North–Central American English
RegionUpper Midwest
Early forms
Language codes
ISO 639-3

North-Central American English is an American English dialect, or dialect in formation, native to the Upper Midwestern United States, an area that somewhat overlaps with speakers of the separate Inland Northern dialect situated more in the eastern Great Lakes region.[1] In the United States, it is also known as the Upper Midwestern or North-Central dialect and stereotypically recognized as a Minnesota accent or sometimes Wisconsin accent (excluding Wisconsin's Milwaukee metropolitan area). It is considered to have developed in a residual dialect region from the neighboring Western, Inland Northern, and Canadian dialect regions.[2]

If a strict cot–caught merger is used to define the North-Central regional dialect, it covers the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the northern border of Wisconsin, the whole northern half of Minnesota, some of northern South Dakota, and most of North Dakota;[3] otherwise, the dialect may be considered to extend to all of Minnesota, North Dakota, most of South Dakota, northern Iowa, and all of Wisconsin outside of the eastern ridges and lowlands.[4]

History and geography

Percentage of the U.S. in 2000, by county, with Scandinavian heritage; note Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin.
Percentage of the U.S. in 2000, by county, with Finnish heritage; note the upper regions of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

The appearance of monophthongs in this region is sometimes attributed to the high degree of Scandinavian and German immigration to these northern states in the late 19th century. The linguist Erik R. Thomas argues that these monophthongs are the product of language contact and notes that other areas in which they occur are places in which speakers of other languages have influenced such as the Pennsylvania "Dutch" region.[5] An alternative account posits that the monophthongal variants represent historical retentions since diphthongization of the mid vowels seems to have been a relatively recent phenomenon in the history of the English language, appeared within the last few centuries, and has not affected all dialects in the United Kingdom. The monophthongs heard in this region may stem from the influence of Scots-Irish or other British dialects that maintain such forms. The fact that the monophthongs also appear in Canadian English may lend support to this account since Scots-Irish speech is known as an important influence in Canada.

People living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (whose demonym and sometimes sub-dialect is known as "Yooper," deriving from the acronym "U.P." for "Upper Peninsula"), many northern areas of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, and in Northern Wisconsin are largely of Finnish, French Canadian, Cornish, Scandinavian, German, and/or Native American descent. The North-Central dialect is so strongly influenced by those areas' languages and by Canada that speakers from other areas may have difficulty understanding it. Almost half the Finnish immigrants to the U.S. settled in the Upper Peninsula, and some joined Scandinavians who moved on to Minnesota. Another sub-dialect is spoken in Southcentral Alaska's Matanuska-Susitna Valley because it was settled in the 1930s (during the Great Depression) by immigrants from the North-Central dialect region.[6][7]


Not all of these characteristics are unique to the North-Central region:



Word-initial th-stopping is possible among speakers of working-class backgrounds, especially with pronouns: 'deez' for these, 'doze' for those, 'dem' for them, etc. In addition, traces of a pitch accent as in Swedish and Norwegian persist in some areas of heavy Norwegian or Swedish settlement and among people who grew up in those areas, some of whom are not of Scandinavian descent.

Phonemic incidence

Certain phonemes appear in particular words and set the North-Central dialect apart from some other American English:[12]


In this dialect, the preposition with is used without an object as an adverb in phrases like come with, as in Do you want to come with? for the standard Do you want to come with me? or with us? In standard English, other prepositions can be used as adverbs, like go down (down as adverb) for go down the stairs (down as preposition). With is not typically used in that way in Standard English (particularly in British and Irish English), and that feature likely came from languages spoken by some immigrants, such as Scandinavian (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian), German, or Dutch and Luxembourgish, all of which have the construction, like Danish and Swedish kom med or German komm mit.[15][16]

The adverb "yet" may be used in a phrase such as "I need to clean this room yet" to mean "still," particularly around Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. "Shut the lights" may mean "shut off the lights," particularly in the same places.[12]



A North-Central "dialect island" exists in southcentral Alaska's Matanuska-Susitna Valley, since, in the 1930s, it absorbed large numbers of settlers from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.[6] "Yooper" English spoken in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Iron Range English spoken in Minnesota's Mesabi Iron Range are strong sub-varieties of the North-Central dialect, largely influenced by Fenno-Scandinavian immigration to those areas around the beginning of the twentieth century. Iron Range English is sometimes called "Rayncher" English (an eye spelling of "Ranger").[23]

Upper Peninsula English

English of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,[24] plus some bordering areas of northeast Wisconsin,[25] colloquially known as U.P. or "Yooper" English,[26] or Yoopanese,[27] is a North-Central sub-variety with some additional influences from Finnish-speaking immigrants to the region. However, younger speakers may be starting to align closer to nearby Standard Canadian English, according to a recent study of Marquette County.[24]

The traditional Yooper accent is associated with certain features: the alveolar stops /d/ and /t/ in place of the English dental fricatives /ð/ and /θ/ (like in "then" and "thigh", so that then (/ðɛn/) becomes den (/dɛn/), etc.); the German/Scandinavian affirmative ja [jä] to mean 'yeah' or 'yes' (often Anglicized in spelling to ya); the filler or question tag eh or hey at the ends of sentences, as in Canadian English; notably raised nuclei in the vowels /aʊ/ and /aɪ/; the word youse as a second-personal plural noun, like you guys in neighboring dialects; and a marked deletion of to the (e.g., "I'm going store," "We went mall," and "We'll go Green Bay"), influenced by Finnish, which does not have any articles corresponding to a, an, or the.[citation needed]

In popular culture

The Minnesota accent is made conspicuous in the film Fargo (especially as displayed by Frances McDormand's character Marge Gunderson) and the subsequent television series.[28][29][30]

The accent can be heard from many minor characters, especially those voiced by Sue Scott, in the radio program A Prairie Home Companion. It is also evident in the film New in Town.[citation needed]

Notable lifelong native speakers

See also


  1. ^ a b Allen, Harold B. (1973). The Linguistic Atlas of the Upper Midwest. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-0686-2.
  2. ^ a b c d Labov, William; Sharon Ash; Charles Boberg (2006). The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016746-8.
  3. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 148
  4. ^ "Map: North Central Region". Telsur Project. University of Pennsylvania.
  5. ^ Thomas, Erik R. (2001). An Acoustic Analysis of Vowel Variation in New World English. Publication of the American Dialect Society. Durham: Duke University Press. p. 85. ISBN 0-8223-6494-8.
  6. ^ a b c Purnell, T.; Raimy, E.; Salmons, J. (2009). "Defining Dialect, Perceiving Dialect, and New Dialect Formation: Sarah Palin's Speech". Journal of English Linguistics. 37 (4): 331–355 [346, 349]. doi:10.1177/0075424209348685. S2CID 144147617.
  7. ^ a b Pinker, Steven (October 4, 2008). "Everything You Heard is Wrong". The New York Times. p. A19.
  8. ^ Thomas, Erik R. (2001). An Acoustic Analysis of Vowel Variation in New World English. Publication of the American Dialect Society 85. Durham: Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-6494-8
  9. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:204)
  10. ^ Vance, Timothy J. (1987). ""Canadian Raising" in Some Dialects of the Northern United States". American Speech. 62 (3). Durham, NC: Duke University Press: 195–210. doi:10.2307/454805. JSTOR 454805.
  11. ^ Kurath, Hans; Raven I. McDavid (1961). The Pronunciation of English in the Atlantic States. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-8173-0129-1.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Jøhndal, Marius et al. (2018) [2004-2006]. "The UWM Dialect Survey". Cambridge University.
  13. ^ Labov et al., 2006, p. 292
  14. ^ Hunter, Marsha; Johnson, Brian K. (2009). "Articulators and Articulation". The Articulate Advocate: New Techniques of Persuasion for Trial Attorneys. Crown King Books. p. 92. ISBN 9780979689505. Regional Accents ... A distinguishing characteristic of the Upper Midwestern accent is the tendency to turn the 'ing' sound into 'een,' with a cheerful 'Good morneen!'
  15. ^ Spartz, John M (2008). Do you want to come with?: A cross-dialectal, multi-field, variationist investigation of with as particle selected by motion verbs in the Minnesota dialect of English (Ph.D. thesis). Purdue University.
  16. ^ Stevens, Heidi (December 8, 2010). "What's with 'come with'? Investigating the origins (and proper use) of this and other Midwesternisms". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 14, 2013.
  17. ^ a b c Vaux, Bert, Scott A. Golder, Rebecca Starr, and Britt Bolen. (2000-2005) The Dialect Survey. Survey and maps.
  18. ^ a b Cassidy, Frederic Gomes, and Joan Houston Hall (eds). (2002) Dictionary of American Regional English. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  19. ^ Mohr, Howard. (1987) How to Talk Minnesotan: A Visitor's Guide. New York: Penguin.
  20. ^ Lemke, Daphne. "'Ope, sorry!' Where did Midwesterners get this onomatopoeia? Let's ask linguists". Oshkosh Northwestern. Retrieved October 31, 2023.
  21. ^ Brogan, Dylan (September 6, 2021). "Garage versus ramp". Isthmus | Madison, Wisconsin. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  22. ^ Binder, David (September 14, 1995). "Upper Peninsula Journal: Yes, They're Yoopers, and Proud of it". New York Times. p. A16.
  23. ^ Kalibabky, Mike (1996). Hawdaw Talk rayncher, and Iron range Words of Wisdom. Chisolm, Minnesota: Moonlight Press.
  24. ^ a b Rankinen, Wil (Fall 2014). "The Michigan Upper Peninsula English Vowel System in Finnish American Communities in Marquette County". American Speech. 89 (3): 312–347. doi:10.1215/00031283-2848989. eISSN 1527-2133. ISSN 0003-1283. Archived from the original on December 28, 2016. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  25. ^ Jenkins, Richard (May 21, 2015). "Linguistics Professor Provides Insight into 'Yooper' Accent Trends". The Daily Globe. Ironwood, MI. Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
  26. ^ Remlinger, Kathryn; Salmons, Joseph & von Schneidemesser, Luanna (Summer 2009). "Revised Perceptions: Changing Dialect Perceptions in Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula". American Speech. 84 (2): 176–191. doi:10.1215/00031283-2009-014. eISSN 1527-2133. ISSN 0003-1283. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
  27. ^ Zimmerman, Karla (2010). "Great Lakes: Lake Lovers' Trail". In Benson, Sara; Balfour, Amy (eds.). USA's Best Trips: 99 Themed Itineraries Across America. Oakland: Lonely Planet. p. 350. ISBN 9781741797350. OCLC 668112230. Retrieved January 30, 2016 – via Google Books.
    Kleine, Ted (June 18, 1998). "Turning Yoopanese". Chicago Reader. Archived from the original on February 5, 2016. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ Smith, Candace (2016). "Seth Meyers forced back to work in hilarious ‘Making a Murderer’ spoof." New York Daily News.
  32. ^ Weigel, David (2011). "Michele Bachmann for President!" GQ. Condé Nast.
  33. ^ "What Americans sound like". The Economist. The Economist Newspaper Limited 2011.