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Writer Bruce Kahn takes us on an accent tour of the United States, where there are many ways to talk .
Text by:Bruce Kahn
Country: USA

hen I first moved from Brooklyn, New York, 185 miles north to Boston, Massachusetts, I thought the people talked really funny. People in Boston tend to talk with a generally tight and almost closed jaw, and their speech is extremely nasal. If you ever heard any of the speeches of President John F. Kennedy or of writer and politician William F. Buckley, Jr., you will hear just what I mean. After living in Boston for just a few days, I was told that it was I who “tahked” funny.

In the U.S., there are many dialects. It all depends on where your family came from, where you were born and where you grew up. The U.S. is known as a melting pot of people from nations all over the world. In the 1800s, people from northern Europe flocked to the U.S., and in the early 20th century saw a shift to immigrants mainly from Southern and Eastern Europe and after 1965, immigrants came mostly from Latin America and Asia. Each new wave of immigrants brought their own language sounds and blended them in with the English already spoken.

As a result, there really is no “one” American accent. People from the north sound different than people from the south, and people from the East Coast sound different from people on the West Coast. There are generally more diverse language accents on the East Coast because it was through Ellis Island in New York harbor that many immigrants entered the United States.

Here are some examples of distinct regional American accents.

New York

One of the most well-known accents is from New York, or as the locals say, “Noo Yawk.” In the New York City area (Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island) you will often hear words shortened, changing “you” to “yo,” “or” to “aw” and “th” to “d.”

Do you know what this means? “Ahm gonna meecha lader awn toiden toidy toid.” It means: I am going to meet you later on Third and Thirty-Third. For non-New Yorkers, that’s Third Avenue and Thirty-Third Street. Or how about this: “Yud bedder fuhgeddaboutit.” It almost sounds like one word, but it is really a short sentence: “You’d better forget about it.” Noo Yawkers will also refer to Joisey and Da Bronx, or neighboring state New Jersey and the borough of the Bronx. And let’s not forget “Lunn Guyland,” also known as Long Island.

Boston and New England

Stereotypical New Englanders have nasal, stiff-jawed speech. Try keeping your teeth clenched and talk about the stock market. “The stock market today is really very volatile. There are more bulls and bears on Wall Street than there are in the zoo.” It’s very stiff and has a bit of a British accent. The classic Bostonian accent uses a slightly looser jaw, but the nasal sounds are more pronounced. For example: “Pahk ya caah in Hahvahd yaahd,” or “Park your car in Harvard yard.”

Accents vary from Vermont and New Hampshire to Maryland, Delaware and Virginia, also known as the Mid-Atlantic states.

Midwest and Upper Midwest

The Upper Midwest includes states such as Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Michigan, all of which share a border with Canada to the north. As a result, you can hear a bit of a Canadian accent in their speech. You might hear someone say “aboot” rather than “about.” Many Scandinavian families settled in this region, so you might hear a sing-song inflection. Common phrases include “Doncha know” and “you bet,” pronounced “yoowoo betcha.” The word “yes” somehow has an “a” in it and sounds like “yah” … “yah, yoowoo betcha.” If you have ever seen the movie “Fargo,” actress Frances McDormand has a very pronounced Upper Midwest accent.

Farther south, in the area known as the Midwest, the accent is very neutral, so Midwesterners say they don’t have an accent. Often you will hear TV newscasters with a very generic or non-descript accent, and this is considered a Midwestern accent. Midwestern states include: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and Iowa. I try to have a clear generic type accent, but every once in a while I come out with a “gonna,” or say “Lunn Guyland.”

Southern Accent

When I think of a southern accent, I think of the movie “Gone with the Wind.” The characters Rhett Bulter and Scarlet O’Hara exemplify speech patterns of the Deep South during the Civil War era. You can hear them pronouncing the “i” in “mine” like “ah,” and two-syllable words such as “declare” are pronounced with three syllables. You will hear expressions such as “y’all” or “all y’all,” “sho’ ‘nuff” (sure enough).

Texas

The Texan accent has a bit of a drawl and is different from a true Southern accent. You will hear lots of “th” and “rr” sounds. Oil is sometimes “errl,” and depending on what part of Texas you’re in, it might be “awl.” Because Texas is a big state, you can hear a southern accent, a cowboy drawl … (Ahm-a-gonna-git-ahn-muh-horse) or a stilted speech pattern which is very stiff and formal, with a bit of a sharp nasal tone.

These are only a few of the accents you’ll hear across the United States. Others include Appalachian, Cajun, Latino, Californian, Pacific Northwestern, not to mention Valley Girl and Urban street language. There are literally hundreds of English dialects over the world, just as I am sure there are various dialects in your own native language.

It’s been nice chatting with you … y’all come back now, y hea!



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How you say it depends on where you’re from .

In the United States there are many dialects and people’s accents depend on where they come from, where they are born or where they grow up.

Another reason for the variety of accents and dialects is immigration. People from all over the world come to live in the U.S. and each of them bring their own sounds and blend them in with the English people already speak there. As a result, there is no ‘one’ American accent.

In the New York City area (Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island) you will often hear words shortened, changing “you” to “yo,” “or” to “aw” and “th” to “d.”

In the Upper Midwest you hear a bit of a Canadian accent in their speech. But in the Midwest the accent is very neutral so people there say they don’t have an accent.

The southern accent can be exemplified by just thinking of the movie ‘Gone with the Wind’. You can hear the characters pronouncing the “i” in “mine” like “ah,” and two-syllable words such as “declare” are pronounced with three syllables.
You will hear expressions such as “y’all” or “all y’all.


These are only a few of the accents you’ll hear across the United States. Others include Appalachian, Cajun, Latino, Californian, Pacific Northwestern, not to mention Valley Girl and Urban street language.

t’s been nice chatting with you … y’all come back now, y hea!


 

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How you say it depends on where you’re from

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Grammar in Use

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Easy Adjectives.

Advanced Adjectives: Comparatives and Superlatives.

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U.S accents

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