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What Is It About That Noo Yawk Accent Anyway?

Boston Public Library, Print Department

It’s no secret—Long Islanders have an accent. But how is it different from any other?

Professor Marie Huffman of Stony Brook University’s Linguistics Department says the Long Island accent is different from General American English in three main ways.

First is the coffee vowel.

“Long Islanders can have a very strong diphthong in the first syllable, in which they say ‘aw,’ so ‘coffee.’”

Another is r-dropping at the end of words like water and car.

“Long Islanders often drop their r’s in syllables like that, which are a little bit weak and they sound like ‘er.’ So ‘sugar,’ ‘brother,’ something like that.”

The final major change is that Long Islanders can raise the vowel in some words with the /æ/ sound, found in words such as bat, mad or ash.

“It sounds a bit like this: sat versus sad or bat versus bad. So we sometimes call it the ‘bad vowel,’ not because it’s bad, but because it’s a common word and people will realize that they’ve heard this other vowel in it.”

However, each individual difference is not completely unique to Long Island.

“None of these features occur only here, but the fact that we can have all of them here is what kind of makes New York and Brooklyn and Long Island-type dialects really stand out.”