Is The Mid-American Rosetta Stone Located in New Britain?

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New Britain
Famed sociolinguist Bill Labov made a startling claim today on our show about local dialects and accents: “The Yankee settlement pattern is what makes the northern United States what it is.” Labov said the northern Midwest speech pattern, from Syracuse and Rochester to Chicago, Michigan and Milwaukee was actually established by a westward expansion of workers from Connecticut.

Labov, who’s based at UPenn and is the author of a dozen or so books on language, says the “rotation of vowel sounds”  in which “block” becomes “black” and “black” becomes something akin to
“blake” — think: Chicago accent — is from Connecticut workers.

These remarks occur around the 33-minute mark. Labov: “The origin of that seems to be in Connecticut. New Britain is what we point to as the ancestor of that program. When the Erie Canal was built people from Connecticut were brought westward into New York and that seems to have been the setting for this big new change in American English.”

Audio for the whole show is here. 

Here are some of the New Britain indigenous people who have labored to preserve the antique tongue.(That sounds gross.)


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3 thoughts on “Is The Mid-American Rosetta Stone Located in New Britain?

  1. Terrence McCarthy

    Sorry to throw a monkey wrench into your work. But as someone who lived and worked in both CT and RI, I toss this it-un out. Folks who live just north of Providence, in places like Woonsocket and Central Falls and Cumberland, speak JUST LIKE the folks in New Bri-un.

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