Mid-Atlantic American English

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This article is about the dialect of American English.
Not to be confused with Transatlantic accent.

Mid-Atlantic American English, Middle Atlantic American English, or Delaware Valley English is a class of American English, considered by the Atlas of North American English to be a single dialect,[1] spoken in the Mid-Atlantic states of the United States.

This dialect of English centers most strongly around Philadelphia and Reading, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; Baltimore, Maryland; and Atlantic City and Trenton, New Jersey.[2]

The Mid-Atlantic dialect is primarily united by some features in common with both the New York City dialect (a marked absence of the cot-caught merger,[3] a raising and diphthongizing of /ɔː/,[4] and a short-a split system)[5] as well as the Midland/Southern dialects (r-fulness and strong fronting of //, //, and //).[6]

The dialect's most widely studied subsets are Philadelphia English and Baltimore English.

Phonological characteristics

The Mid-Atlantic dialectal region is characterized by several unique phonological features:

  • No cot-caught merger: There is a huge difference in the pronunciation between the cot class of words (e.g. pot, glob, and rock) and the caught class (e.g. thought, awe, and call), as in New York City.[3] The caught class is raised and diphthongized towards [oə]~[o̝ə].[4]
  • Short-a split system: The Mid-Atlantic region uses a short-a split system similar to, but more limited than, the New York City short-a split system. (In the Trenton area, an intermediate system is used, falling between the typical Mid-Atlantic and the New York City system.)[7] Generally, in the Mid-Atlantic system, the vowel /æ/ is tensed (towards [eə]) before the consonants /m/, /n/, /f/, /s/, and /θ/ in a closed syllable (so, for example, bats and baths do not have the same vowel sound, being pronounced [bæts] and [beəθs], respectively), and in any words directly inflectionally derived from root words with this split. Therefore, pass and passing use the tense [eə], but passage and passive use the lax [æ].[5] The lax and the tense reflexes of /æ/ are separate phonemes in these dialects, though largely predictable using the aforementioned rules. There are exceptions, however; the three words bad, mad, and glad become tense, and, in the closed-syllable /m/ set, began, ran, and swam alone remain lax. See /æ/-tensing#Philadelphia and Baltimore or click "show" below for more details.
  • Extreme fronting (followed by glides) in the starting places of these vowels: // (for example, towards [æʊ~ɛɔ]), // (for example, towards [ɘʊ~ɜʊ]) and // (for example, towards the diphthongized [ʉu]),[6] none of which occur in New York City English but are, rather, similar to Midland U.S. English, and even Southern U.S. English.
  • Rhoticity: The Mid-Atlantic dialect, unlike the traditional New York City dialect, is fully rhotic.

Lexical characteristics

  • To refer to a sweetened, flavored, carbonated soft drink, the term soda is preferred (rather than pop or the generic coke).
  • Positive anymore may be used without its negative polarity to mean "nowadays," as in "Her hoagies taste different anymore."
  • The term jimmies is sometimes used in this and the Boston dialect to refer to small confectionaries used to top ice cream and icing, normally called "sprinkles" in New York and the rest of the United States.

Notable speakers

References

  • Labov, William; et al. (2006). The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016746-8. 
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