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Canadian English

Canadian English is the form of English used in Canada.

In many respects, the spelling of Canadian English is intermediate between British English and American English. However, the spoken language is much closer to American English than British English. It is also influenced by Canadian French, as Canada has two official languages.

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There is no universally accepted standard of Canadian spelling. In general, Canadians agree with British usage as to -our (honour, colour, endeavour) and many other classes of British/American spelling distinctions. The largest exception is the use of the American spelling -ize (plagiarize, dramatize, realize) in most cases. Other American spellings prevalent in Canada include aluminum, artifact, jail, curb, program, specialty, tire, and carburetor. (See American and British English Differences.)

Also, several lexical items come from British English or even archaic British English, such as lieutenant (/lEf/-), light standard (lamp-post), and riding (electoral district).

A plausible contemporary reference for formal Canadian spelling is the spelling used for Hansard's transcripts of the Canadian Parliament.


The primary aspect is a feature called "Canadian raising", in which diphthongs are raised before voiceless consonants. For example, whereas many American dialects pronounce the first diphthongs in the words writer and rider the same, a Canadian will pronounce them (approximately) as /rVjt@r/ and /rajd@r/ (in SAMPA transcription). That is, the first part of the diphthong in both words in American English is ahh as in father; the first part of the diphthong in writer in Canadian English is uhh as in cut, a higher vowel than the American usage. However, some American English accents, particularly those near Ontario, speak like this.

Similarly, about will be raised from /abawt/, as it is in American "Atlantic" dialect, to /abVwt/ ("abuhwt"), or nearly even /abowt/ ("aboat") in some dialects.

Anecdotally, the "abuhwt" or even "a-beh-oot" vowels are heard in Ontario and further east, and the "aboat" vowels are heard in the Western provinces. Also heard are: "can't", in Ontario, almost "kayant", whereas in the west, it becomes more "kahnt."

Canadian English also pronounces the short "a" of "bat" slightly further back than American English. There is a tendency to monophthongize the long "a" and "o" sounds, resulting in /be:t/ for "bait" and /bo:t/ for "boat" (though this occurs usually in rapid speech). "Cot" and "caught" merge into /kAt/ as in Californian English. Finally, the broad /A/ of foreign loan words in words like "drama" or "Iraq" are usually pronounced like the short "a" of "bat": /dræm@/, /Iræk/.

Americans sometimes claim to be able to recognize some Canadians instantly by their use of the word eh. However, only a certain usage of eh (detailed in the article) is peculiar to Canada, and it is more common in southern Ontario and the Maritimes than elsewhere in the country.

(It should be noted that US English in some parts of the US exhibits features of Canadian English, including Canadian Raising and the use of eh. For more information about Canadian Raising, see: O'Grady and Dobrovolsky, Contemporary Linguistic Analysis: An Introduction, 3d ed., pp 67-68.)


Canadian English also has its own words not found in other variants of English. Like other dialects of English that exist in proximity to francophones French loanwords have entered Canadian English, such as the word serviette, meaning "napkin"; poutine, a dish made with home-made french fries and melted cheese curd topped with gravy; dépanneur, a corner store (convenience store); allophone, someone who speaks a first language other than English or French; anglophone, someone whose first language is English; francophone, someone whose first language is French.

In 1998 Oxford University Press produced a Canadian English Dictionary after 5 years of lexicographical research. It listed uniquely Canadian words, words borrowed from other languages and was able to survey whether colour or color was the most popular choice in common use.

Uniquely Canadian English words include:

  • Loonie: The unofficial name for Canada's one-dollar gold-coloured coin carrying an image of a Loon on one side
  • Toonie: The unofficial name for Canada's two-dollar coin, the name obviously referring to the number two and the Loonie that pre-dated it
  • Garburator: The garbage disposal unit located beneath the drain of a kitchen sink -- a rare appliance in Canada, in contrast with the United States.
  • Toque (tuque): A warm, tight-fitting woolen winter hat
  • Parkade: Parking garage
  • Chesterfield: A sofa, couch or loveseat

The island of Newfoundland has its own dialect distinct from Canadian English. (See Newfoundland English)

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