North Central American English

North Central American English

North Central American English is used to refer to a dialect of American English. It is also known as Upper Midwestern among some linguists. The area is centered on Minnesota; however, it also consists of much of North Dakota and South Dakota, northern Iowa, much of Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.


Not all of these characteristics are unique to the North Central region.


*Monopthongization occurs in words such as boat, so, etc. such that IPA|/oʊ/ is often pronounced as a nearly pure close-mid back rounded vowel [o] . Monopthongization also occurs in IPA|/eɪ/, bringing its pronunciation closer to a pure [e] in words such as day, play, etc.

* The words "roof" and "root" may be variously pronounced with either IPA|/ʊ/ or IPA|/u/; that is, with the vowel of "foot" or "boot", respectively. This is highly variable, however, and these words are pronounced both ways in other parts of the country.

* "The Mary-marry-merry merger": Words containing IPA|/æ/, IPA|/ɛ/, or IPA|/eɪ/ before an "r" and a vowel are all pronounced "IPA|/eɪ/-r-vowel," so that "Mary", "marry", and "merry" all rhyme with each other, and have the same first vowel as "Sharon", "Sarah", and "bearing". This merger is widespread throughout the Midwest, West, and Canada.

* The words "cot" and "caught" are distinct in some areas of this region, and are the same in other parts; see cot-caught merger for more information.

* The pin-pen merger does not occur.

* The flag-plague merger is found in the speech of some people in this region. This merger means that /æ/ merges with /eɪ/ before /g/, so that "flag" rhymes with "plague"; both words are pronounced with the vowel sound of the word "face". Even in speakers that do not have the merger, there is noticeable raising of /æ/ before g, such that bag and bat do not have the same vowel.

* Canadian raising can be found in the speech of some people in this area. This means that the word "like" can have a different diphthong than the word "line", and (although less commonly in this region) "about" can have a different diphthong than the word "loud". The former offers distinction between the pronunciation of "writer" and "rider," as well as between "hire" and "higher."

* The Northern cities vowel shift has an influence over much of this region. Accents in which /ʌ/ is more retracted than /ɑ/ (whether by backing of /ʌ/, fronting of /ɑ/, or both) can be found in southeastern North Dakota, northeastern South Dakota, much of northern Iowa, much of Minnesota, and the vast majority (if not all) of Wisconsin. The diphthongization of /æ/ before oral consonants is found in parts of Minnesota (St. James to the south, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Brainerd to the north).

* The conservative character of the region is best exemplified by the speakers of northern Iowa, who come as close to Labov's "initial position" as any in the country. The more northerly parts of this region show the well-known monophthongal character of the long high and mid vowels. The stereotype of Minnesota speech, for example, is expressed in the pronunciation of "Minnesota" with a long, monophthongal "o": [ˌmɪnəˈsoːɾə] .


* North Central speech is rhotic.
* Final devoicing of consonants sometimes occurs.

Portrayals and notable speakers

* The movie Fargo popularly showed the North Central American English dialect. []
* The film Drop Dead Gorgeous also shows the dialect. []
* The Hanson Brothers from the movie "Slap Shot"; notably when they refer to root beer as "rutt beer."


* [ Maps]

ee also

*Inland Northern American English
*Northern Cities Vowel Shift

External links

* [ low back merger in Minnesota]
* [ Regional Dialect Map (Where it is classified as "Upper Midwestern").]

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