Is the Hudson Valley Dialect still alive?

Damien Hall djh514 at YORK.AC.UK
Sat Sep 26 15:30:37 UTC 2009

In addition to the answers to the question that others have already posted,
which have been mostly if not entirely about the lexicon, you could ask my
friend and former colleague Aaron Dinkin (Penn), who's about to defend his
dissertation on phonological dialect boundaries in upstate New York. The
abstract is below (and the defence is on 13 October).


> Dialect Boundaries and Phonological Change in Upstate New York
> Abstract:
> The eastern half of New York State is a dialectologically diverse region
> around which several major dialect regions converge - the Inland North to
> the west, New York City to the south, Western New England to the east, and
> Canada to the north. These regions differ sharply with respect to some of
> the major parameters of North American English phonological variation,
> including the low back merger, the status of /ae/, and the Northern Cities
> Shift (NCS); and therefore the interface between the regions is of
> interest because the location and structure of their boundaries can
> illuminate constraints on phonological changes and their geographic
> diffusion. In this dissertation, new interview data from approximately 120
> speakers in the eastern half of New York State is collected and
> phonetically analyzed in order to determine the dialect geography of this
> region in detail, focusing on the three parameters listed above and on a
> newly-discovered feature of New York State, a stress shift in words like
> "elementary". The sampled area is found to be divisible into several
> distinct dialect areas. In the Inland North fringe, the NCS is found to be
> present, but not as consistently so as in the core of the Inland North;
> this region includes communities that were settled principally from
> southwestern New England in their early history. In a couple of
> communities close to the Hudson River, designated the Hudson Valley core,
> there is clear evidence of the influence of New York City phonology. The
> Hudson Valley fringe, between the Hudson Valley core and the Inland North,
> exhibits some NCS features, but crucially no raising of /ae/ higher than
> /e/; this is attributed to the effect of the nasal /ae/ system in blocking
> diffusion of full /ae/-raising. The North Country region, in the
> northeastern corner of the state, is the only sampled region where the low
> back merger is well advanced, but evidence is found that the merger is in
> progress over the long term in the rest of the sampled area except the
> Hudson Valley core; this illuminates the extent to which preexisting
> phonetic changes can block the advance of merger.

Damien Hall

University of York
Department of Language and Linguistic Science
YO10 5DD

Tel. (office) +44 (0)1904 432665
     (mobile) +44 (0)771 853 5634
Fax  +44 (0)1904 432673

The American Dialect Society -

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