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English Language in Canada Essay


Basic Concepts

Language is a coherent organization of sounds that has meaning. The sounds are organized into sentences and words that are used in communication. Each language has a system of rules called grammar that allows an individual to create and understand speech or gestures.

The English language shows remarkable differences in terms of phonetics, phonology, dialect, syntax, and lexis or semantics. Phonetics is an acoustic concept that describes how people perceive and produce sounds or utterances. Pronunciations of similar words usually differ among the Canadian, British, and American English speakers. Phonology, on the other hand, is the way language sounds are organized into a pattern.

A language is also described by its morphology, i.e., the relations between sounds and words. Words are built from many morphemes that give them a grammatical meaning. The words are the building blocks of sentences or phrases. Sentence construction must conform to a set of rules called syntax. A language’s syntax dictates the arrangement or order of the subject, verb, and object in a sentence. In the English language, word order in a sentence determines its meaning.

The English spoken in Canada differs from the American and British varieties in terms of semantics and lexis. Semantics describe the actual meaning of a word, expressions, or sentence. A change in the word order in a sentence affects its semantic meaning. Lexis is a word used in a language as a vocabulary.

It has no grammatical meaning, but can be used in idioms or metaphors. Context has a big influence on the way people interpret or pronounce English words. It gives rise to dialect, which is the variety of English language spoken in a particular region or culture. Dialects differ in terms of pronunciation, vocabulary, and sentence structure.

Word forms vary depending on region or culture. This gives rise to multiple language varieties or native dialects. However, the words of the Standard English language remain unchanged with time or place. It is autonomous and homogeneous relative to other varieties. In linguistics, real-time change describes how language develops within a given period. On the other hand, apparent-time change is the linguistic difference that exists between the two generations.

World ‘Englishes’

Globally, the English language differs from one region to another. This gives rise to a number of distinctive English varieties native to different places. Standard English differs from regional dialects as it is unaffected by time or geography. It also exhibits linguistic autonomy and homogeneity.

Key linguistic variables distinguish English varieties. For example, the variants of ‘-ing’ can be ‘in’ or ‘ing’. Both the variants and the Standard English are social constructs and thus, depend on the local culture or region. English is classified as native (first or ENL), second (second or ESL), or foreign (EFL) language depending on the region.

The division of English shows the different linguistic varieties spoken globally. Thus, the world ‘Englishes’ are the creoles, pidgins, or varieties derived from the English language. They differ from Standard English because they are unofficial. Pidgin is a language that emerges out of a need to communicate verbally.

It has simple grammar and phonology to ease communication. In contrast, a Creole is a language that develops from Pidgin English. It is usually the language spoken by native speakers or descendants of Pidgin speakers. They have words that are absent in the pidgins. The native speakers modify Pidgin transforming it into a Creole, such as the Jamaican English.

Pidgins borrow from different dominant languages spoken in a region. The lexis of a Pidgin often has a European origin, while its syntax borrows from local languages. On the other hand, creoles originate from the interactions between people who speak nonstandard English and native language speakers. A standard language follows clear grammatical rules and has wide acceptance. It is usually the language of conducting business globally.

It also has vocabularies codified in a dictionary. Language standards constitute the enforceable rules that may be prescriptive or descriptive in nature. Over a third of the people in Canada speak the Standard Canadian English while the rest of the population is either multilingual or Anglophone.

On the other hand, nonstandard English encompasses all the varieties that are only useful in particular social contexts. In general, the world ’Englishes’ fall into three categories: norm-receiving (Russia), norm providing (UK and US), and norm-developing (India).

Dialect Geography

It describes the study of the various dialects in a region. Dialect geography involves two main approaches: the written questionnaire and interview method. The interview method involves both direct and indirect questions to find the local names for common items. The three subtypes of queries an interviewer can ask include naming, completing, and ‘reverse’ questions.

The interviewers ask people how they would pronounce particular phrases in their local dialect. This allows them to establish the dialectical lexemes common to language varieties in other geographical regions.

With regard to the written questionnaire method, respondents indicate how they pronounce certain words in their region. The aim is to identify grammatical features and sounds they use. The informants of dialectic geography include the Linguistic Atlas of New England (LAUSC) and the NORMs (Non-educated Old Rural Males).

NORMs involve trained informants who collect data from different countries regarding the pronunciations of the locals. The pre-sociolinguistic era informants are categorized into type I, II, and III, which include those with little, medium, and high level of literacy respectively. The informants also fall into two other categories, namely, Type A (aged) and Type B (middle-age).

Diachronic linguistics indicates that the lingual features of the language spoken in ‘rhotic’ (pronounced in a word) regions like Edinburg and Dublin are conservative. In contrast, people from ‘non-rhotic’ areas such as London use prestigious innovations. Speakers in Australia also use innovations.

Isoglosses demarcate the geographical regions where speakers use a certain linguistic feature. They are lines drawn on a map to distinguish rhotic speakers (North American accent) from non-rhotic ones (British pronunciation). Isogloss patterns have different meanings. When the two isoglosses intersect, it means that the language features spread in a wavelike fashion to produce distinct regional varieties. Thus, these regions have different linguistic features.

An isogloss bundle can also arise in a map. It occurs when many isoglosses lie together to mark distinct dialects of a region. Isogloss bundles are a product of cultural and geographic factors that limit the usage of innovations. Population movements cause changes in language features through interactions. Large cities are often the source of innovations, which spread to neighboring areas.

‘CanE’ Autonomy and Homogeneity

Speakers of standard Canadian English are the middle-class Anglophones residing in urban areas. The speakers have a standard Canadian accent. The morphology, pronunciation, and syntax of the Standard English are unique to Canada. Statistics indicate that the middle-class urban dwellers constitute 36 percent of the Canadian population. This population constitutes the speakers of the standard Canadian English.

Canadian English borrows heavily from the American and British ones. Its hybrid nature makes it unique and distinctive in terms of pronunciation and vocabulary. For instance, the way Americans pronounce the word ‘town’ is different from how Canadians do it. Another distinction relates to word spelling.

Words like color and center take British spellings in Canadian English. Americans and Canadians also use different words to refer to the same thing. For example, a restroom in America is called a washroom in Canada. Although Canadian English has a unique identity, the linguistic features are similar to those of the British and American varieties.

The unique identity has given rise to a characteristic Canadian English. It is easy to distinguish Americans and Ontarians based on their speech because of clear differences in word choice and accent. This implies that Canadian English is distinct from that of the Americans or the British. However, since it has no unique linguistic features, the language cannot be described as autonomous. It is a hybrid of the American and British English and thus, heterogeneous in terms of linguistic features.

Canadian English is relatively homogeneous compared to the British or the American one. Young Canadians, irrespective of their geographic location, use the dialect in their speech. The homogeneity of the language only applies to Standard Canadian English. Rural varieties, including the vernaculars spoken in Alberta, the Maritimes, and Newfoundland province, exhibit a huge variability from one place to another.

The middle-class people of Vancouver, Victoria, and Quebec speak a similar standard Canadian English. Standard English is homogeneous across different regions and age groups. Young Canadians in these regions use it in their speech. In addition, authors and other writers use standard Canadian English in books and magazine articles.

CanE Lexis

Canadian lexis describes the words that are unique to Canada. Examples include the Canadian words like ‘eh’ and ‘pop’, which correspond to ‘huh’ and ‘soda’ in the American English respectively. Some Canadian words have British origins and thus, different from the American vocabulary.

This contradicts the assertion that the isogloss between America and Canada is fast disappearing. Examples of such words include Chesterfield, tap, and eves-troughs. Historical experiences determine the lexical variation. Canadians’ history and heritage are distinct from those of Americans, French, or Germans in terms of trade and commerce. Historical events are recorded using words unique to Canada. Such historical words, their spelling, and meaning are explained in the Canadian English dictionaries.

Lexicography is a hybrid of linguistics and philology. A country’s lexis not only encompasses its unique words, but also their sounds or pronunciation. The Canadian accent is different from the American and British ones. Moreover, some words in Canadian English have no British or American origins.

Words used to describe geographical features, animals, and plants are peculiar to Canada. In addition, the Canadians describe cultural, social, and political activities using words that are absent in the American or British dictionaries. Dictionaries contain words native to a particular region and thus, words unique to Canada may lack in a British or an American dictionary.

In this regard, the Canadian lexis gives rise to ‘Canadianism’, which is comparable to Americanism in the United States. ‘Canadianism’ describes the words or phrases that are unique to Canada. Although such words dominate Canadian conversations, people outside Canada may also use them.

An example is a Chesterfield or couch, which in America is often called a sofa. ‘Canadianisms’ are of six types, namely, original words like ‘garburator’, preserved phrases, altered semantics (Chesterfield), common expressions (washroom), memorial, and culturally significant language.

Canadian lexis also shows regional variation due to the existence of many dialects in different parts of the country. Nevertheless, the existence of words and phrases that are uniquely Canadian is the basis for ‘Canadianism.’ The meaning of such words is also unique to Canada. Since such words or phrases have evolved within Canada, they are rarely used outside the country.

CanE Phonetics and Phonology

The term phonetics describes the expression of sounds in a language or dialect. Canadian English has a unique accent or pronunciation. On the other hand, phonology describes the speech sounds or phonemes common to a particular dialect. Unlike the British, Canadians raise two diphthongs when pronouncing vowel sounds, i.e., /a/ and /ai/ in words like houses and wives. ‘Canadian Raising’ (CR) of these diphthongs is evident when they occur before a voiceless consonant of a word.

The pronunciation of voiceless consonants does not cause the larynx to vibrate. Words like wife and house are voiceless and thus, ‘raised’ when uttered with a Canadian accent. On the other hand, the plurals of the same words, i.e., wives and houses, are voiced during pronunciation. CR is evident when Canadian utters words like milk, bat, progress, and silk, among others.

Canadian shift is another linguistic (phonetics) feature common among speakers in major cities like Montreal and Vancouver. Canadian shift is detected through the analysis of sounds to reveal subtle phonetic features of the speech. It affects vowels in words like ‘pan’ and ‘pen’.

In these words, the vowel /i/ shifts to /ǣ/ when pronounced with a Canadian dialect. However, the Canadian shift has no effect on vowels that occur before /g/, /n/, or /m/ in words like ‘bag’. The Canadian shift started in the northern cities before spreading to other areas. Its usage depends on gender and social class of the speaker. Thus, the Canadian shift is a social process whose changes can be tracked through apparent-time studies.

With regard to phonology, the Canadian pronunciation of /a/ and /ɔ/ in words like ‘palm’ and ‘thought’ respectively tends to merge into ‘a’. In the Canadian dialect, mergers before /r/ involve the back vowels in words like ‘tomorrow’, while in the American pronunciation it affects the front ones (e.g. marry).

Thus, a word like ‘sorry’ is pronounced differently in the American and Canadian dialects. Foreign pronunciations of the letter ‘a’ in words like ‘pasta’ and ‘llama’ also dominate the Canadian accent. Thus, unlike the American English, foreign pronunciations of /a/ have been integrated into the Canadian dialect.

Apparent-time and Real-time

Real-time studies describe the social development of a language over time. In contrast, apparent-time studies assess the linguistic variations that exist between the old and young generations. Differences in vowel sounds can arise in a country resulting in a distinct linguistic identity.

An example is in the Southern US where surveys (GRITS and PTS) reveal linguistic differences in terms of grammar and phonetics. Two types of surveys are used to determine real-time and apparent-time changes, namely, panel and trend studies. Apparent-time studies assess the usage of a particular linguistic feature by people of different age groups. In this way, it is easier to assess its variation across the age groups.

On the other hand, real-time studies the development of a linguistic feature through history. Real-time studies are important in historical linguistics because they trace the evolution of common expressions through history. In contrast, apparent-time studies reveal the distribution of words and expressions across the ages. For instance, the modal expression ‘have to’ is more common among teenagers (9 to 16 years old) than among people above 60 years. Apparent-time studies can also reveal sex-based and past linguistic changes. They also determine changes that have occurred in particular social networks.

Older changes are commonly associated with the gender of the speaker while newer features only emerge from distinct social networks. Apparent-time hypothesis applies to linguistic variables such as phonetics, pragmatics, and lexis in grownups. However, the model does not apply to the language used by teenagers and children. The apparent-time model classifies features that recur in all generations at a given time into age-graded changes.

Research indicates that the apparent-time model explains the changes that occur among adult speakers. In particular, changes in the grammar used by adults can be explained using the apparent-time model. However, it is unclear whether the model works for other linguistic variables.

Apparent-time data can be used to validate the findings of real-time studies, which examine the development of a language within a given period in history. However, the apparent-time model does not capture all the variables of a language as it changes through time (diachronic linguistics).

Texting

Texting represents a new genre of the written word. Developments in technology and mobile telephony contributed to the evolution of text messaging. Texting depends on the cultural context of the communicators. Thus, texting in the American context differs from that in Europe because of cultural differences. Text messages often reflect the linguistic features of the dominant language.

Mobile phones, besides being important devices in communication, have a cultural significance. A text message conveys important information about the cultural background of the sender. Moreover, the act of texting depends on age and generation of the user. Inbuilt linguistic symbols such as clippings and initials also influence texting.

In addition, features such as keypad letters and ringtones shape the way people compose texts, including the use of homonyms and other words. Texting has caused changes in the form and function of language. Language has four primary functions, namely, emotive, referential, social, and poetic roles.

The language used in texting depends on technological constraints and social contexts. The cost of sending the text also influences the orthography of a text message. The linguistic form of texting is often nonstandard because users usually use texts to express their creativity and playfulness.

Moreover, users often use a friendly tone when texting to others. Some common features of the texting language include reduced length, contractions, abbreviations, acronyms, and emoticons. Users often reduce the length of words, characters, or sentences when texting. Others exclude vowels in a word resulting in non-conventional abbreviations. Contractions used in texting are usually nonstandard and thus, peculiar to a particular region or age group.

Users also create homophones by combining words with numbers. Some texts contain non-standard spellings or local dialects that do not conform to specific grammatical rules. Common linguistic features of texting include dialogue (conversation), wordplay to express creativity and informality (chit chatting).

Texting is also more intimate than other forms of written communication. Its aim is to satisfy the intimate and communication needs of the users and thus, plays a role in strengthening social bonds. Texting also gives users a certain level of anonymity unseen in other communication forms.

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IvyPanda. (2020, March 21). English Language in Canada. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/english-language-in-canada/

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"English Language in Canada." IvyPanda, 21 Mar. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/english-language-in-canada/.

1. IvyPanda. "English Language in Canada." March 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/english-language-in-canada/.


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IvyPanda. "English Language in Canada." March 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/english-language-in-canada/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "English Language in Canada." March 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/english-language-in-canada/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'English Language in Canada'. 21 March.

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