Interesting News

American accents (part 2, Lyudmila)

New York City English

One of the more famous American accents, the classic “New Yorkese” has been immortalized by films (“Goodfellas,” “Marty,” and “Manhattan,” among countless others), TV shows (“All in the Family,” “Seinfeld,” “King of Queens”) and plays (“A View from the Bridge,” “Lost in Yonkers,” “Guys and Dolls”).

Prominent Features:

Non-rhoticity: see explanation above.

Tense-lax split: this is a bit hard to explain. In New York City the short-a in words like cat, mad, can’t and last follows a complex set of rules whereby some words are pronounced tensely (slightly higher in the mouth) while other words are pronounced laxly (lower in the mouth).

The long-a in words like father and cart is often pronounced back and sometimes rounded: i.e. IPA fɒ:ðə and kɒ:t (“fawthuh” and “kawt”).

The vowel in words like thought, north and dog are pronounced is high and diphthongized, pronounced IPA θʊət, nʊəθ, and dʊəg (“thaw-uht,” “naw-uht” and “daw-uhg”).

Accent Samples:

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield.

Musician Marky Ramone.

Music Mogul Russell Simmons.

Mid-Atlantic English

Not to be confused with another meaning of “mid-Atlantic English” that describes the old-fashioned British-sounding accents you hear in movies from the 1930s. This “Mid-Atlantic” refers to the American accents spoken along the urban corridor from the Philadelphia area to Baltimore. It sounds slightly similar to New York City, but with a few major differences.

Prominent Features:

Tense-lax split, similar to New York City (see explanation above).

Rhotic: unlike New York City, the r is pronounced at the end of car, mother, fur, etc.

The vowel in long-a words like father and palm is often back and rounded (i.e. “fawther,” “pawm,” etc.) as in New York City.

As in New York City, the vowel in thought and dog is pronounced with a high vowel. In the Mid-Atlantic, this tends to be further back: IPA θoət and doəg (“thoh-ut” and “doh-ug”).

The diphthong in words like right and kite is raised before voiceless consonants so that kite is pronounced something like IPA kəit (that is, “kuh-eet”).

The diphthong in words like goat and road is pronounced fronter in the mouth than in General American accents: hence coat becomes IPA kəʊt.

The “oo” sounds in words like goose and food is pronounced more forward in the mouth than in General American: IPA gʉs and fʉd.

Accent Samples:

TV presenter Chris Matthews (from Philadelphia).

TV writer/producer David Simon (from Baltimore).


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