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Language and Accent History of Boston : Boston Accent

The purpose of this guide is to help people learn about the history of the Boston Accent and the history of languages in Boston.

Boston Accent

The most distinguishable part of the Boston Accent is that it is a non-rhotic accent, which means that speakers do not pronounce the "r" sound. Sometimes when people say a "New England Accent" they mean the "Boston Accent." However, there are many different accent variations in New England! These resources look at the history and formulation of the Boston Accent. 

Audio Examples

Map of Boston

Articles

E-book

Poll

If you are from Massachusetts, would you say that you have a Boston Accent?
Yes, I'm from Mass and I have a Boston Accent: 34 votes (33.01%)
No, I am from Mass but I don't have a Boston Accent: 32 votes (31.07%)
No, I'm not from Mass: 37 votes (35.92%)
Total Votes: 103

Books

Speaking American: A History of English in the United States by Richard Bailey (2012).

This book covers American History from 1600s-2000s, and covers accents from major cities. It identifies how American English is different from British English, as well as includes the history of words that were invented or adapted in American English. 

Sections that mention Boston: 

pg.46 British Accent vs. Boston Accent
pg.72 Philadelphia Accent vs. Boston Accent

American Talk: The Words and Ways of American Dialect by Robert Hendreckson (1986). 

Chapters of this book are identified by regional dialects. This book identifies the importance of immigration and the influence that it has on American English. This text is a bit older, so it does not include anything about internet slang, and there have probably been many dialect changes and slang changes since this publication. 

There is a specific chapter in this book that talks about the New England accent: 

Chapter 2: The Boston, or Haavaad, or New England Yankee Accent (pg.35-58)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Speak American? by Robert MacNeil and William Cran (2005).

This text is a companion to the PBS television series/documentary by the same name. The two authors interview locals and discuss the connections between immigration, history, and language. 

The sections in this book that mention the Boston Accent: 

pg.31-33 Eastern New England Dialect
pg.49 R-sound in American
pg.85 JFK's accent 

 

Citations

"Accents of English from Around the World" Retrieved from http://www.lel.ed.ac.uk/research/gsound/Eng/Database/Phonetics/Englishes/Home/HomeMainFrameHolder.htm

Bailey, Richard. (2012). Speaking American: A History of English in the United States. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc. 

"Boston to English Dictionary". Retrieved from http://www.celebrateboston.com/culture/dictionary.htm

"Citywide Maps". Boston Planning and Development Agency. Retrieved from http://www.bostonplans.org/3d-data-maps/gis-maps/citywide-maps

Daley, Jason. (2017). "Hear a 20-year-old John F. Kennedy Speak." Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/hear-20-year-old-john-f-kennedy-speak-180963267/

Gaffin, Adam. "Wicked Good Guide to Boston English". Retrieved from https://www.universalhub.com/glossary/index.html

Hendrickson, Robert. (1986). American Talk: The Words and Ways of American Dialects. New York, NY: Viking Penguin, Inc. 

Irwin, Patricia and Nagy, Naomi.(2007). "Bostonians /r/ Speaking: A Quantitative Look at (R) in Boston." University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics, Vol.13,. Retrieved from https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1009&context=pwpl

MacNeil, Robert and Cran, William. (2005). Do You Speak American? New York, NY: Doubleday. 

"Massachusetts". International Dialects of English Archives. Retrieved from https://www.dialectsarchive.com/massachusetts

Metcalf, A. A. (2012). How We Talk: American Regional English Today. Houghton Mifflin. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.simmons.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat01806a&AN=sim.b2091248&site=eds-live&scope=site

Mostue, Anne. (2014). Setting Your Movie In Boston? Bettah Get The Accent Right. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2014/08/27/343419500/setting-your-movie-in-boston-bettah-get-the-accent-right

Randall, Eric. (2015). Testing Boston Authenticity With 'Park The Car On Harvard Yard'. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2015/08/25/434668684/testing-boston-authenticity-with-park-the-car-on-harvard-yard

Wood, Jim. (2010). "Short-a in Northern New England." Journal of English Linguistics. Retrieved from https://jimwood8.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/wood-2011-short-a-in-northern-new-england.pdf