Eastern New England English
Eastern New England English, historically known as the Yankee dialect since at least the nineteenth century, is the traditional regional dialect of Maine, New Hampshire, and the eastern half of Massachusetts. Features of this variety once spanned an even larger dialect area of New England, for example, including the eastern half of Vermont as recently as the mid-twentieth century. Some studies include Rhode Island in the Eastern New England dialect region.
Eastern New England English (here, including Rhode Island English) is historically associated with sound patterns such as non-rhoticity (or r-dropping after a vowel); both variants of Canadian raising; fairly back starting positions of the vowels // (as in goose) and // (as in town); and varying degrees of resistance to the Mary–marry–merry merger. Many aspects of Eastern New England speech are receding rapidly, largely because some younger Eastern New England speakers perceive certain traditional features as sounding rural or old-fashioned, and so avoid them, especially non-rhoticity. Some Eastern New England accents are thus moving towards the more General American mergers and the full rhoticity found in neighboring Western New England English.
Overview of phonology
The sound system of traditional Eastern New England English includes:
- Non-rhoticity: The r sound is variably "dropped" or "silent" whenever not before a vowel; therefore, in words like car, letter, horse, poor, etc. This feature is receding and is not found in many younger speakers.
- Linking and intrusive r: The non-rhotic r may be pronounced after all if it is followed by a vowel, even a vowel that begins the next word in the sentence. Also, any word that ends in /ə/ (as in Cuba), /ɑː/ (as in spa), or /ɔː/ (as in law) can be followed by an unwritten r sound when followed by a vowel sound in the next word: thus, law and public safety sounds like Lauren public safety.
- Fronting of //: The vowel of words like car, park, heart, stark, etc. is pronounced farther to the front of the vocal tract than in most other dialects, so that car, for example, is something like [kʰäː~kʰaː]. This, plus non-rhoticity, is often associated with the shibboleth "Park the car in Harvard yard." This fronting is seldom reported in Rhode Island, in which car is more often [kʰɑː].
- Backing of //: The vowel of goose, rude, coup, etc. remains pronounced relatively far back in the mouth.
- Horse–hoarse merger in transition: The vowel of words like war versus wore, or morning versus mourning, are mostly produced either very close or the same in Eastern New England; however, as of the early 2000s, such vowels may still be pronounced differently by some Eastern New England speakers, especially in Maine. Conversely, the merger of these vowels is largely complete elsewhere in the United States.
- Full Canadian raising: The tongue is raised in the first element of the gliding vowel i// as well as i// whenever either appears before a voiceless consonant. Therefore, a word like house // is often [hɜʊs~hɐʊs].
- Backing of //: The vowel of gouge, loud, town, power, etc. has a relatively back-of-mouth starting position: thus, something like [äʊ].
- Lack of Mary–marry–merry merger: The sounds //, //, and //, for example, in the words Mary, marry, and merry, are pronounced each with distinct vowels. However, recent studies have shown that there is an emerging tendency in Northeastern New England to merge them to some extent, as is the case in much of the United States. In contrast, Southeastern New England (namely, Rhode Island) continues to keep them all separate, as in the New York City area and Britain.
- "Short a" nasal system: The "short a" sound // may be tensed in various environments, though most severely before a nasal consonant; therefore, in words like man, clam, Annie, etc.
Overview of vocabulary
The terms "frappe" to mean "thick milkshake"; "bubbler" (also found in Wisconsin) to mean "water fountain"; and "tonic" to mean "sweet carbonated soft drink" (called "soda" elsewhere in New England), are largely unique to northeastern (and, to a lesser extent, southeastern) New England English vocabulary. Using "jimmies" to mean "(chocolate) sprinkles" is primarily a phenomenon of the Boston area. In addition to the widespread term "wicked," the word "pisser," often phonetically spelled "pissa(h)," is another Northeastern New England intensifier (plus sometimes an uncountable noun) for something that is very highly regarded by the speaker.
Northeastern New England
Northeastern New England English, popularly recognized as a Boston or Maine accent, in addition to all the above phonological features, further includes the merger of the vowel in cot and caught to [ɒː~ɑː], often with a slightly rounded quality, but a resistance to the merger of the vowels in father versus bother, a merger that is otherwise common throughout North America. Also, for speakers born before 1950, the words half and pass (and, before World War II, also ask and can't) are pronounced with a "broad a," like in spa: [häːf] and [pʰäːs].
Boston, Massachusetts is the birthplace and most famous site of Eastern New England English. Historically, a Northeastern type of New England English spread from metropolitan Boston into metropolitan Worcester, the bulk of New Hampshire, and central and coastal Maine. Boston speech also originated many slang and uniquely local terms that have since spread throughout Massachusetts and Eastern New England. Although mostly non-rhotic, the modern Boston accent does pronounce the r sound in //, as in bird, learn, turkey, world, etc.
The Maine accent, the closest one today to an old Yankee dialect, includes the phonology mentioned above, plus the breaking of // (as in there), // (as in here), and // each into two syllables: they-uh, hee-yuh, and moh-uh; some distinct vocabulary is also used in this accent. Especially in Maine, the horse–hoarse merger is still strongly resisted, meaning that words like war and wore may sound different: war rhyming with law, and wore rhyming with boa. Unlike the Boston accent, the traditional Maine accent is non-rhotic entirely: even in the pronunciation of //.
Notable lifelong native speakers
- Ken Beatrice — "... the New England native with the pronounced Boston accent"
- Lenny Clarke — "a Cambridge-raised verbal machine gun with a raspy Boston accent"
- Nick DiPaolo — "thick Boston accent"
- Edward "Ted" Kennedy — "No one else from Boston, or anywhere in New England, has imprinted the regional accent on the national consciousness as Senator Kennedy did."
- Mel King — "he has the soft R's of a deep Boston accent"
- Lyndon LaRouche — "a cultivated New England accent"
- Christy Mihos — "speaks unpretentiously in a variation of a Boston accent, and drops the 'g' in words like talking or running."
- Brian and Jim Moran— "The Moran brothers share[...] an unmistakable Massachusetts accent"
- Tom Silva — "New England accent"
- Jermaine Wiggins — "skin as thick as his East Boston accent"
Southeastern New England
Southeastern New England English, popularly recognized as a Rhode Island accent, in addition to all of the features mentioned under the phonology section above, further includes a sharp distinction in the vowels of Mary, marry, and merry, as well as in the vowels in cot [ɑ] versus caught [oə], plus the pronunciation of //, as in car, far back in the mouth as [ɑː~ɑə], all of which makes this New England accent noticeably similar to New York City English. A few words are unique only to this area, such as the older word cabinet to mean milkshake.
Notable lifelong native speakers
- John Chafee — a non-rhotic, "New England accent"
- "Pauly D" DelVecchio — "the thickest Rhode Island accent"
- Henry Giroux
- Spalding Gray — "his demeanor is as flat as his Rhode Island accent"
An ethnic local accent has been documented among self-identifying French Americans in Manchester, New Hampshire. The accent's most prominent pronunciation features are th-stopping (pronouncing thin like tin and there like dare) and, variably, word-initial h-dropping (so that hair may sound like air).
- Robert Hendrickson (2000). The Facts on File Dictionary of American Regionalisms. Infobase. p. 326.
- Sletcher, Michael (2004). New England. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 264
- Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:137)
- Stanford et al. (2012: 130)
- Stanford et al. (2012: 161)
- See, for example, that Labov's 2006 Atlas of North American English frequently includes Providence/Rhode Island under this general dialect, yet his 1997 Regional Telsur Map does not.
- Nagy & Roberts (2004:276)
- Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:154, 227)
- Stanford et al. (2012: 154)
- Stanford et al. (2012: 160-1)
- Stanford et al. (2014: 120)
- Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:226)
- Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:111)
- Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:154)
- Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:227)
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- Vaux, Bert and Scott Golder. 2003. "What do you call the thing from which you might drink water in a school?." The Harvard Dialect Survey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Linguistics Department.
- Vaux, Bert and Scott Golder. 2003. "What is your generic term for a sweetened carbonated beverage?." The Harvard Dialect Survey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Linguistics Department.
- Jan Freeman (March 13, 2011). "The Jimmies Story: Can an ice cream topping be racist?". boston.com. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
- Labov & Ash (Boberg2006:225)
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- "Guide to Rhode Island Language Stuff". Quahog.org. Retrieved May 30, 2007.
- "This phonemic and phonetic arrangement of the low back vowels makes Rhode Island more similar to New York City than to the rest of New England".Labov, Ash & Ash (2006:226)
- Boberg, Charles (2001). "The Phonological Status of Western New England". American Speech. 76 (1): 28, 3–29. doi:10.1215/00031283-76-1-3.
- Brady, James (1997). "Don't Spend Any Time Trying to Detonate John Chafee". Advertising Age.
- "Raffert Meets the Press". John Carroll University. 2011.
'Pauly D has the thickest Rhode Island accent I've ever heard,' [Brian] Williams told us.
- De Vries, Hilary (1990). "Spalding Gray : His New Favorite Subject--Him". Los Angeles Times.
- Nagy & Roberts (2004:278)
- Nagy & Roberts (2004:296)
- Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles (2006), The Atlas of North American English, Berlin: Mouton-de Gruyter, ISBN 3-11-016746-8
- Nagy, Naomi; Roberts, Julie (2004), "New England phonology", in E. Schneider, K. Burridge, B. Kortmann, R.Mesthrie, and C. Upton (Eds.), Handbook of Varieties of English, Volume 1, Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 270–281.
- Stanford, James N.; Leddy-Cecere, Thomas A.; Baclawski Jr., Kenneth P. "Farewell To The Founders: Major Dialect Changes Along The East-West New England Border." American Speech 87.2 (2012): pp. 126–169. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.
- Stanford, James N.; Severance, Nathan A.; Baclawski Jr., Kenneth P. "Multiple vectors of unidirectional dialect change in eastern New England." Language Variation and Change (2014) Vol.26(1), pp. 103–140.