Are You From New York?

Posted on

As a NYC-based company, we receive numerous requests for working on the infamous “New Yawk” accent. People frequently tell me that they get on conference calls with people around the country and inevitable someone says, “Joe, what part of New York are you from?” While it is not necessarily meant in any way other than to make friendly small talk, the speaker from New York often has a strong desire to change the way they speak. The goal is usually Standard American English (SAE), the American “accentless accent.”

Standard American English is a type of English speech that sounds identifiably American, but has no particular regional accent. This is the type of speech you might hear when listening to your average American newscaster or journalist. Typically, when someone wants to reduce their accent in American English, the goal is SAE.

Accent reduction isn’t for everybody; many people have strong, identifiable accents and consider them a positive aspect of their communication style. However, for many people, an accent can negatively impact communication. In some cases, the accent is so heavy, that others, particularly those who are non-native speakers of the language, have trouble understanding. In other cases, people may feel that the accent projects a certain stereotype or image. If the accent is particularly distinct, people may be distracted and focus more on the person’s speech than their message.

What exactly is it about the New York accent that makes it unique?

  • Dropped “r” sounds, especially at the end of words (e.g. “better” becomes “betta“) or before a consonant (e.g. “card” becomes “cahd“).
  • “R” sounds appearing in words that have no “r”, often after a vowel at the end of a word (e.g. “idea” becomes “idear“).
  • “Th” sounds changed to “d” sounds, for example “this” and “that” become “dis” and “dat
  • The short “a” sound changed to a diphthong that sounds more like “ee-ah“. For example, “cab” may sound closer to “keeyab
  • The “aw” sound is drawn out and more rounded than in standard American English. So “coffee” may be pronounced as “cawwfee“.
  • Rapid rate of speech and lack of space between words, as in the infamous “Fuggedaboutit” (Forget about it) or “djeet?” (Did you eat?)
  • Hypernasaity (i.e. “Talking through your nose”)

Although the New York accent can be a charming and distinct feature of one’s speech, many people seek to change it. If you feel your accent is interfering with your professional or personal goals in any way, a speech-language pathologist can help. The speech-therapist will perform an initial evaluation and determine which sounds are impacting his or her speech the most. Then, the client and speech-pathologist will work together on an individualized program, gradually replacing the accented sounds with the targets. With time and professional advisement, many people can nearly eliminate their accent altogether.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *