English Dialects. New Jersey English

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Speakers of any given language sometimes get offended when their particular language style is called a dialect. To avoid any confusion, I would therefore like to see what the term "dialect" means.

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English Dialects. New Jersey English. 

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     Speakers of any given language sometimes get offended when their particular language style is called a dialect. To avoid any confusion, I would therefore like to see what the term "dialect" means.  
According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, a dialect is “A regional or social variety of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary, especially a variety differing from the standard literary language or speech pattern of the culture in which it exists”.  
 The Dialects of English series provides concise, accessible, authoritative and up-to-date documentation for varieties of English from all over the English-speaking world. Written by experts who have conducted first-hand research on these varieties, the volumes aim to become the most obvious starting point for both academic and interested non-academic readers who would like to know more about a particular dialect. The volumes follow a common structure, covering the background, phonetics and phonology, morphosyntax, lexis and history of one clearly defined variety of English (or of a number of closely related varieties), and conclude with an annotated bibliography and some sample texts.

1.1 Standard English

Standard English – the official language of Great Britain taught at schools and universities, used by the press, the radio and the television and spoken by educated people may be defined as that form of English which is current and literary, substantially uniform and recognized as acceptable wherever English is spoken or understood. Its vocabulary is contrasted to dialect words or dialectisms belonging to various local dialects. Local dialects are varieties of the English language peculiar to some districts and having no normalized literary form. Regional varieties possessing a literary form are called variants. Dialects are said to undergo rapid changes under the pressure of Standard English taught at schools and the speech habits cultivated by radio, television and cinema.  
All English speakers speak and understand at least one dialect, or variant form, of English. In the United States, for historical reasons, there are three major dialects spoken in areas that stretch from East to West. These are called Northern, Midland, and Southern. But there are some more contained dialects as well, mostly in the Eastern  areas settled first Down east Maine, Boston, New York City, Jersey city, Tidewater Virginia, Sea Islands Gullah (Carolina and Georgia), Appalachian, Cajun, and New  Orleans (to name a few). And, of course, England, Canada, Australia, and other English-speaking countries also have regional dialects.  
The dialect patterns in the U.S. are complicated because as industry developed in northern cities, people brought regional dialects with them as they came seeking jobs. And in many parts of the country, class and ethnic differences as well as immigrant language influences are also reflected in dialect differences.  
There was a time when spelling was not conventional across dialects; people invented their own spellings to represent the way they thought their own speech sounded. But as printing became widespread, spelling became standard across dialects. English is somewhat unusual in that a group of American intellectuals, including Noah Webster, deliberately rejected some British spellings in order to make American literature easily recognized.   
Some examples are labour, jewellery, and centre. Now, there is standard American spelling and standard British.


1.2 American English

American English (variously abbreviated AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US,[1] also known as United States English, or U.S. English) is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of native speakers of English live in the United States.[2]

English is the most common language in the United States. Though the U.S. federal government has no official language, English is the common language used by the federal government and is considered the de facto language of the United States because of its widespread use. English has been given official status by 28 of the 50 state governments.

The use of English in the United States was as result of British colonization. The first wave of English-speaking settlers arrived in North America in the 17th century. American English has since been influenced by the languages of the Native American population, the languages of European and non-European colonists, immigrants and neighbors, and the languages of slaves from West Africa 

Differences between British English and American English.

American English and British English (BrE) differ at the levels of phonology, phonetics, vocabulary, and, to a lesser extent, grammar and orthography. The first large American dictionary, An American Dictionary of the English Language, was written by Noah Webster in 1828; Webster intended to show that the United States, which was a relatively new country at the time, spoke a different dialect from that of Britain.

Differences in grammar are relatively minor, and normally do not affect mutual intelligibility; these include: different use of some verbal auxiliaries; formal (rather than notional) agreement with collective nouns; different preferences for the past forms of a few verbs (e.g. AmE/BrE: learned/learnt, burned/burnt, and in sneak, dive, get); different prepositions and adverbs in certain contexts (e.g. AmE in school, BrE at school); and whether or not a definite article is used, in very few cases (AmE to the hospital, BrE to hospital; contrast, however, AmE actress Elizabeth Taylor, BrE the actress Elizabeth Taylor). Often, these differences are a matter of relative preferences rather than absolute rules; and most are not stable, since the two varieties are constantly influencing each other.

Differences in orthography are also trivial. Some of the forms that now serve to distinguish American from British spelling (color for colour, center for centre, traveler for traveller, etc.) were introduced by Noah Webster himself; others are due to spelling tendencies in Britain from the 17th century until the present day (e.g. -ise for -ize, although the Oxford English Dictionary still prefers the -ize ending) and cases favored by the francophile tastes of 19th century Victorian England, which had little effect on AmE (e.g. programme for program, manoeuvre for maneuver, skilful for skillful, cheque for check, etc.).

AmE sometimes favors words that are morphologically more complex, whereas BrE uses clipped forms, such as AmE transportation and BrE transport or where the British form is a back-formation, such as AmE burglarize and BrE burgle (from burglar). It should however be noted that these words are not mutually exclusive, being widely understood and mostly used alongside each other within the two systems. 

English words that survived in the United States and not Britain.

A number of words and meanings that originated in Middle English or Early Modern English and that always have been in everyday use in the United States dropped out in most varieties of British English; some of these have cognates in Lowland Scots. Terms such as fall ("autumn"), faucet, diaper, candy, skillet, eyeglasses, crib (for a baby), obligate, and raise a child are often regarded as Americanisms. Fall for example came to denote the season in 16th century England, a contraction of Middle English expressions like "fall of the leaf" and "fall of the year". During the 17th century, English immigration to the British colonies in North America was at its peak and the new settlers took the English language with them. While the term fall gradually became obsolete in Britain, it became the more common term in North America. Gotten (past participle of get) is often considered to be an Americanism, although there are some areas of Britain, such as Lancashire and North-eastern England, that still continue to use it and sometimes also use putten as the past participle for put (which is not done by most speakers of American English).

Other words and meanings, to various extents, were brought back to Britain, especially in the second half of the 20th century; these include hire ("to employ"), quit ("to stop," which spawned quitter in the U.S.), I guess (famously criticized by H. W. Fowler), baggage, hit (a place), and the adverbs overly and presently ("currently"). Some of these, for example monkey wrench and wastebasket, originated in 19th-century Britain.

The mandative subjunctive (as in "the City Attorney suggested that the case not be closed") is livelier in American English than it is in British English. It appears in some areas as a spoken usage and is considered obligatory in contexts that are more formal. The adjectives mad meaning "angry", smart meaning "intelligent", and sick meaning "ill" are also more frequent in American (these meanings are also frequent in Hiberno-English) than British English.  

1.3 New Jersey English


New Jersey is dialectally diverse, with many immigrants and transplants from other states, but there are roughly two regional varieties discernible, each having features in common with the two metropolises of New York City and Philadelphia that each extend into the state.

North Jersey English

The northeast quarter of the state is within the New York City metropolitan area, and in some areas near the Hudson River, including Newark and Jersey City, all the main features of the New York dialect are found. Elsewhere in northern New Jersey, the accent shares many features of the New York dialect as well, but differs in a few points. For instance, it is rhotic: a Brooklynite might pronounce "over there" as "ovah deh" , while a North Jerseyan might say "over deir" [oʊvɹ dɛəɹ], much like a lot of dialects throughout the rest of the United States. Also, it lacks a phonemic short a split, though the Atlas of North American English by William Labov et al. shows that the New York City short a pattern has diffused to r-pronouncing communities in northern New Jersey like Rutherford (Labov's birthplace) and North Plainfield (it has also diffused to other places like Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Albany). However, the system in these communities often loses the function word constraint and/or the open syllable constraint of the NYC system. Still, many pronunciation features are shared with the New York City dialect: for example, the pronunciation of /ɔː/, the vowel in words like coffee, dog, and talk is raised and tensed to [o] or even higher in New Jersey and New York alike.

Regarding vocabulary, New York City shibboleths like hero are less used than the less regionally distinct sub or submarine, but sometimes found:

New York City area

  • kitty corner: on an angle to a corner(public use is outdated)[1]
  • dungarees (archaic): jeans[1]
  • egg cream: (archaic) a mixture of cold milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer[1]
  • Sub: submarine sandwich[1]
  • kill: (from Dutch) a small river or strait, in the name of specific watercourses; e.g. Beaver Kill, Fresh Kills, Kill Van Kull, Arthur Kill[1]
  • Bodega: corner store.
  • potsy: (archaic) hopscotch[1]
  • Stickball: a baseball-like game suitable for smaller areas, in which a stick substitutes for the bat and a "spaldeen" is the ball[1]
  • scallion: spring onion[1]
  • seltzer: carbonated water beverage that, unlike club soda, is salt-free.
  • sneakers: tennis shoes or other sports footwear.
  • stoop: (from Dutch) the multiple exterior steps leading up to the main entrance on the first floor of a brownstone or other low-rise structure, usually residence or residential apartment building.

 South Jersey English

South Jersey is within the Philadelphia dialect region. One recognizable feature of this is the pronunciation of /oʊ/ (the vowel in go) as [ɜʊ], and this can also be found elsewhere in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware.

In South Jersey there are some major difference in word usage and pronunciation.

  • Hoagie: This is a very common term for a submarine sandwich.
  • Wooder: It is still spelled "water" however it is pronounced as "wooder".
  • Jawn: A word originated from Philly, it can replace any noun. Ex.: "Did you see that jawn over there?" or "I bought that jawn the other day."
  • Hon: A term of address or endearment, an abbreviation for "honey"

Common Usages

Contrary to popular belief, almost no one in New Jersey refers to the state as /dʒɔɪzi/, typically written as Joisey. The pronunciation of /ɝː/ as [ɜɪ] instead of the standard American [ɝ], which this stereotype is based on, is residual in the New York Dialect as described above.

The term Jersey is sometimes used to refer to the state as a whole, or as an adjective as in Jersey Tomatoes. 

1.4 The problem of different dialects

The problem of different dialects presents for phonics is this: there is a single spelling across dialects that pronounce words very differently. In Northern dialects there are double consonants at the end of test, breakfast, and desk. In Southern speech these are pronounced tes ', breakfas ', des '. There is an I sound in help in the North, none in the South (he'p). But in midland dialects, help has two syllables, hey-ulp . There are at least four ways of saying almond, two with and two without the l . In certain dialects an r sound is added to words ending in vowels (idea , Cuba , media ) but not produced in words that already have an ending r (car , dear , meteor).  
Vowels vary considerably from dialect to dialect. Which of these words have the same vowel for you? Frog, fog, bog, cog, dog, hog , smog, grog, log, clog, to g. In some English dialects the vowels are all the same. In others there are two vowels; one in frog, fog, dog, hog, log and the other in bog, cog, smog, clog, tog. Where does your list break? None of these are right or wrong. It's just a dialect difference.  
Each of us develops phonics rules that fit the speech sounds of our own dialects.  That doesn't have to be a problem unless the school insists there is a single set of phonics rules for all American speakers. Unfortunately, people who speak lower  class dialects and regionally transplanted people of all classes are the ones who will suffer  most from this insistence. They will be confused by being taught that letter patterns  represent sound patterns that are foreign to their ears. The worst problems will come if teachers try to change the speech of their pupils to fit the phonics rules. One common English spelling is the gh in words like fight, eight, light, might, night, right, sight, tight . That seems to be a holdover from Scottish and other United Kingdom dialects which do, in fact, have a throaty h found in other Germanic languages but not usually in English. But it would confuse most Americans if our teachers insisted they must say likht because the word is spelled light. In just the same way, it confuses many American children when they are told they must produce an I in help, almond, or palm .  
The pretense of a single set of phonics rules is not only confusing; it damages people's chances for school success. Most standardized reading tests have a section on phonics  that asks students to match rhyming words or to identify words with similar sounds. The problem is that what rhymes in one dialect doesn't in the other (aunts rhymes with wants in some dialects, with pants in others). Homophones (marry, Mary, merry) in one dialect sound different in others. Such phonics test items are obviously biased against speakers whose dialects don't match the dialect of the person who  wrote the test. And at a time when test results have increasingly high stakes, such  a phonics bias can have severe consequences for just the children who are less likely to succeed in school. Even if children were not tested with biased phonics items, however, it would still be damaging to subject children to instruction based on a single set of phonics rules. Phonics is a complicated set of relationships between the sound system and the writing system. It includes a set of relationships among sounds (e.g., the way the middle vowel and the accented syllable in telegraph changes when the word becomes telegraphy). Phonics relationships are complicated by homophones (pair, pear, pare ) and homographs (read, read ),by the multiplicity of roots of English (Greek, German, Latin, Danish, French),  and by the fact that our spelling system is based in part on sound, in part on meaning,  and in part on grammar. Phonic relationships are learned best the way language is learned: through actually using the abstract system (the phonics system, in this case) in the context of trying to make sense of meaningful language (written language, in this case). Out-of-context, uninformed phonics instruction is not only confusing; it makes the learning of phonics harder. And when the rules being taught in out-of-context lessons do not match the learner's own dialect, it is that much more confusing and that much harder to learn. Yet another barrier for far too many children!

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