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Classification of pronunciation variants in English. British and American pronunciation models.

American English shows a lesser degree of dialect than British English due to some historical factors: the existence of Standard English when first English settlers came to America, the high mobility of population, internal migrations of different communities and so on. As regards pronunciation, however, it is not at all homogeneous. There are certain varieties of educated American speech. In the USA three main types of cultivated speech are recognized: the Eastern type, the Southern type and Western or General American. 1. There is no strict division of vowels into long and short in GA, though some American phoneticians suggest that certain GA vowels are tense and likely to be accompanied by relative length: [i] in seat, [u:] in pool.

They also admit that a slight rise in tongue position during the pronunciation of tense vowels leads to a diphthongal quality of tense vowels which contrasts to a monophthongal quality of lax vowels.

2. Classification of vowels according to the stability of articulation is the most controversial subject in GA. Some diphthongs are treated in GA as biphonemic combinations. The inventory of GA diphthongs varies from three to twelve phonemes. Following D.A.Shakhbagova we distinguish here five diphthongs in GA: [eэ], [aэ], [oэ], [au], [ou].

3. Another very important feature that causes different interpretations of diphthongs and vowel length in GA is the pronunciation of [r] sound between a vowel and a consonant or between a vowel and a silence: turn [tз:rn], bird [bз:rd], star [sta:r]. One more peculiar feature of pronunciation of vowels in American English is their nasalization, when they are preceded or followed by a nasal consonant (e.g. m such words as take, small, name, etc.). Nasalization is often called an American twang. It is incidental and need not be marked in phonemic transcription. The RP allophonic differentiation of [1] does not exist in GA. In all positions [1] is fairly dark.

2. Intervocalic [t] as in pity is most normally voiced. The result is neutralization of the distribution between [t] and [d] in this position, i.e. latter, ladder. The original distinction is preserved through vowel length with the vowel before [t] being shorter.

In words like twenty, little [t] may even drop out. Thus winner and winter, for example, may sound identical.

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