Neutral American English

Kelly   Sat May 12, 2007 4:53 pm GMT
I'd say WestCoast US accent is DE FACTO the standard American accent.
Try this video review:

a very nice WestCoast General American:
http://reviews.cnet.com/Nikon_D50_w_18_55mm_lens/4505-6501_7-31341793.html?tag=prod.txt.1
Travis   Sat May 12, 2007 6:24 pm GMT
>>I'd say WestCoast US accent is DE FACTO the standard American accent.<<

On what grounds?
Jasper   Sat May 12, 2007 6:36 pm GMT
<<So what's the official name for the dialect, as spoken in 1930s and 1940s movies? Whatever it was, it remains--at least to me--the most beautiful tongue in the US.>> (Jasper)

It has already been said, and I didn't see it--it was the Mid-Atlantic dialect, which is detailed in a Wikipedia article. Evidently, it's almost obsolete; only a few speakers are still alive.

Thanks.
Jasper   Sat May 12, 2007 6:40 pm GMT
TRAVIS:

Are you sure that GenAm, as spoken in Nebraska, is cot/caught unmerged?

I recently worked with a girl from Kearney, Nebraska (btw, it's pronounced Kahrney, not Kerr-ney). While she is slightly outside the isogloss on Wikipedia's article, she was cot/caught merged. I'm absolutely sure of this. I believe she was Mary/merry/marry merged, too, but I'm less sure of this.
Guest   Sat May 12, 2007 6:54 pm GMT
>>Are you sure that GenAm, as spoken in Nebraska, is cot/caught unmerged? <<

I never said that what is spoken in Nebraska is the basis for General American (someone else said that) or cot-caught unmerged, and I myself would not be surprised whatsoever if it were cot-caught merged. I myself would not pin down GA to any specific location in the US, unlike some people who have identified it with places like Nebraska, or even state that GA was specifically based off of any other specific dialect.

The matter is that a lot of dialects in the US today are not all too far from General American are cot-caught merged. While there are many North American English dialects today which are still cot-caught unmerged (a majority of North Americans today are still unmerged), the dialects otherwise closest to GA are very commonly merged today even though GA proper is unmerged.
Jasper   Sat May 12, 2007 6:56 pm GMT
KELLY:

She doesn't sound Californian to me; her pronunciation of "family" shows signs of the Northern Cities Vowel Shift.

If you pushed me, I'd say she's from Seattle or Portland, in which some speakers use this Shift.

If this is true (I'll research this today with a native Californian speaker) her speech could not be considered indicative of General American speech.
Travis   Sat May 12, 2007 6:59 pm GMT
The last post was by me.
Travis   Sat May 12, 2007 7:02 pm GMT
Whoops - I should have said the last post by "Guest" was by me.
Travis   Sat May 12, 2007 7:22 pm GMT
>>She doesn't sound Californian to me; her pronunciation of "family" shows signs of the Northern Cities Vowel Shift. <<

Mind you that non-NCVS dialects may have raising/diphthongization of /{/ before nasals, and that the NCVS has not just such before nasals but rather specifically in all positions. Consequently, the word "family" really is not a good example to use to say that a dialect is NCVS-influenced.
A   Sat May 12, 2007 7:54 pm GMT
>>
Colorado wouldn't do because it falls in the Rocky Mountain Dialect region. Or does it? Newer dialect maps don't seem to show it at all. Is the Rocky Mountain dialect becoming extinct? <<

Colorado is part of the Western dialect region which certainly includes all of Colorado, and even extends into the Western 1/3 of Kansas. Its Northeastern limit stops at the last 1/6 of Montana, and its Southeastern limit stops at New Mexico, where it slowly transitions into a Texas accent in Eastern Texas.

According to William Labov in his Atlas of North American English, he presents a scatterplot of all the dialects, and defines "General American" as the center of the scatterplot: the center of the Western, Canadian, and Midland dialects.
Kess   Sun May 13, 2007 12:10 am GMT
''(a majority of North Americans today are still unmerged)''

not true if you include Canada. there's a 50:50 split
I like watching CBC.CA tv online and their newscasters (all of them) are COT CAUGHT merged, although many of them are not WHICH/WITCH merged (formal contexts don't favor this merger)
Sarcastic Northwesterner   Sun May 13, 2007 1:02 am GMT
>> She doesn't sound Californian to me; her pronunciation of "family" shows signs of the Northern Cities Vowel Shift. If you pushed me, I'd say she's from Seattle or Portland, in which some speakers use this Shift. If this is true (I'll research this today with a native Californian speaker) her speech could not be considered indicative of General American speech. <<

If you read the article on Wikipedia "California English", it says: "// is raised and diphthongized to [eə] or [ɪə] before nasal consonants (a shift reminiscent of, but more restricted than, non-phonemic -tensing in the Inland North)"

Speakers in Seattle and Portland do *not* have the Northern cities vowel shift at all. Some have the Canadian and/or California vowel shift, but natives from the Northwest do not have the NCVS.

Furthermore, although it is true that some people in the NW raise // before nasals, I would say not many do. I certainly don't, and in fact, I associate it more with a California, Midwestern, or East coast dialects.
Travis   Sun May 13, 2007 2:05 am GMT
Going back to the start of this thread, though, I should emphasize that there really is no truly "neutral" form of North American English. Rather, I would say that the "neutral" form of North American English in any area would be semiformal or formal speech without any particularly marked regional innovations or archaisms rather than necessarily General American proper. Such varieties are likely to be approximations of General American but to possibly have non-negligible phonological differences compared to it.

For instance, General American proper actually sounds quite marked to me, with its lack of Canadian Raising of /aI/, its significant diphthongization of /eI/ and /oU/, and its consistently backed /A/. Specifically conservative GA sounds even more marked to me with its incomplete Mary-merry-marry merger, its lack of raising of /{/ and /E/ before /N/, and its lack of affrication in both /tr/ and /dr/. Formal speech with the features of Canadian Raising of /aI/, weakly diphthongal or monophthongal /e(I)/ and /o(U)/ and, a fronted or centralized realization of /A/ sounds definitely less marked to me than General American proper despite their being regarded as nonstandard.
Sarcastic Northwesterner   Sun May 13, 2007 2:45 am GMT
Where can I hear General American? Are there any audio files available?

>> conservative GA sounds even more marked to me with its incomplete Mary-merry-marry merger <<

Why does it have an incomplete m merger? I'm getting more and more skeptical about this supposed "Standard variety" that nobody speaks, nobody even aims for, and has no consistent definition. Are there any recent reliable resources that detail this hypothetical dialect?

>> despite their being regarded as nonstandard. <<

nonstandard, eh?
Travis   Sun May 13, 2007 3:36 am GMT
>>Why does it have an incomplete m merger?<<

I was speaking of specifically very conservative General American there. Most dialects close to GA today have a full 3M merger, even though there still are dialects in North America which only have the two-way Mary-merry merger.

>>Where can I hear General American? Are there any audio files available?<<

>>I'm getting more and more skeptical about this supposed "Standard variety" that nobody speaks, nobody even aims for, and has no consistent definition. Are there any recent reliable resources that detail this hypothetical dialect?<<

GA is not Received Pronunciation and it is hard in practice to speak of individuals really specifically speaking GA. GA is *not* a particular fixed dialect spoken today by a particular population. It is rrather a set of features which are regarded as standard and a set of features which are regarded as nonstandard, with many things often being undefined (such as whether /tr/ or /dr/ are affricated, with their lack of affrication being more conservative).

Of course, there are dialects that are very close to it, but these dialects in general are usually not quite specifically it. Many dialects which have phonologies that practically exactly fit General American may still have things like intrusive r or particular vocabulary usage which are decided nonstandard. In particular, as mentioned before, it is very common for a dialect to have a very GA-like phonology but to have the cot-caught merger.

And mind you that in a sense people do aim for it, as most formal registers in dialects in North America are in some way or another approximations of General American combined with local dialect phonological features to some extent or another. It is just that people do not aim to speak it like people aim to speak Received Pronunciation, in that, non-native speakers aside, people do not try to *specifically* speak General American proper as such but rather just approximate it to some extent or another.