I was born in Worcester
, a medium-sized postindustrial city in central Massachusetts. I grew up in a small suburb of the city, and currently attend university in the city. In short, I describe my idiolect as a hybrid of General American with Eastern New England, the traditional dialect of my area (spoken consistently by my grandfather, and variably by my parents).The Eastern New England dialect
As a general rule, ENE is spoken in the eastern two thirds of New England - that is, the area to the east of the Connecticut River
. Significant variations can be found in Maine and in the area of Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts; the variety that I'm describing is spoken in eastern and central Massachusetts, primarily in and around the cities of Boston and Worcester.Non-rhoticity
The most notable feature of ENE is its non-rhoticity - the absence of [r] at the end of a syllable. Examples:
car - [ˈkʰa:]
care - [ˈkʰɛə]
here - [ˈhɪə]
horse - [ˈhɔəs] or [ˈhɒ:s]
hoarse - [ˈhɔəs]
better - [ˈbɛɾə]
sure - [ˈʃʊə]
burn - [ˈbɜ:n] or [ˈbʏ:n]
The so-called horse-hoarse distinction is preserved among some older speakers, with "horse" being pronounced like "hoss". Nonetheless, most younger speakers pronounce them both as [ˈhɔəs].
The vowel in "burn" is the least stable of those listed: not only can it vary between [ɜ:] and [ʏ:], but it is also the most likely of the non-rhotic vowels to be replaced with its rhotic equivalent, [ɝ:].The intrusive r, variable rhoticity and hyperrhoticity
Like almost all the non-rhotic dialects of English, ENE makes consistent use of the intrusive r. That is, in ENE phonology, it is impossible for a non-high vowel to be followed by another vowel without the insertion of an allophonic [r]. Examples:
"the spa is nice" [ðə ˈspa:r ɪz nɐɪs]
"Linda is coming" [ˈlɪndər ɪz kʰɐmɪŋ]
"the idea of it" [ði aɪˈdɪər əv ɪt]
Another issue is variable rhoticity: although ENE is canonically non-rhotic, many speakers of the dialect are in reality variably rhotic: they will make free, seemingly random use of rhotic and non-rhotic forms even within the same sentence. (You can hear this in recordings of the late Senator Ted Kennedy.) A natural consequence of this is hyperrhoticity, the use of putatively incorrect rhotic forms even when not followed by another vowel, such as [ˈkʰju:bɚ] for "Cuba", or [aɪˈdɪɚ] for "idea".Pre-/r/ distinctions
Like other non-rhotic dialects of English, ENE maintains a series of pre-/r/ vowel distinctions which have been lost in General American: to wit, "Mary-merry-marry", "serious-Sirius", "hurry-furry" and "Tory-torrent". Examples:
Mary - [ˈmɛəri]
merry - [ˈmɛri]
marry - [ˈmæri]
serious - [ˈsɪəriəs]
Sirius - [ˈsɪriəs]
hurry - [ˈhʌri]
furry - [ˈfɜ:ri]
Tory - [ˈtʰɔəri]
torrent - [ˈtʰɒ:rənt]The low-back vowel system
ENE has a unique low-back vowel system which distinguishes it from nearly all other North American dialects. Rather than merging father-bother and maintaining the cot-caught distinction, as do General American and New York, ENE does the opposite, merging cot-caught while maintaining the father-bother distinction. (This gives ENE a coincidental similarity to Scottish English.) The "father" vowel is [a:], more central than the back [ɑ:] of GA or NY; while the "cot/bother" vowel is an open [ɒ:].
father - [ˈfa:ðə]
bother - [ˈbɒ:ðə]
cot, caught - [ˈkʰɒ:t]The trap-bath split
One distinct feature of ENE is the trap-bath split, an innovation taken from southern England, which causes historical /æ/ to become /a:/ in certain contexts, chiefly before fricatives, and before /nt/.
bath - [ˈba:θ]
path - [ˈpʰa:θ]
pass - [ˈpʰa:s]
laugh - [ˈla:f]
half - [ˈha:f]
aunt - [ˈa:nt]
can't - [ˈkʰa:nt]Pre-nasal tensing, and centralized /ʌ/
Before /n/ or /m/, the vowel /æ/ takes a tense allophone [ɛə]. Examples:
man - [ˈmɛən]
ham - [ˈhɛəm]
The other issue is subtle: in ENE, /ʌ/ tends to be pronounced more central than the canonical General American vowel [ʌ], which I would describe as near-back. ENE shares the more central realization, [ɐ], with the dialects of southern England.Canadian raising
Despite its name, the phenomenon of Canadian raising is common throughout large segments of the northern US, and most ENE speakers exhibit it to some extent. Canadian raising means that the diphthongs /aɪ/ and /aʊ/ take raised allophones before voiceless consonants. /aɪ/ becomes [ɐɪ], while /aʊ/ becomes [ɐʊ] or [ɛʊ]. Examples:
eyes - [ˈaɪz]
ice - [ˈɐɪs]
ride - [ˈraɪd]
write - [ˈrɐɪt]
rider - [ˈraɪɾə]
writer - [ˈrɐɪɾə]
loud - [ˈlaʊd]
lout - [ˈlɐʊt] or [ˈlɛʊt]
n.b. "rider, writer": the allophony is maintained even when the phonetic distinction between /d/ and /t/ is neutralized.My idiolect, a hybrid
As I noted above, my idiolect is a hybrid of ENE and GA phonology. This may reflect my suburban upbringing, as ENE dialectal features seem to remain the strongest in urban areas.General American features
- I am fully rhotic; my phonology makes full use of the rhotic vowels [ɑɚ], [ɛɚ], [ɪɚ], [ɔɚ], [ʊɚ], [ɝ:] and [ɚ].
- I exhibit no hyperrhoticity; when not followed by another vowel, "Cuba" is [ˈkʰju:bə], and "idea" is [aɪˈdɪə].
- I lack the trap-bath split, except in "aunt".
- I lack significant pre-nasal tensing.
- I pronounce /ʌ/ as [ʌ], rather than [ɐ].
- Likewise, I use GA [ɑ:] in place of ENE [a:].Eastern New England features
- Although I exhibit no hyperrhoticity, I do make consistent use of the intrusive r. "Linda is" becomes [ˈlɪndɚ ɪz].
- I maintain all the pre-/r/ distinctions.
- I exhibit full Canadian raising, with [ɐɪ] and [ɛʊ] as allophones.
- I maintain the ENE low-back vowel system: "father" uses [ɑ:], while "bother" and "cot, caught" all use [ɒ:].
I should note that the extensive peculiarities of the ENE dialect, and my own idiolect, have largely inspired my interest in phonology. I've never received formal instruction in linguistics, and the "lower" matters of language (phonology chief among them) have always held more attraction for me than the theoretical stuff.
Monika wrote:I do not make the unemphasized vowels into schwas - is there a noun for this? Schwaification?
The commonly used term for that is reduction.