Regional dialects in New England and the Boston accent

With each new Korean I meet, I have the same discussion about my accent.  So this post will put some thoughts about that in one place.

For those readers who don’t know, I speak with a Northeastern dialect of American English.  I was asked if there are a lot of differences between dialects of English.   To my ear, there are.  I struggle to understand a Scottish brogue, proper English (British Received Pronunciation called  “the Queen’s English”, “Oxford English”, or “BBC English”), or an Australian accent.  The words are the same, but the pronunciation and sometimes the word choice are different enough to be unrecognizable until I “tune my ear” with exposure to the accent.  Southerners from the United States have difficulty understanding Northeastern dialect, and vis versa, even if we are all Americans.

Listen to recordings of the short story “The North Wind and the Sun” for the different accents to hear the difference.  General American varies enough from British Received Pronunciaton to have some IPA symbols in British that aren’t in American.

Here is a chart comparing all the English dialects.

Similarly, there are some IPA symbols for sounds in Korean that are not in my dialect. There are some sounds in Korean I simply have no idea how to make.

I hear regularly people speaking from the New England states, New York, and Canada.  I can easily pick out what state a person is from.  In fact, even within the state of Massachusetts, there are different regional accents.  My Western Massachusetts accent is a far cry from the Boston accent.  However, to someone from another country, the Boston accent is well known and a close approximation of some of the speech peculiarities I have.

Funny video of many actors trying to fake a Boston accent, with sometimes cringe-worthy results.

(Side note:  Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are the real deal.  They are local boys who speak the Boston accent.  Ben Affleck’s movie “The Town” was shot with many locals as extras, so has an authentic look and sound of Massachusetts.  “Good Will Hunting”, an early film for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, displays their Boston accents.)

I am comparing the Massachusetts accented English to Korean.

Korean IPA Vowels

Korean IPA Vowels

Midwestern American

Midwestern American

Note that I do not have many of the sounds Koreans make in the back of their throat.

The upside down e with an r hanging off of it describes how that sound is “r flavored”.  A big difference between New England regional dialect and the Queen’s English is that “r flavor”.  I put r sound where no r exists.  I say “idear” instead of “idea”.  Yet conversely, I drop r sounds when they should exist.  When I say the word “card”, it has no r sound in it.  I can’t make the rolled r sound at all, because I don’t make my r from the front of the mouth.  So my relationship with the letter r is complicated.  Haha.

The linguists have my problem with r’s all figured out. Read here about how the Boston accent is non-rhotic; in other words, the phoneme /r/ does not appear. Also, the Boston accent possesses both linking R and intrusive R: That is to say, a /r/ will not be lost at the end of a word if the next word begins with a vowel, and indeed a /r/ will be inserted after a word ending with a central or low vowel if the next word begins with a vowel.

I’ve never taken a linguistics course.  I just simply think of it as I say my R’s weirdly.  This complicates my ability to speak ㄹ in Korean.





Here are related posts where I talk about my accent

Some day, I will have to mine this article in Korean about 영어 음운론(音韻論: phonology) to gather Korean linguistic terms related to phonology. Or perhaps find the terms in Naver.

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One Response to Regional dialects in New England and the Boston accent

  1. Pingback: Dialect Map for USA | Hanguk Babble

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