New Jersey English dialects
New Jersey is dialectally diverse, with many immigrants and transplants from other states, but there are roughly two regional varieties discernible, each having features in common with the two metropolises of Philadelphia and New York City that each extend into the state.
South and Central Jersey English
South Jersey and some areas of Central Jersey are primarily within the Philadelphia dialect region. One recognizable feature of this is the pronunciation of /oʊ/ (the vowel in go) as [ɜʊ], and this can also be found elsewhere in adjacent Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware. The overwhelming majority of the state shares this dialect although New Jerseyans and Philadelphians are usually incorrectly depicted in cinema as having a New York City accent such as in the film Rocky, though the New York accent is only actually native to northeastern New Jersey. An example of a cinematic depiction of a correct Philadelphian accent is in the film The Sixth Sense.
Visitors to South Jersey may notice the following usages standard in the Delaware Valley:
- Hoagie: This usual term for what might elsewhere be called a submarine sandwich.
- Jimmies: used to refer to the chocolate or rainbow variety of sprinkles used on cakes and ice cream. The term is also used in the Boston and Baltimore areas but is uncommon in North Jersey.
- "Water" is pronounced as wooter, with the first syllable having the same vowel sound as the words put or wood.
- "Drawers" is pronounced as joors, rhyming with doors.
Northeastern New Jersey English
The northeast quarter of the state as well as Middlesex and Monmouth Counties are within the New York City metropolitan area, and in some areas near the Hudson River, including Newark and Jersey City, all the main features of the New York dialect are found. Elsewhere in North and Central Jersey, the accent shares many features of the New York dialect as well, but differs in a few points. For instance, it is rhotic: a Brooklynite might pronounce "over there" like "ovah deh" [oʊvə ˈd̪ɛə], while a North Jerseyan might say "over dare" [oʊvɚ ˈd̪ɛɚ], much like a lot of dialects throughout the rest of the United States. Also, it lacks a phonemic short-a split in some places, though the Atlas of North American English by William Labov et al. shows that the New York City short a pattern has diffused to many r-pronouncing communities in northern New Jersey like Rutherford (Labov's birthplace) and North Plainfield (it has also diffused to other places like Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Albany). However, the system in these communities often loses the function word constraint and/or the open syllable constraint of the NYC system. Still, many pronunciation features are shared with the New York City dialect: for example, the pronunciation of /ɔː/, the vowel in words like coffee, dog, and talk is raised and tensed to [o] or even higher in New Jersey and New York alike.
- egg cream: a mixture of cold milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer
- Sub: submarine sandwich
- Bodega: corner store.
- potsy: (archaic) hopscotch
- stoop: (from Dutch) the multiple exterior steps leading up to the main entrance on the first floor of a brownstone or other low-rise structure, usually residence or residential apartment building.
Notable lifelong native speakers
- Jon Bon Jovi — a rhotic, "thick New Jersey accent"
- Danny DeVito — a rhotic, "broad Jersey accent"
- James Gandolfini — "thick, utterly believable Jersey accent"
- Ed Harris
- William Labov — "I was born in Rutherford New Jersey, a small town just far enough outside of New York City so that […] I pronounce all my final r's without thinking about it, and I'm perfectly happy with the way my vowels fall out in words like mad and more"
- Ray Liotta — "lullaby Jersey accent"
- Joe Pesci — rhotic; "see Newark-born Joe Pesci [and others…] for great New York City area accents"
- Bruce Springsteen
- Connie Francis
- Chris Christie
Northwestern New Jersey English
The English spoken in northwestern New Jersey is on the geographic edge of the Inland North dialect region, basically falling under the general category of Northern U.S. speech, with on pronounced to rhyme with Don, rather than with Dawn (as in South Jersey). The vowel in words like cot and caught are very noticeably distinct (as in most of New Jersey). Otherwise, as a Northern variety, the English of the region does not follow the defining pronunciation features of Delaware Valley (to the south) or New York City English (to the east), such as their "short a" split system.
Vocabulary common across New Jersey
- catty corner: on an angle to a corner, like two white spaces touching at a corner on a chess board. Diagonal
- dungarees: jeans
- kill: (from Dutch) a small river or strait, in the name of specific watercourses; e.g. Beaver Kill, Fresh Kills, Kill Van Kull, Arthur Kill
- scallion: spring onion
- seltzer: carbonated water beverage that, unlike club soda, is salt-free.
- Stickball: a baseball-like game suitable for smaller areas, in which a stick substitutes for the bat and a spaldeen is the ball
- "soda": all carbonated beverages
Contrary to popular belief, almost no one in New Jersey refers to the state as /dʒɔɪzi/, typically written as Joisey. The pronunciation of /ɝː/ as [əɪ] instead of the standard American [ɝ], which this stereotype is based on, is residual in the New York metropolitan dialect as described above.
The term Jersey is sometimes used to refer to the state as a whole, or as an adjective as in Jersey Tomatoes.
In popular culture
- In the English dub of Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters, the recurring character Serenity Wheeler voiced by Lisa Ortiz was portrayed with a South Jersey accent.
- Philadelphia accent
- New York dialect
- North American English regional phonology#Northeastern dialects
- Regional vocabularies of American English
- North Jersey
- Central Jersey
- South Jersey
- Labov, William (1982) The social stratification of English in New York City Center for Applied Linguistics ISBN 0-87281-149-2
- Labov, William (1994) Principles of Linguistic Change: Volume 1: Internal Factors Blackwell ISBN 0-631-17914-3
- Labov, William, Ash, S. and Boberg, C. (2006) Atlas of North American English DeGruyter ISBN 3-11-016746-8
- Labov, William (2001) Principles of Linguistic Change: Volume 2: Social Factors Blackwell ISBN 0-631-17916-X
- Wolfram, Walt & Natalie Schilling-Estes (2005) American English 2nd edition Blackwell ISBN 1-4051-1265-4
- Wolfram, Walt & Ward, Ben (2005) American Voices: How Dialects Differ from Coast to Coast Blackwell ISBN 1-4051-2109-2
- Gomes Cassidy, Frederic and Joan Houston Hall (eds) 2002. Dictionary of American Regional English. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Harvard University Press
- Morales, Tatiana (2005-09-27). "Backstage With Bon Jovi: 'Have A Nice Day' Tour Officially Kicks Off In November". CBS News. Retrieved 2009-01-26.
- Flint Marx, Rebecca. "Danny DeVito: Biography". allmovie. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Plotinsky, Benjamin A. (July–August 2007). "At Home with "The Sopranos"". Commentary Magazine. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Rose, Lisa (November 2007). "Gandolfini sings". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Hunter, Stephen (2001-03-16). "'Enemy at the Gates': Mighty Scope, Bad Aim". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-08-03.
- Labov, William (1997-10-01). "How I Got Into Linguistics, and What I Got Out of It". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2008-11-20.
- Iley, Chrissy (2007-04-09). "I'm in tune with my feelings". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2013-08-31. Retrieved 2014-08-31.
- Phillips, Andrew (2003-01-16). "INTERVIEW: Goodfellas Ray Liotta: and how I learned that you should never steal from a wise guy". GW Hatchet. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Blumenfeld, Robert (2002). Accents: A Manual for Actors 1. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 166. Retrieved 2014-08-31.
- Holden, Stephen (1992-08-09). "When the Boss Fell to Earth, He Hit Paradise". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Labov et al., 2006, p. 189
- Labov et al., 2006, p. 123
- William Labov's webpage—There are links to many sites related to dialects, including references to his early work on New York dialect and the Atlas of North American English.