car, father, jarring ■ man, lad, mast

A British guy would pronounce the vowel "a" equally in all these words. But an American would give one sound for the first three words, and the other for the rest.

It is interesting to me, that the American English has changed the Brithsh sound "a" in most of the words, but retained it intact in a handful of words.

This leads to a conclusion so there are probably more vowel sounds in the American English.

closed as unclear what you're asking by tchrist, TimLymington, p.s.w.g, TrevorD, Kristina Lopez Jul 18 '13 at 14:04

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 7
    There are various British accents, and I (for example) don't say lad and mast with the same vowel sound. – Andrew Leach Jul 17 '13 at 13:45
  • 6
    It is not true that British Received Pronunciation employs the same vowel with both sets; it has the same contrast as AE in these words, although the contrast is not always realized identically. Some words are situated on different sides of the line in the two standard dialects, and in other dialects on both sides of the Atlantic. – StoneyB Jul 17 '13 at 13:46
  • 2
    If you have never lived in Britain you may not appreciate the stunning range of accents they have on that island. Brits can place each other into geographical context with shocking precision. For example, the accents of York and Leeds are clearly distinguishable even though the cities are less than 50km apart. In fact, locals can even place you in the right village, so generalizations like the one you are making here cannot really be applied. – terdon Jul 17 '13 at 14:12
  • 6
    @terdon Very much agreed. I think the poster has no idea of the vast differences, mischaracterizing all this as some sort of binary system. He should definitely look here for a much more realistic representation. – tchrist Jul 17 '13 at 14:15
  • 5
    There aren't any such things as "standard" languages, at least not English languages. There are several dialects in the USA, and many many more in England, where they've had thousands of years more practice talking differently in every location. These dialects vary in the number of vowel phonemes, and often different analyses of the same dialect will have different numbers of vowels. However, as a general rule, RP has one more low back vowel phoneme than Midwestern American, and West Coast American English has one less than Midwestern. – John Lawler Jul 17 '13 at 14:20

Sidestepping all the ambiguity and nuance, there is a definitive answer by scientific analysis of the vowel systems of the two dialects.

If you count the distinct elements in the GenAmE and RP columns, you'll find that AmE has 27 distinct vowels and BrE has ... 27 also. It's just that their vowels overlap and coalesce in different ways.

So the unnuanced answer is, no, by listing out all vowels, we can see that American English has no more than British English (in fact the same).

  • 3
    I'd like to see the fact that you are using the prestige dialects of those two dialect clusters to transform the asked question into an answerable one mentioned a bit more prominently in this answer, but otherwise quite worthy of my +1. – T.E.D. Jul 17 '13 at 17:41
  • @T.E.D.: All science is an approximation. Every fact has its wiggle room. What matters is if the distinctions are useful. Frankly, how many is not really the important issue, but rather that the exact differences and overlaps of words have been delineated in some set of dialects. That particular table could have many more dialects and maybe even show continua and neighbors. But as is one can almost reproduce a dialect from that chart, which is a great descriptive achievement. – Mitch Jul 17 '13 at 23:37
  • I hope you realize that some of these distinct elements you count in AmE (and BrE) are used in different dialects, and there is actually no one dialect that has 27 different vowels. – Peter Shor Mar 2 '16 at 3:52

The situation is much more complex than you make out.

First off, American English and British English are not dialects, but rather groups of (often starkly different) dialects of English. Both sets do have prestige dialects. Most likely if one looks into it, the sets of vowel sounds used in the prestige dialects of RP and Standard American English will be a bit different, and one may have more in total than the other.

However, this doesn't really tell you much of anything. SAE is not a dialect that broke off and changed from a forever static RP dialect. Rather, the various American dialects evolved from the various dialects spoken by the settlers who came over from England, few of which would have spoken the "prestige" dialect of English of their day. RP itself appears to have evolved from the speech patterns used at Oxford, and probably has very little to do with how much of anyone else in England spoke in the colonial period. In fact, many speech patterns that modern Brits view as "Americanisims" are in actuality old features of the language which RP has discarded, but some American dialects have not.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.