Canadian English (was:Re: "ample bits" and "pleather")

Geoffrey Steven Nathan geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU
Tue Jan 29 20:37:25 UTC 2013

Crucial disclaimer! I do not actually speak proper Canadian English, which may be the source of Wilson's confusion. Because my parents spoke (Leeds and Central London LMC) English, I do not have the awe-ah merger. I have long backwards a [ɒ:] in /oh/ words--'caught etc', and short backwards a [ɒ] in /ah/ words--'got, cod'. And I have frontwards script a [ɑ] in a few others--'father', 'fa--a long, long way to run'. I have all kinds of length contrasts nobody else does, such as 'merry:Mary' contrasting only in short vs. long epsilon--[mɛri mɛ:ri]. And ash in 'marry' [mæri].

I do have Canadian Raising, particularly with the /aw/ words. But I don't have the (relatively recent) low front vowel shift of ash [æ]to Cardinal Vowel 4 [a] either, although my students from Windsor in my phonetics and phonology classes do. Makes for a cute contrast with their Detroit classmates with their Northern Cities raising of the same vowel.

Sorry to go on, but just wanted to clarify that those guys Wilson is listening to are REAL Canadians. They may well even wear plaid shirts.

Geoffrey S. Nathan
Faculty Liaison, C&IT
and Professor, Linguistics Program
+1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT)

----- Original Message -----

> From: "Wilson Gray" <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 3:07:05 PM
> Subject: Re: "ample bits" and "pleather"

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject: Re: "ample bits" and "pleather"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

> On Tue, Jan 29, 2013 at 7:14 AM, Jonathan Lighter
> <wuxxmupp2000 at> wrote:
> > It's just free!

> "I heard that!" to use a neologism. In my lost youth, that level of
> approval was expressed by the seemingly-negative, "You ain't said
> shit!" Or, if there was a reason to cool one's tongue, "You ain't
> said
> nothing!"

> I'm watching a reality-show - Hoarding: Buried Alive - episode filmed
> in Canada. The people have such *strong* Canadian accents that, at
> first, I thought that I was hearing non-native speakers well-versed
> in
> ESL. It's like a textbook on Canadian dialectology come to life.
> Heretofore, my concept of "Canadian English" pretty much coincided
> with the speech of Geoff Nathan. As Colbert might put it, "He tells
> me
> he's a Canadian. I believe it." But these speakers aren't just using
> "eh," "been" as bean, "a-gain" and what I hear as more like - but not
> the same as - "oat and a boat" than like "oot and a boot." They're
> using every phonologically-stereotypical Canadianism known to man!

> Really interesting. I had no idea that "Canadian English" was at
> least
> as meaningful a concept as, well, "Black English." No wonder that
> "North American English" hasn't caught on in the States.

> BTW, what does the word "vernacular" mean in "B _Vernacular_ E" / "AA
> _Vernacular_ E" mean? I've long hoped that, in a moment of clarity,
> it
> would become transparent to me the purpose of specifically noting
> that
> the dialect is the *vernacular* variety, as opposed to being one of
> the other varieties of the BE / AAE dialect. The literary one,
> perhaps. It's like splitting an infinitive with _not_. I just don't
> get it.

> --
> -Wilson
> -----
> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint
> to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
> -Mark Twain

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