Northern American English or Northern U.S. English (also, Northern AmE) is a class of distinct American English dialects, spoken by predominantly white Americans, best documented in the greater metropolitan areas of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Western Massachusetts, Western and Central New York, Northern Illinois, Northern Ohio, Eastern South Dakota, and the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, plus some northern areas of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and even the Canadian region of Southern Ontario. The North as a super-dialect region is considered, by the 2006 Atlas of North American English, at its core, to consist of the dialects of the Inland North (the Great Lakes region) and Southern New England.
Canadian English is believed by some scholars to have originated from Northern American English, or to simply be a variety of it. Though arguably native to the geographical Northern United States, current-day Pacific Northwest English,[nb 1] New York City English, and Northern New England English only marginally fall under the Northern U.S. dialect spectrum, according to the ANAE, if at all.
Northern U.S. English is often distinguished from Southern U.S. English by retaining /aɪ/ as a diphthong (unlike the South, which commonly monophthongizes this sound) and from Western U.S. English by mostly preserving the distinction between the /ɑ/ and /ɔ/ sounds in words like cot versus caught (except in the transitional dialect region of the Upper Midwest and variably in other Northern areas).
In the modern day, the Northern United States is a linguistic super-region of English dialects, defined by /oʊ/ (as in goat, toe, show, etc.) and traditionally /u/ (as in goose, too, shoe, etc.) pronounced conservatively far in the back of the mouth, "r-fulness" (or rhoticity), and a common lack of the cot–caught merger, meaning that words like pond and pawned, or bot and bought, are not pronounced identically (with the second of this class of words being pronounced usually farther back in the mouth and with more rounded lips).
A phenomenon known as "Canadian raising"—the lifting of the body of the tongue in both /aɪ/ and /aʊ/ before voiceless consonants (therefore, in words, like height, slight, advice, clout, ouch, lout, etc., but not in words like hide, slide, advise, cloud, gouge, loud, etc.)—is common in eastern New England, for example in Boston (and the traditional accent of Martha's Vineyard), as well as in the Upper Midwest. Raising of just /aɪ/ is found throughout the entire North, including in the Great Lakes area, and elsewhere in New England. This second, more focused type of raising also appears to spreading beyond the North, as well as to California English, Philadelphia English, and Western American English dialects overall.
Though the following pronunciation variants are not all the most common ones in the North, they are still documented as variants used more strongly in this region than anywhere else in the country:
The North has historically been one of the last U.S. regions to maintain the distinction between /ɔr/ and /oʊr/, in which words like horse and hoarse or war and wore, for example, are not homophones; however, the merger of the two has quickly spread throughout the North. [ɪ] (listen) was once a common Northern U.S. sound in the word creek, but this has largely given way to [i] (listen), as in the rest of the country.
The North uniquely uses certain words and phrases. The following terms are reported strongest among Northern U.S. English speakers:
The recent Northern cities vowel shift, beginning only in the twentieth century, now affects much of the North, occurring specifically at its geographic center: the Great Lakes region. It is therefore a defining feature of the Inland North dialect (most notably spoken in Chicago, Detroit, and western New York State). The vowel shift's generating conditions are also present in some Western New England English; otherwise, however, this vowel shift is not occurring in the Northeastern United States.
A Northeastern Corridor of the United States follows the Atlantic coast, comprising all of New England, Greater New York City, and Greater Philadelphia (sometimes even extending to Greater Baltimore and Washington D.C.) which, despite being home to numerous different dialects and accents, constitutes a huge area unified in certain linguistic respects, including particular notable vocabulary and phonemic incidence (that is, distinguishing sounds in certain words).
These phonemic variants in certain words are particularly correlated with the American Northeast (with the more common variants nationwide given in parentheses):
The Northeast tends to retain a rounded /ɔ/ vowel (in words like all, caught, flaw, loss, thought, etc.): specifically, [ɒ~ɔ~ɔə].
Terms common or even usual to the whole Northeast include: