An Albany dialect?

aschmann dialect map albany

Albany is at the intersection of different dialect areas on this map.

@ajw93 pointed out an interesting site: it's a dialect map of North America. According to this map -- compiled by a linguist named Rick Aschmann -- there's an Albany dialect of American English. A few of the things that characterize this dialect:

+ "Fronted" (tongue near the front of the mouth) vowels in words such as "lot" and "cot."

+ Very little fronting of the vowel in "far."

+ The vowel in "caught" is strongly raised.

+ And these words sound the same: "hoarse" and "horse" | "mourning" and "morning" | "four" and "for."

We've never really noticed a strong "Albany" accent. But if there is one, it's definitely different from other parts of upstate. For example, some people in Central New York have relatively strong accents -- words such as "fire" are pronounced "feuer," and there's the ele-men-TARY pronunciation that occasionally pops up here, too. And, of course, there's the soda/pop divide.

It turns out there's a difference between dialects and accents -- accents are subsets of dialects. And the dialect spoken in Albany and along the Hudson is called, appropriately, Hudson Valley English -- and was influenced by Dutch. Some of the influences from Dutch are still obvious: words such as "kill" (for a creek) and "hook" (for a land point, example: Newton Hook in Columbia County). [Wikipedia] [Wikipedia] [HL Mencken's The American Language]

By the way: The example of the Albany dialect on the Aschmann site is a video clip of Jerry Jennings. Babe.

map: North American English Dialects, Based on Pronunciation Patterns


You know, there is sort of a secret dialect (or accent) in Albany that's very strong. It's often called "Albanese." For some reason, this manner of pronunciation seemed to have emanated most noticeably from St. Vincent's Institute ("Vee Eye"). That school isn't in operation any more (although the building is still in use) and so there don't seem to be many people who still talk that way. But my parents had a lot of friends who spoke Albanese, when I was younger, and I remember it distinctly. I think Meryl Streep, in Ironweed, speaks with a perfect Albanese accent. I wonder if she had a speech coach for that role, because she doesn't talk that way in other films.

One other thing I noticed about all this. I've never considered myself to have an accent (except after a few pints but that's another matter). But I had a girlfriend once from Kansas. And I remember hearing, for the first time, my own accent when I was surrounded by all those flatlanders. It sounded like Brooklyn-lite, I guess. Weird.

Hah! As one with a (fairly useless) degree in Linguistics, this article pleases me greatly.

My Long Island bred mother always said that her children (my sister and I grew up in the City of Albany) had an "Appleknocker" accent. The examples given in the article are spot on, the Albanian accent is all in the vowels.


My husband is a local and I used to mock him endlessly for his pronunciation of some words. Thank you AOA for giving me the grounds to continue!

(Don't worry. I was raised by a British expat and a New Jersey native in the Fingerlakes. It's all fair game.)

Maybe Mr. Dave's fairly useless degree in linguistics could tell me where on earth (or at least in the U.S.) there's a difference between four and for, and mourning and morning. I can't think of a regional dialect where those sound different to my ear.

"I've never considered myself to have an accent (except after a few pints but that's another matter)"

Actually, I believe "after a few pints" is probably the baseline for the Albany dialect.

@Code Monkey

Actually, I believe "after a few pints" is probably the baseline for the Albany dialect.

Ha. Too true! There's a quote in one of my local history books describing the old Dutch inhabitants of Albany as "drinking beer as soon as they're old enough to lick a spoon."


Before I came home to save Pine Hills, I was the outcast on the west coast. Certain words made it obvious, like off (awf), all (awl/Awlbany) and so on. People from Oklahoma and Georgia would tell me I sound like I'm from Brooklyn.

This is why I don't really understand our "accent". Some of us sound like people downstate and some of us don't. When I'm home, I notice there are definitely different accents even within the "Albany" accent. For instance, the Troy accent (head five minutes outside of Troy and tell me we sound the same, sounds like the Great Lakes/Western NY accent), the West Albany/Colonie accent (they like to drop the G for most verbs and add an S to other words for no apparent reason other than to sound like Appalachian mud-farmers, and the North Country accent (which is pretty much Canadian).

I moved to Albany in 1979, from lower Westchester county. The first thing I noticed was the

Merry / Mary / Marry situation.

People up here tend to pronounce all 3 words the same, as "Mary"....

I guess after all this time, I do it too....

A friend of mine from Buffalo pronounces Albany, El-ban-ee. We make fun of him all the time.

Very interesting! Thank you. I have lived here for six years, but it only took me a month to notice some locals accenting "tary" in elementary and documentary. I haven't heard that pronunciation from anyone save for folks from here.

Guy who is sharpshooting the examples-

If you aren't used to listening for differences in vowel sounds, then they can be hard to catch. Down south 'four' can sound something like 'faw-er' and 'for' can sound like 'fir'. I agree though, that isn't the best example. Really listen to the way people pronounce 'caught' though, that is a better one.

Being from Central NY, I've been told I have a hick or country accent by people from Albany. I always use a hard 'aye' sound when saying words like man, dan, sand, etc. Even words like 'Tom' come out like 'Tam'.

My immigrant mother and family didn't help either, if it ends in a 'th' it's going to come out like a 'v'. "Can I have fries wiv that?"

I'm from southwest CT. When we moved here I was pleasantly surprised to find that folks here sound just like me. Or maybe my "ear" is too unsophisticated to hear the difference. I don't think you guys sound like Brooklynites at all. Yo.

Mr. Dave, I get that -- but I'd say they're doin' it wrong. So maybe yours is a better example, where words that most would think shouldn't be pronounced the same ("for" and "fir" or perhaps even "fur") are. I'd listen to the vowel sounds, but my mind gets dazzled with wonder at how many syllables a single-syllable word can be drawn into.

Years ago there was a similar article citing Mayor Frank Duci as one of the prime examples of Schenectady accent and idiom, as he inserted "take and" before every action: "I'm gonna take and go to the grocery store." Then I found myself saying it and wondered if it had always been there, locked into my Schenectady County genetic code.

I grew up in Binghamton, and I find that the examples given above are true of me and people I know from there as well.
I also had a friend point out the other day that I say "room" as "rum", especially when attached to another word (like bedroom), which is apparently common to do in this area.

I've never really noticed an Albany accent, probably because the Philadelphia one I had/have is a lot more noticeable. What I have noticed is that up here people add t's to the ends of words that do not have them. Across not acrosst! That one drives me nuts, but who am I to talk. I grew up saying wooder instead of water. :-)

I too noticed the Binghamton accent when I lived there.

The Dictionary of American Regional English is just releasing its final volume--may be of interest!

I moved here from western Illinois about 12 years ago and now when I go home for a visit, I'm accused of having a thick accent, but now that I hear my family talk, I think they have an accent. After merciless teasing from my ex after moving out here, I dropped the R in wash and squash (yes, I know, 'what r?'). I also soda instead of pop now. I tary in elementary as well. I pronounce all of the vowels in caught.

Unlike some of my Hudson Valley friends, though, I do not keep my clothes in a 'draw'.

CNYer here, been in Albany for 8 years. Refuse to trade in my "ruff" for roof. :) I notice the CNY accent much more now when visiting with family...and can't help but pick it right back up again. Also tends to come back when I am arguing a point in a discussion or after a few drinks. Interesting stuff!!

My wife is from Cooperstown and I never notice her accent until she says "legs". Sounds like she is ordering eggs in France: "l'eggs".

I always get in trouble for trying to trick her into saying it. Makes me laugh every time though.

I live in Albany and work in western Mass. and even though it is only an hour away it is totally different. They say "idear", "wicked" everything, "Auhhhhhnt" instead of "Ant" for your mother's sister. It's not quite Boston, but it is definetely different from Albany.

I'm confused... I'd like to see a video of someone pronouncing hoarse/horse, mourning/morning, four/for, and merry/Mary/marry and have them all sound differently *without* an obvious accent.

I don't think it's possible! Having the variations all sound alike is what constitutes a blank / newscaster accent. That's why - to me - Albany barely has an accent at all.

BUT, I definitely say elemenTARY and documenTARY, though! My friends from other states laughed at it... but it's even taught that way in schools around here!

Re: Ironweed
So true! I watched the movie and thought, "they sound just like my grandparents!"

Re: Mary/Merry/Marry
My name is "Kerry," so I really, really know what you're talking about. In fact, my father and his side of the family pronounce my name how it's spelled, but my mom and her side say "Karey." So do I. Weird, right?

Several years ago, a friend from Arizona was telling me about a movie called "Cot." I just couldn't understand the reason for that title.

Turns out, he was telling me about "Caught."

What about the ON sound instead of UN in words like "undeserving" or "unclean". I moved back to Albany after a 4 or 5 year stay in Tennessee so my accent is all sorts of screwed up, but I hear that ON sound in those words all the time.

This is really interesting! I've had numerous debates with people who have lived in the region all their lives about the pronunciation of some words. The biggest example that comes to mind is the pronunciation of "Stewarts" shops. I notice lots of people who don't articulate the "ew" and it sounds like they're saying "storts," with an ever so slight "u" sound near the "o."

What about how some people around here tend to pluralize store names. Target's instead of Target, or Walmart's instead of Walmart. That one's really odd.

Wowzers, y'all.

I just had to point this out due to personal experience: I had a VERY pronouned accent when I went off to college in Virginia after 10 years in Dutchess and Putnam. (if it ended in "-ing," it sounded like "ink".) I sounded SO different that I worked hard to turn myself into a newscaster -- someone with no accent. After twenty years in the south I did get a bit of a drawl on me, though I didn't ever get rid of the Mary/merry/marry thing.

Now that I'm back it's combining with old pronunciations and makes me sound, well, even weirder than when I started.

Glad to know I'm not the only one interested in this.

@derryX -- Stewart's is two syllables, isn't it?

@Paul: Where I grew up, Philadelphia, is one of the few places with the 3 distinct pronunciations of Merry/Mary/Marry.
Merry- pronouced like cherry not chairy. The e is like the e it get.
Mary- like hairy, or better yet Schoharie, The a is more like ai.
Marry- Like carry, not care-y the a is like the a in hat.
It's hard to describe in written form but there is a way to make them 3 distinct words.

@Chrissy It is hard to describe in writing. No way I can make Merry, Mary, and Marry sound different even with your cherry, hairy, and carry all have the same sounds too. (chairy too for that matter). My linguistic pedigree is mixed as hell: father from northern NJ, mother for VA eastern shore, lived in Schenectady until I was 6 and then in western VA until college.

I once new a woman whose name was spelled "M-A-R-Y" who insisted it was to be pronounced "murry" (or is that "murray?"). She would get angry with anyone who called her "Mary."

Very interesting! Last year, I recorded a "dialect vlog" for my blog, and pronounced a list of various words. If you want some real fun, head to YouTube and search "Dialect Vlog" - you'll see/hear some really interesting accents.


I read this article a few hours ago, and now I can't stop listening to my coworkers' speech patterns and pronunciation, instead of actually listening to what everyone's saying.

It's making me very un-merry. Or un-Mary. Or un-marry. THEY ALL SOUND THE SAME NOW.

I'm not from here, so one thing I noticed is the dropping of Ts when a word ends in "nter." So turn Center into Cenner (e.g., Cenner Square, Colonie Cenner) or Winter into Winner. Interview to Innerview. Printer to Prinner. But it seems to be a selective dropping of Ts. I haven't done any research though. Is Hunter turned into Hunner, or Banter to Banner? What about Encounter to Encounner? Maybe it's just some folks being lazy with enunciation.

@G: "What about how some people around here tend to pluralize store names. Target's instead of Target, or Walmart's instead of Walmart. That one's really odd. "

I don't think that's a dialect or accent thing. That's an intelligence thing.

@Chrissy - Like BobF said, my pronunciation of cherry (and chair-y!), hairy, and carry are all the same, so I was almost unable to figure out what you were getting at - until you said marry should be pronounced with an 'a' as in 'hat'.

But, the only way I can do that is if I'm pretending to be British ;)

@G and Shannon: How about people who pluralize "you" and make it "yous". In a sentence; "How are yous doing today?" Seems to be common around here.

@G: I've always figured the "Walmart's" thing comes from the prevalence of family-named stores (Macy's, Bloomingdale's, and so on). I suspect it was much more popular in the early to mid 20th century. And even though it's fallen out of favor, the pattern seems to have ingrained itself in the culture. People think (store name) and their brains tack on a 's. ("Walmart's" does grate.)

@N: I came across the use of "yous" (or however it's spelled) in doing a little bit of background for this post. Apparently it comes from Slavic.

About the pluralizing of stores: This is generally considered, I believe, to be a New England-based thing. "Friendly's" started out as "Friendly" and they added the plural due to popular usage. That said, my father (originally from Rochester) does this all the time as do many people around here.

@JGold (regarding "Cenner", etc): I spent the first 20 years of my life in Clifton Park and I do this pretty much as a rule - but didn't realize it until I read your comment. Center, interview, printer all missing that hard T. Also "mint", "print" do not have the T separately pronounced.

Elementary is 50/50 the way I say it, but in the cases I don't use the "-TARY", I say it "Elemenerry." Also documentary is always "documennery", not "documenTery."

@Greg: Also, the "yuz" is a Philadelphia area import. "How yuz doin'?" Also popular in other area locales (Baltimore, Allentown, South Jersey.)

The "Walmart's" and "Target's" thing really grates on me, but then again I grew up in Maine and have always referred to L.L. Bean as "Bean's". At least in that case it is justified because the name is derived from the original owner's name, as in it was Leon L. Bean's store. That's obviously not the case with Walmart and Target.

On the subject of collective nouns, I'm very lucky I didn't pick up y'ins from an early western Pennsylvania upbringing.

Someone had a photo of one of the CDTA bus' route signs saying Walmarts.

I knew a woman from Boston - we were both recent college grads, working at the same paper. She was planning a trip home for the holidays and worried her friends would make fun of her accent shift as she'd spent a year here and speech patterns were rubbing off: "I'm staaaating to say caRR."

I'd say the Albany accent is pretty mild. My observation of it suggests that it is coming to more resemble the downstate accent over the last 30 years or so. The 'awl' vs 'all' makes me crazy. And the encroachment of 'axe' instead of 'ask' really makes me nuts.

As a guy raised in the no accent part of the midwest, central NY, and Northern Ireland by parents raised in Watertown, Ct, N. Florida, and Cape Cod, folks say I really don't have much of an accent. Even the Irish said I don't 'sound like much of a Yank'. Until I start speaking German. Taught German by a woman from NE Germany, and my mum, who learned German in Switzerland (Sussedeutch) with a Southern US accent, the Germans can't figure out where the heck I am from. :)

Anyway, yins all enjoy the weekend, now, ya'hear!

This post is awesome (with an emphasis on the "w"). I have lived in the City of Albany (Awlbnee) for all of my 27 years except for a four year stint for college in Boston (Bawwstin).

I am often asked where I from. Some people think Brooklyn. Some people from college from NYC also thought I was from there. People from the suburbs around here do as well.

I have never been to Brooklyn or any other borough notwithstanding Manhattan (The most I have ever been there at a time was one day).

Go figure!

The elemenTARY thing is big around Burnt Hills.

I'm from 'south Canada" (way North VT), lived all over (Cali, MD, etc), went to college in Michigan, lived in Virginia (Hampton Roads/Tidewater area) for 11 yrs, and am now married to a native Long Islander from the South Shore and we moved here just under 2 months ago....

The 's' added to Walmart, etc., is not just a HERE thing, we saw it in Michigan, too - it was blamed on former Kentuckians who came up to MI to work in the auto plants in the 40s, 50s, etc... They came to work for the 'Fords'... that was the thinking... lol

And as for the 'yous'? I am married to one - he loves the word (I personally love the 'y'all' from the South, very compact, and can be added to, e.g., 'all y'all', very, very convenient). Grew up saying it on LI, so it's certainly not just from Philly, for example...

I have not yet encountered much of what everyone is describing, but I am certainly looking out for it... :) And no, I don't have an accent, what native Vermonter would? ;)

Listeners had the opportunity to hear Albany mispronounced (then corrected) on NPR's Weekend Edition (Sun. Nov. 20). Audie Cornish mispronounced, and immediately doubted her own pronunciation, in an interview with one of her former teachers. The teacher (who lives in this area) corrected her.

Was out of town this week, so I might be joining this conversation a little late.

That isogloss map looks holistically correct, though its resolution on a town-by-town level is low. Any piece on dialectology should also refer to Labov, Ash, & Boberg's Atlas of North American English. It's published, online with a free demo version (reg + password required) with playable links from their Telsur database, by De Gruyter. It is known as the gold standard on dialects of American English.

The dialect surrounding Albany New York - considered by sociolinguists to be in the Western New England dialect - is one of the lesser-researched dialects in the ANAE. To remedy this, recent UPenn PhD recipient Aaron Dinkin has worked with Labov and written his dissertation on the location of the isogloss boundary between the Inland North dialect and Western New England. The Inland North is characterized by the Northern Cities Shift, which is what makes Rochester vowel so different. Albany is different from the rest of Western New England because of the explicit influence of the NYC split-a system. A copy of Dinkin's abstract, dissertation, and a summary handout are located on his website.

When I sojourned in Arizona for five years, my husband (from AZ) always made fun of my accent. Admittedly, some of what I have I picked up from having a grandmother from northern New Jersey, but he mostly noticed the following;

I turn T's into D's, saying "butter" "button" "curtains" "water" as "budder" "buddin" "curdins" "wudder".

I pronounce some O's like "ah" - as in "forest" "orange" and "Florida" as "farrest" "arringe" and "Flarrida".

What Chrissy was saying about the Philadelphia accent is very true. I am from the Philadelphia suburbs originally...then I lived in Albany for a few years as a young child in the early to mid 80s and I remember thinking people up there spoke a bit differently, but no strong accent. Now I live in Reading, PA...which has a lot of similarities to Philadelphia English, but some of the old folks still have the old Pennsylvania Dutch (German) accent going on. I don't have any really strong accent personally, my mom has a thick Philadelphia accent going on. I do say coughee instead of far as Mary, Marry, Merry...Chirssy was right about the Philadelphia pronunciations. Marry is like carry. Merry is like cherry! I can't imagine it being any other way. A lot of Philadelphians pronounce the word bury like murray or curry. People in South Jersey and even Northern Delaware sound much like Philadelphians btw...ya don't really hear the NY accent till you get toward north Jersey. And YOUS is heard ALL OVER southeastern Pennsylvania...prob even in South Jersey. I personally hate YOUS, sounds very bad in my opinion. I also saw someone here mention y'all...I also love yall...I think northerners should start saying it, it's a very convenient way of talking! Thanks everyone.

I notice the accent, I'm from Binghamton, but I'm living in PA now, and people always point it out. I say the 'elemenTARY' and 'documenTARY' thing. A few other things I've notice are I say syrup like 'sur-up', most people in PA pronounce it 'seer-up', my vowels are really defined, I also pronouce aunt like 'auwnt' unlike the people in PA who pronounce it as 'ant', and finally I call my 'basement' the 'cellar' and that always catches my friends attention

This being in recent comments drew me back again - such a fun read.

Ed, my husband is from the South Jersey/Philly area and his "bury" sounds like Murray. Drives me bonkers and I tease him mercilessly for it.

I am from the south and hear about my "southern accent" all the time even though to my ears I dont have an accent and neither does anyone else around me (for the most part). I have a friend from Oklahoma that used to make fun of the way I say "why" all the time. However I also have a friend from Upstate NY that I make fun of all the time for saying "alls" instead of all. I guess its all in what you're used to hearing.

People always tell me that I talk (tawk) funny. Even people from around here even though I've lived here my whole life. I say "ahrenge" instead of "or-range" "flahrida" for "florida" "Hahrrible" for "horrible" I also say "tawk" "dawg" and the like. Is that an Albany accent? My folks are from Brooklyn so maybe I cawght it from them, or maybe thats what we here sound like? I'm not sure. Most people from around here move when they can, so I'm not sure how many awthentic Awbany accents are left.

i have been attacked for my pronunciation of fire.

i feel vindicated. i feel albany.

Paul Grondahl's profile of Jerry Jennings in the December 29 TU refers to Jennings' pronunciation of the city as AWW-bunny. That is exactly right.

Old topic but I wanted to mention the distinctive accent of baby boomers and older. Examples are words ending with"ank" sound like "ahy-unk" with the Y being softened. - thanks, bank, tank, all sound like bhayunk, tayunk, thayunks. My in-laws born born and raised in Albany as were many older folk from my home town of Watervliet. Anyone else notice this?

I am from Baltimore, Md, which has its own accent, and I have relatives in Delmar. I noticed that they stretched their vowels, so that pool sounds like poo-ol same with schoo-ol. They pronounce aster simple to the a in pecan...which has its own pe-can pronunciation. My cousins are of irish descent, so that probably has a huge influence since their relatives lived closer to Schenectady.

When I went to school in the Finger Lakes, there was a local guy who pronounced tired similar to an irish pronunciation....and I heard Forked Lake pronounced as for-ked lake....not Fork'd lake. Fascinating linguistic variances....

I went to Birchwood Elementary (el-uh-MEN-tree) School just over the Albany Co. line in eastern Niskayuna. I've shown how it was pronounced there in the 50s & 60s. Perhaps things have changed since then, but I don't recall ever hearing el-uh-men-TARY..

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