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Gregory R. Guy: Flight from New York: Current developments in New York City English, 27 November 2015

Australian National University

Date: 27 November 2015

When: 11am, 27 November 2015

Where: Engma Room, Coombs Building, ANU

Many features that long characterized New York City English are receding or disappearing in contemporary speech. Vocalized (r), which in Labov's 1964 study was nearly categorical in casual style, is now rare for most New Yorkers. Raised BOUGHT is lowering. The NYC short-a pattern, with tensing before voiceless fricatives, voiced stops, and front nasals, is giving way to the kind of nasal system that is very common in North America.

Two factors are implicated as likely drivers of these developments: demography and language attitudes. The ethnolinguistic makeup of the city has changed dramatically in the last half-century. In today's population, half speak a language other than English at home, and one-quarter are African American. The city also has substantial numbers of in-migrants from elsewhere in the US (such as most of the faculty and students at NYU!). Hence, the New York-born-and-raised white speakers, who were treated in prior dialect research as the focal speakers of NYCE, now form no more than a fifth of the city's population. Acquisition and retention of traditional NYCE features is further deterred by the substantial stigma that has long been attached to the NYC dialect.


This seminar is part of a workshop on the "Sydney Speaks Project" on Australian English, being run by Catherine Travis. It will be followed by lunch at University House; all welcome.

For inquiries, please contact:

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University