Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

Boston English | Dropping the "R"

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Mon, Oct 24, 2011 @ 09:48 AM

Boston EnglishDo you know what a Boston English accent sounds like? If you have recently moved to the United States to work or study English in Boston, maybe you are trying to improve your pronunciation and develop an American accent. But the Boston accent is a bit different from what you might consider a "typical" American accent. The most obvious sign of a local Boston accent is when someone drops the "R" sound. The famous saying "Park the car in the Harvard Yard" is pronounced with a Boston accent in this way: "Pahk the cah in the Hahvahd Yahd". If you have ever watched Good Will Hunting or other movies that are set in Boston, you have heard the Boston accent. However, because Boston is a world famous center for academia, medicine and technological innovation, which attracts an international population, you might not hear a thick Boston accent every day or in every part of Boston.



What do native English speakers (who are not from Boston) think of the Boston accent?


The accent is very distinctive. Most people who speak with a Boston accent consider it an important part of their identity and don't want to lose it. However, it does carry a bit of a stigma and in some cases, it may hurt your chances of getting certain professional positions. This is especially true for actors.  In a recent story on msnbc, the reporter attended a Boston accent reduction class where native Bostonians were getting trained on how to stop dropping their "R's". Watch the video to get more details!



Stereotypes and attitudes toward accents:


Last fall, I took an intercultural communications course and I conducted an observation of 4 American English speakers listening to a tape of people with different accents from all over the world and the United States, and rating them on intelligence, integrity and other characteristics. When I analyzed the results, I could see that our associations with certain accents definitely influence our ideas about who that person is in terms of character and intelligence. What are the attitudes toward accents in your country? Please leave a comment below.


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Photo credit: Muffet

Topics: English Pronunciation, Life in Boston

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