11.15.06

US/Canada linguistic differences

Posted in Canadian life at 10:00 pm by ducky

While the linguistic differences are subtle between the US and Canada, they do exist.

  • Canadians use a flatter “a” sound than Americans in many words. Many (but not all) Canadians say caat, fahther, paastuh, Maareeoh, draamuh, Jaavuh, Naatsee, and daatuh where Americans usually say caat, fahther, pahstuh, Mahreeoh, drahmuh, Jahvuh, Nahtsee, and daytuh.
  • The “ou” in about, round, house, and about is slightly different from US versions; in the US, it sounds like the “ow” in “how”, but it sounds closer to the “oo” in boot in Canada. (Althrough there is variation across Canada in how close to “oo” the “ow” is.) There is a nice Wikipedia article on the Canadian Rising vowel sounds, and there’s also a page with a bunch of Canadian sound clips on it.
  • Americans and Canadians both distinguish between the noun form of produce (stress on second syllable) and the verb form (stress on first syllable), but Canadians also distinguish between the noun and verb forms of project and process by stressing the first syllable of the noun and the second of the verb.
  • Canadians have rounder “o” sounds in some words. For example, Canadians say toomohrroh, bohrroh, and prohcess where Americans say toomahrroh, bahrroh, and prahcess (for tomorrow, borrow, and process).
  • Canadians say marking and invigilating where Americans say grading and proctoring. While both say first-year, second-year, third-year, and fourth-year, only Americans say freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior.
  • Canadians pronounce the last letter of the alphabet zed while Americans say zee.
  • Canadians will sometimes say, “last day” (for example, to refer to the last time that a class met) where Americans never do. Americans will say “last time” instead.
  • Americans (perhaps because they don’t have premier as elected officials) tend to use the same pronunciation as for the opening night of a movie: preeMEER, while the Canadians call the official the PREEmeer.
  • Canadians say reezohrs where Americans say reesohrs (for resource).
  • Some (not all) Americans think that a toboggan is a knit hat, while Canadians (and some Americans) think that a toboggan is a sled.

Not all Canadians or Americans say things the way I just described, but enough do to make it noticable.

Update: My buddy Vince points out:

  • Canadians use washrooms where Americans use bathrooms. (Usually in Canada, that’s where you take a bath.)
  • Some Americans say ruff instead of roof.
  • Americans sometimes say veehihkuhlwhere Canadians say veeihkuhl.
  • Americans tend to say “uh-huh” where Canadians would say “you’re welcome”. (And Canadians find “uh-huh” a bit rude.)
  • Some Americans say “y’all” for second-person-plural, while no Canadians do.
  • A knit hat is a tuque, pronounced like too with a k at the end.

Addendum: Canadians think that “skating” with no qualifier means “ice skating”.

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