Politics Magazine

Is Hardcore New York English a Separate Language?

Posted on the 19 September 2014 by Calvinthedog

Steven writes:

You love to categorize, don’t u?

I don’t see the point when I can understand them, all the English accents. Even hardcore NY.

The real true hardcore New York accent is just about dead. In only survives in a few pockets, especially the Bronx. Most of the New York English you hear is understandable.

My Mom works as a secretary as a junior college. A man moved to the area from the Bronx, young Italian man maybe 25 years old. No one could understand him when he showed up, and three months later, still no one could really understand him. They didn’t really understand him any better after three months exposure than on the first day. It got so bad that people started asking him to write down what he wanted.

Furthermore, he did not seem to be able to moderate his accent or make it more understandable. He had one speed and one tone.

After three months, he learned to speak California English and at that point, he was finally understood.

As far as I am concerned, this guy was speaking a foreign language.

There are a couple of reasons that this looks like a foreign language as opposed to a dialect:

1. He was able to adjust his speech to make it more intelligible. Dialect speakers can often “fix up” their speech to make it more intelligible. Speakers of foreign languages often cannot.

2. After three months exposure, California English speakers could hardly understand him any better than on the first day. This is another characteristic of a foreign language. With a dialect, the more exposure you have to it, the better you can understand it. Not so with a foreign language.


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