Eastern New England English

Eastern New England English, historically known as the Yankee dialect since at least the nineteenth century,[1][2] is the traditional regional dialect of Maine, New Hampshire, and the eastern half of Massachusetts.[3][4] 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.[5] Some studies include Rhode Island in the Eastern New England dialect region.[6]

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;[7] fairly back starting positions of the vowels // (as in goose) and // (as in town);[8] and varying degrees of resistance to the Mary–marry–merry merger.[9] 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,[10] and so avoid them, especially non-rhoticity.[11][12] 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:

Overview of vocabulary

The terms "frappe" to mean "thick milkshake";[18] "bubbler" (also found in Wisconsin) to mean "water fountain";[19] and "tonic" to mean "sweet carbonated soft drink" (called "soda" elsewhere in New England),[20] 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.[21] 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].


Main article: Boston accent

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.[22] Boston speech also originated many slang and uniquely local terms that have since spread throughout Massachusetts and Eastern New England.[23] Although mostly non-rhotic, the modern Boston accent does pronounce the r sound in /ɜːr/, as in bird, learn, turkey, world, etc.


Main article: Maine accent

The Maine accent, the closest one today to an old Yankee dialect, includes the phonology mentioned above, plus the breaking of /ɛər/ (as in there), /ɪər/ (as in here), and /ɔər/ each into two syllables: they-uh, hee-yuh, and moh-uh; some distinct vocabulary is also used in this accent.[24] Especially in Maine, the horse–hoarse merger is still strongly resisted,[16] 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 /ɜːr/.

Notable lifelong native speakers

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],[35] plus the pronunciation of /ɑːr/, 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.[36][37] A few words are unique only to this area, such as the older word cabinet to mean milkshake.[18]

Notable lifelong native speakers

French-American Manchester

An ethnic local accent has been documented among self-identifying French Americans in Manchester, New Hampshire.[41] 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).[42]


  1. Robert Hendrickson (2000). The Facts on File Dictionary of American Regionalisms. Infobase. p. 326.
  2. Sletcher, Michael (2004). New England. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 264
  3. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:137)
  4. Stanford et al. (2012: 130)
  5. Stanford et al. (2012: 161)
  6. 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.
  7. Nagy & Roberts (2004:276)
  8. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:154, 227)
  9. Stanford et al. (2012: 154)
  10. Stanford et al. (2012: 160-1)
  11. Stanford et al. (2014: 120)
  12. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:226)
  13. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:111)
  14. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:154)
  15. 1 2 3 4 Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:227)
  16. Boberg, Charles (2010). The English Language in Canada: Status, History and Comparative Analysis. Cambridge University Press. p. 156.
  17. 1 2 Vaux, Bert and Scott Golder. 2003. "What do you call the drink made with milk and ice cream?." The Harvard Dialect Survey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Linguistics Department.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. Jan Freeman (March 13, 2011). "The Jimmies Story: Can an ice cream topping be racist?". boston.com. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  21. Labov & Ash (Boberg2006:225)
  22. http://www.universalhub.com/glossary/
  23. Fowles, Debby (2015). "Speak Like a Mainer". About Travel. About.com. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  24. Shapiro, Leonard (June 2, 2010). "Top 10: Dialing up the best in Washington sports radio". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  25. Sullivan, Jim (2001-04-18). "Lenny Clarke Deftly Handles Nightschtick". The Boston Globe.
  26. Calhoun, Ada (2004-03-29). "Did You Hear The One About The @&%#! Comic?". New York. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
  27. Healy, Patrick (2009-09-02). "A Mannah of Speaking". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-18.
  28. Concannon, Jim (May 12, 2009). "Mel's Vision". The Boston Globe.
  29. King, Dennis (1989). Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism. New York: Doubleday. p. 306.
  30. Mooney, Brian C. (2006-02-19). "The nonpolitician who would be governor". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
  31. Gardner, Amy (2009-02-11). "A Time to Reevaluate Family Ties". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-02-27.
  32. Bizjak, Marybeth (February 2007). "Mr. Fix-It". Sacramento Magazine. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
  33. Jensen, Sean (2004-12-03). "Despite his unlikely build, Vikings' Wiggins gets it done at tight end.". Saint Paul Pioneer Press. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
  34. "Guide to Rhode Island Language Stuff". Quahog.org. Retrieved May 30, 2007.
  35. "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)
  36. Boberg, Charles (2001). "The Phonological Status of Western New England". American Speech. 76 (1): 28, 3–29. doi:10.1215/00031283-76-1-3.
  37. Brady, James (1997). "Don't Spend Any Time Trying to Detonate John Chafee". Advertising Age.
  38. "Raffert Meets the Press". John Carroll University. 2011. 'Pauly D has the thickest Rhode Island accent I've ever heard,' [Brian] Williams told us.
  39. De Vries, Hilary (1990). "Spalding Gray : His New Favorite Subject--Him". Los Angeles Times.
  40. Nagy & Roberts (2004:278)
  41. Nagy & Roberts (2004:296)


See also

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