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What makes a New Yawk accent? 3-year CUNY study aims to find out

WINS Radio New York logo WINS Radio New York 8/18/2019
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NEW YORK (1010 WINS) - Five linguists at CUNY are wrapping up a three-year project to catalog what makes New Yorkers' accents uniquely theirs.

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Students conducted hundreds of interviews to collect information on dialects.

Lead researcher Cecelia Cutler, of CUNY's Lehman College, told the Daily News there are hundreds of variations that are constantly changing. But she says they found no evidence that variations of city accents are borough specific.

What they did find was several linguistic patterns that cross neighborhoods as well as social and ethnic groups.

The researchers say New Yorkers with strong accents drop their Rs, have a more nasal pronunciation of the letter A in words like "bag" and "ask," and put a trademark spin on the first vowel in words like coffee, which ends up as "caw-fee."

The study, which is being funded by the National Science Foundation, wraps up in January.

Accents vary by ethnic group too, creating Italian and Jewish New York accents.

They also change based on economic class, says Michael Newman, a professor of linguistics at CUNY's Queens College.

"Donald Trump sounds different than Bernie Sanders. Where both of them sound like New Yorkers, Donald Trump is from a much richer origin than Bernie," Newman said.

More on the project can be found here.

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