New England English

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Northeastern (NENE), Northwestern (NWNE), Southwestern (SWNE), and Southeastern (SENE) New England English are represented here, as mapped by the Atlas of North American English on the basis of data from major cities.

New England English collectively refers to the dialects and varieties of American English originating in the New England area. Today, most native English speakers from Connecticut and Vermont, northern New Hampshire, and western Massachusetts,[2] as well as some members of the current younger generation throughout New England, tend to participate in General American dialect levelling;[3] however, New England English otherwise exhibits uniquely local characteristics.

One common linguistic division of New England is into two super-dialects—Eastern New England English and Western New England English—a trend begun with the 1939 Linguistic Atlas of New England,[4] continuing to the present day, including in the 2006 Atlas of North American English, which at times also divides New England English into four more specific varieties, simply defined as follows:




New England English is not a single American dialect, but a collective term for a number of dialects and varieties that are close geographic neighbors within New England, but which differ on a spectrum that broadly divides New England English into a unique north versus south (specifically, a northern merger of the vowels /ɒ/ and /ɔː/, versus a southern distinction between these vowels), as well as a unique east versus west (specifically, an eastern pronunciation of the "r" sound only before vowels, versus a western pronunciation of all "r" sounds). Regarding the former feature, all of northern New England (most famously including Boston, but going as far southeast as Cape Cod and as far north as central Maine) historically merges the open and open-mid back rounded vowels (so that, for instance, pond and pawned are pronounced the same, which is commonly called the cot–caught merger), while southern coastal New England (including Rhode Island) historically maintains a noticeable distinction between these two vowels. Regarding the second feature, all of eastern New England is historically non-rhotic (famously pronouncing "car" like "kah"), while all of western New England is historically rhotic (or "r-ful"). Therefore, four combinations of these two features are possible, and coincidentally all four exist among New England English speakers, largely correlated with the exact geographic quadrant in New England in which a speaker was raised (and excluding cases where the speaker has learned a General American accent).


All of New England raises the tongue in the first element of the diphthong Listeni// before voiceless consonants; eastern New England, specifically, also raises the first element of Listeni// before voiceless consonants.[7]

All the local dialects of New England are also known for commonly pronouncing the unstressed sequences /tɪŋ/ and /tən/ (for example, found in "sitting" /ˈsɪtɪŋ/ or "Britain" /ˈbrɪtən/) as [ʔən] (About this sound New England pronunciation of "mountain"). This form of t-glottalization (especially the /tən/ form) is found commonly in other parts of the country as well (including General American), like in the word "Britain" (sometimes represented along the lines of Brih'in); however, the characteristic is most prevalent in New England.[citation needed]

The extent that speakers raise the tongue in the English "short a" vowel varies widely in New England; however, across the board, New England speakers demonstrate a definite "nasal" short-a system, in which the vowel is always raised the absolute strongest whenever occurring before the nasal consonants /m/ and /n/[8] (so that, pan, for example, nearly approaches the sound of the word paean). In all of New England except Rhode Island and southern Connecticut, the short a may also be noticeably raised in many other environments.[9]


The following terms originate from and are used nearly exclusively throughout New England: "grinder" (except in Maine, whose local term is "Italian sandwich") to mean "sub" (for the type of long sandwich),[10] "package store" (less common in Vermont)—or, informally in Massachusetts, "packie"—to mean "liquor store,"[11] and "tag sale" to mean "garage sale."[12] In New England, and elsewhere in the northeastern United States, "sneakers" is the primary term for "athletic shoes," and "rotary" is the primary term for a "traffic circle" or "roundabout."[13][14] Common typically before adjectives or adverbs, the intensifier "wicked" is used in central, northern, and eastern New England, originating from the Boston area.[15] Many Boston-originating local terms have dispersed throughout Eastern New England and, prominently, all the rest of Massachusetts.

Eastern New England English

Eastern New England English encompasses the Boston accent, the Maine accent, and, according to some sources, the Rhode Island accent. Eastern New England English is famously non-rhotic, meaning it drops the r sound everywhere except before a vowel: thus, in words like car, card, fear, and chowder (About this sound listen). The phrase Park the car in Harvard Yard—dialectally transcribed [pʰäːk ðə ˈkʰäːɹ‿ɪn ˈhäːvəd ˈjäːd]—is commonly used as a shibboleth, or speech indicator, for the non-rhotic Eastern New England dialect, which contrasts with the generally rhotic dialects elsewhere in North America.[16] In all of Eastern New England, except Rhode Island, words like caught and cot are pronounced identically (both are often rounded, thus: About this sound [kʰɒːt]), because those two vowel sounds have fully merged.[17] A phenomenon called Canadian raising occurs throughout Eastern New England, causing writer to have a different stressed vowel sound than rider, and for the verb house to have a different vowel sound than the noun house. // and // have relatively back starting positions. The horse–hoarse merger is still present to some extent in some areas, as well as the Mary–marry–merry merger in many speakers.

Western New England English

Western New England English encompasses the accents of Vermont, western Massachusetts, and Connecticut. These accents are fully rhotic, meaning all r sounds are pronounced, as in most of North America. Here, // and // have slightly fronted starting positions, and the Mary–marry–merry merger and horse–hoarse merger are fully complete, as are all General American mergers in this region. Western New England English exhibits the entire continuum for the cot–caught merger: a full merger is heard in its northern reaches (namely, Vermont) and a full distinction at its southern reaches (namely, coastal Connecticut), including a transitional area in the middle.[18] Western New England English is closely related to and influential on, but more conservative (i.e. preserving more historical features) than, the Inland North dialect which prevails farther west,[19] and which has altered away from Western New England English due to an entirely new chain shift of the vowels since the 1900s. Western New England English, though, does sporadically show the early stages of this chain shift.

See also


  1. Labov (2006), p. 227, 229, 231.
  2. Herman, Lewis; Shalett Herman, Marguerite (1997). "The New England Dialect". American Dialects: A Manual for Actors, Directors, and Writers. Routledge. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-135-85694-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 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. p. 120
  4. Boberg (2001), p. 3.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Labov (2006), p. 225.
  6. Labov (2006), p. 61.
  7. Boberg, Charles (2010). The English Language in Canada: Status, History and Comparative Analysis. Cambridge University Press. p. 156.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Labov (2006), p. 84.
  9. Labov (2006), p. 82.
  10. Vaux, Bert and Scott Golder. 2003. "What do you call the long sandwich that contains cold cuts, lettuce, and so on?." The Harvard Dialect Survey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Linguistics Department.
  11. Vaux, Bert and Marius L. Jøhndal. "What do you a call a store that is devoted primarily to selling alcoholic beverages?" Cambridge Online Survey of World Englishes. University of Cambridge.
  12. Vaux, Bert and Scott Golder. 2003. "Which of these terms do you prefer for a sale of unwanted items on your porch, in your yard, etc.?." The Harvard Dialect Survey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Linguistics Department.
  13. Vaux, Bert and Scott Golder. 2003. "What do you call a traffic situation in which several roads meet in a circle and you have to get off at a certain point?." The Harvard Dialect Survey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Linguistics Department.
  14. Vaux, Bert and Scott Golder. 2003. "What is your *general* term for the rubber-soled shoes worn in gym class, for athletic activities, etc.?." The Harvard Dialect Survey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Linguistics Department.
  15. Szelog, Mike. "Ayuh, the Northern New England Accent in a Nutshell." The Heart of New England.
  16. Wolfram, Walt; Natalie Schilling-Estes (1998). American English: Dialects and Variation. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-20487-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Fitzpatrick, Jim (2006). "Beantown Babble (Boston, MA)". In W. Wolfram and B. Ward (ed.). American Voices: How Dialects Differ from Coast to Coast. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 1-4051-2109-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Boberg (2001), pp. 19-27.
  19. Nagy, Naomi; Roberts, Julie (2004). "New England phonology". In Edgar Schneider, Kate Burridge, Bernd Kortmann, Rajend Mesthrie, and Clive Upton (ed.). A handbook of varieties of English. Volume 1: Phonology. Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 270–281.CS1 maint: multiple names: editors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; and Boberg, Charles (2006). Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton-de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016746-8.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Boberg, Charles (2001). "The Phonological Status of Western New England". American Speech. 76 (1): 3–29. doi:10.1215/00031283-76-1-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links