10 Things Travel

How many vowels are there in the English alphabet? If you answered “5”, you may be wrong

American Dialects for Actors, Directors, and Writers
American Dialects for Actors, Directors, and Writers

How many letters are there in the English alphabet?

According to Rick Aschmann, there may be just the standard 5 vowels that everybody knows (a, e, i, o u), but when it comes to pronouncing those same letters, there are at least 16 different vowel sounds that people use around the country.

There are so many, that he’s developed A MAP OF AMERICAN DIALECTS that lists what seems to be the definitive list of all possible dialects available.

You can even help by taking the American Dialect survey yourself.

Let’s try it ourselves, shall we?  How do you pronounce the following words?

  • calm
  • yolk
  • talk
  • palm
  • balm
  • folk
  • stalk

Do you pronounce the “L” in each of those words?  You’d be surprised how many people don’t, especially in the Northeast/Boston area, the LA or Portland OR areas, or even in parts of Kansas/Wyoming.

What about these:

  • half
  • calf
  • would
  • could

Not everyone pronounces these the same way either.

In fact, he has broken out the US to the following dialect regions, each with their own unique ways of speaking:

  • Canada
  • Northern New England
  • The North
  • Greater New York City
  • The Midland
  • The South
  • North Central
  • The West

And then the subsections, such as San Francisco Bay, Central Midland / South Inland, Great Basin, Down East, Lowland South and others.

Some differences in each region are indicated how specific words/phrases are pronounced.  Some of those are:

  • “pin” sounds like “pen”
  • “pin” doesn’t sound like “pen”
  • Dropping of the “r”
  • “on” rhymes with “Don” / “on” rhymes with “Dawn”

If you travel a lot and want to work on recognizing regional dialects, this chart is a great place to start.





San Francisco Bay