The magistrate said "Merry", the defendant said "Mary"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jun 10 01:32:36 UTC 2010

At 5:57 PM -0700 6/9/10, David Wake wrote:
>Sheridan, writing in 1762, said that R-dropping was found only in
>northern English provincial speech.  It doesn't seem to have become
>firmly established in the prestige accent of England until the
>beginning of the nineteenth century, and I would imagine that it was
>not imported into US Northeastern and Southern prestige accents until
>still later.

OK, good to know.  So it's actually more the British accents (like
that of King George) that are off rather than the New England ones.
I wonder if there mightn't have been other salient differences
between the dialects of Boston, Philadelphia, and Charleston at the
time of the Revolution, though.  I was under the impression that the
differences in (what would turn into) U.S. regional accents were
already distinguished by 1800, based on different settlement patterns
of those regions.


>On Wed, Jun 9, 2010 at 5:31 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>  Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>  Subject:      Re: The magistrate said "Merry", the defendant said "Mary"
>>  At 6:13 PM -0500 6/9/10, Dan Goodman wrote:
>  >>David Wake wrote:
>>>>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>>>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>>>Poster:       David Wake <dwake at STANFORDALUMNI.ORG>
>>>>Subject:      Re: The magistrate said "Merry", the defendant said "Mary"
>>>>Many Brits assume that "Maryland" is pronounced as though it were two
>>>>words  "Mary Land", with successive SQUARE, happY and TRAP vowels
>>>>(with the last syllable having secondary stress).  Since Brits havecx
>>>>split Mary/marry/merry, this sounds very different from the actual
>>>>pronunciation to be heard from Maryland natives.
>  >>>
>>>Did Brits (and Americans who pronounce two or all of these differently)
>>>split the sound, or did people who pronounce them all the same merge them?
>>  Reminds me: I've been watching the video series of "John Adams"
>>  originally from HBO (based on McCullough's biography) and while I've
>>  been enjoying it, I've also been bothered by the apparent working
>>  assumption that all the Americans, from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania
>>  to Georgia spoke "American", quite distinct in their pronunciation
>>  from the British.  I'd have thought they might have tried a bit
>>  harder to represent New Englanders as speaking a bit more like the
>>  British, or at least like 20th century New Englanders (well,
>>  actually, Laura Linney as Abigail Adams isn't too far off in that
>>  respect), the southerners like, well, southerners, and only the
>>  Pennsylvanians (and neighbors) speaking rhotically.  Is my guess
>>  about what Americans would have sounded like in the 1770s-1790s that
>>  far off?  Would Washington and Jefferson really have sounded pretty
>>  much like Adams, and ditto Hamilton?  Maybe they just thought it was
>>  easier both for the actors and for the viewers who were supposed to
>>  tell the good (American) guys from the bad Brits.
>>  LH
>>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>>  The American Dialect Society -
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list