4 facts about the Canadian accent

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Do Canadians have a distinct accent? What is the Canadian accent, and where does it come from?

Keep reading to learn four facts you should know about the Canadian accent.

  1. The Canadian accent is the same only from Ontario to British Columbia

    There is a big difference between the middle class Canadian accent and the working class Canadian accent. The working class accent is how Canadians usually sound when depicted for comedy in movies and on TV. You can hear this in the following comedy music video. Listen for words and phrases like “out for a rip,” and words like “bud”, “eh”, and “arright” which are very popular.

    Out for a sip – Friggin’ Buddy vs Coke – Official video, b richmond

    The Canadian middle class accent from Ontario to British Columbia is very similar. Whereas other parts of Canada, the Maritimes (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador); and the northern territories (Yukon, North-West, and Nunavut); and Quebec, all have unique accents.

    The different accents come from the Europeans that colonized specific areas of Canada. The most common Canadian accent, spoken from Ontario to the West coast, comes from British settlers. In contrast, the Maritime accent comes from Scottish and Irish (Gaelic) settlers, and the Quebec accent comes from speaking French as their first language.

  2. There are regional differences in the Canadian accent

    In Canada, there are regional differences in the accent. Grandparents from Sydney (Nova Scotia) and Montreal (Quebec) still have very different accents (similar to the Europeans that colonized these areas of Canada). However, their grandchildren have a much more similar accent (middle class Western accent), and use more of the same vocabulary.

    Check out this video of Canadian regional accents:

    All aboot Canadian accents, J.J. McCullough

  3. There is a vowel only found in Canadian English

    You may have heard people say that Canadian say “aboot” instead of “about”, but this isn’t true! “About” is a famous example of the unique Canadian vowel. It is called “Canadian raising”. This is when you change the pronunciation of “ai” and “aʊ” (“ow”) before voiceless consonants (for example, p, and t).

    Here is a video that shows Canadian raising compared to American pronunciation:

    Canadian vs. American Accent (Canadian Raising?), Mad English TV

  4. The Canadian accent and other English accents are different

    While the Canadian accent is very similar to the US accent, in particular the accent in Southern California, it is different from other English speaking countries like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and England. There are differences in how vowels are pronounced, and which letters are silent. In England, the “r” is often silent (ho’se versus horse). Compared to many other English speaking countries, Canadians (and Americans) pronounce the letter “r’ more clearly.

    There is a difference in how to pronounce the letter “r” in the countries colonized by England because of the time when they were colonized. Canada was colonized in the 1600s, and Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa were colonized 100 years, or more, later (1788, 1840, 1806 respectively). During this time, the English spoken in England changed, and this new pronunciation was brought to the colonies.

    Check out this video that compares Canadian, American, and British pronunciation:

While you can hear differences between Canadians from the East compared to the West, overall, middle class Canadians have a very similar accent. This Canadian accent is very similar to an American accent, but very different from other English speaking countries like Australia, and South Africa.

Have you noticed these differences and similarities in your every day conversations or in the media you watch?
By Nastashya Wall

Sources: Canadian English, Western Linguistics; and What’s Going On With the Way Canadians Say ‘About’? Dan Nosowitz, Atlas Obscura. Retrieved June 15, 2023.

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