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.
Dialect definitions
NENE is defined by: NWNE is defined by:
  • Widespread rhoticity
  • Full cot–caught merger → [ɑ]
  • Full horse–hoarse merger
  • Full father–bother merger → [ɑ~ä]
  • /ɑːr/[äɹ~aɹ]
SWNE is defined by:
  • Widespread rhoticity
  • No, or transitional, cot–caught merger: [ɑ~ä] vs. [ɒ]
  • Full horse–hoarse merger
  • Full father–bother merger → [ɑ~ä]
  • /ɑːr/[ɑɹ]
SENE is defined by:
  • Widespread non-rhoticity
  • No cot–caught merger: [ɑ~ä] vs. [ɔə]
  • Full horse–hoarse merger
  • Full father–bother merger → [ɑ~ä]
  • /ɑːr/[ɑː(ɹ)][1]

New England English collectively refers to the various distinct dialects and varieties of American English originating in the New England area.[2][3] Much of New England once spoke the "Yankee dialect", many of whose accent features still remain in the eastern half of New England, such as "R-dropping" (though this feature is receding among younger speakers today).[4][5][6] In fact, one common linguistic division of New England is into Eastern New England English and Western New England English—a trend begun with the 1939 Linguistic Atlas of New England—particularly based on "R-dropping" in the former but not the latter.[7] This trend often continues with current linguistic studies, including the 2006 Atlas of North American English (ANAE), which further argues for a division between Northern New England English and Southern New England English (especially on the basis of the cot–caught merger and /ɑːr/ fronting). Research by William Labov suggests that these dialects as a whole are growing more distinct and diverse from those elsewhere in the United States.[8] At times, the ANAE also categorizes New England accents into four combinations of the above, simply defined as follows:

Researcher Charles Boberg lists the possibilities of even more dialectal divisions of New England English.[3]




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.


All of New England raises the tongue in the first element of the diphthong // (About this sound listen) before voiceless consonants; eastern New England, specifically, also raises the first element of // (About this sound listen) before voiceless consonants (commonly known as Canadian raising).[11]

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 [ʔn̩] (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, like in the word "Britain" (sometimes represented along the lines of Brih'in).

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/[12] (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.[13]


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),[14] "package store" (less common in Vermont)—or, informally in Massachusetts, "packie"—to mean "liquor store",[15] and "tag sale" to mean "garage sale".[16] 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".[17][18] Common typically before adjectives or adverbs, the intensifier "wicked" is used in central, northern, and eastern New England, originating from the Boston area.[19] 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 Boston and Maine accents, and, according to some sources, the distinct Rhode Island accent. All Eastern New England English is famous for non-rhoticity, 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 running from Boston north to Maine, which contrasts with the generally rhotic dialects elsewhere in North America.[20] 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.[21] 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 horsehoarse distinction is still present to some extent in some areas, as well as the Marymarrymerry distinction in many speakers.[citation needed]

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. 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.[22] 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,[23] 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. ^ Labov (2006), p. 148.
  3. ^ a b Boberg (2001), pp. 24-5.
  4. ^ Stanford et al. (2014: 120)
  5. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:226)
  6. ^ Stanford et al. (2012: 160-1)
  7. ^ Boberg (2001), p. 3.
  8. ^ Labov, William (2007). "Transmission and Diffusion". Language. 83 (2): 344–387. doi:10.1353/lan.2007.0082. 
  9. ^ a b c d Labov (2006), p. 225.
  10. ^ Labov (2006), p. 61.
  11. ^ Boberg, Charles (2010). The English Language in Canada: Status, History and Comparative Analysis. Cambridge University Press. p. 156. 
  12. ^ Labov (2006), p. 84.
  13. ^ Labov (2006), p. 82.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Szelog, Mike. "Ayuh, the Northern New England Accent in a Nutshell." The Heart of New England.
  20. ^ Wolfram, Walt; Natalie Schilling-Estes (1998). American English: Dialects and Variation. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-20487-3. 
  21. ^ Fitzpatrick, Jim (2006). "Beantown Babble (Boston, MA)". In W. Wolfram; B. Ward. American Voices: How Dialects Differ from Coast to Coast. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 1-4051-2109-2. 
  22. ^ Boberg (2001), pp. 19-27.
  23. ^ Nagy, Naomi; Roberts, Julie (2004). "New England phonology". In Edgar Schneider; Kate Burridge; Bernd Kortmann; Rajend Mesthrie; Clive Upton. A handbook of varieties of English. Volume 1: Phonology. Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 270–281. 

Further reading

External links

  • Szelog, Mike. "Ayuh, the Northern New England Accent in a Nutshell". The Heart of New England. 
  • "International Dialects of English Archive". Age: 34, Providence, Rhode Island male Caucasian 
  • List of shibboleths at Wiktionary
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