Eastern New England English, historically known as the Yankee dialect since at least the 19th century,[1][2] is the traditional regional dialect of Maine, New Hampshire, and the eastern half of Massachusetts.[3][4] Features of this variety once spanned an even larger dialect area of New England, for example, including the eastern halves of Vermont and Connecticut for those born as late as the early twentieth century.[5] Studies vary as to whether the unique dialect of Rhode Island technically falls within the Eastern New England dialect region.[6]

Eastern New England English, here including Rhode Island English, is classically associated with sound patterns such as: non-rhoticity, or dropping r when not before a vowel; both variants of Canadian raising, including a fairly back starting position of the /aʊ/ vowel (as in MOUTH);[7][8] and some variation of the PALM–LOT–THOUGHT vowel distinctions, the marry–merry distinction, or both.[9] Eastern New England (excluding Rhode Island) is also nationally recognized for its highly front PALM/START vowel.

As of the 21st century, certain traditional characteristics are declining due to many younger Eastern New Englanders avoiding them, particularly non-rhoticity and the aforementioned vowel distinctions,[10][11] which they tend to perceive as old-fashioned, overly rural-sounding,[12] or even overly urban-sounding with regard to Boston.[13] New Hampshire speakers on the whole are particularly well documented as retreating from these older Eastern New England features since the mid-20th century onwards.[14][13]

Overview of phonology

The sound system of traditional Eastern New England English includes:

Overview of vocabulary and grammatical features

See also: wikt:Appendix:Glossary of Boston slang

Some words or phrases most famously or strongly associated with Eastern New England are:

Many words common to Boston are also common throughout New England dialects: grinder for "submarine sandwich" (also, spuckie or spuky in East Boston),[37] packie (or package store) for "liquor store",[38][39] rotary for "traffic circle" (these full-speed circular intersections being common in Greater Boston),[26] and yous as the working-class plural form of "you" (a word found throughout the urban Northeast with many spelling variants).[40] Cellar, whose definition may have slight nuances nationwide, can also be a simple synonym for basement in Eastern New England and Massachusetts generally. In this same area, related expressions like down the cellar or even down-cellar are distinctive, meaning "down to the basement" or "down in the basement" (as in "She's getting some boxes down-cellar").

Northeastern New England English

Northeastern New England English, popularly recognized as a Boston or Maine accent, in addition to all the above phonological features, further includes the merger of the vowel in cot and caught to [ɒ~ɑ], often with a slightly rounded quality, but a resistance to the merger of the vowels in father versus bother, a merger that is otherwise common throughout North America. Also, for speakers born before 1950, the words half and pass (and, before World War II, also ask and can't) are pronounced with a "broad a," like in spa: [haf] and [pʰas].


Main article: Boston accent

Boston, Massachusetts is the birthplace and most famous site of Eastern New England English. Historically, a Northeastern type of New England English spread from metropolitan Boston into metropolitan Worcester, the bulk of New Hampshire, and central and coastal Maine.[41] Boston speech also originated many slang and uniquely local terms that have since spread throughout Massachusetts and Eastern New England.[42] Although mostly non-rhotic, the modern Boston accent typically pronounces the r sound in the NURSE vowel, /ɜr/, as in bird, learn, turkey, world, etc.


Main article: Maine accent

A traditional Maine accent, the closest remnant today to a more widespread 19th-century Yankee regional accent, includes the phonology mentioned above, plus the loss of the phonemic status of /ɛə/ (as in there), /ɪə/ (as in here), and /oə/ (as in more) all of which are broken into two syllables (/eɪə, i.ə, oʊə/, respectively): they-uh, hee-yuh, and moh-uh; some distinct vocabulary is also used in this accent.[43] Maine is one of the last American regions to resist the horse–hoarse merger. This continued resistance was verified by some speakers in a 2006 study of Bangor and Portland, Maine,[17] yet contradicted by a 2013 study that reported the merger as embraced by Portland speakers "of all ages".[44] The horse–hoarse separation means that words like war and wore may sound different: war /wɒ/ rhyming with law /lɒ/, and wore /ˈwoʊə/ rhyming with boa /ˈboʊə/. Unlike the Boston accent, this traditional Maine accent may be non-rhotic entirely: even in the pronunciation of /ɜr/ as [ɜ].

Cultivated New England

A cultivated New England accent, sometimes known as a "Boston Brahmin accent" within Boston, was once associated with members of wealthy New England families in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; it is now essentially extinct. Notable example speakers included many members of the Kennedy family born in this time period, including President John F. Kennedy, whose accent is not an ordinary Boston accent so much as a "tony Harvard accent".[45] This accent retained an older cot–caught distinction, a less fronted START vowel in some speakers, non-rhotic NURSE, and a TRAP–BATH split ([æ] versus [a]). This accent corresponds in its time-frame and in much of its sound with a cultivated transatlantic accent promoted in prestigious northeastern boarding schools and theatrical elocution courses in the same era.[46]

Notable speakers of Northeastern New England English

Rhode Island English

The traditional English-language accent of Southeastern New England, popularly known as a Rhode Island accent, is spoken in Rhode Island and the western half of Bristol County, Massachusetts.[60] In addition to all the features mentioned under the phonology section above, the Rhode Island accent also includes a sharp distinction in the vowels of Mary, marry, and merry and in the vowels in cot [ɑ] versus caught [oə],[61] plus the pronunciation of /ɑr/, as in car, far back in the mouth as [ɑ~ɑə]—these three features making this New England accent noticeably similar to a New York accent.[62][63] These features are often unlike the modern Northeastern New England (NENE) dialect of Boston, as is Rhode Island's feature of a completed father–bother merger, shared with the rest of the country outside of NENE.[60] A few terms are unique to this area, such as the word cabinet to mean "milkshake" (particularly, coffee cabinets),[64] pizza strips (Italian tomato pie strips served cold without cheese), and coffee milk.[65]

Notable lifelong native speakers

French-American Manchester English

An ethnic local accent has been documented among self-identifying French Americans in Manchester, New Hampshire.[70] The accent's most prominent pronunciation features are th-stopping (pronouncing thin like tin and there like dare) and, variably, word-initial h-dropping (so that hair may sound like air).[71]

See also


  1. ^ Robert Hendrickson (2000). The Facts on File Dictionary of American Regionalisms. Infobase. p. 326. ISBN 9781438129921.
  2. ^ Sletcher, Michael (2004). New England. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 264
  3. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:137)
  4. ^ Stanford et al. (2012: 130)
  5. ^ Stanford et al. (2012: 161)
  6. ^ See, for example, that Labov's 2006 Atlas of North American English frequently includes Providence/Rhode Island under this general dialect, yet his 1997 Regional Telsur Map does not.
  7. ^ Nagy & Roberts (2004:276)
  8. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:154, 227)
  9. ^ Stanford et al. (2012: 154)
  10. ^ Stanford et al. (2014: 120)
  11. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:226)
  12. ^ Stanford et al. (2012: 160-1)
  13. ^ a b Nagy, Naomi (2001). " 'Live Free or Die' as a Linguistic Principle". American Speech, Volume 76, Number 1, Spring 2001, pp. 30-41.
  14. ^ a b Platt, Melanie, "Do you "park your car" or "pahk your cah"?: The Changing Dialect of Southern New Hampshire" (2015). Inquiry Journal 2015. 5. http://scholars.unh.edu/inquiry_2015/5
  15. ^ "Is That New England Accent in Retreat?". 15 August 2012.
  16. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:154)
  17. ^ a b c d Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:227)
  18. ^ Boberg, Charles (2010). The English Language in Canada: Status, History and Comparative Analysis. Cambridge University Press. p. 156. ISBN 9781139491440.
  19. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:111)
  20. ^ Wells (1982), p. 520.
  21. ^ Message 1: Summary of 'bubbler', archived from the original on November 19, 2000
  22. ^ "Bubbler map - Wisconsin Englishes". Csumc.wisc.edu. Archived from the original on 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  23. ^ Heller, Carolyn B. "Drinking a Cabinet: How to Talk Like a New Englander". Cbheller.com. C.B. Heller. Archived from the original on February 19, 2014. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  24. ^ "Hoodsie". Glossary at Boston-Online.com. Archived from the original on February 11, 2012.
  25. ^ a b Boston To English Dictionary at CelebrateBoston.com
  26. ^ a b "Regional Vocabulary". The New York Times. 2006-03-17. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
  27. ^ Jan Freeman (March 13, 2011). "The Jimmies Story: Can an ice cream topping be racist?". boston.com. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  28. ^ Harrison, Mim (2011). Wicked Good Words: From Johnnycakes to Jug Handles, a Roundup of America's Regionalisms. Penguin. ISBN 978-1101543399.
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  30. ^ "So Don't I". Yale Grammatical Diversity Project English in North America. Yale University. 2017.
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  32. ^ "Montrose Spa - Porter Square - Cambridge, MA". Yelp.com. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  33. ^ "Hillside Spa Cardoza Brothers - Beacon Hill - Boston, MA". Yelp.com. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  34. ^ "Hodgkin's Spa - Somerville, MA". Yelp.com. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  35. ^ "Sam's Spa Convenience - About - Google". Google Maps. Retrieved 2012-06-18.[permanent dead link]
  36. ^ Labov et al., Atlas of North American English, p. 289.
  37. ^ "Spuky". Dictionary.com, 2022.
  38. ^ Dictionary of American Regional English
  39. ^ Gordon, Heather (2004). Newcomer's Handbook For Moving To And Living In Boston: Including Cambridge, Brookline, And Somerville. First Books. pp. 14. ISBN 978-0912301549.
  40. ^ Vaux, Bert and Scott Golder. 2003. The Harvard Dialect Survey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Linguistics Department.
  41. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006:225)
  42. ^ "Wicked Good Guide to Boston English".
  43. ^ Fowles, Debby (2015). "Speak Like a Mainer". About Travel. About.com. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  44. ^ Ryland, Alison (2013). "A Phonetic Exploration of the English of Portland, Maine". Swarthmore College.
  45. ^ a b "John F. Kennedy". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009.
  46. ^ Knight, Dudley. "Standard Speech". In: Hampton, Marian E. & Barbara Acker (eds.) (1997). The Vocal Vision: Views on Voice. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 160.
  47. ^ Shapiro, Leonard (June 2, 2010). "Top 10: Dialing up the best in Washington sports radio". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  48. ^ Miller, Gregory E. (2018) "Bill Burr vows to never become an ‘old cornball’". New York Post. NYP Holdings, Inc.
  49. ^ Metcalf, A. (2004). Presidential Voices. Speaking Styles from George Washington to George W. Bush. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 150.
  50. ^ Sullivan, Jim (2001-04-18). "Lenny Clarke Deftly Handles Nightschtick". The Boston Globe.
  51. ^ Calhoun, Ada (2004-03-29). "Did You Hear The One About The @&%#! Comic?". New York. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
  52. ^ Thomas, Evan (2000). Robert Kennedy: His Life. Simon & Schuster. p. 26.
  53. ^ Healy, Patrick (2009-09-02). "A Mannah of Speaking". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-18.
  54. ^ Concannon, Jim (May 12, 2009). "Mel's Vision". The Boston Globe.
  55. ^ King, Dennis (1989). Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism. New York: Doubleday. p. 306.
  56. ^ Mooney, Brian C. (2006-02-19). "The nonpolitician who would be governor". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
  57. ^ Gardner, Amy (2009-02-11). "A Time to Reevaluate Family Ties". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-02-27.
  58. ^ Bizjak, Marybeth (February 2007). "Mr. Fix-It". Sacramento Magazine. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
  59. ^ Jensen, Sean (2004-12-03). "Despite his unlikely build, Vikings' Wiggins gets it done at tight end". Saint Paul Pioneer Press. Archived from the original on 2014-06-11. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
  60. ^ a b Johnson, Daniel Ezra (2010). "Stability and Change Along a Dialect Boundary: The Low Vowels of Southeastern New England". American Dialect Society 95. p. 100.
  61. ^ "Guide to Rhode Island Language Stuff". Quahog.org. Archived from the original on July 14, 2007. Retrieved May 30, 2007.
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  63. ^ Boberg, Charles (2001). "The Phonological Status of Western New England". American Speech. 76 (1): 28, 3–29. doi:10.1215/00031283-76-1-3. S2CID 143486914.
  64. ^ Vaux, Bert and Scott Golder. 2003. "What do you call the drink made with milk and ice cream?." The Harvard Dialect Survey. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Linguistics Department.
  65. ^ Musto, Marisa (2018). "Famed Rhode Island Foods". AAA Northeast.
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  68. ^ De Vries, Hilary (1990). "Spalding Gray: His New Favorite Subject--Him". Los Angeles Times.
  69. ^ Barboza, Scott (2011). The rise, fall and recovery of a phenom". ESPN.
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  71. ^ Nagy & Roberts (2004:296)


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  • Nagy, Naomi; Roberts, Juli (2004), "New England phonology" (PDF), in B., Kortmann; Schneider, E. W.; Burridge, K.; Mesthrie, R.; Upton, C. (eds.), Handbook of Varieties of English, vol. 1, Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 270–281, archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-12-10
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  • Stanford, James. 2019. New England English: Large-scale acoustic sociophonetics and dialectology. Oxford University Press. 367 pages.
  • Wells, John C. (1982). Accents of English. Vol. 3: Beyond the British Isles (pp. i–xx, 467–674). Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511611766. ISBN 0-52128541-0 .

Further reading