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How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one?


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How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one? #1 (permalink) Fri Oct 13, 2006 12:40 pm   How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one?
 

Hello everybody, I am new to this forum and I have enjoyed it ever since I found it. I thought I'd take this opportunity to ask the one question that has always puzzled me: how do you distinguish American accent from Canadian accent?

I know that, for example, to distinguish Australian accent from the NZ one, you simply look for the vowel /I/. Australians tend to pronounce it with the long /i/, while New Zealanders pronounce it with a schwa. So Australians have feesh and cheeps while New Zealanders have fush and chups. This is the typical joke about the accents from both sides of the Tasmania.

So I just wonder if there is a distinction between the American and Canadian accents such as this. If not, then how do you tell one English from the other generally?
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How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one? #2 (permalink) Fri Oct 13, 2006 12:56 pm   How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one?
 

The easiest way to distinguish a Canadian accent from General American is the way Canadians pronounce the "ou" words like "out" and how they pronounce the vowel in words like "thought" and "caught".

In words like "thought", many Canadians pronounce the vowel as [a] instead of as a rounded vowel, as most Americans do.

Most Americans pronounce the word "out" as [aut] and "around" as [@raund]. (The symbol @ is supposed to be a schwa.) In this diphthong, most Canadians replace the [a] with a schwa, so that "out" sounds like [@ut] and "around" sounds like [@r@und].

Also, most Americans pronounce a word like "got" as [gat], while most Canadians use the same vowel in that word that most Americans use in "thought".

There are other differences, but these are the main ones that make people on my side of the river say to someone from the other side of the river say, "Oh, you're from Canada!"

Note also that there's not a clean cut between the two accents. Some people from the northern Midwest or the state of Washington sound almost the same as Canadians.
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How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one? #3 (permalink) Fri Oct 13, 2006 13:11 pm   How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one?
 

Hello Jamie, thanks so much for the explanation. Now it kind of makes sense. I remember listening to a Psyc lecturer's accent and thinking it was like a mixture of Irish (or Scottish) and American accents. He pronounced "about" like "aboat". I was quite amazed to learn that he was actually Canadian, because I had never heard a "North American" accent like that. It's quite interesting though. Thank you!
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How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one? #4 (permalink) Fri Oct 13, 2006 13:21 pm   How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one?
 

Some Irish people's accents are almost indistinguishable from Canadians'.
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How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one? #5 (permalink) Thu Apr 19, 2007 5:12 am   How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one?
 

General Canadian English is extremely similar to General American English. However, there are a number of differences between the two dialects. GCE (General Canadian English) exhibits a linguistic phenomenon called Canadian Raising. Basically, the diphthong /ai/--as in "by" or "lie"--is raised before voiceless consonants (t, k, p, s, f); by contrast, this diphthong is not raised before other consonants (v, z, d, b, l, m, n, r, etc). Thus, by using Canadian Raising, the words in the following word pairs can be pronounced differently: ride and write, five and fife, and rise and rice.
The diphthong /au/, as in "loud," is commonly raised before the consonants "t," "th," and "s." This diphthong, though, is not raised before the consonants "d," "z," "n," and "j." As was pointed out, the word "about" sounds like "a boat"... well, to our American ears, that is. In General American English, the diphthong /ai/ is not raised before any consonant, nor is the diphthong /au/. Yet, this raising has been occurring in various areas of the U.S., and it is spreading.

Another difference between these dialects is that, in GCE, the vowel /o/ is always pronounced as /o/ before the consonant /r/. Therefore, "sorry" is pronounced sor-ee, “borrow” is pronounced bor-row, and “sorrow,” sor-row. In General American English, the vowel /o/ is sometimes pronounced as the vowel /a/--as in "father"--before the consonant /r/. In GAE (General American English), "sorry" is pronounced sar-ee, "borrow" is pronounced bar-row, and “sorrow” is pronounced sar-row. This, nevertheless, isn't very common in GAE; in fact, I can’t think of any other word that is pronounced with the vowel /a/, other than sorrow, borrow, and sorry.

Many Canadians pronounce the word "marry" as "merry." In GAE, “marry” is pronounced with the vowel /ae/.

In GCE, "pasta," "mazda," "lava," "drama," “Yahoo®,” "taco," and other foreign words are pronounced with the vowel /ae/. In GAE these words are pronounced with the vowel /a/. In GCE, on the other hand, these and few other foreign words are pronounced with the vowel /a/: macho, Guatemala, Bach, and karate. Why is this so? I sure as heck don't know; it's an anomaly.

Of course, let's not forget Canadian lexicon. In Canada, "pop" is universally used as a term for a carbonated beverage. Even in the U.S., "pop" is used quite widely. It's largely used in the Midwest, Upper Midwest, and Northwest. As well, many Canadians refer to candy bars as "chocolate bars."
In GCE, the idioms "in hospital" and "to university" are used, in lieu of the American idioms "in the hospital" and "to the university," which includes a definite article. So, one may say, "I'm going to have my surgery in hospital," or "I'm going to attend university during the fall."

The last letter of the Canadian alphabet, "zed," is different from the last letter of the American alphabet, "zee."

Well, this is pretty much all I know about GCE.
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How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one? #6 (permalink) Thu Apr 19, 2007 8:48 am   How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one?
 

miguel wrote:
In General American English, the diphthong "ai" is not raised before any consonant, nor is the diphthong "au." Yet, this raising has been occurring in various areas of the U.S., and it is spreading.

In the American Midwest, which is the area whose accent the General American English accent is based on, it's perfectly normal to raise [ai] before voiceless consonants, and also often before word-final [r]. This is not a new phenomenon.

miguel wrote:
Another difference between these dialects is that, in GCE, the vowel "o" is always pronounced as "o" before the consonant "r." Therefore, “sorry” is pronounced sor-ee, “borrow” is pronounced bor-row, and “sorrow,” sor-row. In General American English, the vowel "o" is sometimes pronounced as the vowel "a"--as in "father"--before the consonant "r." Therefore, in GAE (General American English), "sorry" is pronounced sar-ee, "borrow" is pronounced bar-row, and “sorrow” is pronounced sar-row. This, nevertheless, isn't very common in GAE; in fact, I can’t think of any other word that is pronounced with the vowel “a,” other than sorrow, borrow, and sorry.

The reason you can't think of any other word where the "o" is pronounced as [a] is probably because you are in Seattle, where the speech sounds very Canadian to other Americans. People from Washington state are often mistaken for Canadians by natives of other parts of the US. There are plenty of other words in General American English in which the vowel "o" is normally pronounced as [a]. Those include "on", "robot" [roubat], "cot", "rot", the first "o" in "common", and thousands of other words.

miguel wrote:
Many Canadians pronounce the word "marry" as "merry." In GAE, “marry” is pronounced with the vowel “ae.”

I also differ with you on this. "Merry" and "marry" are also pronounced the same in General American, and pronouncing "marry" as [m?ri] marks one as a Northeasterner, outside the GAE dialect area. It's a "foreign" pronunciation that GAE speakers generally hear only on TV, unless they live outside the dialect area.

miguel wrote:
In GCE, "pasta," "mazda," "lava," "drama," “Yahoo®,” "taco," and other similar words are pronounced with the vowel "ae." In GAE these words are pronounced with the vowel "a.” In GCE, on the other hand, these and few other foreign words are pronounced with the vowel "a": macho, Guatemala, Bach, and karate. Why is this so? I sure as heck don't know; it's an anomaly.

I'm with you on this one. We get Canadian TV where I live, and I can hear that they even pronounce the first "a" in "Yamaha" as [?]. US Midwesterners pronounce all the vowels in that name as [a], but Canadian announcers pronounce three completely different vowels in it, none of which is [a]. I think that in cases like this, the Canadians are following the British practice of mangling all foreign words until they sound as different from the original pronunciation as possible.

miguel wrote:
Of course, let's not forget Canadian lexicon. In Canada, "pop" is universally used as a term for a carbonated beverage. Even in the U.S., "pop" is used quite widely. It's largely used in the Midwest, Upper Midwest, and Northwest. As well, many Canadians refer to candy bars as "chocolate bars."
In GCE, the idioms "in hospital" and "to university" are used, in lieu of the American idioms "in the hospital" and "to the university," which includes a definite article. So, one may say, "I'm going to have my surgery in hospital," or "I'm going to attend university during the fall."

In the US, you'll see signs pointing to the lavatory that say "restroom". In Canada, they more often say "washroom". In fact, I was once in the "washroom" with some Canadians, and they used the word "washroom" to refer to the actual urinal!

Canadian spelling is about halfway between UK and US spelling. They write "colour", "flavour" and "centre", just as the British do, instead of US "color", "flavor" and "center". However, the British write "tyre" for the rubber wheel on a car, but in the US and Canada it's "tire". You won't spell correctly in Canada if you use a UK or a US dictionary.

Many Canadians frequently end their sentences in "eh?", while many Americans end them with, "y'know?"
Canadian: "I don't like it, eh?"
American: "I don't like it, y'know?"
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How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one? #7 (permalink) Sat Apr 21, 2007 23:41 pm   How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one?
 

Hi, what do you think of Christopher Plummer's accent? Would it qualify as 'typical Canadian'? To me it sounds pretty British.

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How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one? #8 (permalink) Sat Dec 01, 2007 7:52 am   How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one?
 

Jamie (K) wrote:
Also, most Americans pronounce a word like "got" as [gat], while most Canadians use the same vowel in that word that most Americans use in "thought".



I disagree with this. Most Americans (and everyone from Seattle) show what's called low-back merger. This means that the vowels in "caught" and "cot" sound the same. For speakers who show low-back merger, the vowel in "caught" is [ɑ]--an open back vowel (either rounded or unrounded, depending on emphasis, excitement, mood, etc.). Because the vowels in "caught" and "cot" sound the same to these speakers, and because the vowel of "caught" is always [ɑ] (or [ɒ]) for them, the vowel of "cot" therefore must also be [ɑ] (or [ɒ]), not the open front unrounded vowel [a].

I highly suspect that you said that most Americans produce the vowel in words like "got" as [a] because you yourself are from a region where this front vowel is commoner. Many people in Michigan and some other areas in the eastern United States do show a distinction, with the vowel in "cot" pronounced more like [a]. However, this is characteristic of a minority of speakers in these and some other, somewhat isolated or long-settled eastern regions, not of the more commonly, widely spoken General American English, which shows low-back merger.

Important note: It is a non sequitur to state that all (or most) people who produce [a] are American, therefore all (or even most) Americans produce [a]. It is possible--and true--that while all (or most) people who produce [a] may be American, most Americans do not produce [a] the majority of the time. So it's misleading to refer to [a] as characteristic of American English speech for vowels such as that in "cot". Right away, when I hear that vowel, I suspect the speaker is from some part of the Great Lakes (and even there, a lot of people produce the back vowel, not the front one), not from anywhere in the United States. To me, "cot" with [a] sounds like a totally different phoneme--like the vowel in "cat" rather than the vowel in "cot".

Also, there may be no merger, and a distinction between "cot" and "caught" may be retained, yet the vowel distinction consists of /ɒ/ for "caught" and /ɑ/ for "cot". (Standard British English would be /ɔ/ for "caught" and /ɒ/ for "cot", respectively.) However, in this case, the open front vowel [a] is still not one of the phonemes.

Furthermore, some speakers vacillate between the two allophones [a] and [ɑ] for the vowel in "cot".

What's more, some Canadians produce the vowel in "cot" as [a], as do some people in certain eastern parts of the United States!

Fascinating...
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How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one? #9 (permalink) Sat Dec 01, 2007 14:12 pm   How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one?
 

Rogue_Linguist wrote:
Jamie (K) wrote:
Also, most Americans pronounce a word like "got" as [gat], while most Canadians use the same vowel in that word that most Americans use in "thought".

I disagree with this. Most Americans (and everyone from Seattle) show what's called low-back merger. This means that the vowels in "caught" and "cot" sound the same. For speakers who show low-back merger, the vowel in "caught" is [ɑ]--an open back vowel (either rounded or unrounded, depending on emphasis, excitement, mood, etc.). Because the vowels in "caught" and "cot" sound the same to these speakers, and because the vowel of "caught" is always [ɑ] (or [ɒ]) for them, the vowel of "cot" therefore must also be [ɑ] (or [ɒ]), not the open front unrounded vowel [a].

I know the linguistics world is in love with this low back merger, but the claim that most Americans display the merger is exaggerated. Look:

Quote:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonological_history_of_English_low_back_vowels#Cot-caught_merger
The 2003 Harvard Dialect Survey, in which subjects did not necessarily grow up in the place they identified as the source of their dialect features, indicates that there are speakers of both merging and contrast-preserving accents throughout the country, though the basic isoglosses are almost identical to those revealed by Labov's 1996 telephone survey. Both surveys indicate that approximately 60% of American English speakers preserve the contrast, while approximately 40% make the merger.

So, if Labov's survey and the other are accurate, your claim that most Americans do not make the "cot-caught" distinction is wrong. According to the surveys, most of them do. Besides that, among those people who display the distinction, for large numbers of them the vowel merger is not complete. So actually a majority of the US population has not merged the vowels at all, and still more people make the distinction partially.

Additionally, the "cot-caught" distinction has generally not been lost in broadcast English.

Rogue_Linguist wrote:
I highly suspect that you said that most Americans produce the vowel in words like "got" as [a] because you yourself are from a region where this front vowel is commoner. Many people in Michigan and some other areas in the eastern United States do show a distinction, with the vowel in "cot" pronounced more like [a]. However, this is characteristic of a minority of speakers in these and some other, somewhat isolated or long-settled eastern regions, not of the more commonly, widely spoken General American English, which shows low-back merger.

I was amused by your assertion that my perception was regionally skewed, because you live on the northwest coast, which itself is a sort of hinterland in the midst of a specific dialect area. My immediate thought, upon reading your very first sentence, was that your perception was regionally biased, and it appears to be.

The misimpression that most Americans have merged [a] and [ɔ] can also be created by the use of stupidly drawn dialect maps. If one looks at a map that colors the entire region based on whether or not the majority of speakers appear to display the vowel merger, it looks at if most of the country makes it. However, this big swath of land includes large states with extremely small populations, such as Montana, where there are literally more cows than people. If one looks at a map that indicates the speakers as dots by their exact location, you can see that the vowel distinction is retained in the majority of the most populous states in the country. When you look at that map, it makes sense that most Americans make the vowel distinction. I assume your idea that most Americans have made this vowel merger, and your claim that the entire Midwest and Northeast are "isolated" regions, come partly from looking at maps that use a solid color over entire regions, and also come from a West-Coast-centric world view.

And think of this: Americans who watch a lot of TV tend to exaggerate mentally the percentage of the US population that are police. This phenomenon has its equivalent in the linguistics world. Someone studies a certain language or dialect phenomenon and gets some articles published, not just by the merits of his work, but also because of his contacts and his knack for self-promotion. This phenomenon gets studied or mentioned by other people also, and soon so many articles about it -- and textbook entries about it -- are flying around that linguists mentally exaggerate its real distribution. You then get people assuming it is displayed in most of the population, when in fact it may not be. The current phenomena that are exaggerated in linguists' minds are the cot-caught distinction and the Northern Cities Vowel Shift.
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How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one? #10 (permalink) Sun Dec 02, 2007 0:14 am   How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one?
 

that's how we see Tennessee kids speaking with the goddamn Southern California Valley Girl accent:

Eew! Law'ik ehoo maw'i gawd, that is, law'ik, sehoo keeewl.

now look, i know that northern midwesterners really love their diphthongs, enough sometimes to make themselves sound like donkeys.

No accent is perfect.

But the SoCal accent drives me absolutely nuts. I can't even watch TV ads anymore.

hehe

My sister lives in Westwood (Los Angeles), California... and she's losing her native-Wisconsin "oo" (u) -- it's becoming "ehoo" or "eew".
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How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one? #11 (permalink) Sun Dec 02, 2007 0:27 am   How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one?
 

I want to tell her -- nay, plead with her -- that there is no "e" in "too".

Don't forsake your linguistic roots, dear sis!
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How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one? #12 (permalink) Sun Dec 02, 2007 13:35 pm   How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one?
 

prezbucky wrote:
I want to tell her -- nay, plead with her -- that there is no "e" in "too".

Don't forsake your linguistic roots, dear sis!

This Californian foible may be due to a surging influx of Celtic immigrants some hundred years ago. In Dublin, the word "cool" is pronounced exactly like the soccer player Harry Kewell's surname. Much to the annoyance of the rest of the rest of the country. kiu@l.
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How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one? #13 (permalink) Tue Dec 04, 2007 16:28 pm   How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one?
 

yeah, exactly

BTW, what's happened to Kewell? That guy used to be a starter for Liverpool.
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How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one? #14 (permalink) Tue Dec 04, 2007 17:57 pm   How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one?
 

prezbucky wrote:
yeah, exactly

BTW, what's happened to Kewell? That guy used to be a starter for Liverpool.

Hey, you're right there. Back in Liverpool's 2005-06 campaign he was one of our main players, but then he was out of action for the best part of last season. Now he's been back for a few weeks after what looks like the end of a lengthy injury crisis. It's good to see him back since the exit of Fowler, Zenden, Cisse and also Jermaine Pennatnt's injury at times leave a bit of a gap in midfield. You need someone to support or substitute Steven Gerrard!
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How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one? #15 (permalink) Tue Dec 04, 2007 22:33 pm   How do you distinguish American accent from Canadian one?
 

Plus, Kewell can play the left wing spot, right?

Left midfield must be the toughest spot to fill. I know England has a hell of a time with that position.
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