Folk awareness of dialect

Nathan H Brown natebrown1 at JUNO.COM
Tue Dec 5 21:41:37 UTC 2000

Something about a similar topic just ran in my local paper, the Times

ones about dialect here)

-You refer to downtown Albany as "the city."
-You pronounce it "Awbinee."
-It's SODA! And people who call it pop make you want to slap them.
-You know how to say and spell "Schenectady," "Rensselaer," "Coxsackie,"
and "Schodack."

A little explanation: "Schenectady" is pronounced /sk at nEkt@di/ (stress on
the /nek/). The city of "Rensselaer" is /REns at lir/ (stress on /lir/),
although it's in /rEnsl at r/ County (spelled the same, and with stress on
the /rEn/), and you also say /REnsl at r/ Polytechnic Institute. "Coxsackie"
is /kaksaki/ (stress on the /sak/), and "Schodack" is /skod&k/, with
stress on the /sko/ (&=IPA aesch, the sound most people use in "cat" and
"back"). These are all shibboleths people around here use when trying to
distinguish a native of the region from a non-native. "Awbinee" is the
writer's way of spelling /o at b@ni/ or /u at b@ni/, which is how many people
in the area say it. That /o@/ or /u@/ pronunciation, oddly, doesn't seem
to be something many of the locals are aware of. It's used in most /)/
words, like "dog," "call," "talk," "law," etc. As far as I can tell, it's
almost as common amongst younger people as older. I hear it on local
radio all the time; it's not something people avoid; I don't think it's
subject to any style shifting here, like it is in New York City. This
pronunciation runs rampant in Albany, Schenectady and Troy, the three
major cities of the Capital Region; I don't hear it in the suburbs
though. Some people in the suburbs notice this but don't know its
significance; others have apparently grown immune to it, and don't notice
it. People from out of the region notice it almost immediately, but
people who live here aren't especially aware of it. People who go away to
college, though, often lose it; I guess people just point it out so much
that they finally give up and change.

One more thing: Ballston Lake and Ballston Spa, two towns around here,
are often pronounced /b)st at n/, or /bu at st@n/ if you live in /u at b@ni/,
/sk at nEkt@di/ or Troy.

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