Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian English Accent Surprisingly Uniform Coast to Coast: Researchers

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian English Accent Surprisingly Uniform Coast to Coast: Researchers

Article excerpt

Canadian accent more than just iconic 'eh'

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VANCOUVER - Celebrations across Canada this weekend may look different from one community to the next, but for most of the country it will all sound the same.

Derek Denis, a post-doctoral researcher of linguistics at the University of Victoria, said more than just the stereotypical "eh?" unites Canadians.

His research comparing the recorded oral histories from 50 years ago and interviews from more recent times found that from the Ontario-Quebec border to Vancouver Island, English-speaking Canadians have a largely homogenous accent.

"There is almost no dialect region that is that large and so homogenous," Denis said.

The United States and even the United Kingdom have far more variation over smaller geographic areas.

Denis said migration patterns and settlement patterns are believed to be behind the consistency in accent in Canada.

Southern Ontario was settled by English-speaking United Empire Loyalists who were fleeing the American Revolution in the late 1700s. Denis said those people established their accent and as they drove the westward colonization, the accent spread across the country.

It's a phenomenon Matt Hunt Gardner, Canadian English instructor and PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, said is called the "founder effect."

"Who the first successful or persistent group of English speakers is in an area is important because they sort of set the tone for everybody who comes later," he said.

That means if a swell of immigrants enter a community, they and their children will eventually adopt the accent of the original settlers.

Loyalists who fled to the Atlantic provinces were largely from the coast, unlike those from inland who went to Ontario. A significant number of Scottish settlers also influenced language in Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island, Gardner said.

The distinct Newfoundland accent is a result of settlers from southwest England and southeast Ireland, Gardner said. Because Newfoundland was last to join the Confederation and remained relatively isolated, its unique accent was preserved.

Yet while many Canadians say they can tell whether someone is from the East or West based on their accent, the differences are narrowing, Gardner said. …

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