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Newfoundland English

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador has its own dialect of English, distinct from Canadian English.

This separate dialect developed because of Newfoundland's history as well as its geography. Newfoundland, which was settled in the early 1600s, was one of the first areas settled by English speakers in North America. This has given the dialect time to develop. Newfoundland English was recognized as a separate dialect by the late 1700s when George Cartwright published a glossary of Newfoundland words. Newfoundland remained separate from Canada as a British colony (apart from a period of self government that was destroyed by the Great Depression) until 1949. So, in comparison to the other provinces and territories, Newfoundland is a newcomer to the country. Geographically, the province is very isolated from the rest of Canada. It consists of Newfoundland, an island in the Atlantic Ocean separated from the mainland by the Strait of Belle Isle which is frozen over from November to June, and of Labrador, a large region of sparsely populated sub-arctic land.

Newfoundland English differs from Canadian English in vowel pronunciation (for example: in Newfoundland the words "fear" and "fair" are homonyms); in morphology and syntax (for example: in Newfoundland the word "bees" is used in place of the normally conjugated forms of "to be" to describe continual actions or states of being: "she bees short" instead of "she is short", but normal conjugation of "to be" is used in all other cases); in preservation of archaic adverbal-intensifiers (for example: in Newfoundland "that play was right boring" and "that play was some boring" both mean "that play was very boring").

The syntax of this dialect allows constructs unique to Newfoundland, such as "Throw grandpa down the stairs, his hat", in which the hat makes the trip, not the grandfather.

The greatest distinction between Newfoundland English and Canadian English is its vocabulary. It includes many Inuit and Native American words (for example: "tabanask" - a kind of sled), preserved archaic English words no longer found in other English dialects (for example: "pook" - a mound of hay), compound words created from English words to describe things unique to Newfoundland (for example: "stun breeze" - a wind of at least 20 knots), English words which have undergone a semantic shift (for example: "rind" - the bark of a tree), and unique words whose origins are unknown (for example: "diddies" - a nightmare).

Colourful local expressions include:

  • Stay where you're to.: Don't leave.
  • Stay where you're to 'til I comes where you're at.: Wait there for me.
  • Flat on the back with that!: An expression of approval, male speaker
  • Flat on the back for that!: An expression of approval, female speaker

(Some examples taken from A Biography of the English Language by C.M. Millward)

The Newfoundland comedy group Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers[?] refers to the Newfoundland dialect as "Newfinese".

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