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|19.4 million in Canada (2011 census)|
about 15 million, c. 7 million of which with French as the L1
|Latin (English alphabet)|
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Higher category: Language
Canadian English (CanE, CE, en-CA) is the set of varieties of the English language native to Canada. According to the 2011 census, English was the first language of approximately 19 million Canadians, or 57% of the population; the remainder of the population were native speakers of Canadian French (22%) or other languages (allophones, 21%). A larger number, 28 million people, reported using English as their dominant language. 82% of Canadians outside the province of Quebec reported speaking English natively, but within Quebec the figure was just 7.7% as most of its residents are native speakers of Quebec French.
Canadian English contains major elements of both British English and American English, as well as many uniquely Canadian characteristics. While, broadly speaking, Canadian English tends to be closest to American English in terms of linguistic distance, the precise influence of American English, British English and other sources on Canadian English varieties has been the ongoing focus of systematic studies since the 1950s.
Phonologically, Canadian and American English are classified together as North American English, emphasizing the fact that the vast majority of outsiders, even other native English speakers, cannot distinguish the typical accents of the two countries by sound alone. There are minor disagreements over the degree to which even Canadians and Americans themselves can differentiate their own two accents, and there is even evidence that some Western American English (Pacific Northwest and California English, for example) is undergoing a vowel shift partially coinciding with the one first reported in mainland Canadian English in the early 1990s.
The term "Canadian English" is first attested in a speech by the Reverend A. Constable Geikie in an address to the Canadian Institute in 1857 (see DCHP-1 Online, s.v "Canadian English", Avis et al. 1967). Geikie, a Scottish-born Canadian, reflected the Anglocentric attitude that would be prevalent in Canada for the next hundred years when he referred to the language as "a corrupt dialect", in comparison with what he considered the proper English spoken by immigrants from Britain.
Canadian English is the product of five waves of immigration and settlement over a period of more than two centuries. The first large wave of permanent English-speaking settlement in Canada, and linguistically the most important, was the influx of Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution, chiefly from the Mid-Atlantic States – as such, Canadian English is believed by some scholars to have derived from northern American English. Canadian English has been developing features of its own since the early 19th century. The second wave from Britain and Ireland was encouraged to settle in Canada after the War of 1812 by the governors of Canada, who were worried about American dominance and influence among its citizens. Further waves of immigration from around the globe peaked in 1910, 1960 and at the present time had a lesser influence, but they did make Canada a multicultural country, ready to accept linguistic change from around the world during the current period of globalization.
The languages of Aboriginal peoples in Canada started to influence European languages used in Canada even before widespread settlement took place, and the French of Lower Canada provided vocabulary, with words such as toque and portage, to the English of Upper Canada.
Studies on earlier forms of English in Canada are rare, yet connections with other work to historical linguistics can be forged. An overview of diachronic work on Canadian English, or diachronically-relevant work, is Dollinger (2012, updated to 2017). Until the 2000s, basically all commentators on the history of CanE have argued from the "language-external" history, i.e. social and political history (e.g.,). An exception has been in the area of lexis, where Avis et al's (1967) Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, offered real-time historical data through its quotations. Recently, historical linguists have started to study earlier Canadian English on historical linguistic data. DCHP-1 is now available in open access. Most notably, Dollinger (2008) pioneered the historical corpus linguistic approach for English in Canada with CONTE (Corpus of Early Ontario English, 1776–1849) and offers a developmental scenario for 18th- and 19th-century Ontario. Recently, Reuter (2015), with a 19th-century newspaper corpus from Ontario, has confirmed the scenario laid out in Dollinger (2008).
Historically, Canadian English included a class-based sociolect known as Canadian dainty. Treated as a marker of upper-class prestige in the 19th century and the early part of the 20th, Canadian dainty was marked by the use of some features of British English pronunciation, resulting in an accent similar to the Mid-Atlantic accent known in the United States. This accent faded in prominence following World War II, when it became stigmatized as pretentious, and is now almost never heard in contemporary Canadian life outside of archival recordings used in film, television or radio documentaries.
Canadian spelling of the English language combines British and American conventions.
Canadian spelling conventions can be partly explained by Canada's trade history. For instance, the British spelling of the word cheque probably relates to Canada's once-important ties to British financial institutions. Canada's automobile industry, on the other hand, has been dominated by American firms from its inception, explaining why Canadians use the American spelling of tire (hence, "Canadian Tire") and American terminology for automobiles and their parts (for example, truck instead of lorry, gasoline instead of petrol, trunk instead of boot).
Canada's political history has also had an influence on Canadian spelling. Canada's first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, once advised the Governor General of Canada to issue an order-in-council directing that government papers be written in the British style.
A contemporary reference for formal Canadian spelling is the spelling used for Hansard transcripts of the Parliament of Canada . Many Canadian editors, though, use the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, often along with the chapter on spelling in Editing Canadian English, and, where necessary (depending on context), one or more other references.
Throughout part of the 20th century, some Canadian newspapers adopted American spellings, for example, color as opposed to the British-based colour. Some of the most substantial historical spelling data can be found in Dollinger (2010) and Grue (2013). The use of such spellings was the long-standing practice of the Canadian Press perhaps since that news agency's inception, but visibly the norm prior to World War II. The practice of dropping the letter u in such words was also considered a labour-saving technique during the early days of printing in which movable type was set manually. Canadian newspapers also received much of their international content from American press agencies, therefore it was much easier for editorial staff to leave the spellings from the wire services as provided.
In the 1990s, Canadian newspapers began to adopt the British spelling variants such as -our endings, notably with The Globe and Mail changing its spelling policy in October 1990. Other Canadian newspapers adopted similar changes later that decade, such as the Southam newspaper chain's conversion in September 1998. The Toronto Star adopted this new spelling policy in September 1997 after that publication's ombudsman discounted the issue earlier in 1997. The Star had always avoided using recognized Canadian spelling, citing the Gage Canadian Dictionary in their defence. Controversy around this issue was frequent. When the Gage Dictionary finally adopted standard Canadian spelling, the Star followed suit. Some publishers, e.g. Maclean's, continue to prefer American spellings.
The first Canadian dictionaries of Canadian English were edited by Walter Spencer Avis and published by Gage Ltd. The Beginner's Dictionary (1962), the Intermediate Dictionary (1964) and, finally, the Senior Dictionary (1967) were milestones in Canadian English lexicography. In November 1967 A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles (DCHP) was published and completed the first edition of Gage Publishing's Dictionary of Canadian English Series. The DCHP documents the historical development of Canadian English words that can be classified as "Canadianisms". It therefore includes words such as mukluk, Canuck, and bluff, but does not list common core words such as desk, table or car. Many secondary schools in Canada use the graded dictionaries.[clarification needed What is a graded dictionary?] The dictionaries have regularly been updated since: the Senior Dictionary was renamed Gage Canadian Dictionary. Its fifth edition was printed beginning in 1997. Gage was acquired by Thomson Nelson around 2003. The latest editions were published in 2009 by HarperCollins. On 17 March 2017 a second edition of DCHP, the online Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles 2 (DCHP-2) was published. DCHP-2 incorporates the c. 10,000 lexemes from DCHP-1 and adds c. 1300 novel meanings or 1002 lexemes to the documented lexicon of Canadian English.
In 1997, the ITP Nelson Dictionary of the Canadian English Language was another product, but has not been updated since.
In 1998, Oxford University Press produced a Canadian English dictionary, after five years of lexicographical research, entitled The Oxford Canadian Dictionary. A second edition, retitled The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, was published in 2004. Just as the older dictionaries it includes uniquely Canadian words and words borrowed from other languages, and surveyed spellings, such as whether colour or color was the more popular choice in common use. Paperback and concise versions (2005, 2006), with minor updates, are available.
In terms of the major sound systems (phonologies) of English around the world, Canadian English aligns most closely to American English, both being grouped together under a common North American English sound system; the mainstream Canadian accent ("Standard Canadian") is often compared to the very similar and largely overlapping "General American" accent, an accent widely spoken throughout the United States and perceived there as being relatively lacking in any noticeable regional features.
The provinces east of Ontario show the largest dialect diversity. Northern Canada is, according to William Labov, a dialect region in formation, and a homogeneous dialect has not yet formed. A very homogeneous dialect exists in Western and Central Canada, a situation that is similar to that of the Western United States. Labov identifies an inland region that concentrates all of the defining features of the dialect centred on the Prairies, with periphery areas with more variable patterns including the metropolitan areas of Vancouver and Toronto. This dialect forms a dialect continuum with the far Western U.S. English, however it is sharply differentiated from the Inland Northern U.S. English of the central and eastern Great Lakes region.
Canadian English raises the diphthong onsets, /ə, ʌ/ before voiceless segments; diphthongs /ai/ and /au/.
Standard Canadian English is socially defined. It is the variety spoken, in Chamber's (1998: 252) definition, by Anglophone or multilingual residents, who are second generation or later (i.e. born in Canada) and who live in urban settings. Applying this definition, c. 36% of the Canadian population speak Standard Canadian English in the 2006 population, with 38% in the 2011 census. Canadian Shift encompasses an area from Montreal to Vancouver and can be distinguished by the merger of /ɛ/ and /æ/ before /r/, the fronted /ɑːr/, and a nasal /æ/. Canadian English has undergone grammaticalization including with general extenders (GEs) which serve to attach words to form connections between subjects. Example: I washed my car and stuff down the street at Ted's Car Wash.
The literature has for a long time conflated the notions of Standard Canadian English (StCE) and regional variation. While some regional dialects are close with the StCE, they are not identical with it. To the untrained ear, for instance, a BC middle class speaker from a rural setting may sound like a StCE speaker, while, given Chambers' definition, such person, because of the rural provenance, would not be included in the accepted definition (see the previous section). The Atlas of North American English, while being the best source for US regional variation, is not a good source for Canadian regional variation, as its analysis is based on only 33 Canadian speakers. Boberg's (2005, 2008) studies offer the best data for the delimitation of dialect zones. The results for vocabulary (Boberg 2005) and phonetics (Boberg 2008) overlap to a great extent, which has allowed the proposal of dialect zones. Dollinger and Clarke (2012: 459, Table 1), which distinguishes between:
British Columbia English shares dialect features with both Standard Canadian English and the American Pacific Northwest English. In Vancouver, speakers exhibit more vowel retraction of /æ/ before nasals than people from Toronto, and this retraction may become a regional marker of West Coast English. /aeg/ raising (found words such as bag, vague and bagel), a prominent feature in western American speakers, is also found in Vancouver speakers. Canadian raising (found in words such as "about" and "writer") is less prominent in BC than other parts of the country and is on the decline further, with many speakers not raising /aɪ/ before voiceless consonants. Younger speakers in the Greater Vancouver area do not even raise /aʊ/, causing "about" to sound somewhat like "a boat". The "o" in such words as holy, goal, load, know, etc. is pronounced as a back and rounded [o], but not as rounded as in the Prairies where there is a strong Scandinavian, Slavic and German influence.
Canadian raising is quite strong throughout the province of Ontario, except within the Ottawa Valley. The Canadian Shift is also a common vowel shift found in Ontario. The retraction of /æ/ was found to be more advanced for women in Ontario than for people from the Prairies or Atlantic Canada and men.
In Southwestern Ontario (roughly in the line south from Sarnia to St. Catharines), despite the existence of the many characteristics of West/Central Canadian English, many speakers, especially those under 30 speak a dialect which is influenced by the Inland Northern American English dialect found on much of the American regions adjacent to the Great Lakes, though there are minor differences such as Canadian raising (listen to "ice" vs "my"). Additionally, there is a tendency to round the mouth after pronouncing the vowel "o" which is distinct from the General American Accent. Also, the vowel of "bag" sounds closer to "vague" or "egg"; "right" sounds like "rate"; and the "ah" vowel in "can't" is drawn out, sounding like "kee-ant".
The subregion of Midwestern Ontario consists of the Counties of Huron, Bruce, Grey, and Perth. The "Queen's Bush" as the area was called, did not experience communication with Southwestern and Central dialects until the early 20th century. Thus, a strong accent similar to Central Ontarian is heard, yet many different phrasings exist. It is typical in the area to drop phonetic sounds to make shorter contractions, such as: Prolly (Probably), Goin' (Going), and "Wuts goin' on tonight? D'ya wanna do sumthin'?" It is particularly strong in the County of Bruce, so much that it is commonly referred to as being the Bruce Cownian (Bruce Countian) accent. Also 'er' sounds are often pronounced 'air', with "were" sounding more like "wear".
Residents of the Golden Horseshoe (including the Greater Toronto Area) are known to merge the second /t/ with the /n/ in Toronto, pronouncing the name variously as [toˈɹɒɾ̃o], [təˈɹɒɾ̃o] or even [ˈtɹɒɾ̃o] or [ˈtɹɒɾ̃ə]. This, however, is not unique to Toronto; for example, Atlanta is often pronounced "Atlanna" by residents. In Toronto and the other areas within the Greater Toronto Area, the th sound /ð/ is often pronounced [d]. Sometimes /ð/ is elided altogether, resulting in "Do you want this one er'iss one?" The word southern is often pronounced with [aʊ]. In the area north of the Regional Municipality of York and south of Parry Sound, notably among those who were born in the surrounding communities, the cutting down of syllables and consonants often heard, e.g. "probably" is reduced to "prolly", or "probly" when used as a response. In Greater Toronto, the diphthong tends to be fronted (as a result the word about is pronounced as [əˈbɛʊt] or 'a-beh-oot').
The Greater Toronto Area is diverse linguistically, with 44 percent of its people holding a mother tongue other than English. As a result Toronto has a distinct variation from other regions. In Toronto's ethnic communities there are many words that are distinct, many of which come from the city's large Caribbean community. Although only 1.5% of Torontonians speak French, a relatively low proportion of them (56.2%) are native speakers of English, according to the 2006 Census. As a result Toronto shows a more variable speech pattern.
In Eastern Ontario, Canadian raising is not as strong as it is in the rest of the province. In Prescott and Russell, parts of Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry and Eastern Ottawa, French accents are often mixed with English ones due to the high Franco-Ontarian population there. In Lanark County, Western Ottawa and Leeds-Grenville and the rest of Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry, the accent spoken is nearly identical to that spoken in Central Ontario and the Quinte area. Phrases such as "got it" is often pronounced as [ɡɔɾɪʔ]. Okay is often pronounced as [ɔɪke], while hello is often pronounced as [helo].
A linguistic enclave has also formed in the Ottawa Valley, heavily influenced by original Scottish, Irish, and German settlers, and existing along the Ontario-Quebec boundary, has its own distinct accent known as the Ottawa Valley twang (or brogue). Phonetically, the Ottawa Valley twang is characterized by the lack of Canadian raising as well as the cot–caught merger, two common elements of mainstream Canadian English. However, this accent is quite rare in the region today.
English is a minority language in Quebec (with French in the majority), but has many speakers in Montreal, the Eastern Townships and in the Gatineau-Ottawa region. Uniquely, many people in Montreal distinguish between words like marry versus merry and parish versus perish, which are homophones to most other speakers of Canadian English. Quebec also has French influence. A person with English mother tongue and still speaking English as the first language is called an Anglophone versus a French speaker, or Francophone. Quebec Anglophones generally pronounce French street names in Montreal as French words. Pie IX Boulevard is pronounced as in French, not as "pie nine", but as "pee-neuff". On the other hand, Anglophones do pronounce final d's as in Bernard and Bouchard; the word Montreal is pronounced as an English word and Rue Lambert-Closse is known as Clossy Street.
In the city of Montreal, especially in some of the western suburbs like Côte-St-Luc and Hampstead, there is a strong Jewish influence in the English spoken in these areas. A large wave of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union before and after World War II is also evident today. Their English has a strong Yiddish influence; there are some similarities to English spoken in New York. Words used mainly in Quebec and especially in Montreal are: stage for "apprenticeship" or "internship", copybook for a notebook, dépanneur or dep for a convenience store, and guichet for an ABM/ATM. It is also common for Anglophones, particularly of Greek or Italian descent, to use translated French words instead of common English equivalents such as "open" and "close" for "on" and "off" or "Open the lights, please" for "Turn on the lights, please".
Many in the Maritime provinces – Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island – have an accent that sounds more like Scottish English and, in some places, Irish English than General American. Outside of major communities, dialects can vary markedly from community to community, as well as from province to province, reflecting ethnic origin as well as a past in which there were few roads and many communities, with some villages very isolated. Into the 1980s, residents of villages in northern Nova Scotia could identify themselves by dialects and accents distinctive to their village. The dialects of Prince Edward Island are often considered the most distinct grouping.
The phonology of Maritimer English has some unique features:
The dialect spoken in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, an autonomous dominion until 31 March 1949, is often considered the most distinctive Canadian English dialect. Some Newfoundland English differs in vowel pronunciation, morphology, syntax, and preservation of archaic adverbial-intensifiers. The dialect can vary markedly from community to community, as well as from region to region, reflecting ethnic origin as well as a past in which there were few roads and many communities, and fishing villages in particular remained very isolated. A few speakers have a transitional pin–pen merger.
First Nations and Inuit people from Northern Canada speak a version of Canadian English influenced by the phonology of their first languages. European Canadians in these regions are relatively recent arrivals, and have not produced a dialect that is distinct from southern Canadian English.
There are a handful of syntactical practices unique to Canadian English. When writing, Canadians may start a sentence with As well, in the sense of "in addition"; this construction is a Canadianism.
In speech and in writing, Canadian English speakers permit (and often use) a transitive form for some past participles where only an intransitive form is permitted in most other dialects. Examples include: "finished something" (rather than "finished with something"), "done something" (rather than "done with something"), "graduated university" (rather than "graduated from university").
Date and time notation in Canadian English is a mixture of British and American practices. The date can be written in the form of either "July 1, 2017" or "1 July 2017": the latter is common in more formal writing and bilingual contexts. The Government of Canada only recommends writing all-numeric dates in the form of YYYY-MM-DD (e.g. 2017-07-01), following ISO 8601. Nonetheless, the traditional DD/MM/YY and MM/DD/YY systems remain in everyday use, which can be interpreted in multiple ways: 01/07/17 can mean either 1 July 2017 or 7 January 2017. Private members' bills have repeatedly attempted to clarify the situation.
The government also recommends use of the 24-hour clock, which is widely used in contexts such as transportation schedules, parking meters, and data transmission. Many users of English use the 12-hour clock in everyday speech, even when reading from a 24-hour display, similar to the use of the 24-hour clock in the United Kingdom.
Where Canadian English shares vocabulary with other English dialects, it tends to share most with American English, but also has many non-American terms distinctively shared instead with Britain. British and American terms also can coexist in Canadian English to various extents, sometimes with new nuances in meaning; a classic example is holiday (British) often used interchangeably with vacation (American), though, in Canadian speech, the latter can more narrowly mean a trip elsewhere and the former can mean general time off work. Canadian English morpho-syntactic features also affect their vocabulary; this includes their tendency to use the possessive "have" as opposed to "have got" or "got," which differs from both British English and American English. In addition, the vocabulary of Canadian English also features some words that are seldom (if ever) found elsewhere. A good resource for these and other words is the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, which is currently being revised at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Canadian public appears to take interest in unique "Canadianisms": words that are distinctively characteristic of Canadian English—though perhaps not exclusive to Canada; there is some disagreement about the extent to which "Canadianism" means a term actually unique to Canada, with such an understanding possibly overstated by the popular media. As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Canada shares many items of institutional terminology and professional designations with the countries of the former British Empire – for example, constable, for a police officer of the lowest rank, and chartered accountant.
The term college, which refers to post-secondary education in general in the U.S., refers in Canada to either a post-secondary technical or vocational institution, or to one of the colleges that exist as federated schools within some Canadian universities. Most often, a college is a community college, not a university. It may also refer to a CEGEP in Quebec. In Canada, college student might denote someone obtaining a diploma in business management while university student is the term for someone earning a bachelor's degree. For that reason, going to college does not have the same meaning as going to university, unless the speaker or context clarifies the specific level of post-secondary education that is meant.
Within the public school system the chief administrator of a school is generally "the principal", as in the United States, but the term is not used preceding his or her name, i.e. "Principal Smith". The assistant to the principal is not titled as "assistant principal", but rather as "vice-principal", although the former is not unknown. This usage is identical to that in Northern Ireland.
Canadian universities publish calendars or schedules, not catalogs as in the U.S.. Canadian students write or take exams (in the U.S., students generally "take" exams while teachers "write" them); they rarely sit them (standard British usage). Those who supervise students during an exam are sometimes called invigilators as in Britain, or sometimes proctors as in the U.S; usage may depend on the region or even the individual institution.
Successive years of school are usually referred to as grade one, grade two, and so on. In Quebec, the speaker (if Francophone) will often say primary one, primary two (a direct translation from the French), and so on; while Anglophones will say grade one, grade two. (Compare American first grade, second grade (sporadically found in Canada), and English/Welsh Year 1, Year 2, Scottish/Nth.Irish Primary 1, Primary 2 or P1, P2, and Sth.Irish First Class, Second Class and so on.). The year of school before grade 1 is usually called "Kindergarten", with the exception of Nova Scotia, where it is called "grade primary".
In the U.S., the four years of high school are termed the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years (terms also used for college years); in Canada, the specific levels are used instead (i.e., "grade nine"). As for higher education, only the term freshman (often reduced to frosh) has some currency in Canada. The American usages "sophomore", "junior" and "senior" are not used in Canadian university terminology, or in speech. The specific high-school grades and university years are therefore stated and individualized; for example, the grade 12s failed to graduate; John is in his second year at McMaster. The "first year", "third year" designation also applies to Canadian law school students, as opposed to the common American usage of "1L", "2L" and "3L".
Canadian students use the term marks (more common in England) or grades (more common in the US) to refer to their results; usage is very mixed.
Unlike in the United States, use of metric units within a majority of industries (but not all) is standard in Canada, as a result of the national adoption of the metric system during the mid-to-late 1970s; this has spawned some colloquial usages such as klick for kilometre (as also heard in the U.S. military). Nonetheless, Imperial units are still used in many situations. For example, English Canadians state their weight and height in pounds and feet/inches, respectively. This is also the case for many Quebec Francophones. Distances while playing golf are always marked and discussed in yards, though official scorecards may also show metres. Temperatures for cooking are often given in Fahrenheit, while the weather is given in Celsius. Directions in the Prairie provinces are sometimes given using miles, because the country roads generally follow the mile-based grid of the Dominion Land Survey. Canadians measure property, both residential and commercial, in square feet exclusively. Fuel efficiency is less frequently discussed in miles per gallon, more often the metric L/100 km. The Letter paper size of 8.5 inches × 11 inches is used instead of the international and metric A4 size of 210 mm × 297 mm.
However, expressway may also refer to a limited-access road that has control of access but has at-grade junctions, railway crossings (for example, the Harbour Expressway in Thunder Bay.) Sometimes the term Parkway is also used (for example, the Hanlon Parkway in Guelph). In Saskatchewan, the term 'grid road' is used to refer to minor highways or rural roads, usually gravel, referring to the 'grid' upon which they were originally designed. In Quebec, freeways and expressways are called autoroutes.
In Alberta, the generic Trail is often used to describe a freeway, expressway or major urban street (for example, Deerfoot Trail, Macleod Trail or Crowchild Trail in Calgary, Yellowhead Trail in Edmonton). The British term motorway is not used. The American terms turnpike and tollway for a toll road are not common. The term throughway or thruway was used for first tolled limited-access highways (for example, the Deas Island Throughway, now Highway 99, from Vancouver, BC, to Blaine, Washington, USA or the Saint John Throughway (Highway 1) in Saint John, NB), but this term is not common anymore. In everyday speech, when a particular roadway is not being specified, the term highway is generally or exclusively used.
Lawyers in all parts of Canada, except Quebec, which has its own civil law system, are called "barristers and solicitors" because any lawyer licensed in any of the common law provinces and territories must pass bar exams for, and is permitted to engage in, both types of legal practice in contrast to other common-law jurisdictions such as England, Wales and Ireland where the two are traditionally separated (i.e., Canada has a fused legal profession). The words lawyer and counsel (not counsellor) predominate in everyday contexts; the word attorney refers to any personal representative. Canadian lawyers generally do not refer to themselves as "attorneys", a term that is common in the United States.
The equivalent of an American district attorney, meaning the barrister representing the state in criminal proceedings, is called a crown attorney (in Ontario), crown counsel (in British Columbia), crown prosecutor or the crown, on account of Canada's status as a constitutional monarchy in which the Crown is the locus of state power.
The words advocate and notary – two distinct professions in Quebec civil law – are used to refer to that province's equivalent of barrister and solicitor, respectively. In Canada's common law provinces and territories, the word notary means strictly a notary public.
Within the Canadian legal community itself, the word solicitor is often used to refer to any Canadian lawyer in general (much like the way the word attorney is used in the United States to refer to any American lawyer in general). Despite the conceptual distinction between barrister and solicitor, Canadian court documents would contain a phrase such as "John Smith, solicitor for the Plaintiff" even though "John Smith" may well himself be the barrister who argues the case in court. In a letter introducing him/herself to an opposing lawyer, a Canadian lawyer normally writes something like "I am the solicitor for Mr. Tom Jones."
The word litigator is also used by lawyers to refer to a fellow lawyer who specializes in lawsuits even though the more traditional word barrister is still employed to denote the same specialization.
Judges of Canada's superior courts, which exist at the provincial and territorial levels, are traditionally addressed as "My Lord" or "My Lady", however there are some variances across certain jurisdictions, with some superior court judges preferring the titles "Mister Justice" or "Madam Justice" to "Lordship".
Masters are addressed as "Mr. Master" or simply "Sir." In British Columbia, masters are addressed as "Your Honour."
Judges of provincial or inferior courts are traditionally referred to in person as "Your Honour". Judges of the Supreme Court of Canada and of the federal-level courts prefer the use of "Mister/Madam (Chief) Justice". Justices of The Peace are addressed as "Your Worship". "Your Honour" is also the correct form of address for a Lieutenant Governor.
A serious crime is called an indictable offence, while a less-serious crime is called a summary offence. The older words felony and misdemeanour, which are still used in the United States, are not used in Canada's current Criminal Code (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46) or by today's Canadian legal system. As noted throughout the Criminal Code, a person accused of a crime is called the accused and not the defendant, a term used instead in civil lawsuits.
In Canada, visible minority refers to a non-aboriginal person or group visibly not one of the majority race in a given population. The term comes from the Canadian Employment Equity Act, which defines such people as "persons, other than Aboriginal people, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour." The term is used as a demographic category by Statistics Canada. The qualifier "visible" is used to distinguish such minorities from the "invisible" minorities determined by language (English vs. French) and certain distinctions in religion (Catholics vs. Protestants).
A county in British Columbia means only a regional jurisdiction of the courts and justice system and is not otherwise connected to governance as with counties in other provinces and in the United States. The rough equivalent to "county" as used elsewhere is a "Regional District".
Distinctive Canadianisms are:
Terms common in Canada, Britain and Ireland but less frequent or nonexistent in the United States are:
The following are more or less distinctively Canadian:
The following are common in Canada, but not in the United States or the United Kingdom.
A strong Canadian raising exists in the prairie regions together with certain older usages such as chesterfield and front room also associated with the Maritimes. Aboriginal Canadians are a larger and more conspicuous population in prairie cities than elsewhere in the country and certain elements of aboriginal speech in English are sometimes to be heard. Similarly, the linguistic legacy, mostly intonation but also speech patterns and syntax, of the Scandinavian, Slavic and German settlers – who are far more numerous and historically important in the Prairies than in Ontario or the Maritimes – can be heard in the general milieu. Again, the large Métis population in Saskatchewan and Manitoba also carries with it certain linguistic traits inherited from French, Aboriginal and Celtic forebears. Some terms are derived from immigrant groups or are just local inventions:
In farming communities with substantial Ukrainian, German or Mennonite populations, accents, sentence structure and vocabulary influenced by these languages is common. These communities are most common in the Saskatchewan Valley region of Saskatchewan and Red River Valley region of Manitoba.
Descendants of marriages between Hudson's Bay Company workers of mainly Scottish descent and Cree women spoke Bungi, a creole that blends Cree and English. A few Bungi speakers can still be found in Manitoba. It is marked by no masculine, feminine or third-person pronouns.
British Columbian English has several words still in current use borrowed from the Chinook Jargon although the use of such vocabulary is observably decreasing. The most famous and widely used of these terms are skookum and saltchuck. However, among young British Columbians, almost no one uses this vocabulary, and only a small percentage is even familiar with the meaning of such words. In the Yukon, cheechako is used for newcomers or greenhorns.
Northern Ontario English has several distinct qualities stemming from its large Franco-Ontarian population. As a result several French and English words are used interchangeably. A number of phrases and expressions may also be found in Northern Ontario that are not present in the rest of the province, such as the use of camp for a summer home where Southern Ontario speakers would idiomatically use cottage.
A rubber in the U.S. and Canada is slang for a condom; however, in Canada it is sometimes (rarely except for Newfoundland and South Western Ontario) another term for an eraser (as it is in the United Kingdom and Ireland).
The word bum can refer either to the buttocks (as in Britain), or, derogatorily, to a homeless person (as in the U.S.). However, the "buttocks" sense does not have the indecent character it retains in British use, as it and "butt" are commonly used as a polite or childish euphemism for ruder words such as arse (commonly used in Atlantic Canada and among older people in Ontario and to the west) or ass, or mitiss (used in the Prairie Provinces, especially in northern and central Saskatchewan; probably originally a Cree loanword). Older Canadians may see "bum" as more polite than "butt", which before the 1980s was often considered rude.
Similarly the word pissed can refer either to being drunk (as in Britain), or being angry (as in the U.S.), though anger is more often said as pissed off, while piss drunk or pissed up is said to describe inebriation (though piss drunk is sometimes also used in the US, especially in the northern states).
One of the most distinctive Canadian phrases is the spoken interrogation or tag eh. The only usage of eh exclusive to Canada, according to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, is for "ascertaining the comprehension, continued interest, agreement, etc., of the person or persons addressed" as in, "It's four kilometres away, eh, so I have to go by bike." In that case, eh? is used to confirm the attention of the listener and to invite a supportive noise such as mm or oh or okay. This usage is also common in Queensland, Australia and New Zealand. Other uses of eh – for instance, in place of huh? or what? meaning "please repeat or say again" – are also found in parts of the British Isles and Australia. It is common in Northern/Central Ontario, the Maritimes and the Prairie provinces. The word eh is used quite frequently in the North Central dialect, so a Canadian accent is often perceived in people from North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
The term Canuck simply means Canadian in its demonymic form, and, as a term used even by Canadians themselves, it is not considered derogatory. In the 19th century and early 20th century it tended to refer to French-Canadians, while the only Canadian-built version of the popular World War I-era American Curtiss JN-4 Jenny training biplane aircraft, the JN-4C, got the "Canuck" nickname, 1,260 of which were built. The nickname Janey Canuck was used by Anglophone women's rights writer Emily Murphy in the 1920s and the Johnny Canuck comic book character of the 1940s. Throughout the 1970s, Canada's winning World Cup men's downhill ski team was called the "Crazy Canucks" for their fearlessness on the slopes. It is also the name of the Vancouver Canucks, the National Hockey League team of Vancouver, British Columbia.
The term hoser, popularized by Bob & Doug McKenzie, typically refers to an uncouth, beer-swilling male and is a euphemism for "loser" coming from the earlier days of hockey played on an outdoor rink and the losing team would have to hose down the ice after the game so it froze smooth. Bob & Doug also popularized the use of Beauty, eh, another western slang term which may be used to describe something as being of interest or note or deserving approval.
A Newf or Newfie is someone from Newfoundland and Labrador; sometimes considered derogatory. In Newfoundland, the term Mainlander refers to any Canadian (sometimes American, occasionally Labradorian) not from the island of Newfoundland. Mainlander is also occasionally used derogatorily.
In the Maritimes, a Caper or "Cape Bretoner" is someone from Cape Breton Island, a Bluenoser is someone with a thick, usually southern Nova Scotia accent or as a general term for a Nova Scotian (Including Cape Bretoners), while an Islander is someone from Prince Edward Island (the same term is used in British Columbia for people from Vancouver Island, or the numerous islands along it). A Haligonian refers to someone from the city of Halifax.
Cape Bretoners and Newfies (from Newfoundland and Labrador) often have similar slang. "Barmp" is often used as the sound a car horn makes, example: "He cut me off so I Barmped the horn at him". When saying 'Bye' it is not the traditional farewell but instead referring to a person, example: "How's it goin bye?". Another slang that is commonly used is "dew hickey" which means an object, example: "Pass me that dew hickey over there". When an individual uses the word "biffed", they mean that they threw something. Example: "I got frustrated so I biffed it across the room".
In 2011, just under 21.5 million Canadians, representing 65% of the population, spoke English most of the time at home, while 58% declared it their mother language. English is the major language everywhere in Canada except Quebec, and most Canadians (85%) can speak English. While English is not the preferred language in Quebec, 36.1% of Québécois can speak English. Nationally, Francophones are five times more likely to speak English than Anglophones are to speak French – 44% and 9% respectively. Only 3.2% of Canada's English-speaking population resides in Quebec—mostly in Montreal.[nb 1]
Attitude studies on Canadian English are somewhat rare. A perceptual study on Albertan and Ontarians exists in combination with older literature from the 1970s–80s. Sporadic reports can be found in the literature, e.g. on Vancouver English, in which more than 80% believe in a "Canadian way of speaking", with those with a university education reporting higher than those without.
Jaan Lilles argues in an essay for English Today that there is no variety of "Canadian English". He acknowledges that no variety of English is more "real" or "natural" than any other, but that, in the words of American linguist John Algeo, "All linguistic varieties are fictions." According to Lilles, Canadian English is simply not a "useful fiction". He goes on to argue that too often national identity is conflated with linguistic identity, and that in the case of "Canadian English", supposedly unique features of Canadian speakers, such as certain lexical terms such as muskeg are artificially exaggerated to distinguish Canadian speech primarily from that found in the United States.
en-CAis the language code for Canadian English, as defined by ISO standards (see ISO 639-1 and ISO 3166-1 alpha-2) and Internet standards (see IETF language tag).
Paper given at the 16th International Conference on English Historical Linguistics, Pécs, Hungary
Dollinger, Stefan (2015). The Written Questionnaire in Social Dialectology: History, Theory, Practice. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins. The book's examples are exclusive taken from Canadian English and represent one of the more extensive collections of variables for Canadian English.
The dictionary definition of Canadian English at Wiktionary