May 18, 2010

The accents of New York City.



(Via Language Log.

35 comments:

Trooper York said...
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Rialby said...

This stuff fascinates me. There's a UPenn professor who has done some really serious research on accents.

I love the old NY accent that died with Archie Bunker's generation. Doesn't exist anymore..

Rialby said...

The professor is William Labov and I first heard about him in an NPR report years ago where he talked specifically about the NY accent.

His site

Rialby said...

The NPR report on NY City Accents

c3 said...

As a native upstater, its all the same to me and
no I don't know _____ from New York, you see New York is not just a city but a state and I don't live anywhere near the city. (And no I don't live near Buffalo, even though that's the only other city in New York state that you're aware of...)

for more details see here and here

And if you're looking for a movie that best encapsulates the upstate New York view of the world I would refer you to Nobody's Fool. I've spoken to severe upstaters who are sure it was filmed in their home town.

The Drill SGT said...

c3 said...
As a native upstater, its all the same to me.


So C3, where do you live? I'm sort of a Californian (upstate) married to an upstate New Yorker. She was from Vestal, went to school in Rochester. All the in-laws worked for IBM, GE, or P&G (engineers). We inherited a camp at Raquette Lake, and my firm has offices at Watervliet and Clifton Park. Is that enough upstate?

Rialby said...

I'm from Rochester myself.

Whenever I tell someone I'm from NY they say, "you don't sound like you're from NY!"

Rialby said...

Btw, I used to live in lower Westchester County, 5 min from the Bronx borough line, and my in-laws from Long Island said I lived upstate. Funny.

I knew people from Long Island who asked me if I got their radio stations in Westchester.

kathleen said...

this is BS

Be said...

You'd be amazed at how many Boston Provincials (even at the Academic level) can't believe that I'm from NY, even though I don't talk like a frick-ing Brooklynite. (Am from Buffalo.)

Lou said...

I moved from Philadelphia to Brooklyn 2 years ago. This just cracks me up, especially the part about SI / NJ.

What's really interesting is to find people in Brooklyn who lack the traditional accent and try to figure out where they're from originally.

I'd love to see the same analysis from 50 years ago and 50 years from now to see how they change.

edutcher said...

From what I've heard and read, most are variations on the Irish brogue (youse guys and what all).

Be said...

You'd be amazed at how many Boston Provincials (even at the Academic level) can't believe that I'm from NY, even though I don't talk like a frick-ing Brooklynite. (Am from Buffalo.)

That's because, if you say New York, they imagine you mean the city. You have to say New York State. Same thing with DC and the other place.

WV "nambled" What no young man wants to be.

Be said...

@edutcher:

Yes (she enunciated like a midwesterner -meaning three syllables for the one word), that is why I chose the term "provincial" for the Bostonians judging my speech (snort).

c3 said...

Sarge;
Born and raised near Syracuse.

But have since fled to warmer climes

Methadras said...

Funny and neat.

Fred4Pres said...

What no Long Island? No Jersey. You need them.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

There is no Long Island accent. However, I believe there might be such a thing as a "Long Guyland" accent.

Skyler said...

Well, remember that NYC was on the other side of the American Revolution.

edutcher said...

Most of the Middle Colonies were.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

My girlfriend was raised by her grandparents on Long Island- she has a very distinctive Canarsie, Brooklyn accent that even her LI peers found unusual.

Eggs = Aiggs

Legs = Laigs

Idea = Ideer

...you get the pitcha!

EDH said...

Can't you go blind from masticating your vowels?

C Black said...
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C Black said...
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Patm said...

"Ideer" for Idea is very common on Long Island (although "lawn guyland" is seldom heard beyond a few distinctly Jewish neighborhoods in Nassau country.)

Recall Billy Joel, singing, "Brender an' Eddie were de populah steadies and da king and da queen o' da prom, riding around..." That's about right. Note that the g in "riding" is not dropped, but Brenda has an added r. That's Long Island. It's a mixed bag of the boroughs.

From Inwood said...

Cute but overly simplistic.

Notice how her "Manhattan" (which does not include Inwood in its map!) accent is more upper class & the words come out softer & slower.

I suggest that if what used to be called the soundtrack were scattered & reassembled so that the "Bronx" part were placed under the heading "Brooklyn", nobody would know.

What she needs to do IMHO is call her effort "The Metro New York Accent - Language, Education, and Literacy". See, Mario Pei The Story of Language (1949). Dated, of course, since the influence of TV. I would add "Ethnic Background".

True, around the country, most people would identify anyone of her voices as lower class NYC Metro, period end of guessing. But, nobody I know under the age of 70 or who is educated speaks exactly in any of the voices she used.

Nor do they speak exactly like Fran Dresser or Archie Bunker. Too broad.

Nor does anyone say "lojojeatjet?" (Hello, Joe. Did you eat yet?)

I, on the other hand sound like Lawrence Oliver. If he'd grown up in Inwood in the '40s & 50s, that is.

Atticus said...

Thanks, Anne, for the trip down memory lane to this native Brooklynite. Since there must be a link between accent and attitude, here is a story about Brooklyn attitude I'm sure you will enjoy.

“In some languages,” said the Oxford philosopher J.L. Austin, “a double negative yields an affirmative. In other languages, a double negative yields a more emphatic negative. Yet, curiously enough, I know of no language, either natural or artificial, in which a double affirmative yields a negative.”

Suddenly, from the back of the hall, in a thick Brooklyn accent, came the comment, "Yeah, yeah.”

Renée said...

I'm originally from the Northwest Bronx and I can tell you that the accent she gave for the Bronx is not a Northwest Bronx accent. It's an East Bronx accent. The two are very different regions culturally, hence the different accents (i.e., back in the day the Northwest Bx was predominantly Jewish while the North East Bx was predominantly Italian/Irish/German). The Northwest Bronx accent is more like Manhattan's, although a little slower than she depicted here. Most people don't know about that distinction but if you ask a native of the Bronx, they'll likely agree with me (all my old Bronx friends agree!).

BTW, the Archie Bunker accent still exists in older New Yorkers (we're talking the 70+ age bracket), but all of these accents are disappearing. Here is an interesting article on that subject: http://www.physorg.com/news183235312.html

virgil xenophon said...

Slowly but surely we're all losing our regional/local accents as they all become blander. I remember sitting in class in Baton Rouge in the early 60s with some women in their mid 40s who had come back to finish their degrees and noticing how thick their accents were compared to the coeds of the day. And NOW? It's not uncommon to hear "valspeak" on ANY southern campus with the same tonality/intonation as in the San Fernando Valley from whence it came.

A work associate --a NYC Jew who lived in rural Ky (go figure)--once told me in the late 70s: "EVERYONE in NYC talks like a Jew." LOL!!

FWIW New Orleans is known as the "Brooklyn of the South" for the accents of the blue-collar class. (the "Yats"--as in "Where ya at!" ) although it's more like an amalgam,


ATTICUS, that story of yours is from a lecture at Columbia U. and the voice from the back of the hall was that of a famous Jewish professor at Columbia (whose name I don't recall) A funny story indeed--I've recounted it many times.

CatherineM said...

There is more than one Long Island accent. North Shore, South Shore in particular. They have a very different accent in Manhasset (think affected Ally Sheedy type) or Garden City from say, Franklin Square.

Billy Joel is from Hicksville

I NEVER hear people say Long GUYland. I grew up there. Half my classmates were Jewish and while they would say hang-ger, no one ever said GUYland. Never.

CatherineM said...

My parents are in there 80s and grew up on the upper West Side (mom93rd and Amsterdam and dad near Inwood Park). They have Archie Bunker accents. My dad in particular. If the car is totaled, it's to-alled.

Also, there was some Irish in there. They say "phil-em" in stead of film and veg-et-tab-bles.

CatherineM said...

I don't think there's a Manhattan accent anymore. Most people who live here aren't from here (outside of the Harlems) and they went to college/university. I have a theory the accents are disappearing not just because of TV's influence, but when people go to college, they make an effort to blend in and "sound educated."

I have worked with people who are from Louisiana and Alabama and they sound nothing like their family, I believe, because when they went to school up North, they wanted to blend in and people in NYC would think a Southern accent = uneducated.

Richard Dolan said...

Very funny, but not true to NYC today. Brooklyn and Queens are all mixed up -- Brownstone Brklyn is mostly professionals from elsewhere, hipster Brklyn and LIC are artistes from elsewhere, while deeper Brklyn and most of Queens are a wild ethnic mix of folks having English as a second language. Other than Yankee stadium, no one goes to the Bronx so who knows what it sounds like today.

The Manhattan accent reminded me of the Althouse diavlogs when she speaks quickly. It sounds like NYU rubbed off more than Park Slope.

CatherineM said...

Dolan - that's true. You can walk around my neighborhood all afternoon and not hear English. Yet, we aren't considered multicultural by liberal standards.

From Inwood said...

Hey, Dolan

Ya gotta get to Da Bronx Zoo, Da Botanical Gardens, Arthur Ave (Little Italy of The Bronx, now really Little Albania), & City Island (no longer a sleepy fishing village, but good eats.

And my wife’s native soil, now The Longwood Historical District, no less

And TY has to try S&S Cheesecake.

BTW (edited from Pei: ask a native lower-class non immigrant Metro NYer to say “I told my father I was saw (sore) about how the lore (law) operated in my case; I’m in mourning this morning (both sound the same). Pahrmee (pardon me, da judge shoudda lemauf (let me off) anianfoolin (and I am not fooling).

Renée said...

The Manhattan accent still exists, but only in natives and of course their numbers are dwindling. I have friends that talk just like the woman in this recording!

Don't get me started but as a native with roots going way back to 1830 in NY I tend to feel bad about the decline of the accents. I can tell you first hand about the way people look down on you when you move out of NY for having what the media (and unfortunately characters like Archie Bunker and Fran Drescher) has influenced them to see as a lower class caricature. The accent goes beyond class in NY. It may be different depending on class but it's still there in some form. This doesn't apply to younger natives of course because their accents are getting watered down by transplants from other places.

I regret that there is less and less of a native NY population, especially in Manhattan. NY always attracted people from all over the world but it just seems like they're taking over now. What originally attracted people to New York is being changed by the very transplants who have flocked to the place and it's just not the same anymore.

I know some natives that have worked to lose their accents to fit in and it's regrettable. Also regrettable is that having lived in New England for 20 years I've lost some of my own accent. I wish I could get it back!