One could say:

He speaks with a strong Southern dialect.

If you are in the United States, one would picture a Texan. However, that same sentence said in Britain would mean he speaks like Hugh Grant.

If someone says:

He speaks with a Southern American accent.

One could still picture the Texan, but one could just as easily mistake the accent as being from anywhere in South America, such as Brazil.

Is there any way to more concisely say "an accent from the Southern States of the USA" without the ambiguity?

  • 3
    US is often used adjectivally. Southern US accent may fit the bill.
    – Anonym
    Feb 27 '14 at 7:20
  • 4
    An accent from South America would be a "South American" accent, not "Southern American".
    – Barmar
    Feb 27 '14 at 8:16
  • 2
    That same sentence said in Britain means a Southern US accent, not a Southern British accent. Britain does have "Midlands" and several "Northern" accents, which I believe the US doesn't. So there's really no ambiguity at all.
    – Andrew Leach
    Feb 27 '14 at 8:19
  • 3
    “He speaks with a Southern drawl” is completely unambiguous, though you might expect him to be more from Louisiana or Tennessee than Texas with a description like that. If you want something that encompasses speakers from Southern California (San Diego is further south than Dallas, don’t forget) to Florida, you’ll have to circumlocute as in your title: “He speaks with an accent from the Southern US states”. Feb 27 '14 at 11:32
  • 2
    The OP might have got the impression that "Southern accent" could be ambiguous - which I don't believe it is - from humorous references such as Dire Straits' Sultans of Swing: "Way on down South / Way on down South / In London town..."
    – MT_Head
    Feb 28 '14 at 19:52

"Deep Southern accent" would probably be understood by most people, and its usage seems to be waxing.

  • "Deep Southern" has the correct connotation of (former) "Confederate" state.
    – Tom Au
    Jun 8 '14 at 18:41

The answers here make me wonder how many people have actually spent much time in the Southeastern US. LOL

The common term, in the U.S., is simply "Southern accent". Ideally, if there is concern around whether or not someone might misunderstand what area of the world that "Southern" is implying, it should be addressed by the context of the comment, to make it clear that the locality is the U.S.

What many people are surprised to find is that there are a handful of "sub-accents" in the Southeast that all fall under "Southern accent" . . . easily 4-5 "common" ones, with more unique accents sometimes occurring withing individual localities (e.g., rural Appalachia). The are generally most strongly determined by combination of socioeconomic influences and the individuals general proximity to major cities, but are surprisingly diffused geographically . . . for example, it is not at all uncommon to find someone from North Carolina who has an accent similar to someone from Alabama.

"Twang" and "drawl" would be appropriate to describe some of these accents (generally the "stronger" ones), but not all of them. They are generally used as more "evocative" terms to indicate a stronger Southern accent. "Cornpone" would never be appropriate.

  • 1
    2 downvotes and 1 upvote, but no feedback? That's an interesting mix . . .
    – talemyn
    Mar 4 '14 at 15:55

I agree that both twang and drawl could be used to describe a Southern accent in the right context. However you would have to use "Southern" in front of each and they don't really meet the single word request.

Growing up partly in the South I would say that you are speaking Dixie.

  • "Dixie" is another good synonym for (former) "Confederate."
    – Tom Au
    Jun 8 '14 at 18:42

Depending upon the style of the accent, please consider:

twang noun 1: a harsh quick ringing sound like that of a plucked banjo string 2a : nasal speech or resonance b : the characteristic speech of a region, locality, or group of people

Although many Southern accents are drawl-y (e.g. Georgia, Alabama, etc) "twang" is a solid contender for other states (e.g. Texas, Tennessee). This is a a good choice for two reasons: 1) the alliterative effect 2) the association of the twangy accent with, as noted in definition 1 above, the twangy sound of the local music. Just "plunk" "Southern twang" into your favorite search engine and see what comes up. . .

  • I often hear twang referring to a southern accent. Mar 3 '14 at 16:10
  • 2
    @RyeBread - The problem is that it is not all-inclusive of Southern accents many . . . as mentioned in the answer itself, there are a number of Southern accents that are not "twangy" at all. I'd be very hesitant to use it as a synonym.
    – talemyn
    Mar 3 '14 at 19:01
  • @talemyn - that is why I answered Dixie. Not sure how much the term is used now but I know it was used 20-30 years ago in the South. It really was used for any "Southern accent" so it is a catch-all. And what is funny is that those who used it often were conveying how hard it was to understand someone else when they too had the same accent (maybe less harsh). Mar 3 '14 at 19:05
  • @RyeBread - I spent my first 17 years in a Mid-Atlantic state and the last 23 in four different Southeastern states, so these "accent conversations" are some of my favorites, as I continue to be exposed to the various idiosyncrasies. :D These days, I certainly hear "twang" used, but it's usually in reference to someone with a very "sharp" Southern accent (generally exhibited by people who are considered "country" :) ).
    – talemyn
    Mar 3 '14 at 19:31
  • @JackRyan - I think one of the things that causes this confusion is that there are so many people who don't realize the diversity of "Southern accents". Living in the South, but not having an accent, I frequently get questions from people when I travel about why I don't have one and I always have fun demonstrating all of the variations that I can "slide" into (Southern accents are so very easy to pick up). It always surprises people how different they all sound when I do them. Up until then, they just think of a generic "Southern accent", but they all recognize the variations when I do them.
    – talemyn
    Mar 3 '14 at 19:47

In the clip you showed, Hugh Grant's 'original' accent is what's known as received pronunciation, RP, or Standard English.

'Southern accent' and 'Texan accent' are general and specific classifications of US regional accents.

I haven't been able to check myself, for technical reasons, but I'd be surprised if the BBC voices website lists a 'Southern' UK accent at all.

  • The term 'southern England' usually means that part south of a straight line drawn from the Severn Estuary to the Wash. It includes Norfolk which is culturally and linguistically a county of the south, but excludes Birmingham and the Midlands which culturally etc is closer to the North (some may dispute this). But within this area of southern England many distinct and varied accents exist, from Norfolk, through to Cornwall, not forgetting London of course. One very obvious difference is that west of Reading they use the rhotic-r sound, whereas east of there there they don't.
    – WS2
    Feb 27 '14 at 9:07
  • @WS2 and my point is that there are loads of accents within the region - let alone the south coast. Feb 27 '14 at 9:10
  • Yes, absolutely. North Hampshire, near where I live, is very different to the area round Southampton, I feel sure. But the amazing thing is that you can do it on the motorway in about 55 mins. Tomorrow, when I travel to Manchester, a four-hour journey, I shall pass through umpteen accent zones. At Cherwell Valley Sevices they are speaking rhotic Oxfordshire, at Norton Canes on the M6 (about one hour away) you are heavily into a Midlands accent. Three service stations further at Knutsford it is near enough Mancunian!
    – WS2
    Feb 27 '14 at 9:19
  • @WS2, although West Midland accents do sound quite northern, having spent several years in Nottingham, I'd say that East Midland accents do not. Historically, RP is reckoned to be a fusion of 15th century East Midland, London, Essex, and Middlesex accents. These were the most prosperous areas of the country at the time, and successful people from those regions would have spent much time together at school, university, court, businesses, clubs, etc, allowing the accents to intermingle to become a standard upper middle class variety of English.
    – tobyink
    Feb 27 '14 at 10:22
  • @tobyink I'm never quite sure when people say 'East Midlands' quite where they mean. If you imagine a figure connecting Peterborough, Sleaford, Newark, Nottingham, Leicester, Northampton, it covers a multitude of speakers. Anywhere on the Trent is definitely 'the North'. Nottingham, Derby, Newark speakers clearly observe the northern vowels etc. But in the south of that area, Peterborough and Northampton never sound far from Hertfordshire or Essex to me.
    – WS2
    Feb 27 '14 at 12:50

I can only vouch for usage here in the Bos-Wash Corridor...

"The South" by itself, in the US, is usually taken to mean the states which made up "the Old South", from Virginia going southward, remaining East of the Mississippi River. (Also sometimes referred to as "the Deep South", at least by us Northerners -- which, again, is often taken to mean North-Eastern unless otherwise stated.)

Thus, "A Southern (US) accent", unless otherwise qualified explicitly or by context, does not imply all Southern states. Texas would be more correctly described as Southwestern... at least, in the dialect I speak.

(It has been observed that which Northern Florida is culturally attached to Georgia, Southern Florida is more closely associated with the Northeast ... and thus, within Florida, one goes North in order to Go South and vice versa.)

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