New England English
New England English refers to a number of dialects of American English spoken in the New England area. The regional dialects are spoken almost exclusively in Maine, Rhode Island, eastern Massachusetts, extreme northeastern Connecticut, eastern Vermont, and parts of New Hampshire. Natives of the rest of Connecticut, western Vermont, and western Massachusetts, as well as some members of the current younger generation in some other parts of New England, tend to speak with an accent closer to that of General American rather than to the New England regional accents. However, research by William Labov suggests that these dialects are growing more distinct and diverse from those elsewhere in the United States.
The New England dialects may be broadly divided into the Eastern New England dialect (ENE), the Western New England dialect (WNE), and some sub-dialects within these two regions. It is important to note that the cultural history behind the Eastern New England and Western New England dialects differ, so one should be mindful not to confuse the two.
Eastern New England speech is historically non-rhotic, while Western New England is historically rhotic. Much of Eastern New England possesses the so-called cot–caught merger, but Rhode Island does not possess the merger at all; and Western New England exhibits a continuum from full merger in northern Vermont to full distinction in western Connecticut. The Western New England accent is closely related to the Inland North accent which prevails further west.
Eastern New England
Eastern New England is traditionally marked by its non-rhoticity in words like car, card, fear, etc. Though this feature is receding, it is still strong in the area ranging from Bangor, Maine to Providence.
There are several systems of pronouncing "short-a" (the /a/ in pack or bad) attested in the region, including the "nasal" system, remnants of the "broad-a" system, and "Northern breaking".
The Eastern New England dialectal region includes much of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and areas of south-western Nova Scotia, and is frequently said to include Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut. Characteristic phonological features include non-rhoticity and a distinctive set of low vowels.
The phrase park the car in Harvard Yard is commonly used as a shibboleth to caricature the non-rhotic eastern New England accent, which contrasts with the generally rhotic accents common elsewhere in North America.
Eastern New England maintains a distinction between the vowel [a] as in father or calm versus [ɒ] as in dog or hot, a pair that is merged in virtually all other North American accents. However, some speakers may use /ɔ/ rather than /ɒ/ for the word "dog" (but not for "frog", "hog", "log" etc.), a peculiarity that is present in many North American English dialects. In some parts of Eastern New England, the vowels of caught and cot are pronounced identically, as is the case in most of Canada and the western United States, but not in the southern United States, New York city, Philadelphia, or much of the US Great Lakes region. These vowels are not merged, however, in southeastern New England.
There is some evidence that New Hampshire has been shifting over time away from other Eastern New England dialects. Younger speakers have begun to merge the vowels, mentioned above, in father ([a]) and dog ([ɒ]) (though, as aforesaid, some speakers pronounce the word "dog" with /ɔ/ and not /ɒ/ at this point already). New Hampshirites have also grown to pronounce /r/ with greater frequency than speakers in Massachusetts, and have moved towards a system of "short-a" pronunciation that is distinct from Boston speakers.
The Rhode Island dialectal region, which encompasses the Providence area (which speaks a derivative of this: the Providence dialect) historically includes Rhode Island and areas nearby it in neighboring states such as eastern Connecticut.
Traditional Rhode Island English shares many features with New York City English and Boston English. Like both of these dialects, Rhode Island English is (primarily) non-rhotic, uses the linking R, and keeps the pronunciations of Mary, marry, and merry distinct. Other features include that /ɑr/ (e.g. in car), through non-rhoticity, becomes [ɑə] or [äə]; there is a noticeable tendency to raise the diphthongs /aɪ/ and /aʊ/ toward [ɐɪ] and [ɐʊ], respectively, before voiceless consonants (as in Boston); /ɔː/ is lowered and approaches [ɔə] (as in New York City); and the cot–caught merger is absent (as in New York City). The final item also distinguishes the dialectal region from northeastern New England, including Boston.
Western New England
Telephone survey data show that the Western New England accent is heard as far south as suburban Hartford, Connecticut; as far east as suburban Springfield, Massachusetts; as far west as suburban Albany, New York, and nearly as far north as Burlington, Vermont. In the latter small city, the dialect is French-Canadian influenced. Words like bad and stack are pronounced with [eə], and words like stand and can are pronounced [ɛə].
Western New England is r-pronouncing. A study of WNE found raising of /æ/ in all environments and tensing (as well as raising) before nasals (Boberg 2001: 17-19).
Some speakers of the Western New England dialect—especially those from the region surrounding the major cities of Springfield, Massachusetts and Hartford, Connecticut, along the Connecticut River—replace intervocalic "t" with a glottal stop. This would mean that those who do such would pronounce (for example) "sitting" as "sih-in'", New Britain as "New Brih-nn", and Clinton as "Clin-nn," etc. T-glottalizing is found in other parts of the country as well (and in General American), to varying degrees, like in the word "button"; however, it is most prevalent in Southwestern New England.
Labov (1991: 12) suggests that unified raising of TRAP/BATH/DANCE is a pivot point for the NCVS (the Northern Cities Vowel Shift). Boberg (2001: 11) further argues that the NCVS may thus have had its beginnings in northwestern NE. The existence of this raising pattern is surprising if one accepts the lack of BATH-raising in the LANE data (Kurath 1939-43), especially given that Labov, Ash and Boberg does not show this to be an incipient vigorous change: older speakers show more raising than younger speakers in Hartford, Springfield, and Rutland, Vermont. (Boberg 2001: 19). Recent data from Labov, Ash, and Boberg has all western Connecticut speakers keeping cot and caught distinct, resembling the Inland North pattern. However, seven of the eight Vermont speakers have completely merged the two vowels.
As was mentioned earlier, the northern half of this region (i.e. north of Northampton, Massachusetts) shows the cot–caught merger, along with consistent fronting of /ɑː/ before /r/. Southwestern New England, (i.e. Greater Springfield and south) shows the basic tendency of the Northern Cities Shift to back /ɛ/ and front /ɑː/.
Some local dialects in working-class areas of southwestern Connecticut (especially Greater Bridgeport, and to a lesser degree, Greater New Haven) are strongly influenced by the neighboring New York dialect.
Links to Sussex in the UK
Phoebe Earl Griffiths, an American writer in the 19th century, commented that Sussex dialect has considerable similarities with the dialect of New England at the time. Phrases common to Sussex such as "you hadn't ought to" or "you shouldn't ought", the use of "be you?" for "are you?" and "I see him" for "I saw him" were common in New England as well. Other phrases that may appear to be Americanisms were widely used in Sussex dialect including the use of "the fall" for autumn, "mad" for "angry" and use of "I guess" and "I reckon". Significant numbers of Sussex people moved to the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Quaker and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, William Penn, left Sussex for New England, taking around 200 Sussex Quakers with him. For several years, Penn lived at Warminghurst Place in Sussex, worshipping near Thakeham.
- Regional accents of English speakers
- Vermont English
- North American English regional phonology#Northeastern dialects
- Regional vocabularies of American English
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