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  1. African American Vernacular English
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  43. Phonological history of English low back vowels
  44. Phonological history of English short A
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  46. Pronunciation respelling for English
  47. Regional vocabularies of American English
  48. Rhotic and non-rhotic accents
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  50. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
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AMERICAN ENGLISH
This article is from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_accent

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Text_of_the_GNU_Free_Documentation_License 

Boston accent

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

The Boston accent is the English dialect not only of the city of Boston, Massachusetts itself but also much of eastern Massachusetts. It and closely related accents can be heard commonly in an area stretching throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and southern Maine. These regions are frequently grouped together with Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut by sociolinguists under the cover term Eastern New England accent. The best-known features of the Boston accent are non-rhoticity and broad A.

Phonological characteristics

All phonetic transcriptions in the IPA; for example:

how are you? [hoˈwaːjə]

Non-rhoticity

The traditional Boston accent is non-rhotic; in other words, the phoneme [r] does not appear at the end of a syllable or immediately before a consonant. Thus, there is no [r] in words like park [paːk], car [kaː], and Harvard [haːvəd]. After high and mid-high vowels, the [r] is replaced by [ə] or another neutral central vowel like [ɨ]: weird [wiɨd], square [skweə]. Similarly, unstressed [ɝ] ("er") is replaced by [ə], [ɐ], or [ɨ], as in color [kʌlə].

Although not all Boston-area speakers are non-rhotic, this remains the feature most widely associated with the region. As a result, it is frequently the butt of jokes about Boston, as in Jon Stewart's America (The Book), in which he states that the Massachusetts Legislature ratified everything in John Adams' 1780 Massachusetts Constitution "except the letter 'R'".

In the most traditional and old-fashioned Boston accents, what is in other dialects [ɔr] becomes a low back vowel [ɒ]: corn is [kɒːn], pronounced the same or almost the same as con or cawn.

For some old-fashioned speakers, stressed [ɝ] as in bird is replaced by [ʏ] ([bʏd]); for many present-day Boston-accent speakers, however, [ɝ] is retained. More speakers lose [r] after other vowels than lose [ɝ].

The Boston accent possesses both linking R and intrusive R: That is to say, a [r] will not be lost at the end of a word if the next word begins with a vowel, and indeed a [r] will be inserted after a word ending with a central or low vowel if the next word begins with a vowel: the tuner is and the tuna is are both [ðə tunərɪz]

Some speakers who are natively non-rhotic or partially non-rhotic attempt to change their accent by restoring [r] to word-final position. For example, on the NPR program Car Talk, hosted by the Boston-native Magliozzi brothers, one host has castigated the other on air for saying [kaː] instead of [kɑɹ]. Occasionally such speakers may hypercorrect and "restore" [r] to a word that never originally had it; idea is a common example.

There are also a number of Boston accent speakers with rhoticity, but they sometimes delete [r] only in unaccented syllables or words before a consonant.

Vowels

The Boston accent has a highly distinctive system of low vowels, even in speakers who do not drop [r] as described above. Eastern New England is the only region in North America where the distinction between the vowels in words like father and spa on the one hand and words like bother and hot on the other hand is securely maintained: the former contain [aː] ([faːðə], [spaː]), and the latter [ɒː] ([bɒːðə], [hɒːt]). This means that even though heart has no [r], it remains distinct from hot because its vowel quality is different: [haːt]. By contrast, the accent of New York uses the same or almost the same vowel in both of these classes: [ɑː]. The Received Pronunciation of England, like Boston English, distinguishes the classes, using [ɑː] in father and [ɒ] in bother.

On the other hand, the Boston accent (unlike the Rhode Island accent) merges the two classes exemplified by caught and cot: both become [kɒːt]. So caught, cot, law, water, rock, talk, doll, and wall all have exactly the same vowel, [ɒː]. For some speakers, as mentioned above, words like corn and horse also have this vowel. By contrast, New York accents have [kɔːt] for caught and [kɑːt] for cot; Received Pronunciation has [kɔːt] and [kɒt], respectively.

Some older Boston speakers — the ones who have a low vowel in words like corn [kɒːn] — do not undergo the so-called horse-hoarse merger, i.e., they maintain a distinction between horse and for on the one hand and hoarse and four on the other. The former are in the same class as corn, as [hɒːs] and [fɒː], and the latter are ['howəs] and ['fowə]. This distinction is rapidly fading out of currency, as it is in almost all regions of North America that still make it.

Boston English has a so-called "nasal short-a system". This means that the "short a" vowel [æ] as in cat and rat becomes a mid-high front diphthong [eə] when it precedes a nasal consonant: thus man is [meən] and planet is [pleənət]. Boston shares this system with the accents of the southern part of the Midwest. By contrast, Received Pronunciation uses [æ] regardless of whether the next consonant is nasal or not, and New York uses [eə] before a nasal at the end of a syllable ([meən]) but not before a nasal between two vowels ([plænət]).

A feature that some Boston English speakers share with Received Pronunciation is the so-called Broad A: In some words that in other accents have [æ], such as half and bath, that vowel is replaced with [aː]: [haːf], [baːθ]. (In Received Pronunciation, the Broad A vowel is [ɑː].) Fewer words have the Broad A in Boston English than in Received Pronunciation, and fewer and fewer Boston speakers maintain the Broad A system as time goes on, but it is still noticeable.

Boston accents make a greater variety of distinctions between short and long vowels before medial [r] than many other modern American accents do: Boston accents maintain the distinctions between the vowels in marry [mæri], merry [mɛri], and Mary [meəri], hurry [hʌri] and furry [fɝri], mirror [mɪrə] and nearer [niərə], though some of these distinctions are somewhat endangered as people under 40 in neighboring New Hampshire and Maine blend the vowel sound. Boston shares these distinctions with both New York and Received Pronunciation, but the Midwest, for instance, has lost them entirely.

The nuclei of the diphthongs /aɪ/ and /aʊ/ may be raised to something like /ɐ/ before voiceless consonants: thus write has a higher vowel than ride. This effect is known usually as Canadian raising, though it is less extreme in New England than in most of Canada. Furthermore, some Boston dialects have a tendency (similar to the Upper Midwest) to raise the /au/ diphthong in both voiced and voiceless environments.

The nuclei of /oʊ/ and /uː/ are significantly less fronted than in many American accents.

Non-rhoticity elsewhere in New England

Non-rhoticity outside of the Boston area decreased greatly after World War II. Traditional maps have marked most of the territory east of the Connecticut river as non-rhotic, but this is highly inaccurate of contemporary speakers. The Atlas of North American English, for example, shows none of the six interviewed speakers in New Hampshire (a historically non-rhotic area) as having more than 10% non-rhoticity.

Well-known speakers of/with the Boston accent

  • Norm Abram, carpenter known for work on television programs such as This Old House
  • Ben Affleck, actor who performed accent in Good Will Hunting performance, lacks one normally
  • Dicky Barrett, frontman of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and announcer for Jimmy Kimmel Live
  • Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City
  • Ernie Boch, car dealership owner, famous for his TV advertisements for new and used "cahs"
  • William J. Bratton, Los Angeles Chief of Police
  • Andy Brickley, sports commentator for Boston Bruins
  • Andrew Card, first White House Chief-of-Staff of the George W. Bush administration
  • Lenny Clarke, comedian and actor
  • Cliff Clavin, fictional Cheers character, spoke in a very poor imitation of a Boston accent. Actor John Ratzenberger's affected "Boston accent" is the subject of much ridicule in Boston, especially his pronunciation of the names "Norm" (or "Normy") and "Diane", which bear little resemblance to the actual Boston-accent pronunciations.
  • Chick Corea, jazz pianist/keyboardist and composer
  • Matt Damon, performed in Good Will Hunting and The Departed performances, lacks accent normally
  • Bill Delahunt, US House Representative from Massachusetts's 10th congressional district
  • Nick DiPaolo, comedian
  • Sully Erna, singer of Godsmack
  • Loyd Grossman, chef and presenter on British television
  • Edward "Ted" Kennedy (the Kennedys are sometimes described as speaking with a "Kennedy accent," which also includes shades of a British accent and what is sometimes referred to as New England lockjaw, i.e., upper-class WASP accent)
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy see above
  • Robert F. Kennedy see above
  • Don Kent (meteorologist)
  • Denis Leary has perhaps only hints of one but has imitated/affected one in films
  • Christopher Lydon, syndicated public radio talk show personality
  • Tom and Ray Magliozzi of National Public Radio's Car Talk
  • Rob Mariano, reality television contestant
  • Ed Markey US House Representative from Massachusetts's 7th congressional district
  • Joe McIntyre, former New Kids On The Block member
  • Christy Mihos, businessman whose campaign ads received some national attention in his unsuccessful bid as an Independent candidate for Governor of Massachusetts in 2006
  • George J. Mitchell, former Senator from Maine
  • Leonard Nimoy, actor on the original Star Trek series
  • Tip O'Neill, late Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
  • Joe Perry, lead guitarist of Aerosmith
  • Joe Quimby, Mayor in The Simpsons cartoon (a parody of the Kennedy accent)
  • Jerry Remy, Boston Red Sox color commentator for Fox and NESN
  • Fred Smerlas, former football player for the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots
  • Donna Summer, singer
  • Donnie Wahlberg
  • Mark Wahlberg has generally been able to be detected to a degree throughout his career but particularly in earlier films such as Fear and The Departed
  • Charles Emerson Winchester III, fictional M*A*S*H character. Actor David Ogden Stiers affected a "Boston accent" that is easily identified as an imitation by Bostonians, especially his "ar" combination in "Margaret" and "Harvard", which does not match the actual Boston pronuniations.
  • Steven Wright, legendary comedian
  • The Real World: Seattle castmember David Burns, The Real World: Paris castmember Chris "CT" Tamburello, The Real World: San Diego castmember Randy Barry, The Real World: Austin castmember Danny Jamieson
  • Jimmy Fallon Former Saturday Night Live cast member - famous for his Boston Teens Character - Sully - with a heavy Boston Accent.
  • Charlie Moore, Competitive Bass fisherman featured on ESPN2/ESPN: Outdoors

Vocabulary

Main article: Boston slang

Some words used in the Boston area but not in many other American English dialects (or with different meanings) are:

  • barrel or rubbish barrel — 'wastebasket'
  • bubbler or water bubbler — 'drinking fountain'
  • carriage — 'shopping cart'
  • cleansers — 'cleaners (mostly on signage)'
  • clicker — 'television remote control'
  • coffee regular — 'coffee with milk (or cream) and usually two spoonsful of sugar'
  • dooryard - the front yard or driveway area
  • donut: chocolate frosted — 'a raised donut with chocolate frosting'
  • donut: chocolate glazed — 'a chocolate cake donut with chocolate frosting'
  • down cellar — 'in the basement'
  • dungarees — 'blue jeans' (primarily older speakers)
  • elastic — 'rubber band'
  • frappe — 'milkshake made with ice cream'[1]
  • fudgicle — as opposed to 'fudgesicle' with an s
  • grinder — 'submarine sandwich'
  • into town — 'into Boston' (contrast to New Yorkers' use of "the City")
  • The Hub — 'another name for Boston, as in the Hub of the Universe'
  • Jimmies — a variety of candy 'sprinkle', typically used on ice cream; often chocolate, almost always bar-shaped
  • johnny — a medical gown worn by patients for examinations
  • packie — 'liquor store', short for "package store"
  • rotary — 'traffic circle or roundabout'
  • spa — 'convenience store' (originally, it meant a store with a soda fountain)
  • spuckey — 'submarine sandwich,' older speakers in South Boston
  • spar — 'to play fight', used by teen males; pronounced with the Boston accent, it sounds like 'spa'
  • time — 'a party', e.g., "My buddy's having a time over at his place."
  • tonic — 'carbonated soda,' older speakers.
  • townies — A native of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A Tufts or Harvard student might refer to locals as such, much to the dismay of the locals.
  • trash — refuse that is not garbage
  • triple decker — 'a three-story, three-family home with one unit built on top of the other, normally with a flat roof'
  • wicked — 'very'; alternatively, 'wicked' may also indicate approval or become a universal descriptor, e.g., "That chowdah was wicked good."

Recordings of the Boston accent

  • http://classweb.gmu.edu/accent/english21.html
  • http://classweb.gmu.edu/accent/english79.html
  • Dialects Of Massachusetts International Dialects of English Archive (not all these speakers from Massachusetts display the characteristic Boston accent)

Maps

  • University of Pennsylvania's TELSUR PROJECT: The North Central Region
  • University of Pennsylvania's TELSUR PROJECT: Inland North
  • University of Pennsylvania's TELSUR PROJECT: The Northeast: New England to NYC
  • University of Pennsylvania's TELSUR PROJECT:The Midland: North and South
  • University of Pennsylvania's TELSUR PROJECT: The South
  • University of Pennsylvania's TELSUR PROJECT: The West

References

  • McCarthy, John (1993). A case of surface constraint violation. Canadian Journal of Linguistics 38. 169–95.
  • Metcalf, Allan (2000), How We Talk, Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
  • George Mason University. The Speech Accent Archive, 22 September, 2004.
  • "Madeleinese"


 

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_accent"