Tag: accents

What Makes the Boston Accent So Unique?

The Boston accent is unique in the United States because of its phonological characteristics. You’ll hear different vowel sounds, especially in the centering diphthongs, that make it more nasal and with additional short “a” sounds compared to others.

Any words that have “ar” together in them create the classic example of the Boston accent. Instead of say, “car,” you’d hear someone say, “cah.” If you were headed to the park with the kids for the day, you’d go to the “pahk.”

This accent started in the early 20th century, but it seems to be retreating with the younger generation. Although you can still hear it in the city’s older neighborhoods, the change is getting closer to a NYC accent instead.

The Pronunciation Is Over 400 Years Old

Although the city has been speaking with the Boston accent for about a century, the phonetics behind the words are over 400 years old. It’s called “non-rhotic” pronunciation, dating to the time when the first settlers came from Europe.

During the 17th century in England, it was considered a rustic part of the English language to omit the “R” sounds from most words. It’s not considered a prestige feature, but the city of Boston is who led the way in that perspective.

The removal of “R” sounds wasn’t limited to the spoken word. When you review documents from the 17th century throughout Massachusetts and upper New England, you’ll find most words had the letter removed. That means people named “George” had their names document as “Geoge.”

That’s why you can find George Washington documents that say “Geoge Washington.”

It’s not only the phonetics that set the Boston accent apart from others. You can find the city using British slang for some terms, such as “rubbish” instead of saying “trash.”

You can also engage in a fun conversation about whether you’re having soda, pop, or Coke when you need a carbonated beverage.