University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


Although dialectologists have studied Eastern New England (ENE) for generations, the dialect features of the Black/African American community are still understudied (Nagy and Irwin 2010:250). In this study, we conducted field interviews with 28 African American/Caribbean American (AA/CA) residents of Greater Boston. We compared our results with prior ENE fieldwork in nearby South Boston, a predominantly White community traditionally known for its strong "Boston accent." Results suggest that some ENE regional features are shared by both communities (MARY/MARRY/MERRY distinction, NORTH/FORCE distinction, nasal split short-a). However, other features show significant differences: the AA/CA speakers had non-fronted START/PALM, unmerged lot/thought (for older speakers), and rapidly receding r-lessness. This suggests that traditional notions about what constitutes a "Boston accent" need to be reconsidered in a more inclusive and nuanced way, following the dynamic social and ethnic patterns of the Boston area.