The Disappearing New England Accent

After maintaining our distinctive pattern of speech for a couple centuries, the New England accent is in danger of disappearing.

American Speech, a journal on dialect, published a piece in their summer issue on the New England accent’s propensity to drop R’s and our unique pattern of pronouncing “a’s.” Researchers at Dartmouth and the University of Texas at Austin pulled together a bunch of New Hampshire and Vermont residents, and made them recite lines to test their accents. (ie: “My father doesn’t bother to take off his shoes at home.”)

The result: The New England accent “line” has moved eastward. As the Chronicle of Higher Education noted:

For two centuries, the principal dividing line between eastern New England pronunciations and those to the west was the Green Mountains that form the spine of Vermont. Now, according to a new study, that boundary has moved east to the Vermont-New Hampshire border and among young people, even farther east.

That second point is an even more important one: Young people are far more likely to pronounce a full “r” than older residents. That’s a trend that is only likely to increase, given our on-going exposure to their world through television and travel.

That, unfortunately, means that some day we’ll only have some fuzzy YouTube recordings of Matt and Ben to show our grandkids how everyone used to talk:

ADVERTISMENT

  • agingcynic

    Two weeks from now, hundreds of Boston area freshmen will suddenly lose their accents when they find themselves surrounded by kids from NJ & CT and get tired of being mocked.

  • http://www.fibrowitch.net Jan Dumas

    Perhaps we should start teaching Bostonian as a second language? Accents grow and change all the time, especially in an area as diverse as Boston.

  • MARY ANN

    The Boston Accent is limited to people born and raised within the Rt. 128 beltway around the City. Once outside of Rt. 128, you run into the Worcester Accent, the New Bedford/Fall River Accent, etc. Most accents are recognized by folks in areas where they travelled. The Boston Accent was used to distinguish outsiders from true locals. Outsiders just cannot pronounce a Boston Accent correctly.

  • Wayne

    A thirteenth generation New Englander, I moved from Cape Cod to Los Angeles many years ago, and got a lot of teasing about my accent, so I decided to get rid of it.

    I’m always surprised to hear New Englanders on TV that don’t have the accent. It does seem to be disappearing…

  • http://moderatethoughtsandmusings.blogspot.com/ Joe

    I am 50 and my accent is as strong as ever. Many of the people in my office are from other parts of the country and they don’t have the accent. I’ve been mocked and teased but I refused to change my speech pattern to appease others.