Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Canadian English is the form of English used in Canada, spoken as a first or second language by over 25 million Canadians (as recorded in the 2001 census ). Canadian English spelling is a mixture of U.S. and British, but Canadian speech is much closer to U.S. English, with some French influence.
There is no universally accepted standard of Canadian spelling. Canadian Press (CP) style, which is used by most Canadian newspapers, agrees with some Commonwealth usage: for example, -our (honour, colour, endeavour), -re (centre, theatre) and cheque, grey, jewellery, pyjamas, storey and sulphur. But in other cases, American spelling is used: for example, aluminum, artifact, jail, curb, program, specialty, tire, and carburetor. A Canadian would watch a television program, as in the United States, but would read the programme at a concert or theatrical performance, as in British English. A business-history explanation for some Canadian spelling rules is possible. For instance, the British spelling of the word cheque probably relates to Canada's once-important ties to British financial institutions. Canada's car industry, on the other hand, has been dominated by American firms from its inception, explaining why Canadians use the American spelling of tire and American terminology for the parts of a car.
A plausible contemporary reference for formal Canadian spelling is the spelling used for Hansard transcripts of the Canadian Parliament. Many Canadian editors, though, use the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2004), often along with the chapter on spelling in Editing Canadian English and, where necessary (depending on context) one or more of the other references listed in this article's "Further Reading" section.
The primary aspect is a feature called "Canadian raising," when diphthongs are raised before voiceless consonants. For example, whereas many American dialects pronounce the first diphthongs in the words writer and rider the same, a Canadian will pronounce them (approximately) as and /ɹajɾəɹ/ (in IPA transcription). That is, the first part of the diphthong in both words in American English is ahh as in father; the first part of the diphthong in writer in Canadian English is uhh as in cut, a higher vowel than the American usage. However, some American English accents, particularly those near Ontario, speak like this. Note also that Canadian English shares with American English the phenomenon where /t/ and /d/ become /ɾ/ after a vowel and before an unstressed vowel. Canadian raising preserves the voicelessness of /t/ and the voicedness of /d/ where it is etymologically appropriate, even where the contrast is lost in the consonant itself.
Similarly, about will be raised from /əˈbaʊt/, as it is in American "Atlantic" dialect, to /əˈbʌʊt/ ("abuhwt"), or nearly even /əˈboʊt/ ("aboat") in some dialects. The stereotypical "aboot" pronunciation, lampooned in the American television series South Park is not usual; the stereotype may derive from an interpretation of the "aboat" pronunciation as heard by someone who is used to the much lower "abaut" pronunciation, or from a misinterpretation of the spelling of the "word" aboot.
Anecdotally, the "abuhwt" or even "a-beh-oot" vowels are heard in Ontario and further east, and the "aboat" vowels are heard in the Western provinces. Also heard are: "can't", in Ontario, almost "kayant," whereas in the west, it becomes more "kahnt."
A recently identified feature (1995) found among many Canadians is a chain shift known as the Canadian Shift. This is not found in the Atlantic Provinces, east of Quebec; it is only found in Ontario and further west. For people with this shift, "cot" and "caught" merge in rounded [ɒ] position. The short-a of "bat" then moves down to [a], while the short-e of "bet" becomes [æ], which is short-a in other accents. This shift is still a relatively new phenomenon, so not all Canadians have it. And of the ones that do, not all have the last stage. Canadians without the Shift typically pronounce "cot" and "caught" as an un-rounded [ɑ], as in the western United States.
There is a tendency to monophthongize the long "a" and "o" sounds, resulting in /beːt/ for "bait" and /boːt/ for "boat" (though this occurs usually in rapid speech). Finally, the broad /ɑ/ of foreign loan words in words like "drama" or "Iraq" are usually pronounced like the short "a" of "bat": /dɹæmə/, /ɪɹæk/.
Americans sometimes claim to be able to recognize some Canadians instantly by their use of the word eh. However, only a certain usage of eh (detailed in the article) is peculiar to Canada. It is common in southern Ontario, the Maritimes and the Prairie provinces. In some parts of the United States, American English exhibits features of Canadian English, including Canadian Raising and the use of eh. Canadian accents are sometimes detected among Michiganders and their northern fellows.
Where Canadian English shares vocabulary with other English dialects, it tends to share most with American English. For instance, automotive terminology in Canada is entirely American. Canadians may prefer the British term railway to the American railroad, but most railway terminology in Canada follows American usage (eg., ties, as well as cars rather than sleepers and carriages). Given the number of cross-border railways, this makes sense.
However, some terms in standard Canadian English are shared with Commonwealth English, but not with American English. These include:
- Tory for a supporter of the federal Conservative Party of Canada, the historic Progressive Conservative Party of Canada or a provincial Progressive Conservative party
- solicitor and barrister for lawyers (although in Canada, a lawyer is usually referred to as a barrister or a solicitor only in formal and professional usage; the American "lawyer" "attorney" or "counsel" predominates in everyday contexts. In the British system, the solicitor and barrister are two different people; in Canada, the same lawyer occupies both roles but will often use terms like "Barrister and Solicitor", or "QC" [Queen's Counsel, an honour given in some provinces for a certain level of experience] as formal or official titles.)
- bum for the American "butt" (the two words coexist in Canadian English, and bum is most commonly used as a polite or childish euphemism)
- busker for a street performer
- tin (as in tin of tuna) rather than can.
- arse is commonly used in Atlantic Canada. West of the Ottawa river, ass is more idiomatic.
Several lexical items come from British English, such as lieutenant (/lɛf-/) and light standard (an obsolete British word for lamp-post). Several political terms are uniquely Canadian, including riding (a parliamentary constituency or electoral district) and to win by acclamation (to win uncontested).
- alcool: grain alcohol; everclear (pronounced as if English, "al-cool")
- CÉGEP (Collège d'enseignement général et professionnel): a two- or three-year pre-university or professional college (Quebec only)
- dépanneur: a corner store (convenience store), shortened to "dep" (Québec only)
- poutine: a dish made with home-made french fries (or chips) and melted cheese curds topped with gravy
- serviette: a table napkin (common in British English and Australian English)
- Society of Alcohols: the Société des alcools du Québec, a liquor store. Often called the SAQ (Pronounced "sack" or "ess eh cue") by anglophones. (Québec only)
- tuque: a close-fitting woolen winter hat (the spelling toque is assimilated from a different kind of hat)
- historical and political terms such as voyageur, Automatiste, Quiet Revolution, péquiste, bloquiste
Canadian English also has its own words not found in other variants of English. In 1998, Oxford University Press produced a Canadian English dictionary, after five years of lexicographical research, called The Canadian Oxford Dictionary; a second edition was published in 2004. It listed uniquely Canadian words, words borrowed from other languages and surveyed spellings, such as whether colour or color was the most popular choice in common use.
In Canada, the word 'premier', as meant to be the leader of a provincial or territorial government, is pronounced "prem - yare" or "preem - yehr" in most places, as opposed to the United States, where it is pronounced "prem ear. Premiere, (the first showing of a movie), is pronounced the same in Canada as the rest of the world.
Uniquely Canadian English words include:
- Allophone: a resident of Quebec who speaks a first language other than English or French
- chesterfield (also Northern Californian English): a sofa, couch, or loveseat
- parkade: parking garage
- garburator: a garbage disposal unit located beneath the drain of a kitchen sink
- gettone (in Toronto and environs): foosball; pronounced roughly as in Italian
- Grit: a member or supporter of one of the federal or provincial Liberal parties (but not the Quebec Liberal Party)
- Dipper (or 'kneedipper'): a member or supporter of the New Democratic Party
- Blochead: a member of the Bloc Québécois
- Family Compact: a group of influential families who exercised substantial political control of Ontario during part of the 1800s
- a Robertson: a Canadian square-headed screw or screwdriver. While this is used outside of the country for that screw head type, the screws are much less common.
- a 'timmy': a cup of coffee ('Timmy's' being the doughnut chain Tim Hortons, named for a hockey player)
- trousseau tea: a reception held by the mother of a bride, for neighbours not invited to the wedding
- yogourt: a unique spelling of yoghurt which is used in both English- and French-Canada
- bachelor suite: a one room apartment with a small kitchen and a bathroom
- pencil crayon: elsewhere called a "colored (or coloured) pencil"
- shit disturber: a person who tends to create controversy or chaos
- back bacon: elsewhere called "Canadian bacon"
- brown bread: whole wheat bread
- homo milk: whole (homogenized) milk
- butter tart: a single serving, sweet pie, often with raisins
- Kraft dinner: known elsewhere as "Kraft macaroni and cheese"
- Nanaimo bar: a confection named for the town of Nanaimo, British Columbia
- whitener: powdered non-dairy additive for coffee or tea
- loonie and toonie: Canadian one- and two-dollar coins
- keener: an enthusiastic student, not necessarily a positive term
- Joe job: a low-status, low-skill task
- lineup: called a queue in British English and a line in American English
- Ski-Doo : a brand name now used generically to refer to any snowmobile. Can also be used as a verb.
- snowbird: a Canadian who spends the winter in the States (often Florida). Often retired.
There are a few meaning differences between Canadian and American English; for example, to table a document in Canada is to present it, whereas in the U.S. it means to withdraw it from consideration.
Canadians mostly use the term 'gasoline', rather than the British term 'petrol'. Gasoline prices require some awkward translation between Canadian and American figures. Even before the metrication efforts of the 1970s, the translation of "dollars per gallon" required not only replacing Canadian vs. American currencies but also a conversion between Imperial (4.5 l) vs. US (3.8 l) gallons.
When pronouncing letters of the alphabet, Canadians will almost invariably use the Anglo-European (and French) "zed" rather than the American "zee" for the letter Z. Canadian students add "grade" before their grade level, instead of after it as is the more usual—but not the sole—American practice. For example, a student in "10th grade" in America would be in "Grade 10" in Canada. (Quebec anglophones may instead say "sec 5" (secondary 5) for Grade 11.) It should also be noted that in Canada, the specific high school grade (eg. Grade 9 or Grade 12) or university year is used and not American terms such as "freshman" or "sophomore". Also, while in the United States the term "college" refers to post-secondary education in general, the term "college" in Canada has different meanings, referring to either a post-secondary technical or vocational institutions, or to the colleges that exist as individual institutions within some Canadian universities. Most often, "college" is a community college, not a university. In Quebec, the word "college" is used to refer to CÉGEP. "College student" is Canada might denote someone obtaining a diploma in plumbing; "university student" is the term for someone earning a BA. The word "school" in Canada also has a broader meaning: it can be used to refer to high school, community college, educational institute, or university. A Canadian pursuing a Bachelor's degree at university may say they are "going to school." In the United States, a parent might say "my child is in school at this moment." In Canada, the pupil would be "at school."
Past participles also tend to be used differently in Canada and the United States. In general, Canadian English speakers will tend to say "the cookies are burnt"; Americans will say "the cookies are burned."
There is also greater resistance to turning nouns into verbs in Canada. Until recently, many Canadian teachers rejected the verb to contact.
Adoption of metric units is more advanced in Canada than in the US due to governmental efforts during the Trudeau era; while Canadians still often use pounds, feet and inches to measure and weigh themselves, outdoor temperatures, food packaging, fuel and highway speeds/distances are almost always metric.
The Bob & Doug McKenzie "Take off to the Great White North" comedy routines, popular in the early 1980s, drew heavily on linguistic differences such as pronunciation (such as 'Trona' for Toronto or 'brudle' for brutal, eh?) as well as once-obscure historical terms such as "hoser" or "hosehead" (originally used to refer to gas siphoning on the prairies in the depression era).
The province of Newfoundland and Labrador, which was an independent dominion until April 1 1949, has its own dialect distinct from Canadian English. (See Newfoundland English.) Just as regional accents within Canada have become less distinct, Canadian English has tended to converge with American English. With each passing generation, Canadian English has evolved towards a common North American English.
The English spoken in Toronto is very close to the English spoken elsewhere in Southern Ontario, but there are differences. Because of the many immigrants who live in the city, among them Chinese, Asian, Russian, and Italian, there are many words originating from these areas that are added into the language. There is no standard spelling but most follow the -our and -re spellings. There are also many street slangs imported from America and the Caribbean. Regional variations include:
The Ottawa valley has its own distinct accent, and is known as the Ottawa Valley Twang.
- diphthong pronounced [↑ɪ]
- Cape Breton Island has a distinct dialect due to settlement by speakers of Acadian French and Scottish Gaelic. See the article on Cape Breton accent.
- loss of non-prevocalic r
- faster speech tempo
- use of "Eh?" interrogative
- Newfoundland English is a distinct dialect of the language with its own pronunciation and vocabulary. Please refer to that article for more information.
- among native Montreal anglophones, a distinction between /æ/ and /a/, unique in Canada, so that Mary and merry are not homophones
- subtle Canadian raising, although in Ontario it is often quite strong
- in southwestern Ontario (especially rural areas), some speakers also have aspects of the Midwestern US accent, e.g. "not" sounds like "naht" (/nɔt/ → /nat/), combined with Canadian raising (see USA below).
- Many speakers in Ontario and the provinces further west have a new chain shift called the Canadian Shift. (see Canadian English)
- accent is slightly modified to signify sarcasm: "not" becomes a heavily stressed "nat", for example.
- in Ontario, widespread use of Eh? interrogative.
- more frequent voicing of intervocalic s – in resource, for example
- short a in words like drama; in common with most Canadians, Ontarians and Quebeckers pronounce words of foreign origin (Datsun, Mazda, etc.) as if the vowels are French.
- in Central Ontario (that is, the region around Toronto) in particular, voiced th and d are often not distinguished, the two pronunciations frequently appearing together (Do you want this one or dis one?, for example)
- strong Canadian raising, second syllable of "about" is pronounced [ʌʊ] rather than RP [aʊ].
The main distinction between Canadian (Prairie) pronunciation of this diphthong is in its resolution. Namely, an American pronunciation resolves the 'a-'sound [ɶ] (or, alternatively, the schwa sound ([ə]); please see external source http://www.m-w.com/pronsymbols.htm for explanation of this notation) resolves with an 'oo'-sound [u], as such: 'a bah oo t'; whereas the Canadian pronunciation resolves with an 'oh'-sound [ɔ], as such: 'a bah oh t'.
- "sing-song" intonation
- use of "Eh?" interrogative is found more often in the east of Canada, however people in the west tend to say "hey" as a replacement.
- Varieties of English: Canadian English from the University of Arizona
- Cornerstone's Canadian English Page
- Oxford University Press's Canadian English Dictionary
- Canadian Oxford Dictionaries
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Words: Woe & Wonder
- ProperTreatment: BritishVsAmerican
- WordWeb Online
- Canadian Glossary, eh! (A list of Canadian words and pronunciations)
- Lexical, grammatical, orthographic and phonetic Canadianisms
- World English Organization
- Harmless drudgery—but Canadian - Joe Clark's weblog entry about a recent talk by Canadian Oxford Dictionary editrix Katherine Barber (note that this Joe Clark is not the former Prime Minister of Canada)
- An American's Guide to Canada: Canadianisms
- Canadian Raising: O'Grady and Dobrovolsky, Contemporary Linguistic Analysis: An Introduction, 3rd ed., pp. 67-68.
- Canadian English: Editors' Association of Canada, Editing Canadian English: The Essential Canadian Guide, 2nd ed. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2000).
- Canadian federal government style guide: Public Works and Government Services Canada, The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998).
- Canadian newspaper and magazine style guides:
- J.A. McFarlane and Warren Clements, The Globe and Mail Style Book: A Guide to Language and Usage, 9th ed. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1998).
- The Canadian Press, The Canadian Press Stylebook, 13th ed. and its quick-reference companion CP Caps and Spelling, 16th ed. (both Toronto: Canadian Press, 2004).
- Canadian usage: Margery Fee and Janice McAlpine, Guide to Canadian English Usage (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2001).
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