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February 8, 2011
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Haha, that’s funny dbfreak – I find myself fascinated with that sort of thing too. I only took one class in linguistics at uni (or college!) and that was French linguistics, but ever since, I’ve noticed that I pay a lot more attention to people’s accents, and my own accent and pronunciation.
To be honest, I was amazed how many similarities there were between British and Canadian English; I always assumed that Canadians and US Americans always spoke pretty much the same (being an ignorant Brit!)
I think something that’s really interesting is that American spelling is originally how us Brits would have spelt things too, i.e. color vs. colour, check vs. cheque, but then I think the British English got bastardised with French influence and we ended up spelling things to fit in with that for some reason. I’m not sure if the spelling is the same in Canada as it is in the US, I would assume it probably is considering the time it was colonised.
As for the Toronto thing, it’s something I noticed purely when I was out there. It was something that my friends and I picked up fairly soon after arriving. I guess, from what you’re saying, people like to try and be ‘cool’ and say it the way the locals say it. I’m from a county called Essex in England and people here tend to talk like the way the actors talk in British ‘gangster’ style films. The true Essex accent is more farmer-like, as it used to be purely agricultural land, but there was a huge swathe of people coming from the east end of London and it completely changed the accent. The word ‘vehicle’ ALWAYS makes me laugh (I know it shouldn’t), but to me it’s so funny the way it’s pronounced in North America. It just sounds so awkward like you have to try and over-separate the two syllables. I guess the closest way I can think of how we pronounce it over here is like ‘veer-kel’, it’s almost like we ignore the aspirated h completely! Makes things a lot easier!
I’ve just noticed as well, the way Toronto is spelt and enunciated share the same particularity that London has – despite the first vowel being an ‘o’, it’s pronounced as a ‘u’, i.e. Toronto becomes ‘Turonto’ and London becomes ‘Lundun’. I always find that frustrating, having studied foreign languages such as Spanish, which is so much more phonetic than English, i.e. the way you see a word is the way you pronounce a word. Learning English as a foreigner must be an absolute nightmare!
In response to dbfreaks post above, you make some very interesting points.I'm from England, UK. It's funny that you mention the 'zee/zed' thing. In the UK, it's 'zed', everywhere as far as I'm aware. And I'm pretty sure that if someone said 'zee', any Brit would automatically assume they were American.
I lived in Montreal for six months a few years back and became fascinated with the Anglophone population there, and the way they pronounced things, namely the 'oat and aboat' pronunciation others have mentioned, and they way that 'ey?' got tagged on to the end of a lot of phrases, not even interrogatory phrases.
Now, I don't have any idea about accent differences throughout Canada (I've never been further west than Toronto, or 'T'ronno' as it's pronounced there!), but from what people are saying above about the 'oat and aboat' situation being more prevalent in the maritime provinces, i.e. Nova Scotia, Newf'oo'ndland(!), PEI, etc, perhaps this has got something to do with how the English language was brought to North America. To my ears, 'oat and aboat' is very similar to how the same words are pronounced in both Ireland and Scotland (more so Northern Ireland). My Northern Irish ancestors certainly pronounce them in the same way.
I'm maybe labouring the point a little, but maybe the further west you head in North America, the less the accent relates back to immigrants from the UK and Ireland. The accent in New England in the US certainly has a lot more similarities to British English than, say, the American accent in Los Angeles.
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