As you learn English, you may have noticed that Americans and Brits speak differently. Whether you have interacted with a colleague from the United States or Great Britain or have spent time watching American and British movies on TV, pronunciation is the most noticeable difference between the two languages. This post will look at the difference between British and American pronunciations.
Syllable Stress Variation
There are several word stress differences between American and British English. Generally, Britons often stress the first syllable of a word. However, that’s not the case for words like “address.” They say adDRESS while Americans say Address. It’s also different with words like “advertisement.” The Americans will stress ad while the Britons will stress ver.
Apart from a few exceptions, the difference is that the Brits will stress the first syllable. Here are a few examples to compare:
Other differences in stress patterns include:
- American English: Yoh-gurt
- British English: Yog-urt
- American English: Bay-zil
- British English: Bah-zil
- American English: Oh-ray-ga-no
- British English: Orah-ga-no
- American English: Pee-ta
- British English: Pitt-a
The rise and fall of the voice when speaking American and British English is different. However, the speech structure is similar. While the Americans commonly use rising tones (Up speak), the Brits regularly use high falling intonations.
The pronunciation of consonant sounds is commonly similar in English and American accents. However, there is a significant difference in the pronunciation of the following consonants:
Americans have a voiced flap when pronouncing /t/ that comes after a stressed vowel or before a weak vowel. It sounds slightly like a fast /d/. This is common in words like Fighter and water. The standard British speakers pronounce that as a regular /t/, while regional British speakers pronounce the /t/ with a glottal stop.
While the Americans have to curl their tongues a bit further when pronouncing the /r/ sound, the Britons’ tongues are flatter and go further. Besides, when /r/ appears after a vowel in a syllable (hard, person, market), it is not pronounced. However, the Americans will pronounce the /r/ sound.
There is a significant difference between the American and British vowel lengths. In American English, when a vowel appears before a voiceless consonant, it’s said for a short duration. When a vowel appears before a voiced consonant, it is pronounced for a longer duration. The vowel length in the British language is determined by phonetic context. For instance, vowels in an open syllable tend to be longer. In other situations, they are shorter.
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