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Fuhgeddaboutit: New York accent may be dying out

THE traditional New York accent – where residents pronounce coffee "cawfee" among other things – could be on the wane, it has been claimed.

Kara Becker, an assistant professor of linguistics at Reed University, in a recent article for the New York Post, wrote that "Current linguistic research finds that many of the defining features of local speech are losing ground".

"Research shows that not all accents are created equal in the US," she writes. "When Americans are asked to rank locations in descending order from most to least 'correct' speech, the New York City accent is rated second to last (only the South rates lower). Speakers of the New York City accent, it turns out, are associated with a number of negative attributes, like being unfriendly and unkind."

She adds that New Yorkers themselves suffer from "linguistic insecurity".

As a result, recent research has shown that there are "big differences" across age groups in New York, where older speaker have the classic New York accent – "fuhgeddaboutit" – but younger speakers did not replicate it.

The present day New York accent comes from a varied history. The area has seen settlers from the Netherlands, England, Germany, and still maintains a prominent Italian, Irish and Jewish population. The influence of Yiddish is apparent.

George Jochnowitz, emeritus professor of linguistics at the College of Staten Island, Long Island, told The Times: "Both Yiddish and Italian did not make a distinction between the pronunciation of 'ng' in singer and finger."

Long Island for example, was "Lawn Gyland". But, he claims such sounds have now faded from New York City.