American English: speech analysis of the Southern dialect
Arruti Aramburu, Salbatore
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Language is a complex phenomenon every human ends mastering, independently of the mother tongue they have acquired in their childhood. In this globalised world, however, an increasing number of speakers are multilingual and, in order to be competent in foreign languages, these speakers need to pay heed to the characteristics of the target language pronunciation, among other linguistic features. The purpose of this project is to improve the service that the company Forvo, specialised in pronunciations of more than three hundred languages in the world, offers to its community of users in relation to the most requested language on their web page: English. Interested in promoting high-quality pronunciations of English words and phrases, the company is decided to classify these pronunciations according to the different regional accents of this language, so that users may learn what a particular accent sounds like. In this respect, this paper describes the different dialects that coexist in the United States, as this is the country where the majority of users of the company come from, and studies some of the pronunciations that users from that country have recorded. Taking into consideration the characteristics of this dissertation, this analysis will be limited to speakers from the southern region of the United States. The study compares pronunciations produced by these Southern American English speakers with those produced by users who speak the standard variety of American English, i.e. General American. The analysis shows that although users who speak Southern American English may not produce every phonological characteristic that describes this accent, they can be considered Southern speakers taking into account their overall production. Moreover, the study demonstrates that some characteristics that have been traditionally assigned to this accent, such as rhoticity, are retreating due to the influence of other American English dialects, especially General American.