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My wife and I frequently travel to Canada and we absolutely love our good neighbors to the north! We have never had a bad experience while visiting your great country. We find Canadian English to be fairly uniform and common usage varies very little from that which we hear in the USA. Of course, as with parts of my country, there are regional differences in accents and inflections. We get a big kick out of the Ontario natives who say 'a-boot' for 'a-bout' and in the way that they lift the last syllable at the end of a sentence!
I did say "fairly" uniform, and I meant uniform relative to the striking differences within the United States and Great Britain. I've noticed some words pronounced differently on the west coast (been pronounced like bean, again rhyming with rain, and, of course, Vang-couver. And I noticed on the prairies that the vowel in "moon" was pronounced with less lip rounding. In Toronto two-thirds of the population was born outside Canada, and it's hard to say what the standard dialect is here. And I wonder if the PEI and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick might be influenced somewhat by New England.
I'm interested in this. Have you come across any books or articles you'd recommend? Do you have any thoughts for this forum?
Yes, we are somewhat influenced by the United States. It would be difficult not to be considering the influence of USA TV programming. But to say that Canadian language pronunciation is influenced totally by the states that lie immediately to the south of their provinces is not correct.
The maritime provinces have a distinctly different accent from that of New England. The accents of the provinces is marked by the populations that make them up. PEI and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have strong French and Scottish roots...mix in a little Irish and you have the result.
It is true that in accent that there is some similarity in accent with Northern States and Canadian Provinces...especially in the west...but I think that has more to do with our collective British heritage rather than accents leaking north into Canada.
If it were true that the USA has that much influence...why do we consistently pronounce some words differently? Why do we use "eh" in our language? In Canada resistance is "fu-tile" not "fu-til" and of course there is the whole pronunciation issue of "about" which Americans think we pronounce "a-boot" but I have never heard it pronounced that way...to me we say "a-bow-t" as in "bow-wow"..not bow as in bow and arrow.
Here is an interesting link to English accents around the world. I give you a sampling of typical Canadian accents (you can listen to mp3 files) but by exploring the site you will find accents from the Northern USA states. Compare them and you will see there are clearly differences. I find that the accents given for the most part are of those in the upper middle class of people. I don't hear the strong maritime accent that I normally associate with PEI, NB, NS and Nfld.
IDEA - Dialects and Accents of Canada
Wikipedia has a good article on Canadian English too, though it is descriptive with no sound bites.
Canadian English - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Here is another site with voice files that show the different accents of people living in different regions of the USA and Canada
speech accent archive: browse
As you can see there are accent differences but what distinguishes Canadian English from American English is the British English spelling of many words - favour not favor, colour not color, centre not center, etc. (though I do admit we accept both spellings as correct ), our pronunciation differences of several words and of course our slang and idioms in Canada can be very different (ask an American if he wants you to bring a "two-four" to a party and watch his blank expression).