Canadian English

by Stefan Dollinger, Director of the Canadian English Lab, University of British Columbia at Vancouver.

Introduction

Until fairly recently, Canadian English was a severely understudied national variety of English. Reliable sociolinguistic data of a national scope has been especially hard to come by and, until the mid-1990s, was virtually inexistent. The geographical proximity to the American superpower is quite unique to Canadian English and contrasts it with other varieties of English, such as Australian, New Zealand, or UK varieties of English. Combined with a relatively low awareness of Canadian English features (a result of the school system), some commentators, especially outsiders, tend to confuse Canadian English with American dialects. Comparisons of degrees of difference are always relative: while a localEast Anglian English speaker may confuse a Torontonian for an American, Canadians usually have little difficulty telling the one from the other. The last ten years in particular have produced significant data on a national scale that allows the characterization of the variety more adequately than before.

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