If you will be spending some time in New York City, you might as well learn to speak like a New Yorker. While native New Yorkers are a rarity, the New York City accent is still widely found throughout the five boroughs, helping give the city much of its charm.

Learning the New York Accent

You will have no problem recognizing the accent as you have probably already heard it in cartoons or movies. While you may associate it with sleek gangsters or gritty and jaded police officers, the characteristics of the New York City accent make it quite a unique and interesting subject to study. If you want to impress the people back home and your friends that speak fluent English, or you just want to have a cool party trick, why not practice some of the accent’s more easily identifiable features.

Elusive “R”

The most recognizable, almost stereotypical New York pronunciation is the elusive “r.” Most commonly, the “r” consonant is not pronounced, especially when it is found in the middle of a word. The exception to this rule is when the “r” is situated at the end of a word or is followed by a vowel.

In the past, the silent “r” was considered a sign of immigrants or the lower class, therefore, it was stigmatized. While still popular, the number of New Yorkers that drop the “r” is dwindling.

Intrusive “R”

The intrusive “r” is a different phenomenon where the consonant attaches itself onto words that normally don’t include it. For example, the phrase “law and order” is sometimes pronounced as “lawr and order” or “idea” becomes “idear.”

Glottal Stop

Some linguists say the glottal stop is heavily influenced by the southern English and cockney accents. Within the United States, the greatest number of people using the glottal stop [ʔ] is centered in New York City.

The easiest way to spot the glottal sound is in the pronunciation of “bottle,” where the double “t” is replaced by the glottal sound. As it can be difficult to express what the glottal stop sounds like in writing, the best way to learn is to ask your PC TECH teacher for help or search for audio references on the Internet.

Intrusive “G”

Similar to the intrusive “r,” the intrusive “g” is one of the most stereotypical sounds found in the New York City accent. It is uncommon to all other regions of the United States and was once considered as a sign of the lower classes. The best example of the intrusive “g” can be heard when pronouncing “Long Island,” which is commonly heard as “Lawn Guyland.”

New York City's historical accent

Short “A” Split

Another typical New York pronunciation is the short “a” split which most of us will recognize from the cartoon character Bugs Bunny. When words include the “a” vowel, like “cab” or “avenue,” the “a” is sometimes pronounced as “i-uh,” resulting in “ki-uhb” for cab and “i-uhvenue” for avenue.

While in the past, the short “a” split was most commonly associated with New York City, nowadays, it is rare to hear even locals use it.

These examples are just some of the most recognizable characteristics of the New York City accent. By digging deeper, you will uncover a linguistic treasure trove of the city’s unique vocabulary, grammar, pronunciations, and sayings, as well as have a greater awareness of the historical, geographical, and social factors that created this endearing accent. With study and practice, even you can one day be mistaken as a native New Yorker.