ACTOR DIALECT RESOURCES
for the 2023 St. Louis Shakespeare Festival
The following is an outline of the voices and patterns of speech that we might hear from speakers in the Miami community. Accents are deeply personal, and this accent breakdown is not a generalization of all Cuban or Miami speakers, rather, one accent coach's perspective on common traits of pronunciation among speakers from these communities.
You will find that this breakdown is organized into five sections:
PEOPLE: A brief overview of the cultural context of Miami.
POSTURE: The articulatory "home base" for your accent. The characteristic pattern of use of the articulators.
PRONUNCIATION: The specific realization of sounds within the accents.
PROSODY: The music of the accent in terms of intonation, stress, pitch, rhythm, and tempo.
PRACTICE:Drill sentences for practicing your dialect and listening resources.
Miami is a coastal city located in Miami-Dade County in Southeastern Florida. It is the second most populous city in Florida, with a population of over 442,000. Miami and its suburbs are located on a broad plain between the Everglades to the west and Biscayne Bay to the east, which extends from Lake Okeechobee southward to Florida Bay. The main portion of the city is on the shores of Biscayne Bay, which contains several hundred natural and artificial barrier islands, the largest of which contains Miami Beach and South Beach. Miami is split roughly into north, south, west, and Downtown areas. The heart of the city is Downtown Miami, which is on the eastern side and includes the neighborhoods of Brickell, Virginia Key, Watson Island, as well as PortMiami.
I959, the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro came to power. What followed was a mass exodus of people from Cuba to Miami. Since the late 1960’s, Miami has become a mix of cultural influences. The city experienced a large population growth with neighborhoods known as Little Havana, which was established with over 500,000 Cuban-Americans. Prior to this population growth, the African-American and Caribbean population made up approximately one-third of the total population. The late 1970’s saw yet another immigration influx when over 100,000 Haitians and Nicaraguans fled their countries’ newly overthrown governments. Finally, in 1980, the Mariel boatlift transported an additional 150,000 Cubans to Miami.
Miami is the first U.S. city with a Spanish speaking majority. It is considered a truly bilingual city and is known as “The Gateway to Latin America.” Speaking Spanish in Miami does not have the same stigma as it might have in other parts of the country - Spanish speakers in Miami are empowered both economically and politically. Today, Cubans make up the third largest Hispanic group in the country. Most Cuban Americans live in the Miami area.
The Miami dialect is an evolving American dialect, not a second-language accent that has been unfolding in front of our eyes over the last 50 years. It is spoken by 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation native Miamians, many of whom are fully bilingual. Close contact with Spanish means the pronunciation is heavily influenced by the Spanish vowel system, and the musicality of the dialect shares prosodic features with Spanish.
Miami is a city that has welcomed immigrants from all over the world - Haiti, Nicaragua, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados, and Japan, to name just a few. There is also a large Jewish population. Little Havana - the heart of the Cuban diaspora - is centered around Calle Ocho. Many Cuban exiles settled here during the 1960s.