The end of the New York accent?

There are obvious reasons why that would be happening, of course. Research shows that not all accents are created equal in the US — 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. What’s more, it’s not just non-New Yorkers who hold these views. New Yorkers themselves provide negative ratings of their own accent, a finding that caused prominent linguist William Labov in the 1960s to coin the term “linguistic insecurity.”

We see stigmatization not just in linguistic research but in portrayals of the accent in the media, where New York City accents are used by criminals or mobsters (“The Godfather”), comedians (“My Cousin Vinny,” “The Nanny”) and generally negative or unsavory characters (Archie Bunker in “All in the Family”).

But it wasn’t always this way. Linguists mark World War II as the turning point for the New York City accent. Before, the accent was prestigious, as was the dialect that has primarily influenced it, British English. After the war, we saw something of a flip and the beginnings of a growing stigma.