English Accents and Dialects Around The World

English today is claimed to bi the third largest language by number of native speakers, after Mandarin Chindese and Spanish. Combining native and non-native speakres it is considered to be the most commonly spoken language in the world.

400 million people use the English vocabulary as a mother tongue, 700 million people speak English as a foreign language.

How well I understand regional English accents

“The fundamental reason why accents differ is that languages change. English pronunciation changes as time passes; the developments which have arisen and become established in different places and among different social groups have not been identical. Present-day pronunciation patterns reflect the changes which have taken place, modifying earlier pronunciation patterns.” (Wells 1982: 93–94)

The United Kingdom has a rich variety of accents and dialects which often give people a sense of belonging in their local community. While accents usually fit into broad categories like “Northern” or “Cornish”, even places just ten miles apart often have variations. Today the British Isles have 13 living dialects.

English accent map
This site will play audio recordings of the accents when you click on the region: sounds.bl.uk
Scottish dialect

English in America

The first settlers were representatives of 30 different communities of English inhabitants, the best-represented community being East Anglia – the eastern part of England comprising of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, and Essex.

The settling of the American continent then continued to the inland from east to west; therefore, pronunciation isoglosses (geographical borders of a certain pronunciation variety) in the United States can be described as “horizontal bands stretching across the country” (Wells 1982: 467). The arrival of settlers, however, meant for the language that it must inevitably undergo some changes, as the new environment was bound to have an influence on the English spoken by the first settlers. The newcomers came into contact with Native Americans and their indigenous languages, and their own language has reflected this encounter and acquired some new lexical items such as skunk or caucus (Trudgill 2010: 108). Later the inhabitants of the thirteen colonies experienced other European languages in the process of colonization that the British have not, or not in such an extent, such as Spanish or Dutch, and even German and Yiddish (Trudgill 2010: 109), from all of which American English has also borrowed vocabulary. The increasing the mobility of people also resulted in more settlers from other European countries arriving in America, namely from Ireland, Netherlands and many others; their language background influenced American English as well (Hana Richterová, 2013).

Taking into consideration the hundreds of years that American English and British English have developed with limited mutual contact, it seems natural that there are phonetic variations in American English which are not present in British English and vice versa.

There are fourteen major accent and eight English dialect areas in North America.

American accents
36 percent of Americans say they believe they have an accent

Today non-native speakers outnumber native speakers of English by more than two to one.

Countries by English-speaking population

CountryTotal English speakersTotal English speakers (%)As first languageAs first language (%)As an additional language As an additional language (%)
 United States28316041195.4623417155679.04898885516.5
 United Kingdom5960000097.745440000092.1451280005.60
 Pakistan17000000 – 8100000011.7281000000
 South Africa164244173149305109.31149390722
 Sri Lanka1056560047370610.2968000047
 Sierra Leone490000083.535008.524400000
 Hong Kong390306353.23004174.33587590
 New Zealand367362397.82367362385.93
 Papua New Guinea315000049.761502.373000000
 Puerto Rico194000048.611001840000
 Trinidad and Tobago114500087.741145000
 Costa Rica4004158.24004158.2
 Marshall Islands60000[dubious – discuss]98.336098.33
 American Samoa4593380.1179144142
 Solomon Islands17531.6810165
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines11495114
 U.S. Virgin Islands11395.979815
 Isle of Man8099.9380
 Saint Lucia7143.033140
 Northern Mariana Islands7083.33565
 Antigua and Barbuda6880662
 Federated States of Micronesia6457.66460
 The Gambia402.34402.34
 Saint Kitts and Nevis397839
 Cayman Islands3676.636
 British Virgin Islands2086.9620
 Cook Islands419.813
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