back to index

Map 1: marry-merry-Mary tense-lax neutralization in New England, using data from LANE. Triangles denote speakers who distinguish Mary and merry only through diphthongization in the former but not in the latter.

The greatest concentrations of tense-lax neutralization in New England are located in the western portion of the region, except for an area of prevalent TLN in coastal New Hampshire and the adjacent portion of Maine. Nagy (2001) shows that, nowadays, TLN is widespread across all of the southern part of New Hampshire, and attributes it to accelerated differentiation of the speech of New Hampshire residents from that of culturally dominant Boston as a way of emphasizing New Hampshire regional identity. In this data, gathered 60 years or more prior to Nagy's study, the corner of New Hampshire and Maine closest to Boston unexpectedly shows TLN; I hypothesize that this represents an early stage of that differentiation.