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Dialects of Canadian English

Different spins on the English language can be seen all across Canada. We look at eight of the most prevalent.

Dialects

Dialect is a regional speech pattern that is identified by pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. Every language has a range of dialects, and Canadian English is no exception. This massive country has many different regions and cultures that have affected the language over time. Eight different dialects can be found throughout Canada, and they are listed below.

Aboriginal Canadian English

Aboriginal Canadian English is the language as it has been manipulated over time by the non-English accents of First Nation languages. Because of its association with indigenous groups, people who do not belong to the First Nations culture often mock this dialect. It is often related to the final stages of merging with standard English. Recently, aboriginal youth has picked up on African American vernacular. This language is mainly spoken throughout the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon provinces.

Cape Breton English

Cape Breton is a Canadian island belonging to the Nova Scotia province. Due to its isolation from the mainland, this island has its own dialect. Cape Breton English is spoken by the people here, the majority of whom are descendants of Highland Scottish, Irish, and French Acadian. Characteristics of this dialect include an almost “th” sound when pronouncing the “s” and a shortened “a” sound. Common jargon includes referring to everyone as “boy” which is pronounced more like “bye”.

Lunenburg English

Lunenburg English is spoken in Lunenburg County of the Nova Scotia province. This dialect was heavily influenced by German settlers and has a distinct pronunciation. The “r” dropped after stressed syllables, pronouncing “v” instead of “w”, and “d” in place of “th”. Much of the jargon is based on direct German translations. Some common phrases include saying “get awake” to mean “wake up” and shortening “all gone” to simply “all.”

Newfoundland English

Newfoundland English is spoken in the Newfoundland and Labrador province and the Prince Edward Island. The dialect was influenced by the British colony that was here until 1907. Newfoundland English is full of unique expressions like “where ya at?” to mean “where are you?”, “you’re some crooked” for “you’re grouchy”, and “fadder” or “me fadder” for “my father.”

Ottawa Valley English

The Ottawa Valley dialect is spoken along the Ottawa River which runs from the northwest of Montreal through Ottawa city and north of Algonquin Park in Ontario and Quebec provinces. It is characterized by a Scottish, Irish, and American Loyalist influence. These different cultures have left the dialect with varying types of pronunciation and vernacular. “Rones” is the word for “gutters” and the words “cot” and “caught” are pronounced differently rather than as a homophone like in standard English. Also used in this dialect is the phrase “for to”, as in, “He went to the store for to buy a tie.”

Pacific West Coast English

Also known as Pacific Northwest English, this dialect is spoken in British Columbia and Yukon provinces. It is similar to California English and has picked up influences from the many cultures and a rapidly changing population of the area. In Pacific West Coast English, the “r” is pronounced unlike the other dialects and the word “stick” sounds like “steck.” People use the word “sunbreak” to refer to an opening in the clouds on the typical long, rainy days of the Pacific Northwest winters and the word “spendy” to refer to something expensive.

Quebec English

Quebec English is a dialect spoken in the French-speaking Quebec province. The dialect borrows heavily from the French language and either adheres to the french pronunciation or pronounces the word with an English accent. There is also a heavy use of interlanguage which creates the “Frenglish” language and uses phrases like: “take a decision”, “put your coat”, and “close the TV”.

Inland Canadian English

The Inland Canadian English is spoken throughout Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan provinces. This dialect is also referred to as Canadian English. The accent reflects “Canadian raising” which is a changing of vowel pronunciation before voiceless consonants. It is very similar to American English though does retain some British influence as well as some strictly Canadian sounds. The word “map” for example, could sound like “mop” to somebody from the US.

Dialects of Canadian English

Canadian English DialectsArea Spoken
Aboriginal Canadian EnglishNorthwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon
Cape Breton English
Nova Scotia
Lunenburg English
Nova Scotia
Newfoundland English
Newfoundland, Labrador, and Prince Edward Island
Ottawa Valley English
Ontario and Quebec
Pacific West Coast English
British Columbia and Yukon
Quebec English
Quebec
Inland Canadian English
Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan


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