A very brief sketch of a few major American accents and the groups of immigrants that contributed to some of their their major characteristics:

  • New England = East Anglian Puritans
  • Midwest, (such as Chicago) = German immigrants
  • Northern Midwest (Wisconsin and Minnesota) = German and Scandinavian
  • Parts of New York City = Italian, Irish, and Eastern European immigrants
  • Southern seaboard (such as Carolinas, Georgia) = West Country English (This was Shakespeare's English)
  • Appalachia (notably Tennesee and Kentucky) = Scotch-Irish immigrants from Northern Ireland (This accent is what Americans hear in Country Music)
  • Deep South = perhaps some influence from West African languages via slaves (although this is still hotly debated)
  • California - Californian and other western accents are especially interesting, if difficult to analyze because the region has recently had a massive influx of transplants from all over the US. One theory is that the California accent tends to neutralize the more extreme or unusual features of other regional dialects, creating a sort of bland, unoffensive homogenous mix. This process is supported by Hollywood's disdain for anyone with a strange accent - most movie stars and TV personalities have to learn a certain type of neutral accent