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: