New England English

New England English collectively refers to the various distinct dialects and varieties of American English originating in the New England area. Most of eastern and central New England once spoke the “Yankee dialect“, and many of those accent features still remain in eastern New England, such as “R-dropping” (though this feature is receding among younger speakers today). Accordingly, one linguistic division of New England is into Eastern versus Western New England English, as defined in the 1939 Linguistic Atlas of New England and the 2006 Atlas of North American English (ANAE). The ANAE further argues for a division between Northern versus Southern New England English, especially on the basis of the cot–caught merger and /ɑr/ fronting (appearing twice, for example, in the phrase Park the car). The ANAE also categorizes the strongest differentiated New England accents into four combinations of the above dichotomies, simply defined as follows:

  • Northeastern New England English shows non-rhoticity, the cot–caught merger, and strong /ɑr/ fronting. It centers on Boston, Massachusetts, extending into New Hampshire and coastal Maine.
  • Southeastern New England English shows non-rhoticity, no cot–caught merger, and no strong /ɑr/ fronting. It centers on Providence, Rhode Island and the Narragansett Bay.
  • Northwestern New England English shows rhoticity, the cot–caught merger, and strong /ɑr/ fronting. It centers on Vermont.
  • Southwestern New England English shows rhoticity, no (or a transitional state of the) cot–caught merger, and no strong /ɑr/ fronting. It centers around the Hartford-Springfield area of Connecticut and western Massachusetts.
Language familyIndo-European
Germanic
West Germanic
Ingvaeonic
Anglo–Frisian
Anglic
English
North American English
American English
New England English

Eastern New England English

Western New England English

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The Maine accent is Eastern New England English spoken in parts of Maine, especially along the “Down East” and “Mid Coast” seaside regions. It is characterized by a variety of features, particularly among older speakers, including r-dropping (non-rhoticity), resistance to the horse–hoarse merger, a deletion or “breaking” of certain syllables, and some unique vocabulary. This traditional Maine accent is rapidly declining; a 2013 study of Portland speakers found the horse–hoarse merger to be currently embraced by all ages; however, it also found the cot–caught merger to be resisted, despite the latter being typical among other Eastern New England speakers, even well-reported in the 1990s in Portland itself. It also widely reported elsewhere in Maine, particularly outside the urban areas. In the northern region of Maine along the Quebec and the New-Brunswick border, Franco-Americans may show French-language influences in their English.

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Boston accent is a local accent of Eastern New England English native specifically to the city of Boston and its suburbs. Northeastern New England English is classified as traditionally including New Hampshire, Maine, and all of eastern Massachusetts, though some uniquely local vocabulary appears only around Boston. A 2006 study co-authored by William Labov claims that the accent remains relatively stable, though a 2018 study suggests the accent’s traditional features may be retreating, particularly among the city’s younger residents, and becoming increasingly confined to the historically Irish-American neighborhood of South Boston.

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5 comments

  1. ᛋᛠᛉ · May 21

    If I had a nickel for everytime a summer complaint asked me where I’m from, I’d have a lot of nickels. And a headache.

    I do hope I get to live long to see the Yankee Twang come back right out straight. Television Americanese is gawmy and a tad bit overrated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Viking Life Blog · May 21

      I see. I don’t know the feeling, because I have the rare experience of being part of the dominant (langauge) group (Copenhagen).

      I remember as a child and teenager having problems understanding people (especially old people) in country side.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ᛋᛠᛉ · May 21

        So I’ve heard!

        So for me, because of tv, I understand both Standard American and Queen’s English with no problem. But if you take someone from Away, like the Southlands, we struggle. One of my best friends married a Southern Belle who, while her accent ain’t thikkk, is at least thicc. We understand each other, but sometimes have to laugh – she thinks it’s funny that I don’t have hard Rs, and I can’t help but smirk when she says aperuhcaht (apricot.) Sometimes I have trouble with other County accents. Your links mention Up County. It’s true, Maine Franco-American English is another kettle of fish. In my parts and part of Massachusetts, for example, you get a soft th- which is kinda like the Old English edh. The hooked d. Which sometimes get confused for the Thorn. But the Frenchies drop the h, so I might say thick with a rounded d/the, but the Frenchman says it “tick.” There’s other examples, but you get my Rourke’s drift.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Viking Life Blog · May 21

        Yeah, it’s funny like that.

        Sadly some dialects in Denmark say “en” in front of most words instead of “en/et” like Rigsdansk and Københavnsk, which makes them sound like how invasives corrupt our langauge. Other than that it’s a shame that dialects is dying out.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: New England English — VikingLifeBlog | Vermont Folk Troth

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