The Beginners Guide to Canadian Pronunciation

I may be a bit biased but I believe Canada is one of the best countries in the world! You might be considering moving to Canada for work and study. My advice, you definitely should! Before you pack your bags there are a few things that you need to know about Canadian English.

Canadian English is truly a unique hybrid between American and British English. While the pronunciation may sound quite American there are some distinct differences. In this Beginner’s Guide to Canadian Pronunciation, we’ll take a look at a few typically Canadian accent elements and some unique pronunciations of some words.

The Canadian Rising

In a nutshell, this is where there are two adjacent vowel sounds within the same syllable. Due to the Canadian rising the words rider and writer are distinguishable. In most American dialects these words sound the same.

This makes more sense with an example.

Caught-Cot Merger

Almost all Canadians have the what linguistics call the “Caught-Cot Merger”. This merger is also fairly common in the Mid-Western US. Here the words caught and cot sound the same and there is no distinction between the two words out of context.

Tomorrow, Sorry, and Sorrow

Canadians have the reputation of being very apologetic people. If a person bumps into you on the street a Canadian is likely to apologize to them for it. We’re a little sensitive about our pronunciation of this word. Our American neighbours love to try and imitate our pronunciation of this word. You really can hear a true Canadian distinction in the pronunciation of these three words: tomorrow, sorry, sorrow. The pronunciation sounds more like the O as in “gory”. The American pronunciation sounds more like the A in as in “starry”

Milk

The word milk is sometimes pronounced to rhyme with elk. Here the I in milk turned into an E. Another funny Canadian thing about milk is that in Ontario our milk comes in a bag. But I’ll save those details for another post.

Other Canadian Variations

While we don’t need to get too technical about each Canadian pronunciation variations there are more worth noting.

A Canadian pronunciation that my Irish friends used to make fun of me for is the similar pronunciation of the words bag and vague. In the video below you can hear how these two words nearly rhyme. With most other English accents (US, UK, Ireland) the A vague is lower and elongated.

Cities

Often when I tell people in my Canadian accent I am from near Toronto, I need to repeat myself with the less Canadian pronunciation. In the Canadian pronunciation of Toronto, the first vowel (O) is omitted and as well as the last T. This is very characteristically Canadian, as you will hard time to find a Canadian who pronounces Toronto like it looks.

Ottawa- Here the double t (tt) turns into a D sound. Again, I am almost certain there are zero Canadians who say Ottawa instead of O”dd” awa. 

Other Accents

Canada prides itself on being a very multicultural country. So when you arrive in Canada brace yourself for the barrage of many English accents. In the Greater Toronto Area alone almost 45% of people speak English as their second language. Vancouver has a very large Asian community and in some areas, the street signs are in English and Chinese. We also have native French-speaking communities in Quebec and parts of New Brunswick.

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