I have seen a LOT of questions about accents and pronunciation recently. Everything thing from "How do Americans pronounce X?", "What are the differences between American accents and British accents?". Most of these ended up getting closed, and one of them prompted me to write an answer/rant on the different varieties of "American Accents" in response to a 25-comment comment section.

There are so many different "American Accents", that I don't think it's possible to give a solid answer without mentioning several different pronunciations. I'm not an expert in British-accents, but I imagine it's the same. Is this a problem? Should we

  • Answer with every possible different accent and pronunciation? ("Such and such would pronounce it "x", but such and such would pronounce it "X", and such and such...")

  • Answer with the most generalized accent possible?

  • Only accept extremely specific questions? ("How does a middle-class American from the south pronounce X in casual speech?")

  • Come up with a standard for what is or isn't on topic with accents? For example, a question like "I heard so and so pronounce x as X, is this standard for his/her accent? Does this change the meaning?" seems to be on topic for me, but a question like "How do British people pronounce words?" is pretty obviously not.

  • Something else?


As @snailboat has pointed out, questions about pronunciation are very clearly on-topic. I have edited the question title to more clearly express the question of "what is the best answer to a question about accents?"

  • 1
    It's hard to think of anything more on topic than English pronunciation.
    – user230
    Mar 19, 2015 at 7:59
  • OK, maybe a better question is what's the best way to answer a question like this?
    – DJMcMayhem
    Mar 19, 2015 at 8:07
  • 2
    @snail - I agree that pronunciation questions can be helpful for a learner. That said, I share the OP's frustration with questions that ask, "How do Americans pronounce X?" The answer is probably "Lots of ways!" as this Forvo page would indicate. Incidentally, my dad (northeastern US) had an interesting way of saying potato, and the pronunciation that matches his most closely was recorded by the user Monk – a male from Ireland! P.S. The differences are even more pronounced when you change potato to apricot.
    – J.R. Mod
    Mar 20, 2015 at 9:36
  • You might well think there are so many different "American Accents", but it's worth noting this comment from our real expert John Lawler: There's far more phonetic variation in any hundred mile square of Great Britain than there is in all of North America.. Superficially, one might think "pronunciation differences" are very On Topic for ELL, but in practice they could easily become pointlessly distracting to the average learner wanting to learn "standard English". Mar 25, 2015 at 17:56


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