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Canadian English Essay

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Canadian English
(Course project in Introduction to Varieties of English)


Every language has several varieties which differ from each other in terms of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. Different speakers use different varieties depending on their regional provenance, individual social background, or educational level. Even the same speaker may use several varieties according to different situations. This paper will focus on the varieties of English used in Canada.

Canadian English is the variety of English spoken in Canada. Canadian English has been very little researched and not much is known about it, especially if compared with American and British English. Also Canadian English has been chosen because the author’s interest in Canada. This research will focus on the Canadian English’s grammatical, phonetic and vocabulary features. Author of this paper will start with a brief history of the language in Canada, next will be described grammatical peculiarities of Canadian English; phonetics and phonology of Canadian English; vocabulary of Canadian English; dialects of Canadian English and at the end author will draw relevant conclusions.

History of the Language in Canada

Canada has two official languages – English and French. But, as was mentioned before, Europeans were not the first people who inhabited Canada. Which was the “official” language before Europeans? Are there any other languages spoken today in Canada?

The Aboriginal people were the first Canadians; consequently, their languages were the first spoken in Canada. When the Europeans came, their contacts with native inhabitants were mainly economic and religious. Important population movement began in the 17th century (Edwards, 1998). The French arrived first with their language, but due to historical events English became more spread than the French language. The term Canadian English was first recorded in 1854. Nowadays it is considered that Canadian English originated from northern American English; although, during the course of time it has been influenced by British English and American English (Brinton and Fee, 2001; Boberg, 2005). Boberg claims that Canadian English is homogeneous from one end of the country to other.

Yet, English and French are not the only languages spoken in Canada. English is spoken by 21.863.015 inhabitants and French – 7.214.280 (Online 5). Popular languages are also Chinese, Italian and Punjabi (Online 5). Also the Aboriginal languages are not forgotten; only Cree, Inuktitut and Ojibway have a large enough population of fluent speakers to be considered viable to survive in the long term (Lewis, 2009).

Canada is also home to many first, second and third generation immigrants from many corners around the world. It is not rare to find a neighbourhood where there is a large concentration of people from single countries such as Ireland, Scotland, Italy, France, Greece, Germany, Japan, Korea, China, Portugal, Poland, Mexico, etc. That means that there is a large likelihood that in most major cities you will be able to speak, at least sometimes, your own language. Most of the large cities also have major language academies for Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, etc.

Grammatical Peculiarities of Canadian English

Generally speaking, there are no grammatical features that are distinctly Canadian. However, there are a few slight differences between American English and British English, and since Canadians are influenced by both varieties, usage here is somewhat mixed between the two. The use of irregular verb forms in Canadian English are closer to British English; although, forms like drank instead of drunk, loan instead of lend, spelled instead of spelt, etc. can be found. The four-fifths of speakers in Ontario prefer to use the contracted form shan’t instead of won’t. More than a half of speakers in Ontario and three-quarters in Montreal prefer to use phrase sick to the stomach. The Standard English form sick at the stomach is hardly used among speakers in Ontario and Montreal. There are also recorded variations like sick in the stomach and sick of the stomach (Orkin, 1971). A Canadian lives on the street (American English) and not in the street (British). Also Canadians say due to instead of owing to. When a Canadian looks at watch at 10:45, he will usually announce that it is quarter to eleven; Canadian will stuff his unpaid bills behind the clock. A distinct feature of Canadian English is that Canadians use as well instead of too at the end of the sentence. At the end of a sentence as well is just the same as too. The only small distinction is that as well is a bit more formal sounding than too, e.g. I would like some ice cream. I would like some ice cream as well. They use as well also at the beginning of the sentence, meaning also, in addition, e.g. On Saturday I’m going to watch hockey. As well, I might go to a pub. The interjection eh is used in Canada to mean ‘could you please repeat what you said’, but more commonly it is a tag question (You do want to go, eh? = don't you?), or serves to elicit agreement or confirmation (It's nice, eh?) and to intensify commands, questions, and exclamations (Do it, eh?). It is also common in anecdotes: He's holding on to a firehose, eh? Some speakers use this interjection very frequently. Eh is also found in American and British English, but not with the same frequency as in Canadian English. Another frequently used word among Canadians is the word like. Speakers sometimes use like to indicate that they recognize the doubtfulness of what they are saying or that they lack co evidence, as in: ‘If I start studying right about now and go until tomorrow morning around nine, I will be studying like twelve hours’; or ‘Swiss chard? That’s like the past tense of char’. Like may also be used to put together two clauses which are grammatically different, as if the speaker is thinking of something that had been forgotten and wants to insert it in the present utterance without forming a new sentence: ‘But that’s no...

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