Re: Speaking like a Maine-ah

Well, I wanted to add to Kie’s and Lisa’s discussion of the Maine accent, but my unicode-ready machine has not yet arrived and I’m using an old home PC. So, I’ll have to so without special characters.

Anyway, I enjoyed Kie’s careful transcription of the pre-orthographic-/r/ vowels (leftover vowels?) especially since (anecdotally anyway) I have not often seen this degree of description for non-rhotic American dialects. It made me think of several things to share:

I have tried in the past using similar transcribed materials to teach students about differences between NY and Boston accents, with varying success. I used the behaviour of leftover vowels as the main indicator. But while the various symbols we use for low vowels are meaningful to us, they’re arcane to non-linguists, so I had to make do with pronouncing them too.

Also, some of Kie’s transcriptions (if I read them right; I had to view the html code, get the character codes, and go from there) reminded me of some Boston varieties of heard (like the “corpse” example). I’m thinking of the fella in “American Tongues” who lives in north Boston, has three kids, and refers to the youngest as “George, the third”.

As for the lexical items: the ingressive “yeah” in Maine is what often shows up in Stephen King novels as “ayuh”. There’s a similar (but monosyllabic) ingressive “yeah” in the Canadian Maritimes and Newfoundland, which like ayuh is used as “yeah” or “I see”. (The Maritimes are also called Down East in Canada, and are right next to Maine). This “yeah” is often spoken by a listener as the speaker recounts a story. (also, I think, it’s kind of hi-toned for several reps, followed by a longer yeah, with a hi-mid contour). I’ve also heard the ingressive yeah in Irish English; someone told me that Parisian has an ingressive “oui”.

And the “right ruthless”: “right” is used productively as an adverbial intensifier in Nova Scotia (probably more so in non-urban areas; insert your own urban Nova Scotia joke here) and in Newfoundland, as is “some”. e.g. “Boy, some hot today, eh?”, “That dinner was some good”. “Right hot” is hotter than “some hot”.

A Google search for Newfoundland English will no doubt bring up some interesting sites for you. Wikipedia has a decent entry.

Bob K