American vs British Pronunciation


General American vs General British – 5 Key Differences

It’s a choice every learner has to make at some point – which model of English pronunciation should I learn? For most, that means a choice between General American or General British, so in this month’s accent article, we look at 5 key differences between the two. The audio to accompany each point contains firstly a General American pronunciation of the words, followed by the same in General British.

1. /r/ – silent or pronounced?

work far pour

In General American, every written < r > is pronounced, whereas in General British, < r > is only pronounced before a vowel sound – it is silent before consonant sounds. This is known as rhoticity – General American is ‘rhotic’ and General British is ‘non-rhotic’.

2. /t/ – tap or plosive?

‘water’ ‘party’ ‘What are you doing?’

When the sound /t/ appears before a weak vowel, in General American it can be pronounced with a voiced tap /ɾ/ – this sounds a bit like a very fast /d/, in General British it will be a voiceless plosive /t/ with some aspiration.

3. /ɒ/ – rounded or un-rounded?

‘stop’ ‘watch’ ‘lot’

In General British, we round the lips with back open vowel in ‘got’ ‘what’ ‘shop’ whereas in Genreal American this is unrounded /ɑ/.

4. Upspeak – statement or question?

“I’m going ˈout later.” “I really want a new ˈjob.”

In General British, speakers tend to use a falling tone to indicate a new statement or utterance. In American, however, it is common to use a rising tone, which to British ears may sound more like a question. It is known as ‘upspeak’, which technically means a high rising tone. NOTE – this type of intonation is becoming more common in British English, although there are reports that some institutions actively discourage its use.

5. j – pronounced or silent?

tuna’, ‘news’, ‘due’

In General British, speakers would pronounce a /j/ before the vowel sound in ‘tune’ and ‘new’ – words where a /t/, /d/ or /n/ are followed by /u:/. In General American, this /j/ is dropped, a concept known as yod-dropping.