: [rɪˈzɔːs], [ˈriːsɔːs] – [ˈriːsɔːrs]
Tunisia: [tjuːˈnɪziə] – [tuˈniʒə], [tuˈniʃə]
vase: [vɑːz] – [veɪs]
Z: [zed] – [ziː]

In conclusion, this post has addressed certain differences between two varieties of English: BrE and AmE. Some of the major differences are found in stress including words of French origin. Other words which have different pronunciations often end in one of the following affixes: -ate, -ary, -ory, -ile, -ine. Most of the words involve only one major difference in pronunciation. However, there are some words which involve multiple differences. Learners of English may want to ask the question: what variety should they choose to learn. There is, probably, no single correct answer to this question since we all have our own needs and objectives in learning. In my opinion, it is important, however, to pick one variety and to adhere to it.

See similar posts:

  1. British English – American English: Spelling
  2. British English – American English: Education (vocabulary)
  3. British English – American English: Transportation (vocabulary)
  4. British English – American English: Clothes (vocabulary)
  5. British English – American English: Food (vocabulary)
  6. British English – American English: Miscellaneous (vocabulary)
  7. British English – American English: Units of measurement (vocabulary)
  8. British English – American English: Idioms (vocabulary)
  9. British English – American English: Verbs (grammar)
  10. British English – American English: Nouns (grammar)
  11. British English – American English: Prepositions (grammar)

References
ABBYY Lingvo (2014). Retrieved January 27, 2014 from, http://www.lingvo-online.ru/en
Cambridge Dictionaries Online (CDO) (2014). Retrieved January 27, 2014 from, http://dictionary.cambridge.org/
Merriam-Webster (MW) (2014). Retrieved January 27, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/

*Bold type is used for the AmE pronunciation.
** These dictionaries were consulted here and further in this post.
Iaroslav

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19 Comments

  1. Well such a splendid blog. Every pronunciation are discussed here i details. Keep sharing such splendid details. It is extremely helpful.

    • Hi Ncholas,
      Thank you for your feedback! I appreciate it!

  2. Great source ! Every English Pronunciation is discussed here. I have bookmark your total English Pronunciation. It’s great source. Thanks for your sharing information…

Trackbacks

  1. British English – American English: Spelling | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  2. British English – American English: Education (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  3. British English – American English: Verbs (grammar) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  4. British English – American English: Prepositions (grammar) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  5. British English – American English: Spelling | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  6. British English – American English: Education (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  7. British English – American English: Transportation (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  8. British English – American English: Clothes (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  9. British English – American English: Food (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  10. British English – American English: Prepositions (grammar) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  11. British English – American English: Nouns (grammar) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  12. British English – American English: Verbs (grammar) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  13. British English – American English: Units of measurement (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  14. British English – American English: Idioms (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS
  15. British English – American English: Miscellaneous (vocabulary) | BLOG|ON|LINGUISTICS

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