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New Jersey English dialects

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Title: New Jersey English dialects  
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Subject: Jersey Accent, Philadelphia accent
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New Jersey English dialects

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 Philadelphia and New York City that each extend into the state.

South & Central Jersey English

South Jersey and Central Jersey are primarily 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. The overwhelming majority of the state shares this dialect although New Jerseyans and Philadelphians are usually incorrectly depicted in cinema as having a New York City accent such as in the film Rocky and the television show Jersey Shore. An example of a cinematic depiction of a correct Philadelphian accent is in the film The Sixth Sense.

Visitors to South Jersey will notice the following usages standard in the Delaware Valley:

  • Hoagie: This usual term for what might elsewhere be called a submarine sandwich.
  • Wooter: the first vowel in the word water is rhymed with that of the verb put.
  • Jimmies: used to refer to the chocolate or rainbow variety of sprinkles used on cakes and ice cream. The term is also used in the Boston and Baltimore areas but is uncommon in North Jersey.
  • Joors: A slurred pronunciation of Drawers can be rhymed with doors.

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" [oʊvə dɛə], 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 in some places, though the Atlas of North American English by William Labov et al. shows that the New York City short a pattern has diffused to many 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

  • egg cream: (archaic) a mixture of cold milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer[1]
  • Sub: submarine sandwich[1]
  • Bodega: corner store.
  • potsy: (archaic) hopscotch[1]
  • 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.

Vocabulary common to North and South Jersey

  • catty corner: on an angle to a corner. Diagonal[1]
  • dungarees: jeans[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]
  • scallion: spring onion[1]
  • seltzer: carbonated water beverage that, unlike club soda, is salt-free.
  • Stickball: a baseball-like game suitable for smaller areas, in which a stick substitutes for the bat and a spaldeen is the ball[1]
  • wagon: a shopping cart.

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.

Notable speakers with North Jersey accents

Notable speakers with South Jersey Accents

See also


  • Labov, William (1982) The social stratification of English in New York City Center for Applied Linguistics ISBN 0-87281-149-2
  • Labov, William (1994) Principles of Linguistic Change: Volume 1: Internal Factors Blackwell ISBN 0-631-17914-3
  • Labov, William, Ash, S. and Boberg, C. (2001) Atlas of North American English DeGruyter ISBN 3-11-016746-8
  • Labov, William (2001) Principles of Linguistic Change: Volume 2: Social Factors Blackwell ISBN 0-631-17916-X
  • Wolfram, Walt & Natalie Schilling-Estes (2005) American English 2nd edition Blackwell ISBN 1-4051-1265-4
  • Wolfram, Walt & Ward, Ben (2005) American Voices: How Dialects Differ from Coast to Coast Blackwell ISBN 1-4051-2109-2


External links

  • William Labov's webpage—There are links to many sites related to dialects, including references to his early work on New York dialect and the Atlas of North American English.
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