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Pronunciation of the second ‘a’ in Canada and Canadian

Can anyone tell me why the second ‘a’ in Canada and Canadian is pronounced differently? 

I’m English/British and I and from England/Britain.

Surely it should either be Can-a-da & Can-a-dian or Can-ay-da & Can-ay-dian...

My guess is it has something to do with the French influence, but I would love to know for sure.

Here in the UK our language has been heavily influenced over the years, including by the French and it has always interested where these things start or change.

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This is a great question. The reason has to do with stress placement. In the word CANADA, the second 'a' does not carry primary stress. Stress is on the first syllable in Canadian English. An unstressed vowel in English turns into an 'uh' sound. So, you get CA-nuh-duh. In contrast, in the word CANADIAN, the second 'a' carries the primary stress in the word, so it is fully pronounced, cuh-NAY-di-un. It is different from the French, but that's only because French is syllable-timed instead of stress-timed and so does not follow the same patterns of vowel reduction. I hope this helped!

linguisttype August 10, 2015, 9:40am

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In no way can I improve linguisttype's comment, but I can perhaps reinforce it a little. What linguisttype calls the 'uh' sound is often called the schwa (phonetic symbol /ə/), which is in fact the most common sound in English, and is very characteristic of English.

For example, while the French fully pronounce each syllable in the word général (/ʒeneʀal/), in the English version only the first syllable is stressed, so the others weaken into the schwa sound (or even fade away alltogether ( /ˈdʒɛn(ə)r(ə)l/ ). You can hear the two versions at Google Translate -

And it is unlikely to come from French, as the French word Canadien keeps the same short a as in Canada, both of which, as linguisttype points out, is a syllable-timed language (or what I would call an equal-stress language) where each syllable is fully pronounced. Which is why the pronunciation of French names in the media are often somewhat different to the way they are pronounced in French, the most recent obvous example being the pronunciation of Sarkosy.

I was hoping to be able to find something similar from British English, but was surprised to find very few words in fact end in "adian" with a probable maximum of 22. And in every case they seem to have the same long a (/eɪ/) pronunciation as in Canadian. And although a short a sound (/a/) is possible in Trinidadian, the long a version seems to be more common, and is the only one listed in Other examples include Orcadian, arcadian, circadian.

But there are other examples in English where stress changes; one pairing that gives foreign learners difficultes is photograph and photographer, where not only does the stress change but so does the pronunciation of the second o, from long o to short o.

So, in conclusion, I would say that the difference in pronunciation between Canada and Canadian clearly follows English rules and the pattern of English being a stress-timed language, rather than French pronunciation or patterns. We might have got the words Canada and Canadian from the French (which they in turn seem to have got tfrom the Iroquoi word for village - kanata). But in terms of pronunciation, they've in fact been anglicised.

Warsaw Will August 18, 2015, 2:43am

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Addendum to above: there's a missing 'on' in P1, and a superfluous 'both of which' in P3. And here is a more user-friendly link (p2) -

Warsaw Will August 18, 2015, 2:48am

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Many borrowed words in English which do not end in -ation or -sion are stressed on the antepenultimate syllable: this pattern is evident in Canada -> Canadian, photograph-photographer and so on.

jayles the unwoven August 18, 2015, 3:11am

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