Some of you may be interested to know that Rhode Island colonists mostly spoke "non-rhotic" English. As I remember my research about this, (and I haven't today reviewed the various sources), non-rhotic English was and still is spoken in Rhode Island, a bit of New York, and a bit of Australia. It was a dialect of English which was spoken in seafaring communities in the south of England, and was traceable to the mid-15th century.
It was spoken of course in Rhode Island because Rhode Island was a premier seafaring province, populated mostly by poor working people who sociologically resembled those same types of families and occupations in seafaring southern England. As you know, Newport was a large important sea port in comparison to other colonies' ports, and I believe the largest city aside from Philadelphia. In the larger cities, where merchants and other oligarchs had higher sociological antecedents, they in general spoke a higher-order dialect of English. Because Rhode Island was mostly populated by poor and, for purposes of existence prone to piratical and smuggling endeavors, the more puritanical Massachusetts higher status folk were said to have called it "Rogues Island."
I myself speak a form of non-rhotic English, pronouncing for example; "cah" for "car," and "faught" for "fort." You see, we drop the "r", and hence, "non-rhotic" is the linguistic descriptor. All that said, coming from Rhode Island, and having worked in Boston, I also know that Boston is supposedly the hub of non-rhotic English, and often cited as the premier location for the replacement of the "r" with an "h" sound. I cannot therefore fathom why the linguist I primarily researched cited Rhode Island as the epicenter.
All this is by memory, and I may have overlooked something I had read when writing this. I would also add that I often speak and think in generalities. What is possible, or what anecdotes may argue against the generalities may arise are inconsequential to me. It is probability, not exception, that governs my reasoning.
English Language Spoken in Rhode Island
Sailors that did not serve in the navies of the world, or who also went to sea in a private capacity.
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- Ships Boy
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