Southern American English (SAE) is one of the most famous dialects in the English-speaking world. We see it in Westerns, soap operas, and blockbuster films: Southern American English is the stereotypical "southern accent" we recognize from the southeastern region of the United States. Linguists estimate that the southern accent stretches as least as north as southern Maryland and Kentucky, and as west as Texas and New Mexico, but excluding southern Florida (Thomas 2005). Rural areas tend to demonstrate linguistic features of SAE to a greater degree than urban centers. Actual boundaries between dialects, known as "isoglosses," remain under debate and are constantly shifting, but most linguists have generally agreed upon this area. 

Image depicting the areas of the United States in which Southern American English is spoken
The approximate area in which Southern American English is spoken, based off of the "Nationwide Speech Project" presentation at the 147th American Speech Association meeting.

Southern Speech may fall under one name, but it encompasses lots of diversity; many Americans are familiar with "Texan" accents as opposed to "North Carolina" accents, and these distinctions are significant as well. SAE serves as a broad term that describes general characteristics of the dialect for easy reference rather than specific qualities of each speaker. In fact, as you probably already know, not all features of Southern Speech are possessed by all residents of the South. Linguistic patterns also vary between generations, races, and social classes, so that some characteristics of Southern Speech may be unfamiliar to other speakers. General features of Southern American English, along with audio examples from the Digital Archive of Southern Speech, can be found through the Linguistic Features link in the right sidebar. 

It's important to also know what doesn't qualify as Southern American English. African-American Language (AAL) is a separate dialect of English that shares some features with Southern Speech, but ultimately remains distinct. More information on AAVE, and how it differs from SAE, can be found through the African-American Language tab on the right sidebar. 

Finally, Appalachian English is another dialect that has some overlap in geographic area and linguistic features with SAE, but remains a separate entity. More information on this accent can be accessed through the Appalachian English tab on the right sidebar.