Maine accent

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The Maine accent, or Down East accent, is the local traditional pronunciation of Eastern New England English in parts of Maine, especially along the "Down East" coast. It is characterized by a variety of features, including r-dropping (non-rhoticity), resistance to the horse–hoarse merger in older speakers,[1] a deletion or doubling of certain syllables, and some unique vocabulary.


Maine English often features phonetic change or phonological change of certain characteristics. One such characteristic is that, like in all traditional Eastern New England English, Maine English pronounces the "r" sound only when it comes before a vowel, but not before a consonant or in any final position. For example, "car" may sound to listeners like "cah" and "Mainer" like "Mainah."[2]

Also, as in much New England English, the final "-ing" ending in multi-syllable words sounds more like "-in," for example, in stopping [ˈstɑpɪn] and starting [ˈstäːʔɪn].[3]

The Maine accent follows the pronunciation of Eastern New England English, plus these additional features:

  • /ɜːr/ before a consonant is [ə~ɜ~ɛ].
  • Single-syllable words ending with R-colored vowels (such as /ɪər, ɛər, ɔːr/) sometimes become two syllables. The vowel loses its R-coloration. This includes /ɪər/ as in here [ˈhɪ.(j)ɜ], /ɛər/ as in there [ˈðeɪ.(j)ɜ], and (as mentioned above) /ɔər/ as in more [ˈmoʊ.(w)ɜ].[4]
    • /ɔːr/ is [ɒə]; thus, for example, in horse ([hɒəs] "hoss"), war ([wɒə] "waw"), north ([nɒəθ] "nawth"), or porch ([pʰɒətʃ] "pawch").
    • /ɔər/ is [ˈoʊ(w)ə]; thus, for example, in hoarse ([ˈhoʊ(w)əs] "hoe-us"), wore ([ˈwoʊ(w)ə] "whoa-uh"), more ([ˈmoʊ(w)ə] "mow-uh"), or shore ([ˈʃoʊ(w)ə] "show-uh").
  • Many speakers also produce a dipping tone when pronouncing the extended word, lowering their tone on the first syllable and rising it during the second.[citation needed] The phrase "You can't get there from here," coined in an episode of the mid-1900s humor stories collection Bert & I, is a quintessential example of the principle of syllable extension.


Traditional Maine speakers use some regional or even local vocabulary, including the following terms:

In popular culture

  • Maine humorist Marshall Dodge (1935-1982) based much of his humor from the Maine dialect, beginning first with his involvement with the series Bert & I, a "Down East" collection of humor stories created during the 1950s and 1960s .
  • Well-known author, musician, and former television broadcaster Tim Sample is known nationwide for his use of Maine vernacular.


  1. ^ Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles (2006), The Atlas of North American English, Berlin: Mouton-de Gruyter, pp. 226–7, ISBN 3-11-016746-8 
  2. ^ Fowles (2015)
  3. ^ Fowles (2015)
  4. ^ Fowles (2015)
  5. ^ Fowles (2015)
  6. ^ Fowles (2015)
  7. ^ VisitMaine (2015)
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Norman, Abby. "The Outta Statah's Guide to Maine Slang". BDN. Retrieved 16 August 2016. 
  9. ^ Fowles (2015)
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Reid, Lindsay Ann. "English in Maine: The Mythologization and Commodification of a Dialect". University of Toronto. Retrieved 17 August 2016. 
  11. ^ a b c Thieme, Emma. "The 25 Funniest Expressions in Maine". matador network. Retrieved 17 August 2016. 
  12. ^ a b Erard, Michael. "What it Means to Talk Like a Mainer". Down East. Retrieved 17 August 2016. 
  13. ^ Fowles (2015)
  14. ^ VisitMaine (2015)
  15. ^ VisitMaine (2015)
  16. ^ Burnham, Emily. "Dictionary includes words only a Mainer would use". BDN. Retrieved 17 August 2016. 
  17. ^ VisitMaine (2015)
  18. ^ VisitMaine (2015)
  19. ^ a b c d Fowles, Debby. "Speak like a Mainer". about travel. Retrieved 17 August 2016. 
  20. ^ Fowles (2015)
  21. ^ Fowles (2015)
  22. ^ Fowles (2015)
  23. ^ Fowles (2015)
  24. ^ Fowles (2015)
  25. ^ Fowles (2015)
  26. ^ Pols, Mary. "At bean 'suppahs,' processed food is out, local food is in". Portland Press Herald. Retrieved 27 September 2016. 
  27. ^ Fowles (2015)
  28. ^ VisitMaine (2015)

External links

  • Fowles, Debby (2015). "Speak Like a Mainer". About Travel. Retrieved 20 May 2015. 
  • "Maine Slang, Local Humor, And Wicked Funny Words". 2015. Retrieved 20 May 2015. 
  • Szelog, Mike (2015). "Ayuh, the Northern New England Accent in a Nutshell.". The Heart of New England. Retrieved 20 May 2015. 
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