Marta Zielinska/WCBS 880

Researchers Study Evolution Of New York Accent

August 19, 2019 - 12:19 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- The New York accent is hard to miss.

You get your cawfee wit sugah, you tell someone to fuhgeddaboudit.

But a group of linguistics professors is trying to figure out what makes that New York accent distinctly New York and how it's evolving. 

Studying language is like holding up a mirror up to society, according to Queens College linguistics professor Michael Newman.

"We are a very segregated city. Segregation goes by race, but not only by race, but by class. We find that the English that's spoken in New York reflects that variation," Newman told WCBS 880's Steve Burns.

Newman is part of a group of researchers putting together a database of the New York accent with hundreds of audio interviews done over the last few years.

We know it as dropping 'r's,' blurring the line between an 'o' and  an 'a,' but it's always changing, Newman says.

"New Yorkers today don't speak like their grandparents, young ones don't speak like their grandparents but their grandparents never spoke exactly like their own grandparents," Newman said.

Some aspects may be disappearing, but new characteristics of a New York accent could be on the way.

"It's not going away, but it's definitely changing," Newman said.

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