Are New Yorkers Losing Their Accent?

Are New Yorkers Losing Their Accent?

According to New York Daily: The Gothamist, the New York accent is slipping into neutral and sometimes through choice:

“Over the last year, there has been a lot of discussion about the death of accents around the city; people in Queens are fretting about it, people in Brooklyn are defiant about it. But what happens when people choose to unload themselves of their unique accents with professional help?

The Times reports today on the trend, with a particular focus on Sam Chwat, who is considered the dean of speech therapists. He says that clients have come to him upset about the way they’re perceived because of their accent, lobbing complaints such as, “‘People don’t understand what I’m saying,’ ‘I’m stigmatized by the way I speak.’ ‘I’m tired of people imitating or ridiculing the way I speak, or saying I sound “cute.”’ ‘My accent seems to imply negative characteristics.’ ” Other speech therapists practically make it sound like having a New Yawk accent is a disease: “A New York accent makes you sound ignorant. People listen to the accent, but not to what you’re saying,” said speech therapist Lynn Singer.

The article bring up an old debate: how important is one’s accent to their identity? One student of Singer’s said, “I felt if I lost my accent I’d lose part of who I was. Almost no one thinks I’m from Queens anymore.” Is it better to smooth over all of one’s vocal imperfections in the pursuit of wider acceptance, or in pursuit of a career? And if making fun of Jersey accents is racist, does that make the eradication of New York accents some kind of genocide?”

It all reads like some drama, but fortunately regional accents are going strong in the UK.  Yesterday  I spoke to O2 about altering my mobile phone contract and the girl who sorted me out had a great regional accent (Preston Brook, Cheshire).  Where there is a pocket of originals the accent will survive.  It’s not often that children learn 4 languages simultaneously, in which case it would be more likely that the other original accents would go, if one language took priority. (By the way – I got a great deal on my i-phone!)