Hudson Valley English

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Hudson Valley English
Region Hudson Valley
Native speakers
(no estimate available)
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Hudson Valley English is an accent of the English language, found in the Hudson Valley region of New York State. Although it is very similar to other Northeastern dialects, there are still a few minor differences. A very small number of the phrases that the people there use are derived from the Dutch language, but these are mostly limited to toponyms. Some original Hudson Valley words are stoop (small porch) and teeter-totter.[citation needed]

Phonological characteristics[edit]

In general, the phonological features of the Hudson Valley are consistent with those of the Western New England dialect, though the Hudson Valley has a distinct settlement history stemming from its history as a Dutch colony. However, there are some distinguishing features, many of which are the result of influence from the nearby New York City and Inland North dialects.[1]


Consonants in Hudson Valley English generally do not differ from General American. Hudson Valley English typically has yod-dropping and intervocalic flapping of alveolar stops. One notable difference, however, is that glottal replacement of /t/ is significantly more common in Hudson Valley English. Before a syllabic alveolar nasal and at the end of a syllable when not followed by a vowel, /t/ becomes a glottal stop. Among some speakers, nasals before a glottalized /t/ may be deleted with accompanying nasalization of the preceding vowel, creating realizations such as mountain [ˈmãʊ̃ʔn̩] and ant [ˈẽə̃ʔ].

Stigmatized New York features are generally not very common in the Hudson Valley, but may be heard occasionally, especially in communities closer to New York City. Thus, fortition of dental fricatives to stops (as seen in the stigmatized pronunciation of the as [də]) and deletion of /h/ before /j/ (as seen in the pronunciation of huge as [judʒ]) are not predominant features of the dialect, but can be found among some speakers, particularly older ones. Normally, the combination /hj/ coalesces to [ç], so that huge is pronounced [çudʒ].


The rounded back vowels /uː/ and /oʊ/ generally remain relatively back compared to most varieties of American English. This groups Hudson Valley English with the dialects of the North. However, the realizations of these vowels are generally not as back as the realizations found in the Inland North for example.[2]

Generally, speakers of the dialect do not possess the cot-caught merger, leaving the low back vowels /ɔː/ and /ɒ/ distinct. The dialect does possess the father-bother merger, however. This system of low back vowels contrasts with the traditional dialect of New York, which maintains a three-way distinction, but matches the system found in Connecticut and the North.[2] As in New York City, however, the caught vowel often undergoes raising and diphthongization to [ɔə] or [oə].[3] Like most American dialects maintaining the cot-caught distinction, Hudson Valley English has the lot-cloth split, whereby the cot vowel is usually replaced with the caught vowel before /f/, /θ/, /s/, and /ŋ/. It also always takes place before /ɡ/ in "dog" and variably in other words in "-og" depending on the speaker. Because this split is incomplete, a number of words such as Goth, roster, profit, bongo, etc. do not take the caught vowel. The Hudson Valley falls north of the on-line, and thus on is realized as [ɑn]. Gone may be realized as either [ɡɑn] or [ɡɔn] depending on the speaker, with the former pronunciation being more common closer to the City. The Hudson Valley also uses /ɑ/ in the sequence /ɒlC/ where the rest of Upstate New York would use /ɔ/. Thus, revolve is pronounced [ɹɨˈvɑlv] in the Hudson Valley, whereas in the Inland North, it would be pronounced [ɹɨˈvɔlv].[1]

Unlike the rest of the North, the Hudson Valley dialect has not undergone most stages of the Northern Cities Vowel Shift The dialect does have some features of the shift. For example, /ɑ/ is fronter than /ʌ/, and /ɛ/ is typically less than 375 Hz fronter than /ɑ/.[4]

The nucleus of the diphthong /aɪ/ tends to be backer than that of /aʊ/, as is the case in the New York dialect. This contrasts with the realizations of most of the Northern dialect range, where these diphthongs are [aɪ] and [ɑʊ] respectively.[2] Hudson Valley English undergoes Canadian raising of /aɪ/, but not of /aʊ/.[5] This occurs before all voiceless consonants and alveolar flaps. Raising does not take place before flaps if the underlying phoneme is a morpheme-final /d/, such as in rider [ˈɹɑɪɾɚ]. This creates a new phoneme /ʌɪ/ due to minimal pairs such as rider [ˈɹɑɪɾɚ] and writer [ˈɹʌɪɾɚ] or sided [ˈsɑɪɾɨd] and sighted [ˈsʌɪɾɨd].

Among many speakers from the region, the traditionally diphthongal mid-vowels /oʊ/ and /eɪ/ have monophthongal allophones when followed by a consonant. At the end of a word or when followed by another vowel, the vowels remain diphthongs and are often slightly opener, giving the realizations /o̞ʊ/ and /e̞ɪ/. However, these realizations are not perceived as distinct by speakers of the dialect. A similar phenomenon has been observed with /eɪ/ in the Philadelphia dialect.

There are two systems found in the Hudson Valley in regards to the treatment of the short a sound /æ/. The first is a nasal system in which /æ/ is raised to a value approximating [ɛə] or [eə] before nasal consonants that is more common on the fringe of the Hudson Valley dialect area. The raised allophone before nasals in the regions of the Hudson Valley bordering the Inland North dialect range has been used to explain the inability of the first stage of the Northern Cities Shift, whereby /æ/ is raised universally, to expand into the Hudson Valley. The nasal system is also found in New England.[6]

The other system is a simplified version of the New York City /æ/ system found in the core of the Hudson Valley dialect area spanning from New York's northern suburbs to the Capital District. This system splits /æ/ into tense and lax allophones without producing any new phonemes (as is the case in New York City). The tense allophone is used before non-velar voiced stops, voiceless fricatives, and nasals and the lax allophone is used elsewhere. Unlike in New York City, the tense allophone is always used before tensing consonants even in function words and regardless of syllable structure and morpheme boundaries.[7][8] However, /æ/ in frequently unstressed function words with nasals may sometimes be distinct because /æ/ is frequently replaced by /ɛ/ by many speakers in these cases. Thus, than, can, am, and an may be heard as [ðɛn], [kʰɛn], [ɛm], and [ɛn] respectively. Also, although the tense allophone is not used before the velar nasal, some speakers may replace /æ/ with [e]. However, the tense allophone may sometimes be used before /ŋ/ where it is interchangeable with /n/. For example, Vancouver and pancake may be pronounced as [veəŋˈkʰuvɚ] and [ˈpʰeəŋˌkʰek] respectively.

In the Hudson Valley, sequences of a stressed high front vowel followed by a schwa and a nasal are often confused for the tense allophone of short a and then hypercorrected to [eə]. Thus, mayonnaise, Graham, and sometimes even museum may become [ˈmeənez], [ˈɡɹeəm], and [mjuˈzeəm]. This is not an exclusively Hudson Valley feature. Approximately 42% of Americans pronounce mayonnaise in this way.[9]

Rhotic vowels[edit]

Like General American, but unlike the traditional New York dialect, Hudson Valley English has rhotic vowels. There are at most 6 stressed rhotic vowels in Hudson Valley English: /ɝ/, /iɚ/, /ɛɚ/, /ɑɚ/, /oɚ/, and /ʊɚ/. There also exists a reduced rhotic vowel, /ɚ/. The phoneme /ʊɚ/ is falling out of use among most younger speakers, reducing the inventory of rhotic vowels to 5. Speakers without the phoneme tend to replace it with /oɚ/. However, after /j/, even in cases where it has been deleted due to yod-dropping or yod-coalescence, /ʊɚ/ is normally replaced by /ɝ/. Thus, tour becomes [tʰoɚ], but endure becomes [ɨnˈdɝ]. Some speakers may replace /ʊɚ/ with /oɚ/ where it would normally be replaced by /ɝ/. However, /ʊɚ/ may never be replaced by /ɝ/ where it would normally be replaced by /oɚ/. Thus, sure may be heard as [ʃoɚ], but poor will never be heard as [pʰɝ].

The Mary-marry-merry merger is in progress in the region. It is generally less common among older speakers and closer to New York City. The hurry-furry merger and the mirror-nearer merger are both complete in the region. The realization of the sequence /ɒɹV/ splits the region. A universal realization of the sequence as [ɑɚɹV], similar to the pattern in New York City, is most common in the Lower Hudson Valley. A split realization of the sequence as [ɑɚɹV] when followed by /oʊ/ and in the word sorry and [oɚɹV] in other cases, as is the case in General American, predominates in the Upper Hudson Valley. The Mid-Hudson Valley is an area of transition between the two systems.