Fri Apr 19, 2013, 09:47 PM
flamingdem (33,410 posts)
So long to the Boston accents I've enjoyed hearing all week
Until now I disliked the Boston accent even though I grew up hearing softer versions of via New England relatives. Was I a New York snob? Maybe. Now I like it and have a new respect for Boston. That city doesn't get the respect and attention it deserves, what a great place and people. Good politics too.
The Boston Accent is not just an accent, it's a lifestyle. Everyone in New England who speaks with varying degrees of this "No R" accent has a swagger about them, because they know they're better than people from other parts of the US. We all live the No R Lifestyle.
The traditional Boston accent is non-rhotic; in other words, the phoneme /r/ does not appear in coda position (where in English phonotactics it must precede other consonants, see English_phonology#Coda), as in some types of British English and all dialects of Australian English; card therefore becomes . After high and mid-high vowels, the /r/ is replaced by or another neutral central vowel like : weird , square . Similarly, unstressed ("er") is replaced by , , or , as in color . A well-known shibboleth is park the car in Harvard Yard, where the words park, Harvard and yard are pronounced , , and respectively. Note that the r in car would usually be pronounced in this case, because the following word begins with a vowel (see linking R below).
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, in which he jokes that the Massachusetts Legislature ratified everything in John Adams' 1780 Massachusetts Constitution "except the letter 'R'".
In the most traditional, "old-fashioned", Boston accents, what is in other dialects /ɔr/ becomes a low back vowel : corn is , pronounced the same or almost the same as con or cawn.
For some old-fashioned speakers, stressed as in bird is replaced by - ; for many present-day Boston-accent speakers, however, is retained. More speakers lose /r/ after other vowels than lose .
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
There are also a number of Boston accent speakers with rhoticity, but they occasionally delete /r/ only in unaccented syllables, e.g., mother or words before a consonant, e.g., car hop.
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 (, ), and the latter (, ). This means that even though heart has no , it remains distinct from hot because its vowel quality is different: . By contrast, the accent of New York uses the same or almost the same vowel in both of these classes: . The Received Pronunciation of England, like Boston English, distinguishes the classes, using in father and in bother.
On the other hand, the Boston accent merges the two classes exemplified by caught and cot: both become . So caught, cot, law, water, rock, talk, doll, and wall all have exactly the same vowel, . For some speakers, as mentioned above, words like corn and horse also have this vowel. By contrast, New York accents and southern New England accents have for caught and for cot; Received Pronunciation has and , respectively.
Some older Boston speakers – the ones who have a low vowel in words like corn – 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 and , and the latter are and . 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 as in cat and rat becomes a mid-high front diphthong when it precedes a nasal consonant: thus man is and planet is . Boston shares this system with the accents of the southern part of the Midwest, though the raising of this vowel in Boston tends to be more noticeable and extreme than elsewhere. By contrast, Received Pronunciation uses regardless of whether the next consonant is nasal or not, and New York uses before a nasal at the end of a syllable () but not before a nasal between two vowels ().
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 , such as half and bath, that vowel is replaced with : , . (In Received Pronunciation, the Broad A vowel is almost identical to .) 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. The word aunt, however, remains almost universally broad.
Boston accents make a greater variety of distinctions between short and long vowels before medial than many other modern American accents do: Boston accents maintain the distinctions between the vowels in marry , merry , and Mary , hurry and furry , mirror and nearer , though some of these distinctions are somewhat endangered as people under 40 in neighboring New Hampshire and Maine have lost them. 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 before voiceless consonants: thus write has a higher vowel than ride and lout has a higher vowel than loud. This effect is known usually as Canadian raising, though it is less extreme in New England than in most of Canada. Furthermore, some Boston accents have a tendency to raise the /aʊ/ diphthong in both voiced and voiceless environments and some Boston accents may raise the /aɪ/ diphthong in certain voiced environments.
The nuclei of /oʊ/ and /uː/ are significantly less fronted than in many American accents.
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