Newfoundland and Labrador English

Newfoundland and Labrador English

Newfoundland and Labrador English

Newfoundland and Labrador English


This book is the first full-length volume to offer a comprehensive introduction to the English spoken in Britain's oldest overseas colony, and, since 1949, Canada's youngest province. Within North America, Newfoundland and Labrador English is a highly distinctive speech variety. It is knownfor its generally conservative nature, having retained close ties with its primary linguistic roots, the traditional speech of southwestern England and southern Ireland. It is also characterised by a high degree of regional and social variation. Over the past half century, the region has experienced substantial social, economic and cultural change. This is reflected linguistically, as younger generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians increasingly align themselves with 'mainland' North American norms.


Newfoundland and Labrador, located at the northeastern extremity of the North American continent (see Figure 1.1), became a province of Canada in 1949. As Britain’s oldest transatlantic colony as well as Canada’s newest province, the region has had a long history of European settlement. This chapter presents an overview of European settlement history in Newfoundland and Labrador and outlines the principal reasons why the English spoken there constitutes a unique variety in the English-speaking world.

1.1 Newfoundland and Labrador English as a distinct speech

My advice if you ever go to Newfoundland take either a translator or be
prepared to ask everyone to speak very slowly. (http://www.languagehat.
com/mt/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=1614, posted by Nena, 5 November

The English spoken in Newfoundland and Labrador – officially known up to 2001 simply as Newfoundland – has long been acknowledged as distinct. Though recognisably North American, Newfoundland and Labrador English (NLE) is often perceived by residents of mainland Canada as sounding more Irish than Canadian. Yet such a conclusion masks the considerable linguistic variation to be found within the province: in fact, nle has been recognised by linguists as displaying one of the greatest ranges of internal variation in pronunciation and grammar of any global variety of English (Kortmann and Szmrecsanyi 2004; Schneider 2004). Present-day varieties of nle extend from the standard, Canadian-like speech of many younger, urban middle-class residents of the province to the conservative, and decidedly non- standard, varieties still to be found in many small rural communities, particularly, but by no means exclusively, among older generations. Extensive . . .

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