One of the best-known pre-rhotic mergers is known as the Mary-marry-merry merger, which consists of the mergers before intervocalic /r/ of /æ/ and /ɛ/ with historical /eɪ/.This merger is quite widespread in North America. A merger of Mary and merry, while keeping marry distinct, is found in the South and as far north as Baltimore, Maryland, and Wilmington, Delaware; it is also found among Anglophones in Montreal.
If you pronounced Mary, merry and marry differently, you are from a) New York, b) England or c) Montreal.
"In English, variations tell you where people come from," says Linguistics professor Charles Boberg. As for the above sentence, most North American English speakers pronounce the words m/ary/erry/arry the same way, save for us Montrealers, who distinguish between "merry" and "marry," and our New York cousins, who differentiate them all, just like the British. ...
Boberg [has] broken down native English speakers in Montreal into three groups: the Anglo Montrealers of British descent, who predominantly live in the West Island, Westmount or NDG, or in pockets of Verdun or Pointe St. Charles; those with an East-European Jewish background, who have Yiddish as a base; and Mediterraneans of south European extraction, "like Italians who may not be fluent in Italian, but still use it at home."
Anglo Montrealers sound mostly like English speakers in the rest of Canada, Boberg says, but if you include native English speakers of Jewish or Italian descent, Montreal English sounds quite different.
"In Montreal, English is a minority language," Boberg says. There are two factors behind the variation in Montreal's English-speaking ethnic communities, he adds. "There is a weak English model, because French is dominant, and there's self-segregation in homogenous neighbourhoods."
"A dialect is distinguished by its vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation (phonology, including prosody). Where a distinction can be made only in terms of pronunciation, the term accent is appropriate, not dialect."
Can we all just get along and mock those who pronounce toilet as "terlet"?
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