RIP New England Accent
Published: Monday, March 4, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 16:03
On a mild Thursday night, the Frost Commons was filled with staff and students waiting to hear from renowned linguist and Dartmouth College professor, James Stanford.
Before the presentation, Stanford went around introducing himself to students, asking, among other things, “Where are you from?”
For Stanford and other linguist, where someone is from plays a key role in their dialect patterns.
Dialect patterns that, based off massive amounts of research, Stanford can tell are changing around New England. “Younger generations are losing traditional New England features,” Stanford told the crowd, “features that can be traced back to European settlers.”
Stanford and his colleagues have collected thousands of voice samples from around New England that, using advanced technology, can be measured to accurately codify just how we talk. “Vowels are easily measured acoustically—things like dropping the ‘r,’—and we find these features are changing with generations.”
Stanford took many voice samples from Plymouth, telling the crowd it was, “the first sophisticated acoustic study ever done,” in the area.
Stanford did stress that, “I can tell you how they’re changing, but I cannot tell you why,” adding, “that is where you come in.”
Students and faculty shared stories with Stanford during the presentation on things they notice about central New Hampshire vernacular. “My dad says things like ‘tunar,’ instead of tuna,” one student told Stanford, adding, “it drives me crazy.”
Stanford told the crowd that, “Something is changing in those households; kids are recognizing that’s not how we talk.” Stanford believes this is due to pressures from outside of the home and one’s need to conform, “what you care about is what your peers hear.”
James Whiting, Department Chair of Language and Linguistics, who introduced Stanford, said “this is the 3rd presentation this year,” brought by the Language and Linguistics department.
After the presentation, many audience members approached Stanford, sharing personal linguistic anecdotes.
One student, who told Stanford he was from Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, said, “I catch myself adding ‘r’s,’ to words, like ‘idea-r,’ but I kind of do it on purpose, even if it annoys people, it’s who I am.”