University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

U.S. of Eh?

Canadian English is not being Americanized to the extent once thought, and in fact the reverse is also happening

While Canadians increasingly find themselves sipping soda on the couch instead of drinking pop on the chesterfield, Canadian English is not being Americanized to the extent once thought. A team led by Jack Chambers, professor of linguistics and director of the Dialect Topography project at U of T, has found that Canadian and American speech is converging in several ways (for example, we’re losing the y sound in words like news (formerly nyooze) and the hw sound at the start of words like where and whether). The two countries are jointly giving rise to a continental language that includes influences from both sides of the border. “There are some obvious Americanizations happening to Canadian English,” says Chambers. “But we also see some American states adapting our pronunciation of the word caught so that it sounds like cot for example [instead of cawt]. What we are seeing is widespread merging rather than widespread Americanization, which is what many Canadians have feared.” In spite of the convergence, Chambers and his team maintain that the 49th parallel remains “a sharp and distinct linguistic border as well as a political one.” The Dialect Topography project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

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