You are on page 1of 9

English in North America

English is spoken as a native language in two major spheres in

America. The larger one covers the United States and English
speaking Canada; the other, lesser sphere is the Caribbean area.
The largest single English speaking area in the world is that
formed by the United States and Canada. Approximately 85
percent of the 275 million Americans and almost two thirds of the
Canadian population of about 31 million had English as their
native language in 2000. Many of the inhabitants of Canada and
the United States who do not have English as their first language,
nevertheless use it in a multitude of different situations.
The inhabitants of Canada and the United States who do not have
English as their first language, nevertheless use it in a multitude
of different situations. The United States does not have an official
language despite efforts by the English Only movement;
however, some 23 states have passed laws making it their official
language. In Canada, both English and French are official
languages. The next most widely used languages are Spanish
and French. Significant number of Spanish speaking residents live
in Miami and New York, as well as in many large American cities.
French is the majority language of Quebec. In the United States
the only concentrations of French are in New England, close to
French Canada, and in Louisiana.
Despite the large number of non-English native speakers (over
one half in New Mexico, over one third in Hawaii, California,
Arizona and Texas, and over one quarter in New York), there are
few places in the United States and Canada where it is not
possible to communicate in English. Despite highly developed
French-English bilingualism, there are some 4.25 million
monolingual French speakers in Canada. In the United States

several non-English groups are expanding noticeably, above all

Spanish and Chinese.

Canadian English
Canadian English is the product of four waves of immigration and
settlement over a period of almost 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.
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 anti-English sentiment among its
Canadian English contains elements of British English and
American English in its vocabulary, as well as many distinctive
Canadianisms. In Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta,
speech is heavily influenced by French, with many English words
being replaced by their French counterparts.
Yet, there
are important features of Canadian English which distinguish it as
an independent sub-variety of American English. What is
distinctively Canadian about Canadian English is its combination
of tendencies that are uniquely distributed.
According to a study, Canadians with relatively more positive
views of the United States and of Americans are more likely to
have syllable reduction in words such as:
mirror mere

warren- warn
lion line
They also have fewer high diphthongs in words such as about or
like, which is known as Canadian raising, where the
diphthongs /a/ and /a/ are "raised" before voiceless consonants,
namely /p/, /t/, /k/, /s/, // and /f/. They are also more likely to voice
the /t/ in words like party or butter. Because of Canadian raising,
many speakers are able to distinguish between words such as
writer and rider.
Pro-British attitudes correlate well with a preservation of vowel
distinctions before an /r/, such as spear it vs spirit, furry vs hurry,
and oral vs aural as well as distinct vowels in cot vs caught.
Pro-Canadian attitudes mean relatively more leveling of the vowel
distinctions just mentioned, more loss of /j/, in words like tune,
dew and new (which is also true for speakers with positive
attitudes towards the United States)
A number of surveys have been conducted to register the
preferences with regard to the pronunciation of various individual
words, as well as spellings. Approximately 75 percent say zed
(BrE) instead of zee (AmE) as the name of the letter, and just as
many use chesterfield for sofa (AmE and BrE). Two thirds have
an /l/ in almond, but two thirds also say bath (BrE) rather than
bathe (AmE) .
More examples:
Dressing gown or Housecoat ,AmE- bathrobe.
Bachelor: bachelor apartment, an apartment all in a single room,
AmE studio
Washroom public toilet in BrE, and restroom in AmE

British English spellings are strongly favored in Ontario, while the

American English ones are favored in Alberta. Spelling may call
forth relatively emotional reactions, since it is a part of the
language system which people are especially conscious of, in
contrast to many points of pronunciation. This means that using
British English spelling rather than an American English on can be
something of a declaration of allegiance.
1. French-derived words that in American English end with -or
and -er, such as color or center, retain British spellings
(colour and centre).
2. In other cases, Canadians and Americans differ from British
spelling, such as in the case of nouns like curb and tire,
which in British English are spelled kerb and tyre.
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 institutionsCanada'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 the
parts of automobiles (for example, truck instead of lorry, gasoline
instead of petrol, trunk instead of boot).
As the following examples show, differences between Canadian
English and United States American English are largely in the area
of pronunciation and vocabulary.
Vocabulary provides for a considerable number of Canadianisms.
Examples are: sault waterfall, muskeg a northern bog, canalsfjords, cat spruce a kind of tree, tamarack a kind of larch,
kinnikinnick plants used in a mixture of dried leaves, bar and
tobacco for smoking in earlier times, konanee a kind of salmon,
siwash duck a kind of duck.

The use of the discourse marker eh? is also considered to be

especially Canadian.
The pronunciation of Canadian English applies to Canada from the
Ottawa Valley to British Columbia and is similar to General
American. It shares the same consonant system, including the
unstable contrast between the /hw/ of which and the /w/ of witch.
Its vowel system is similar to that of the northern variety of
General American, which means that the opposition between /a/
and /o/ as in cot and caught has been lost.
What shows up as the most typical Canadian feature of
pronunciation, is the already mentioned Canadian raising. This
refers to the realization of /a/ and /ai/ with a higher and nonfronted first element [u] and [i] when followed by a voiceless
consonant. Elsewhere the realization is /au/ and /ai/. Hence each
of the pairs bout /but/- bowed /baud/ and bite /bit/ - bide /baid/
have noticeably different allophones.
One of the most interesting aspects of Canadian raising is its
increasing loss among young Canadians. This movement may be
understood as a part of a standardization process in which the
standard is General American and not General Canadian. This
movement has been documented most strongly among young
females in Vancouver and Toronto, and is indicative of a generally
positive attitude towards things American, including vocabulary
choice. However, an independent development among young
Vancouver males, rounding of the first element of /a/ before
voiceless consonants as /ou/, is working against this
standardization and may be part of a process promoting a nonstandard local norm.

American English
The regional varieties of English in the United States consist of
three general areas : Northern (of which Canadian English is a
part), Midland and Southern. Each of them may be further
differentiated into subregions. Grammar is of relatively little
importance for these three areas. Most of the dividing is based on
vocabulary and pronunciation. The lexical distinctions are most
evident in the more old-fashioned, rural vocabulary.
The Southern accents realize /ai/ as /a/, that is, with a
weakened off-glide, or no off-glide at all, especially before a
voiced consonant, and /u/ and / / are being increasingly fronted.
Some of the characteristics :
1. the classic Southern drawl, caused when vowels become long:

house = ha:wse, eggs = ai:gz; some words even contain

triphthongs: flowers. fla:ierz]
2. loss of final t, d after another consonant: an(d), tol(d)
3. In many varieties of Southern States English, the vowel is
often realized as or when followed by a velar nasal .
Therefore, words like sing , thing and drink are pronounced
as /s/, / (/, /drk/

Lack of rhoticity is typical of Eastern New England and New York

City. It is also characteristic of Coastal Southern and Gulf
Southern, even though younger white speakers are increasingly
rhotic, while Mid Southern has always been rhotic.

Northern does not have /j/ in words like due, new, nor does
North Midland, but /j/ may occur throughout the South.
1. The merger of // and //, making father and bother rhyme.
This change is in a transitional or completed stage nearly
universally in North American English.
2. The merger of // and // in many areas.[citation needed] This
is the so-called cotcaught merger, where cot and caught are
homophones. The opposition between these two sounds is
maintained in the South.
3. Canadian raising is a Northern form which, despite its name,
is common in many American cities of the Inland North
The pronunciation of the Northern Midland area more or less
from Ohio westwards, has often been referred to as General
American. This label is a convenient fiction used to designate a
huge area in which there are numerous local differences in
pronunciation, but in which there are none of the more noticeable
subregional divisions such as those along the eastern seabord.
Furthermore, the differences between North Midland and Inland

North are relatively insignificant. Both areas are rhotic, are not
likely to vocalize /l/, have /ai/ as /i/ or /ai/, do not distinguish //
and // and no longer maintain the /j/ on-glide in the due words.
Most significant of all for the selection of North Midland for the
label General American is the fact that it is this type of accent
more than any other which is used on the national broadcasting
The most noticeable regional contrast is that between North and
South. This division is, in addition to vocabulary and
pronunciation differences, underscored to some extent at least by
grammatical features. It seems that it is only in Southern
varieties, including Black English Vernacular, that such admittedly
non-standard features occur as perfective done (I done seen it),
future gon (Im gon tell you something), and several more far
reaching types of multiple negation, such as a carry-over of
negation across clauses (Hes not coming, I dont believe I
believe hes not coming).
It is also in the South that an area is to be found with speech
forms approaching the character of a traditional dialect (such as
otherwise found only in Great Britain and Ireland, and possibly in
Newfoundland). The dialect which is meant is Appalachian
English and the related Ozark English, which are found in the
Southern Highlands. The English of these regions is characterized
by a relatively high incidence of older forms which have generally
passed out of other forms of American English. Examples include
syntactic phenomena such as a-prefixing on verbs (Im a-fixin to
carry her to town), morphological-phonological ones such as
initial /h/ in hit it and haint aint and lexical ones such as
afore before or nary not any.