New York English or accent is a regional dialect which is spoken by many people in New York and its suburban districts. The territory of its spreading is wide and includes the five administrative districts, Long Island, Westchester County, the lower Hudson Valley and surrounding parts of Connecticut and New Jersey. This accent is described as the most recognizable variety of American English.
The origins of this dialect are supposed to be various, and the very beginning of the most features is mostly unknown. It is claimed that the vocalization and the following loss of [r] was taken from the privilege London pronunciation. That is why it started to spread firstly among the Upper classes and after that got down to other social layers. Some other features such as the pronunciation of the dental [t] and [d] might be taken from the communications with other languages, e.g. Yiddish, Italian. Some grammatical structures such as the lack of inversion in indirect questions have the roots in penetration with immigrant languages.
The true New York accent is concentrated in the middle and working classes OF European Americans, and nowadays this constitutes even less than a half of New York’s population. At present the most truthful New York English places is the suburban territories of Nassau County, western Suffolk County, Westchester County, northeastern and southwestern Queens, and Staten Island, but although a number of strong speakers of New York accent are in urban parts of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.
The different types of New York English are the consequence of penetration of the ethnic speech elements caused by immigrants’ waves. Starting with the earliest wave of the Dutch and English and continuing in the 1800s with the Irish, the German, the French, the Scottish all these settlements’ influences united to create the specific New York English accent.
New York accent could be mostly described by the following sounds features and speech patterns:
- The [ɔ] vowel sound is tensed and usually raised more; "AW" sound is prolonged (walk/wawwk);
Hard, intrusive [g] sound; the [g] is variably pronounced before a vowel as a velar stop (Long Island/Lawnguyland);
Dropping final consonants (point/poin);
The classic New York accent is non-rhotic; dropping [r] sounds (morning/mawning);
Adding [r] sound (idea/ideaR, soda/sodeR);
Dropping [g] endings (bringing/bringin);
- Substituting [t], [d] for [th]; replace the dental fricatives [θ, ð] with dental variants of stops [t, d] (those/doze, this/dis, thing/ting, three/tree);
- Dark [l] onsets (is used before vowels; the beginning sound of lull and level approximates the final one).
-Dentalization [t] and [d] (while pronouncing the tongue tip touches the teeth rather than the alveolar ridge)
- The short a split (there is a class of words, with a historical “short a" vowel, including plan, class, and bad, where the historical [æ] has undergone [æ]-tensing to [eə]);
- This accent is characterized by the fast rate of speech.
To sum it all up, any of the accents is one of the most important parts of people’s culture which helps to make the way of speaking more unique and essential. And what is more important is to know about such accent differences as much as it possible, not to be caught in the situations of misunderstanding. That is why learning of various features of accents also helps to understand more the origin and developing of languages.
- Becker, Kara, & Wong, Amy Wing-mei. The short-a system of New York City English: An update. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics, 2009.
- J. C. Wells, Accents of English. Cambridge University Press, 1982.
- William Labov, Principles of linguistic change. Volume I: Internal factors (Language in Society 20). Oxford: Blackwell, 1994.
-WilliamLabov,Principles of linguistic change, vol. 2: Social factors: Oxford: Blackwell, 2001.
- William Labov, Principles of linguistic change, vol. 3: Cognitive and cultural factors. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2011.
- Walt Wolfram & Natalie Schilling-Estes, American English: Dialects and variation. (Language in Society, 25). 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006.