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Canadian English

Relations between the US and Canada have long (but not always) been peaceful and friendly. But from time to time those relations know to be ambivalent and prickly, especially on the Canadian side, Canadians often assert that Americans take them for granted and pay little or no attention to their interests, needs, wishes, and aspirations. Because of the similarity of American and Canadian accents, English Canadians when travelling abroad are generally resigned to being taken for Americans.

In addition to a cross-border prickliness, there is an internal itch. The social, cultural, linguistic, and imperial tug of war between Britain and France included religious and social differences. While English, Scottish, Northern Irish, and Welsh settlers have been mainly Protestant, the French and southern Irish have been mainly Catholic. More recently, in Quebec (the largest and most vigorous French community), the independentist movement has been largely secular, insisting on the province’s nature as un pays (as a country).

There are three French terms in the vocabulary of language politics: anglophone – referring to someone able to speak English and to anything relating to English; francophone – the equivalent term for French; and allophone (”other speaker”) – an umbrella term for any native speaker of any other language (Italian, Mohawk, or Cantonese).

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The term Canadian originated, like Canada, in the 16th century, deriving from and co-existing with the French canadien, and with three distinct historical senses. Initially, and well into the 19th century, it served to name not settlers but the indigeneus people. From the 17th century, Canadian was the name for French settlers along the St Lawrence, and from the 18th it was extended to British colonists in both Lower and Upper Canada. In a Canadian context, the terms ”French” and ”English” tend to refer more to language than ethnicity, ”English” are all those who speak English in Canada ( whether they are English, Scottish, Caribbean…) and French those who speak French in Canada ( French, Belgian, Mauritian…).
A significant number of English-speaking settlers began to enter Canada after the signing of the Treaty of Paris of 1762, which ceded New France/La Nouvelle-France to Great Britain. Most of them were from the already established colonies of New England, and went to what later became the provinces of Nova Scotia (”New Scotland”), New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. During, and immediately after the American War of Independence (1776-1783) some 50000 settlers – the so-called United Empire Loyalists or simply ”Loyalists”-arrived from the newly established United States.

Although there are subtle arguments among Canadian linguists about similarities and differences between English and Northern US English, it is clear that the Loyalist influx had a powerful effect. Both, Northern US and Canadian English have a common origin in the New World mix of British dialects, but Canadian apparently has a stronger association with the north of England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The Loyalists were by no means linguistically homogeneous: some had been in the US for generations, but others more recently arrived. Since children generally adopt the usage of their peers rather than their parents, later British settlers had to accept that their children’s speech will assimilate to a local norm.

But some immigrants embraced a North American style as a token of their rejection of England and its dominant values.
Canadian writing in English began with such works as Frances Brooke’s The History of Emily Montague (1769), John richardson’s Wacousta (1832), and the sketches of Thomas McCulloch and Thomas Haliburton in the 1820s and 1830s.
As a consequence of the major settlement patterns, the English of Ontario became the dominant variety in Canada. The debate on the possibility of a distinctive literary Canadian has been going on since the 1920s. Assertions began with Charles Mair’s generation in the 1880s, and by the mid-20th century with the writer Roy Daniels who described some elements that may safely be called Canadian ( no conscious Latinity, no marked or cumulative rhythm, no pronounced idiom or flavour in the diction).

In 1949 Lister Sinclair described literary Canadian English as characterized by ‘the still small voice’ of irony.
However, English Canadian writers gained unprecedented attention at Canada’s centennial celebrations in 1967. Change in educational, publishing, theatrical, and governmental institutions stemmed from reinforced nationalist sentiment, including support for the development of national literature in English. Margaret Laurence became a key figure as she published The Stone of Angel in 1964, where she fulfilled her desire to ‘take the language and make it truly ours’.

But bilingualism is never far away, whether it is a matter of what is printed on bilingual cornflakes boxes, or the names of linguistic, literary, and other organizations. In an English setting, the English name comes first, and in the French setting the French is first. Because of Canada’s high rate of immigration and large French minority, teaching English as a second language has been a major concern in schools, universities, and adult education.

In order to reach and unite its far-flung communities, Canada has developed one of the most advanced broadcasting systems in the world. Radio and television in both official languages reach almost every part of the country. While the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) operates national radio and TV networks in English and French, the privately-owned Canadian Television Network (CTV) operates nationally in English only, also there are networks operating in French only.
The English of the CBC is more conservative than that of most Canadians, and the organization takes pride in the pronunciation and usage of its announcers and newsreaders.

Both public and private broadcasting are regulated by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). This government agency has the role of ensuring that the system ‘should be effectively owned and controlled by Canadians so as to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social, and economic fabric of Canada’.

CANADIAN WORDS

Vocabulary that is distinctively English-Canadian has three main sources: the extension and adaptation of traditional English words to new ends; adoptions from indigenous languages, and adoptions from French.

1.) The extension and adaptation of traditional English words

Many British words adapted and extended their meaning according to the conditions in North America. Canadian shares with American many usages relating to landscape, social life, together with the range of usages uniquely its own, such as the: the distinction between prime minister (federal chief minister) and premier (provincial chief minister).

2.) Adoptions from indigenous languages

There are two sources: the Canadian Indian languages (Abenaki, Cree, Dene, Ojibwa) and Inuktitut (the language of the Inuit). Such words are related to flora and fauna, economic and social activities, travel, and survival. They may be divided to internationally and locally known borrowings.

Internationally known borrowings

From Indian languages: chipmunk (a terrestrial squirrel, from Ojibwa); husky (a shortening of Algonquian (h)usquemau, the same source as for Eskimo, originating in the first element of the phrase husky dog ‘Eskimo dog’),moose; muskeg, toboggan; anorak; kayak.

Locally known usages (virtually unknown in the rest of Canada or elsewhere)

In the Lower Mainland area of British Columbia, from Indian languages: Cowichan (a vividly patterned sweater); kokanee (land-locked salmon); saltchuck; skookum; tyee. In the Arctic North: angakok; chimo; kabloona. In the Prairies: kinnikinik, saskatoon, etc.

3.) Adoptions from French

In addition to the ancient legacy of French expressions in English at large, a range of distinctively North American and especially Canadian usages includes the name Métis (a person of ‘mixed’ blood); portage (the carrying of canoes past rapids), couleur du Bois (trader or woodsman), etc.

Many expressions are common in particular regions (often environmental or occupational reasons) and may not be nationally known at all or are known because they are special to a particular area.

The existence of the two official languages has led to various distinctive usages, including the use of Canada in the names of government departments, crown corporations, and national organizations: Canada Post, Revenue Canada, Air Canada, Loto Canada. French and English often officially mix, as in Postes Canada Post.

QUEBEC AND THE REST OF CANADA

Quebec/Québec is both the largest province of Canada in physical terms (home to the largest French-speaking community in North America) and its capital city. The two are distinguished in French by masculine gender for the province (au Québec ‘in Quebec province’) and feminine for the city (à Québec ‘in Quebec city’). Out of a population of some six million, 82% speak French and 16% English.

French usage in Quebec descends from the speech of 17th-century Normandy and Picardy. Distinctive and varied, it had a broad form known as joual. The traditional standard of education and the media that has been that of Paris, often however referred to as le francais international. Local French of all varieties and at most social levels has long tended to be stigmatized in France and in Quebec itself as a patois marred by accent, archaisms, and Anglicisms.

British Empire Loyalists from the US, the first English-speakers in Quebec, founded the Eastern Townships to the south-east of Montreal. By 1831, anglophones of British descent were in the majority in Montreal itself, but the influx of rural francophones, who filled the ranks of the working urban class, had by 1867 reversed the trend, and by 1981, 66% of the city’s population was French-speaking class.

Much has been written in French on the effects of English on French in Quebec. In such works, the dominant role of English in North America has generally been viewed as pernicious, and francophones have often been urged to avoid anglicisms in their French. But the French of Quebec and Canada as a whole is heavily influenced by both Canadian and American English. Also, Quebec English has inevitably been heavily influenced by French. Many French usages have simply been moved into local English, as with autoroute (‘highway’), etc.

The language of Quebec has been highly politicized for decades. In 1977, the passing of Quebec’s Bill 101 (the Charter of the French language) required among other things that public signs be in French only. This led to deliberate violations of the law, especially in English-speaking areas of Montreal.

In May 1980, a referendum was held in Quebec to decide whether the province would remain a part of Canada or seek a more independent status called ‘sovereignty association’. The referendum rejected this second option, and ever since there has been a kind of mildly fluctuating stalemate between Quebec, the federal government, and the other provinces. However, there is no majority in the province for absolute separation from the rest of Canada.

ATLANTIC CANADA: THE MARITIMES AND NEWFOUNDLAND

The coastal Atlantic provinces of mainland Canada are New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. When New Foundland is added, the collective term is the Atlantic Provision. The territory is roughly the region called acadien by the French. A complex settlement history explains its variety of rural dialects, some of which were influenced by Acadian French, some by German some by Gaelic, as well as various dialects of England. The arrival of Loyalists after the American War of Independence almost tripled the English-speaking population.

New Foundland was England’s first colony, as a result of which English has been spoken there for some 500 years. For a short period of time colony of Newfoundland was self-governing, and since 1949 it is united with Canada. Its languages are English and French, together with the American languages of Labrador. There are no native languages on the island, because the indigenous people, the Beothuk, were exterminated.

Newfoundland usage is the oldest variety of English in the Americas and currently is not well recognized. It derives from the speech of early settlers from the English West Country and later Ireland, and it is the outcome of long, stable settlement and relative remoteness.

The English of Newfoundland is more than a dialect of Canadian English: it is a variety of languages and a standard of its own. In a survey by Sandra Clarke, the residents of St. John’s ranked six accents of prestige: British Received Pronunciation, upper-class St. John’s Irish, Standard Canadian, St. John’s Anglo-Irish, and a regional dialect of the southern shore.

PRONUNCIATION

1. Newfoundland speech – mainly rhotic, it reflects both an English West Country and an Irish influence.
2. Initial ‘h’ is unstable (‘helbow’-elbow; ‘eel’-heel)

GRAMMAR
1. the use of is and m for present forms of the verb be: either I is, you is, he is…or I’m, you’m, we’m, they’m.
2. The negative forms baint’e for aren’t you, idden – I’m not, you aren’t, he isn’t, and tidden – it isn’t
3. Distinctive forms of do, have, and be – ‘They doos their work’, ‘I haves a lot of colds’…
4. In some areas, -s n all simple present verb forms (I goes, we goes…)
5. Weak forms in some verbs that are regular in the standard language (‘knowed’-knew…)
6. Four variants for the perfect: I’ve done, I’ve a-done, I bin done, I’m after doin.
7. He and she for inanimate countable nouns.
8. Expressions from Irish English: It’s angry you will be.

VOCABULARY
1. Arhaic expressions: angishore or hangashore – weak miserable person (from Irish Gaelic)
2. Words for natural phenomena, occupations, acivities, etc., such as terms for seals at various stages of development: bedlamer, dotard, gunseal, etc.
3. Screech – a Scots word for whiskey.
4. Livyer – a permanent inhabitant, come-from-away – a mainlander or outsider.

DOUBLE STANDARD ENGLISH AND GENERAL CANADIAN

The United Kingdom has profoundly influenced the social institutions of Canada, as witness by the monarchy, the Houses of Parliament in Ottawa, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Kinship ties with the UK remain strong.

The Canadian population is highly urbanized and mobile, 80% living within easy reach of the US border. In a response to the inevitable dominance of US usage, some Anglo-Canadians have tended to stress the British connection while others concluded that it is confessing another kind of dominance. However, studies of Canadian usage inevitably compare it with both the US and UK; in the past, they often did more than that, but more recently the view that only highly distinctive varieties can be national languages with their own standard has been changing.

In terms of speech, Canadian usage is fairly homogeneous, the strong exceptions being the Maritimes and especially Newfoundland, with some distinctiveness in Quebec. There are five observations that can be made about a more or less pan-Canadian pronunciation:

1. CANADIAN RAISING
Canadians pronounce words like house and out differently from Americans. The term The Canadian Raising labels a raised position for certain double vowels whose tongue position is lowered in most other varieties of English (bite, knife, tribe, house…)
2. THE COT/CAUGHT DISTINCTION
The most English Canadians have the same vowel sound in such pairs as cot/caught, Don/Dawn, caller/collar.
3. T-FLAPPING AND T-DELETION
Especially in casual speech, many Canadians pronounce t as d between vowels and after r – t-flapping (waiting/wading, metal/medal…). Also, t is not generally pronounced after n, as in Toronto-‘Trawna’.
4. PRONOUNCING WH-
Speakers of Standard Canadian tend to drop the distinction between ‘hw-‘ and ‘w-‘, making homophones out of what/watt and which/witch
5. UK-RELATED HOLDOUTS AND VARIATIONS
Some speech forms associated with Standard British appear to be holding their own and even gaining ground. Examples: been rhyming with seen and not sin; anti-,semi-,and muti- ending like ‘ee’ and not ‘eye’; words ending in –ile, such as fertile, rhyming with Nile and not nil.

A cardinal feature of Canadian English is co-existence with Canadian French. Even so, however, there continues to be a tendency among English Canadians to see themselves as the Canadians, French Canadians find this particularly frustrating.

The central and western variety of Candian English has commonly been referred to as General Canadian, and it is also often used in a sense close to Canadian Standard English. The heartland of General Canadian is Southern Ontario, largely centred on the Toronto conurbation. The middle-class variety of this dialect has long been perceived as the representative or standard form of Canadian English as a whole.

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However, both scholarly and public perceptions tend to change. A recent consensus among scholars sees the term General Canadian as applying not so much to a traditional Southern Ontarian dialect as to a largely urban variety of educated speech, writing, and media usage that operates across the nation. In conclusion, the term Canadian Standard English is to be interpreted as a synthesis of educated professional usage across the nation, and that synthesis has a requisite Canadian content.