Miami accent

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The Miami accent is an evolving American English accent or sociolect spoken in South Florida, particularly in Miami-Dade county, originating from central Miami. The Miami accent is most prevalent in American-born Hispanic youth who live in the Greater Miami area.[1]


The Miami accent developed amongst second- or third-generation Miamians, particularly young adults whose first language was English, but were bilingual. Since World War II, Miami's population has grown rapidly every decade, due in part to the post-war baby boom. In 1950, the U.S. Census stated that Dade County's population was 495,084. Beginning with rapid international immigration from South American countries and the Caribbean (exacerbated by the Cuban exodus of the early 1960s), Miami's population has drastically grown every decade since. Many of these immigrants began to inhabit the urban industrial area around Downtown Miami. By 1970, the census stated that Dade County's population was 1,267,792. By 2000, the population reached 2,253,362.[2] Growing up in Miami's urban center, second-, third-, and fourth-generation Miamians of the immigration wave of the 1960s and 1970s, developed the Miami accent.[1][3] It is now the customary dialect of many citizens in the Miami metropolitan area.


The Miami accent is a native dialect of English, not learner English or interlanguage. It is possible to differentiate this variety from an interlanguage spoken by second-language speakers in that the Miami accent generally lacks the following features: there is no addition of /ɛ/ before initial consonant clusters with /s/, speakers do not confuse /dʒ/ with /j/, (e.g., Yale with jail), and /r/ and /rr/ are pronounced as alveolar approximant [ɹ] instead of alveolar tap [ɾ] or alveolar trill [r] in Spanish.[4]

The Miami accent is based on a fairly standard American accent but with some changes very similar to dialects in the Mid-Atlantic (especially the New York area dialect, Northern New Jersey English, and New York Latino English.) Unlike Virginia Piedmont, Coastal Southern American, and Northeast American dialects (see section below), "Miami accent" is rhotic; it also incorporates a rhythm and pronunciation heavily influenced by Spanish (wherein rhythm is syllable-timed).[5]

Some specific features of the accent include the following:[6]

  • A lack of goat-fronting resulting in a backed /oʊ/ vowel
  • No goose-fronting except for after coronal consonants (/t/, /d/, /s/, /z/, /n/) in which case there is heavy fronting
  • Extreme foot-lowering from ʊ to a vowel somewhere between /ʌ/ (used in “cup”) and /ɔ/ (used in “thought”). This is possibly a new dialect feature.
  • Miami was previously a transitional area for the cot-caught merger but has recently been found to completely merge /ɑ/ and /ɔ/

Phonology and sounds of the Miami accent as reported in the Miami Herald:

The difference in the Miami sound lies primarily in the vowels, which have a certain affinity with Spanish pronunciation. English has 11 different vowel sounds, while Spanish only has five. English words like "man" and "hand" include a long nasal "A" sound that doesn't exist in Spanish. Miamians now pronounce these words with a subtly Spanish shading a bit more like "mahn" and "hahnd."

Miami's "L" is a bit different from the rest of the country's, too. Miamians tend to have a slightly heavier "L" — a bit more like the Spanish "L" — than most Americans. It can be heard in the way they drag the "Ls" in "Lauderdale" or "literally."

Rhythm is also a factor. In Spanish words, all syllables are equally long, while English syllables fluctuate in length. The difference is only milliseconds, but it's enough to be noticeable.[7]

Features of the Miami accent from a report on the Miami accent from WLRN Radio:

First, vowel pronunciation. In Spanish, there are five vowel sounds. In English, there are eleven. Thus, you have words like "hand," with the long, nasal "A" sound, pronounced more like hahnd because the long "A" does not exist in Spanish.

While most consonants sound the same in Spanish and English, the Spanish "L" is heavier, with the tongue sticking to the roof of the mouth more so than in English. This Spanish "L" pronunciation is present in Miami English.

The rhythms of the two languages are also different. In Spanish, each syllable is the same length, but in English, the syllables fluctuate in length. This is a difference in milliseconds, but they cause the rhythm of Miami English to sound a bit like the rhythm of Spanish.

Finally, "calques" are phrases directly translated from one language to another where the translation isn't exactly idiomatic in the other language. For example, instead of saying, "let's get out of the car," someone from Miami might say, "let's get down from the car" because of the Spanish phrase "bajar del coche".[8]

Lexical characteristics[edit]

Speakers of the Miami accent occasionally use "calques," which are idioms directly translated from Spanish that may sound syntactically unusual to other native English speakers. For example, instead of saying, "let's get out of the car," someone from Miami might say, "let's get down from the car," which is the standard expression in Spanish. Other Miami terms especially common among Miami youth, often called "slang," include:[9]

  • Chonga: a particular South Florida Hispanic female fashion and associated youth.
  • "Took the light": Running a yellow light in traffic.
  • "Open(ed) a hole": While most Americans say "Tear/tore a hole in" or "puncture(d)", it's literally "opened a hole" in Spanish (abrir un hueco) and Miami-accent English.
  • "Throw/threw a fart.": Resulting from the Spanish verb 'tirar' which means to throw or release.
  • "Otter Bond": The 'outer band' of a hurricane, used in Miami-accent English to describe the outer band of Hurricane Irma in 2017.
  • "Drink a pill": Take a pill, a direct translation of the Spanish phrase "tomar una pastilla", because the Spanish verb "tomar" can mean either to drink or to take depending on context.
  • "Come mierda": Literally "shit eater," a Spanish slang term generally equivalent to calling someone an idiot, fool or dumb ass.
  • "Eating shit": Literal translation of the Spanish term "comiendo mierda" which typically means that one is not doing anything of importance.
  • "Going on a mission": An exaggerated form of expressing exasperation over a difficult, time-consuming or annoying task.
  • "Getty": A shortening of "get together" commonly used by Miami millennials.
  • "Que bolá?": A slang term from Cuba which has no direct translation, but essentially means "What's up?"
  • "Fresco(a)": The word "fresh" used as an insult (usually) by older Cubans, to describe younger people who they deem to be "impudent and disrespectful".
  • "Could" in place of "can": The word "could" is conditional, but in Miami it's often used in place of "can" to describe something that one is allowed to do or able to do.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Watts, Gabriella. "Miami Accents: How 'Miamah' Turned Into A Different Sort Of Twang".
  2. ^ "Miami's Spanish-Speaking Population Outnumber English Speakers". Huffington Post. 2008-05-29.
  3. ^ "Miami Speaks Completely Differently From The Rest Of The Country".
  4. ^ "Miami Accents: How 'Miamah' Turned Into A Different Sort Of Twang". WLRN (WLRN-TV & WLRN-FM). Retrieved September 1, 2013.
  5. ^ "'Miami Accent' Takes Speakers By Surprise". Articles – June 13, 2004. Retrieved 2012-10-08.
  6. ^ Cerny, Jacob E. (May 2009). An In-Depth Phonetic Analysis of the Miami Dialect. Williams College.
  7. ^ "English in the 305 has its own distinct Miami sound -- The Miami Herald".
  8. ^ Watts, Gabriella. "Miami Accents: How 'Miamah' Turned Into A Different Sort Of Twang".
  9. ^ Kyle Munzenrieder. "Miami Slang Glossary: Pero Like, It's Super-Definitive, Bro". Miami New Times.

External links[edit]