Standard US English Dialect?

Dennis Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Sun Apr 13 12:37:28 UTC 2008

Well, we know a great deal about middle class (and working class)
pronunciation in New York City. William Labov's Social Stratification
of English in New York City (CAL, 1966) would be the first place to
look. The myth that different boroughs have different accents is hard
to do away with; it stems largely from the fact that different social
classes tend to live in different boroughs.

"Midwestern" is not a dialect area of the US, but you can find the
pronunciation of  various areas I guess people would call "Midwest"
represented in the newer Labov, Ash, and Boberg Atlas of North
American English (Mouton de Gruyter 2006).

Washington DC is the capital of the US, not NYC.


>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       LanDi Liu <strangeguitars at GMAIL.COM>
>Subject:      Re: Standard US English Dialect?
>I've found that idea here in China a lot too.  Before I came to China
>I had lived in NYC for several years, so when people ask me where I'm
>from, usually I say New York, and then they think then that my accent
>must be standard.  I think my accent is pretty standard, but that has
>nothing to do with NYC.  Most people believe that the midwestern
>accent is the most "standard", but I have never seen a full
>description of it.  One of the things I plan on doing one of these
>days is transcribing the speech of several midwestern newscasters to
>see if I can formulate a good description of it.  Once I do, I'll let
>everyone know, so they can rip it apart. : )
>As far as NYC middle class goes, that means very little as far as
>accents go.  Because of the large amount of people that live in NYC
>that weren't born there, and the fact that different boroughs in NYC
>have different accents to begin with, and the fact that class and
>accent aren't so easily correlated anymore, I don't think anyone could
>say what a NYC middle class accent is.  So probably the people in
>Japan and China (and elsewhere) think capital = standard.  Most people
>think Beijing Chinese is standard, but that's a myth as well.
>On Sun, Apr 13, 2008 at 1:58 AM, chris bennett <quiddity9 at> wrote:
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>   Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>   Poster:       chris bennett <quiddity9 at HOTMAIL.COM>
>>   Subject:      Standard US English Dialect?
>>   Hello,
>>   My girlfriend is Japanese/American and believes standard US dialect =3D
>>   is that of the middle class of New York City. She believes this because =
>>   =3D
>>   many of her ESL learning friends have been told this and they generally =
>>   =3D
>>   seek NYC tutors. She reminded me that Tokyo Japanese is the standard, =
>>   =3D
>>   which may lend support to her NYC idea.
>>   =20
>>   I've searched online for the answer and have had no luck. =3D
>>   Personally, I was under the impression that midwestern dialects were =3D
>>   generally accepted as "standard" US English dialect. My grandfather =3D
>>   worked for the Voice of America and was always impressed by the foreign =
>>   =3D
>>   broadcasters (Russia's version of the VOA, etc.) who spoke with a =3D
>>   perfect Ohio type dialect. I've also seen Deutsche Welle newscasters =3D
>>   with the Ohio dialect.
>>   =20
>>   Are you able to shed any light on the matter?
>>   =20
>>   Thanks much,
>>   Christian Bennignus
>>   ------------------------------------------------------------
>>   The American Dialect Society -
>Randy Alexander
>Jilin City, China
>The American Dialect Society -

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
Morrill Hall 15-C
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48864 USA

The American Dialect Society -

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