Varieties of Modern English and Canadian English

Term Paper, 2009

14 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of contents

1 Introduction

2 Different varieties of Modern English
2.1 Variety vs. dialect and accent
2.2 Short overview of different varieties

3 Canadian English
3.1 Standard Canadian English and its origins
3.2 Distinctive spelling features
3.3 Specific Canadian pronunciation

4 Conclusion

5 Bibliography

1 Introduction

Thinking of Canada, many people suddenly associate this country with vast areas of forests, mountains and also great lakes. Interestingly, Canada is the second largest country in the world after Russia when it comes to the geographical expansion. On the other hand the Canadian population of about 33 million is comperable small with respect to to this huge areas of land (Chambers 252). Another very interesting aspect of Canada is that there are two official languages English and French. I came across many people thinking that one has to be familiar with speaking French to get along in the Eastern parts of Canada. This prejudice is of course not true to 100 per cent but at least there is some truth in it. Only in the area of Quebec, where French is the only official language, it is nearly impossible to ask for the way to the next supermarket in English. At first sight it appeared to be very surprising that people who are surrounded by millions of English speaking fellow men can not communicate with them in English. After a while however I was able to get to know that not speaking English is a very important aspect for people coming from Quebec in order to create an own identity which is according to themselves neither French nor English but Quebecois. Besides that very special situation I have never realized any distinctive Canadian features in the Canadian language which I have not come across with before. Having been to Cornwall, New England or speaking to people from Australia it has been always very easy to identify those people’s origins since these varieties of English show very unique features that make it easy do differantiate between a speaker of American English and a speaker of British English. But there has always been this tendency that the Canadians either had an slight American accent or a British one. The very same was true for their choice of vocabulary but some years ago I never thought about this with too many ulterior motives. Moreover I have never really been aware of the fact that Canadian English is a very own standardized variety of Modern English just like Australian English and American English. Therefore I will try to explain what a variety of a language actually is and what other varieties of Modern English exist, before I go into further detail explaining the origins of Standard Canadian English and its distinctive linguistic features which are in fact very difficult to detect if not knowing that they exist.

2 Different varieties of Modern English

2.1 Variety vs. dialect and accent

Especially speakers of the German language incline to use the terms dialect and accent simultaneously without knowing that there are of course some differences. Another term which might lead to even more confusion about how people are talking is variety. In order to shed some light on the differences between these expressions I will try to give a short definition of each of them and to differentiate between them by illustrating their specific differences and what they have in common.

When talking about dialect, it is often conjectured that dialect means to be a specific use of words and grammar of a language which can be distinguished from a supposed non-dialectal norm which is usually considered superior (Davies 6). In fact we all use a certain dialect and by speaking with this distinctive dialect everybody shows his membership of a specific group of people with a similar regional descent (Bauer 3). Moreover the dialect is also often considered to signify one’s power and education as Standard English for example still is thought to be the most important dialect because of its associations with immense power and a very sophisticated educational background of its speakers (Davies 6). Within the last few years there could be observed a decline of some old rural English dialects because the people who speak them tend to stay by themselves. On the other hand there are always new dialects produced by a new way of life. Especially people moving to the cities influenced these new dialects and changed the use of words and grammar of these new dialects (Davies 6-7). In contrast to dialect which is more likely to be recognized by one’s use of words or grammar, accent describes a particular pronunciation of words (Davies 7). Therefore it is easy to recognize from which country a speaker of a specific accents comes from. In fact one does not have to wait until this person “reveals” his origins by some very distinctive use of words (Bauer2). Despite one’s origins, accent also indicates the social background of its speaker as well as his degree of education and so on (Davies 7). Although everybody speaks an accent from his early childhood onwards, which shows your individual form of a certain dialect (Bauer 2-3), the accent is likely to adjust later on depending on the people’s accents you keep company with. Nevertheless it is nearly impossible to lose your early childhood accent completely. Especially people speaking English as a second language never get rid of some pronunciation features of their first language (Davies 7).

In order to avoid confusion between the use of the terms accent and dialect, one can use variety instead. Variety is a term covering nearly all kinds of language production as dialect, idiolect or accent. It also can be applied for the determination by region, gender, social class or any other very individual classification (Bauer 4). As a conclusion the term variety appears to be especially useful when talking about linguistic features that concern a lot of people living in a large country with a highly diverse ethnical background.

2.2 Short overview of different varieties

English as a world language, or even the number one world language, has had its success in the huge expansion of the British Empire with all its different colonies around the world (Bauer 13). We tend to neglect that even in Ireland, Scotland and Wales, English is not the originally spoken language but was brought to these countries in order to replace the different local languages. From the 16th century onward English explorers made their way to many remote places in the world and brought their language to countries like Australia, New Zealand, Northern America, Africa, India and Canada (Bauer 14-18). There are some models which try to illustrate the connections between those varieties of English by presenting them in a family tree or different circles for example (Bauer 20-23; Figure 1.0). Unfortunately these kinds of graphics do not reveal the influences of other foreign languages like Dutch, German or Scottish English on those varieties. Nevertheless they are quite helpful in order to get an overview of today’s standardized varieties of Modern English with some of its sub-varieties (Bauer 22). Coming to a conclusion one might record the fact that are seven important varietis of English which fulfil distincive criteria to be enumerated: East Asian Standardizing English, Australian, New Zealand and South Pacific Standard English, British and Irish Standard English, American Standard English, Canadian Standard English, Caribbean Standard English, West, East and South African Standard English and South Asian Standard English (Bauer 22). On the next pages I will go into further detail by looking at Canadian English as an example of an international variety of Modern English.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1.0 McArthur’s model of Englishes

3 Canadian English

3.1 Standard Canadian English and its origins

Looking at the language which is spoken in most parts of the country and by the majority of the Canadian population, English clearly surpasses French. Even though French is considered to be a second official language in Canada (Chambers 252) the English language unambiguously predominates because it is spoken by approximately 63 per cent of the Canadian population and another 13 per cent admit to use English as at least their second language. There is only one huge exception to these statistics: the province of Quebec, a region in the North-East of Canada where French is the single official language at the provincial level and which is therefore dominated by a francophone population. Outside Quebec around 95 per cent of Canada’s inhabitants claim to speak English as their first or second language (Chambers 252). Thinking of Canada’s vast ethnic diversity one automatically suspects that there must be a lot of different varieties, accents or dialects within Canadian English as such. Although this is true to a certain degree there is only very little influence on today’s distinctive linguistic features of Standard Canadian English because the generation of immigrants who brought those Anglophone features was ethnically homogeneous (Chambers 252). To keep in responsible bounds I will focus on what is called Standard Canadian English.


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Varieties of Modern English and Canadian English
Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg
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varieties, modern, english, canadian
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Fabian Zschiesche (Author), 2009, Varieties of Modern English and Canadian English, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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