New exhibit features New York City accents and languages that are fading away

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Tim Fleischer reports from the Lower East Side. (WABC)

There are some people who think each borough has its own unique accent.

According to a new exhibit, the experts say "Forget about it!"

The city is a melting pot, a gorgeous mosaic of different races, descendants of immigrants, and those who are native born, all crowding the streets speaking many languages.

"Sometimes it's aggressive, sometimes it's fast, sometimes it sounds like trying to sell them something," a city resident said.

"They pick me out right away, 'You're from New York,'" a city resident said.

In a rare exhibition at City Lore Gallery on East 1st Street, "Mother Tongues, Endangered Languages in New York City and Beyond" explores the estimated 800 languages spoken here.

"New York is something of a linguistic Noah's ark. Where you have a ton of languages that might not survive this century," said Daniel Kaufman, the executive director at City Lore Gallery.

Interactive exhibits showcase different cultural backgrounds.

"I'm not politically correct. I've been known to say a curse or two once in a while," said Dr. Daniel Ricciardi, an Italian from Brooklyn.

"We had a spelling test and one of the words was 'idea'. So I go, 'I-D-E-A-R.' Idear," said Amy Keckerling, a Jewish woman from the Bronx.

Daniel Kaufman with the Endangered Language Alliance, a sponsor, also speaks of distinct New York accents once widely spoken but fading away.

"The most famous example is thoudy thoud and thoud dialect. That is a feature of the pronunciation or 'er' as 'ouy' which faded away a long time ago," Kaufman said.

But, not Eddie Falcon who still speaks a well-known dialect.

"We speak English and Spanish. We mix it up. (Spanglish?) Right. Right. We never pronounce the English words right. Like instead of saying 'shopping' we say 'chopping'," Falcon said.

"There's a New York accent!" said Valencia Casimir, a Haitian native.

"What does that sound like?" Eyewitness News asked.

"For me it's not very nice," Casimir said.

Others see it disappearing.

"'Dees' and 'does' and 'turlet'. That kind of stuff. But most of those people died off and young people don't talk that way anymore," said Rita Lisar, an Ohio native.

"Now it's kind of fading away, giving way to newscaster English or standard American dialect English," Kaufman said.

For more information on the exhibit please visit:

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