The Maine accent is the local traditional accent of Eastern New England English spoken in parts of Maine, especially along the "Down East" and "Mid Coast" seaside regions. It is characterized by a variety of features, particularly among older speakers, including r-dropping (non-rhoticity), resistance to the horse–hoarse merger, and a deletion or "breaking" of certain syllables. The traditional Maine accent is rapidly declining; a 2013 study of Portland speakers found the older horse–hoarse merger to be currently embraced by all ages; however, it also found the newer cot–caught merger to be resisted, despite the latter being typical among other Eastern New England speakers, even well-reported in the 1990s in Portland itself. The merger is also widely reported elsewhere in Maine as of 2018, particularly outside the urban areas. In the northern region of Maine along the Quebec and the New-Brunswick border, Franco-Americans may show French-language influences in their English. Certain vocabulary is also unique to Maine.
Maine English often features phonetic change or phonological change of certain characteristics. One such characteristic is that, like in all traditional Eastern New England English, Maine English pronounces the "r" sound only when it comes before a vowel, but not before a consonant or in any final position. For example, "car" may sound to listeners like "cah" and "Mainer" like "Mainah."
Also, as in much New England English, the final "-ing" ending in multi-syllable words sounds more like "-in," for example, in stopping[ˈstɒpɪn] and starting[ˈstaʔɪn].
NURSE/ɜ/ may be a pure vowel without r-coloring, much like in British Received Pronunciation: [əː]. This makes vowel length marginally phonemic in unstressed (but not stressed) syllables, as in the near-minimal pair foreword[ˈfoʊəwəːd] vs. forward[ˈfɒːwəd]. (In rhotic American English, the unstressed syllables in these two words are not distinguished.) As in RP, the symbols ⟨ɜ⟩ and ⟨ə⟩ denote a difference between stressable (long) and unstressable (short) schwas (according to the old IPA value of ⟨ɜ⟩ as a 'variety of ⟨ə⟩'), not a consistent difference in quality.
NEAR, SQUARE and FORCE are not separate phonemes but rather disyllabic sequences, same as FLEECE, FACE, GOAT + COMMA: here/ˈhi.ə/ⓘ, there/ˈðeɪə/ⓘ and more/ˈmoʊə/ⓘ, in all cases with a possible glide after the stressed vowel: [ˈhi.jə,ˈðeɪjə,ˈmoʊwə].
NORTH, LOT and THOUGHT are merged to /ɒ/ (phonetically a centering diphthong [ɒə]), so that horse is pronounced /hɒs/, rhyming with loss/lɒs/.
Many speakers pronounce words with more than one syllable with a dipping tone. The phrase "You can't get there from here," [jukʰɛənʔˈɡɛʔˈðéɪə̀fɹəmˈhí.ə̀] coined in an episode of the mid-1900s humor stories collection Bert & I, is a quintessential example of that. This resembles one variety of the pitch accent (called the acute accent or Accent 1) found in Swedish, as in anden[ˈánːdɛ̀n]ⓘ 'the wild duck'.
The traditional Maine dialect has a fairly rich vocabulary. Some of this vocabulary is shared with other New England dialects, however much of it is specific to Maine. This vocabulary includes, but is not limited to, the following terms:
apiece — an undetermined distance (as in "He lives down the road apiece")
divan as a generic term for couch (as opposed to the more specific, non-dialectal meaning). Derived from French.
door yard (/ˈdoʊəjad/) — the yard or occupant's space outside a dwelling's exterior door—sometimes decorated with ornamental plants, and often used for temporary storage of tools, toys, sleds, carts, or bicycles
Down East — loosely refers to the coastal regions of Hancock and Washington counties; because boats traveled downwind from Boston to Maine, as well as east as they travelled farther north up the coast of Maine (as in "I'm headin' Down East this weekend") - also used in Canadian English, possibly as the aforementioned Maine counties are close to parts of Atlantic Canada.
John Neal (1793–1876) was one of the first authors to feature regional American accents and colloquialisms in his writing, some of which is considered primary source material for studies on the Maine accent. His 1835 play, Our Ephraim, or The New Englanders, A What-d'ye-call-it?–in three Acts, is considered his most significant work in this regard.
Maine humorist Marshall Dodge (1935–1982) based much of his humor from the Maine dialect, beginning first with his involvement with the series Bert & I, a "Down East" collection of humor stories created during the 1950s and 1960s.
Well-known author, musician, and former television broadcaster Tim Sample is known nationally for his use of Maine vernacular.
Jud Crandall, main character in Stephen King's 1983 novel Pet Sematary, is written to have a thick Down East accent, his pronunciations often spelled phonetically throughout the novel.
^Wolfram, Walt; Ward, Ben (eds.) (2006). American Voices: How dialects differ from coast to coast. Malden, MA; Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. p. 73.
^Ryland, Alison (2013). "A Phonetic Exploration of the English of Portland, Maine". Swarthmore College.
^Kim, Chaeyoon et al. (2018). "Bring on the crowd ! Using online audio crowdsourcing for large-scale New England dialectology and acoustic sociophonetics". American Speech Volume 94, Issue 2. Duke University Press.
^Wolfram, Walt; Ward, Ben (eds.) (2006). American Voices: How dialects differ from coast to coast. Malden, MA; Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. p. 74-75.
^Kayorie, James Stephen Merritt (2019). "John Neal (1793–1876)". In Baumgartner, Jody C. (ed.). American Political Humor: Masters of Satire and Their Impact on U.S. Policy and Culture. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 90. ISBN9781440854866.
^Fleischmann, Fritz (1983). A Right View of the Subject: Feminism in the Works of Charles Brockden Brown and John Neal. Erlangen, Germany: Verlag Palm & Enke Erlangen. p. 145. ISBN9783789601477.
^Sears, Donald A. (1978). John Neal. Twayne's United States Author Series. Boston, Massachusetts: Twayne Publishers. p. 92. ISBN9780805772302.