Northeast Pennsylvania English

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Northeast Pennsylvania English is the local dialect of American English spoken in northeastern Pennsylvania, specifically in the Coal Region, which includes the cities and towns of Hazleton, Pottsville, Jim Thorpe, Berwick, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton.

The original English settlers of this area of Pennsylvania were primarily from Staffordshire and the Black Country, in England's West Midlands. As such, their accent contains traces of Potteries (North Staffordshire) English and Black Country English. Their accent also contains traces of dialects of German, Irish, Welsh, Italian, and Eastern European people, who immigrated to the area in its heyday.

The Wyoming Valley, including, Luzerne, Lackawanna, and portions of Columbia County, falls right on the border between two major dialect groups of American English: the Midland (General American) and the North. This produces an accent that, leaning toward Midland with its own traits, contains traces of Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, Upstate New York, and Pennsylvania Dutch English, as well as General American English and Canadian English.

People in Schuylkill and Carbon Counties, specifically the towns and cities of Tamaqua, Pottsville, Lehighton, and Jim Thorpe, speak this dialect as well, however, their accent tends to draw more heavily on influences from the North (specifically Philadelphia English) and Pennsylvania Dutch English due to their arguably closer associations with the Lehigh Valley (Allentown) and Berks County (Reading) than with the Wyoming Valley.

Phonological characteristics[edit]

History[edit]

Fieldwork conducted in the 1930s shows the region split evenly on the horse–hoarse merger: some speakers maintained the contrast (as did speakers in Upstate New York at the time), while others had lost the contrast (as in the Philadelphia accent).[1] Today, however, the merger is complete in the region (and indeed in most of North American English).[2]

Vowels[edit]

The Mary–marry–merry merger is complete within the Wyoming Valley, though the accent of Schuylkill and Carbon counties, as well as New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania still maintain a two- or three-way distinction here.[3][4]

Nohphonemic (i.e. continuous)æ-tensing occurs, which means that /æ/ is raised more before /n/ than before /d/ and more before /d/ than before /ɡ/.[5] The vowel /ɑ/ is considerably fronted, so a word like hot is pronounced [hät].[6] Finally, the vowels /ɛ/ as in bet and /ʌ/ as in but are retracted (articulated further back in the mouth) in comparison to the pronunciation in more conservative accents like General American.

The cot caught merger is not complete in its transition and therefore the distinction remains between the two sets;[7] the completed merger, however, is found to the west, in Pittsburgh and Central Pennsylvania.

The Northern cities vowel shift occurs, but not to the same extent as, say, in the Inland North (as in Chicago or Buffalo). The vowel /æ/ shows considerable raising and diphthongization before nasal consonants, so that ban is pronounced approximately [beən], but before oral consonants, there is only moderate raising, and the vowel remains more open than /ɛ/, so that bad is pronounced approximately [bæ̝d]. This happens primarily in the Wyoming Valley and its frequency decreases as one travels toward the Lehigh Valley/Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The nuclei of the two diphthongs are pronounced in nearly the same position, as an open central vowel, so that pine is [päɪn] and town is [täʊn], clearly showing the transitional nature of dialect between the North and the Midland [8]

The dialect itself can be divided roughly by a line extending along Broad Mountain; people north of the mountain in the Wyoming Valley (Hazleton, Berwick, Wilkes-Barre, and Scranton) speak a version of the dialect that is usually closer to the Midland, whereas people south of the mountain in Schuylkill and Carbon Counties (Tamaqua, Pottsville, Lehighton, and Jim Thorpe) speak a localised version that generally shares more characteristics with the North (as well as Pennsylvania Dutch English).

Lexical characteristics[edit]

To the extent that northeastern Pennsylvanian speakers do pronounce pairs like Don and dawn differently, they pronounce the word on to rhyme with Don, not with dawn (i.e., they use the /ɑ/ vowel rather than /ɔ/). In this regard, the accent patterns with the northern accents, not with the rest of Pennsylvania.[9][10]

With respect to the phenomenon of "positiveanymore", Northeast Pennsylvania English patterns with the Midland rather than the North: sentences like "Cars are sure expensive anymore" and "It's hard to find a job anymore" are grammatical here, but not in the North.[11] A similar result is found with sentences like "The car needs washed" or "The floor needs swept", where the dialect itself is actually divided geographically; these sentences are grammatical in the Wyoming Vallley, as in the Midland, but not in Schuylkill and Carbon counties, as in the North.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kurath and McDavid (1961), map 44.
  2. ^ Labov et al. (2006), p. 52.
  3. ^ Kurath and McDavid (1961), maps 50–51.
  4. ^ Labov et al. (2006), pp. 54, 56.
  5. ^ Labov et al. (2006), pp. 176, 193, 194, 200.
  6. ^ Labov et al. (2006), p. 196.
  7. ^ Labov et al. (2006), p. 122.
  8. ^ Labov et al. (2006), p. 188.
  9. ^ Kurath and McDavid (1961), map 138.
  10. ^ Labov et al. (2006), pp. 187, 189.
  11. ^ Labov et al. (2006), p. 294.
  12. ^ Labov et al. (2006), p. 295.

External links[edit]