by Sandra Hamilton

School of Translation and Interpretation

University of Ottawa


Chapter 2


The definition of Canadianism provided in the previous chapter outlines a number of types of Canadianisms: lexical, grammatical, orthographic and phonetic Canadianisms. This chapter will examine each of these types. However, it does not purport to be an exhaustive account of Canadian features. Rather, it provides a simplified overview of the key features.


The vocabulary of the English and French languages spoken in Canada does not differ enormously from the vocabulary used in other parts of the world where these languages are spoken. In fact, the bulk of the words used are common to all speakers of these languages. There are, however, a number of words that are peculiar in usage in Canada, enough to warrant the appellation of two distinct varieties of these languages: Canadian English and Canadian French.

Lexical Canadianisms can be classified into several different categories. There are basically four main categories. First, there are archaisms, in other words, old words that have fallen out of usage elsewhere but have been maintained in Canada. Second, there are existing words which have had their meaning extended in Canada. Third, there are new words that have been created from the existing language. Finally, there are words that have been borrowed from other languages.

Each of these four categories will now be discussed.


As previously mentioned, both CE and CF have maintained several words that have fallen out of use in the English from Britain and the French from France. Further examples are the expression "I guess" in CE meaning "I suppose", and the word "trash" meaning "rubbish". In CF, we also have "enfarger" in the sense of "entraver", and "grafigner" in the sense of "égratigner". It is not surprising that these words did not come to the same end in Canada as they did in Britain and France, since once they were transported to the New World, they were geographically cut off from the linguistic developments in the old world and subsequently followed their own path of evolution.


The retaining of archaisms illustrates what might be seen as the "preservative" nature of CE and CF. The next class of lexical Canadianisms also indicates a desire to preserve what already exists, although, in a slightly different way. Existing words have often had their meanings extended to cover new, often similar, realities in the New World. For example, the word band, which was mentioned previously in Chapter 1, section 1.4, can simply mean a group of people. However, its meaning has been extended in Canada to designate a group of Indians in a given area and recognized by the government as a group. (McConnell 1979:56) Band, therefore, in CE has acquired a precision that is not known in other varieties of English. Another well-known example of this kind is the afore-mentioned English Canadian expression by acclamation. In British and American English, for example, this simply refers to "a loud and eager assent to a proposal" (Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1982), or "an overwhelming affirmative vote by cheers, shouts or applause rather than by ballot" (Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1983). However in Canada, the phrase contains an additional element; it must include the idea of assent without any opposition. The GAGE defines by acclamation as "the act or an instance of electing without opposition". The words reeve, county, concession and confederation have undergone similar semantic extensions in Canada.

In CF, the word "poudrerie" refers to snow which is "fine et sèche". This is an extension of the meaning "une étendue de terre couverte de poussière", which it had in old French. (Poirier 1980:75) Another example is the word "frasil", which comes from the French word "fraisil" meaning "cendre de charbon de terre incomplètement brûlée". In CF, the meaning does not refer to carbon, but to ice: "petits cristaux de glace ou fragments de glace flottant à la surface de l'eau". (Poirier 1980:75) Some other examples of words whose meaning has been extended in CF are annonceur, babillard and camelot.


Yet another category of lexical Canadianisms demonstrates the tendency to preserve what already exists in the language. This third category of lexical Canadianisms consists of new words that have been created from existing words. When faced with new realities for which they had no names, the new settlers would often turn to existing words to help them out. New words can be created from existing words in several ways.

First, there is compounding, which consists of joining two or more existing words together to designate a new object. In CE, we have the examples of "prairie crocus" and "beverage room". "Casse-croûte" and "lave-auto" are examples of compounding in CF. According to McConnell (1979:61), this is the most frequent way that Canadianisms have been created.

Compounding is, however, not the only method of creating new terms. They can also be created by blending parts of two or more words together. In CE, there are examples of blends that stem from Canadian innovations; for example, a Canadian biologist who crossed speckled trout and lake trout created the new term splake. Similarly, the crossing of muskellunge and pike yielded the new term muspike. Examples of blending are also seen in the vocabulary of our health organizations, (e.g. medicare in CE), our political organizations, (e.g. Socred in CE), and our forms of entertainment, (e.g. téléroman in CF and the sport lacrosse in both CE and CF).

New words can also be created by compression. This is done to simplify the language. For example, the Canadian term Mountie is actually an abbreviation of North West Mounted Police. Hydro is a short form of Hydro-Electric Commission of Ontario, which has spread to other areas of Canada as well. (McConnell 1979:66) In CF, câblodistribution is shortened to câble and cabane à sucre becomes simply cabane.

Not all new words are created from existing words, however. Onomatopoeia, which also plays a part in forming new words, is an exception to the norm. Occasionally, Canadianisms have derived their designation from the sound that the object they refer to make. In CE, a small waterfall in a mountain stream is called a rattle (especially in Newfoundland, where the term was coined), and some birds are named after the sound of the call they make, for example the chewee. (McConnell 1979:64)


The fourth major category of lexical Canadianisms comprises words that have been borrowed from other languages. This comes as no surprise since languages are always influenced by other neighbouring languages. When the first European explorers arrived in Canada, they met the aboriginal peoples of Canada. The Europeans relied heavily on the Amerindians to help show them how to survive in their new surroundings. A means of communication was essential for mutual comprehension and consequently there was a mutual exchange of vocabulary. According to Orkin (1970:88), the Amerindian language most commonly borrowed from was Algonquin. The words borrowed are, for the most part, those referring to features in our flora, fauna, geography and topography. Examples are muskeg, saskatoon, toboggan and wapiti in CE, and abénaquis, malachite, muskeg, rabaska and ouache in CF. Many place names all over Canada are borrowings from Amerindian languages, including the very name of the country which comes from the Iroquoian word Kanata meaning "community". Frequently, Amerindian words entered CF first before entering CE. (McConnell 1979:81)

When English and French-speakers became neighbours, both languages began influencing each other, although the influence of English on French has been much greater than the influence of French on English. Portage, prairie, rapids and concession are examples of English borrowing from French, while examples of French borrowing from English are cheddar, meeting, application and grocerie. Borrowed words have either maintained the original form, or have been altered to fit better into the system of the target language. For example, "tarte rappée" became rawpie, rappee or rappie pie in English, and "bête de la mer", (the name for a young harp seal in Newfoundland) became bedlamer. (McConnell 1979:68) Similarly in CF, "backhouse" became bécosse and the verb "to bother" became bâdrer.


Evidently, as languages are transported to new surroundings, the need for new words to describe new situations arises. Furthermore, given that languages constantly evolve, the transported languages will develop differently from the languages spoken in their place of origin. Canada is no exception. The English and French languages in Canada have been supplemented by the creation of lexical Canadianisms to reflect Canadians' history, culture and general way of life.


Grammatical Canadianisms are not nearly as numerous as lexical Canadianisms. In this section, I will discuss the few differences that do exist between CE and CF and the English and French used in other countries. CE and CF will be treated in separate sections, since obviously the grammatical differences within each language are not the same.


Generally speaking, in English there are no grammatical features that are distinctly Canadian. However, there are a few slight differences between American English (AE) and British English (BE), and since Canadians are influenced by both varieties, usage here is somewhat mixed between the two. It is this mixture of American and British features which makes CE distinct.

The following few points, which were raised by McConnell in Our Own Voice (1979), will be checked against the textual database of the Bilingual Canadian Dictionary Project to see whether current usage supports or disproves them. For the English-language corpora, the Canadian corpus used will be the English Canadian Press (ECP), the American will be the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), and the British will be British corpus collections, (BRCOR), which incorporate a number of scholarly and journalistic texts. For the French-language corpora, the Canadian corpus used will be the Presse canadienne française (PCF) and the French corpus will be Le Monde (MOND). Given that the size of these five corpora vary greatly, we will not compare the total number of occurrences in each, but rather the percentage of occurrences of each practice. USE OF DEFINITE ARTICLE

In BE, there is a tendency to drop the definite article with certain institutions, such as "hospital". In BE, one would say "he went to hospital" or "he is in hospital" whereas in AE, one would say "to the hospital" and "in the hospital". The tendency to drop the article, which appears to be a growing tendency in Britain, may, according to McConnell (1979:35), be spreading to North America. Corpus analysis confirms that this phenomenon is indeed widespread in BE and CE, but not in AE as yet.
to hospital 70% 2% 95%
to the hospital 30% 98% 5%

in hospital 80% 0 97%
in the hospital 20% 100% 3% USE OF POSSESSIVE FORM

Another grammatical difference that has been noted (McConnell 1979:35) is that where BE tends to retain the possessive form, as in "barber's shop", AE simply juxtaposes the two nouns - "barber shop". Results from the BCD's corpus indicate that this is certainly still the case amongst the British and the American speakers, as there are no occurrences of "barber shop" in BRCOR, nor are there any of "barber's shop" in WSJ. The Canadian corpus, ECP, reveals an overwhelming, yet not complete, preference for the American practice in this respect. A possible explanation for this phenomenon may be a desire on the part of the New World settlers to simplify their language. "Barber shop" is certainly easier to pronounce and is clearer sounding than "barber's shop".
barber shop 95% 100% 0
barber's shop 5% 0 100% USE OF PREPOSITIONS

There are a few minor differences between BE and AE in their use of prepositions. According to McConnell (1979:35), the tendency in AE is to say "he lives on Osgoode Street", whereas speakers of BE would say "he lives in Osgoode Street". Another such example is "all of the dishes" in AE, compared to "all the dishes" in BE. (McConnell 1979:35)

Since there were no occurrences of either the "lives on" or "lives in" pattern in BRCOR, it is impossible to draw any conclusions considering British usage; however, we can see that the preposition "on" in the structure "lives + prep. + street name" is clearly predominant in ECP and in WSJ, although the number of occurrences in WSJ was very limited.(1)
lives on + Street 98% 100% 0
lives in + Street 2%(2) 0 0

As for "all the dishes" compared to "all of the dishes", we can only pass judgement on ECP since no occurrences were found in the other two corpora. ECP prefers the British practice of omitting the preposition.
all of the dishes 9.5% 0 0
all the dishes 90.5% 0 0 USE OF ALTERNATIVE VERB FORMS

Another area in which Canadian usage seems to be mixed is in its use of certain verbs in the past tense. The differences between BE and AE in this regard can be illustrated by the following examples: BE "knelt"/AE "kneeled", BE "dived"/AE "dove" and BE "sneaked"/AE "snuck". (McConnell 1979:37)

Of the first pair, "knelt"/"kneeled", there were no occurrences of either form in the BRCOR and only a limited number in WSJ, with the latter showing, surprisingly, that the BE "knelt" is the preferred form. Either the "kneeled" form is not as ingrained in AE as one is led to believe, or else it is falling out of usage. The former explanation is probably more likely, since current American dictionaries such as the Random House Webster's College Dictionary (RHWEB) and the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) list both "knelt" and "kneeled" for the past tense with no indication of one form being preferred over the other. "Knelt" is also the preferred form in the ECP.
knelt 91% 100% 0
kneeled 9% 0 0

Linguistic surveys conducted in the 1970s(3) showed that the Canadian population was split on the use of "dived"/"dove", roughly 50% favouring each. Interestingly, younger Canadians seemed to be more inclined to use "dove". (Chambers 1993:17)

Analysis of the ECP corpus confirms the results of the 1970 surveys. The usage of "dived"/"dove" is still split almost 50-50 amongst Canadians, as can be seen in the following table.
dived 42% 79% 100%
dove 58% 21% 0

The BRCOR reveals that "dived" still remains the preferred form in BE without question. However, the WSJ reveals, once again, some curious figures, showing the British form preferred at an outstanding 79%. These results indicate, as with "kneeled", that "dove" is not as widely accepted as one would believe. Indeed, the American Heritage Dictionary (1982:411) states that "dove is widely used in speech and is acceptable in writing to about half of the Usage Panel".(4) Perhaps since the WSJ is a more conservative, formal newspaper, it would be more likely to use the more traditional verb form.

Surprisingly, results for the "sneaked"/"snuck" pair mirror almost exactly the results for "dived"/"dove". "Sneaked" is unquestionably the preferred form in BE. It is the preferred form over 75% of the time in the WSJ, and roughly half of the time in the ECP.
sneaked 59% 78% 100%

The way in which verbs are used in forming questions may also vary, depending on the variety of English spoken. According to McConnell (1979:37), in AE, for example, there is a tendency to use the auxiliary "do" with "have" for questions, as in "Do you have a pen?", while many speakers of BE would merely say "Have you a pen?". Canadians use both of these forms, but they may also use a third form, which is similar to the BE form, with the addition of the word "got", as in "Have you got a pen?" (McConnell 1979:37) This form is not, however, exclusive to Canadian usage.

Corpus analysis does not bear out all of McConnell's conclusions.
Do you have? 97% 79% 86%
Have you? 1% 0 0
Have you got? 2% 21% 14%

Strangely enough, there were no occurrences of the BE form "have you?" in the BRCOR. The "do you have?" form appears to be the most commonly used form in this corpus. The results from the WSJ, however, confirm the generally accepted view that "do you have?" is the typical AE form, while "have you got?" is also used to some extent. The figures from the ECP show that, even though CE overwhelmingly prefers the "do you have?" form, all three forms are present. CONCLUSION ON GRAMMATICAL CANADIANISMS IN CE

It is not terribly surprising that there are not a large number of grammatical differences between CE and other varieties of English since grammar, unlike vocabulary, is a relatively stable element of language. When the settlers came to Canada, they encountered new things for which they had no names, and were therefore forced to create names. But, although they were forced to create new words to express themselves, the grammatical structures they needed to express themselves were already firmly established. The changes that have taken place in the grammar system are, most likely, changes that are due to the natural evolution of a language.


Similarly, there are not many differences between the grammar of CF and the grammar of the French from France (FF). Furthermore, it would appear that most of the differences that do exist are more likely to occur in the spoken language than the written language. USE OF GENDER

First of all, there is a small number of words which are given a different gender in CF compared to FF. Two such examples are "job" and "radio". (Léon, Bhatt, Baligand, 1988:217) The Petit Robert (PR) lists "job" as masculine, while Canadian dictionaries such as the Dictionnaire québécois d'aujourd'hui (RQ), the Dictionnaire du français plus (PLUS) and the Dictionnaire des canadianismes (LC) list it as feminine. While "radio" is feminine in the PR, the LC marks it as masculine. While the PLUS says it is "souvent au masc. dans l'usage courant", the RQ marks it as both masculine and feminine, but indicates that the masculine form is informal. Since this gender shift is documented by the dictionaries, this is one instance where the grammatical difference does not occur only in the spoken language.

Despite the fact that Canadian unilingual dictionaries clearly mark "job" as feminine, corpus figures show that the masculine/feminine usage of "job" is split almost 50-50 in PCF. However, the masculine is clearly the only gender used in MOND.
un job 48% 100%
une job 52% 0

The usage of "radio" in the masculine in CF is even less well-ingrained. It occurs only 12% of the time in the PCF. This seems to confirm the hesitation in Canadian unilingual dictionaries with regard to this gender.
une radio 88% 100%
un radio 12% 0 USE OF NUMBER

Another tendency, although by no means a predominant one, is to make certain nouns which are plural in FF singular in CF. This is the case, for instance, for "vacances" and "fiançailles", which tend to become singular in CF. (Léon, Bhatt, Baligand 1988:217)

This tendency is not documented in either the RQ or the PLUS. It is indicated in the LC, but it is obviously not generally accepted, since "une vacance" occurs a mere 0.5% of the time in the PCF and "une fiançaille" only 7%.
des vacances 99.5% 100%
une vacance 0.5% 0

des fiançailles 93% 100%
une fiançaille 7% 0 USE OF PERSONAL PRONOUNS

Certainly in the spoken language, but also to some extent in the written language, CF often replaces the personal pronouns "nous", "vous" and "eux" with "nous autres", "vous autres" and "eux autres". The addition of "autres" is for reinforcement. (Léon, Bhatt, Baligand 1988:217)

In this case, we can look directly at the number of occurrences of each form in the PCF and the MOND. Of the three, "nous autres" occurs the most frequently in both corpora.
nous autres 377 22
vous autres 55 3
eux autres 66 1

Since there are occurrences of all three forms in the MOND, and especially of "nous autres" in this corpus, we cannot really conclude that the phenomenon of adding "autres" to personal pronouns is limited to CF. However, it certainly seems to be more prevalent in CF. USE OF RELATIVE PRONOUNS

There is a tendency in CF, primarily in the "langue populaire", to use a different syntax than FF in sentences involving relative pronouns. (Guilbert 1976:46) For example, one might hear "la fille que je sors avec" rather than "la fille avec qui je sors", or "l'homme que je travaille pour" rather than "l'homme pour qui je travaille". (Guilbert 1976:46) It seems reasonable to attribute this phenomenon to the influence of the English language on CF since the CF syntax of the above examples is very close to the English.

In this case, two literary corpora were searched, on the basis that literature would be more likely to present the "langue populaire" rather than newspapers. These two corpora were: Lemeac (LEM) for CF, and Discotext (DISCO) for FF. Neither corpus revealed any occurrences of this phenomenon. The fact that there were no occurrences in LEM may suggest that this is not a very commonplace tendency in CF. CONCLUSION ON GRAMMATICAL CANADIANISMS IN CF

In general, the grammar system of CF remains quite similar to that of FF. The reason for this is the same as that given for CE, i.e., the grammar of a language is very stable and is altered only very gradually and slightly.


There are no significant spelling differences between CF and FF; therefore, this category of Canadianisms will only be discussed from the point of view of CE.

As with grammar, there are no spelling practices which are specifically Canadian. Here once again we see that Canadians are influenced by both AE and BE, and consequently, what constitutes the "Canadianness" of spelling in CE is its divided usage between AE and BE practices.(5) The example which best illustrates this divided usage is the term "tire centre", which uses the American spelling of "tire" and the British spelling of "centre". (Bailey 1991:20)

What follows now is a summary of the major spelling differences that exist between AE and BE and a suggestion of where Canadian practice lies within each difference.


The first difference pertains to the spelling of a couple of verb forms in the past tense: BE "spelt"/AE "spelled" and BE "dreamt"/ AE "dreamed". (McConnell 1979:37) Unlike the alternative verb forms mentioned in section (e.g. "dove"/"dived"), here the difference is simply in the spelling.

While McConnell indicates that Canadians use both forms (1979:37), results from a study of Maclean's magazine (chosen because it "reasonably represents the mainstream of current written English") show that the American practice of -ed endings is preferred. (Peters and Fee 1989:141) This view is confirmed by the BCD corpus in terms of both pairs.
spelt 4% 0 69%
spelled 96% 100% 31%

dreamt 6% 4% 33%
dreamed 94% 96% 67%

Although both forms figure in the ECP corpus, "spelt" occurs only 4% of the time and "dreamt" only 6%, while "spelled" is the preferred spelling 96% of the time and "dreamed" 94%.(6) The WSJ confirms that the BE form "spelt" is not in use in AE and "dreamt" is only marginally so. Surprisingly, the BRCOR indicates that both "spelt" and "spelled" are in use in BE, "spelt" being more predominant, as are also "dreamt" and "dreamed", with "dreamed" actually occurring 67% of the time.


Traditionally, the ending -ce is characteristic of British usage, while endings in -se are typical of American usage. However, actual usage is not as entrenched as that. There do not appear to be any simple guidelines ruling which form is used by each group. Often, the form that is used varies arbitrarily from word to word.

McConnell (1979:48) states that for most Canadians and some Americans, the spelling practice depends on the part of speech of the word, i.e., when the part of speech is a noun, the tendency is to use "c", as in "practice" and "licence", while the corresponding verbs would use "s", i.e., "practise" and "license". While this appears to be generally the case in the BRCOR,(7) corpus figures reveal something very different in the ECP and the WSJ.

practice 88% (8)

nouns = 31%

verbs = 69%

100% 93%

nouns = 99%

verbs = 1%

practise 12%

nouns = 70%

verbs = 30%

0 7%

all verbs

licence 78%

nouns = 31%

verbs = 69%

0 96%

nouns = 98%

verbs = 2%

license 22%

nouns = 85%

verbs = 15%

100% 4%

nouns = 50%

verbs = 50%

The corpus reveals that the ECP does not follow the guidelines which McConnell suggested are in use. In fact, usage appears to be arbitrary in most cases. One pattern that is revealed is that the -ce form is more prevalent than the -se form; however, -ce is typically used as a verb rather than a noun, which is contrary to McConnell's findings.(9) Furthermore, of the few occurrences with the -se ending, the majority are nouns, which again is the exact opposite of what McConnell has said.

Another surprising revelation from the corpus analysis is that the WSJ uses only one form in each case. However, its choice of form is not consistent: it uses "practice" rather than "practise", and "license" rather than "licence".


The -xion forms, as in "connexion" and "reflexion" appear foreign to most North Americans. What's more, usage of these forms in Britain is becoming rare in certain cases.

In the latest edition of the British learner's dictionary Collin's Cobuild English Dictionary (COCO), both the -tion and the -xion forms are given for "connection", but only the -tion form is given for "reflection". According to McConnell (1979:43), the use of the ending -xion or -ction now depends on the form of the word from which the noun is derived, for example, "connect" yields "connection", while "complex" still yields "complexion".

However, corpus verification shows that Canadians, like Americans, favour the -ction form.
connection 100% 100% 100%
connexion 0(10) 0 0

reflection 99% 100% 100%
reflexion 1% 0 0

According to the corpora, the supposedly British spelling -xion occurs extremely infrequently in the ECP and not at all in the WSJ. Even more surprising is the fact that the BRCOR itself provides no occurrences of the -xion ending, which could be an indication of the extent to which the -xion forms are falling out of usage.


Words ending in -ize/-ise/-yze/-yse indicate, once again, that spelling practices are not always uniform within a language variety. For instance, according to Peters and Fee (1989:137), British usage is divided between the -ise form, which is traditionally characteristic of BE, and the American form -ize, while the Americans use -ize as the standard spelling.(11) However, the reverse is true for the traditional BE -yse and AE -yze forms: n BE, -yse is still the standard usage for "paralyse" and "analyse", while usage in AE is divided. (Peters and Fee 1989:137) The study of data from Maclean's (Peters and Fee 1989:144), reveals that CE consistently uses the AE -ize spelling; however it prefers the -yse spelling in "analyse".(12)

The BCD corpus confirms that for both CE and AE, the -ize form is definitely the preferred form, while usage is still split in BE, almost 50-50.
recognize 99.8% 100% 43%
recognise .2% 0 57%

As for the -yse/-yze forms, while AE still clearly prefers -yze and BE still prefers -yse, CE uses both forms. But -yze is more prevalent, contrary to what Peters and Fee noted in Maclean's.
paralyze 70% 100% 0
paralyse 30% 0 100%

analyze 59% 100% 4%
analyse 41% 0 96%


Perhaps the best known spelling marker distinguishing AE from other varieties of English is the -or form. However, while -our is the preferred spelling of BE in such words as "favour", "honour", "armour", and "labour", -or forms are firmly ingrained in such words as "horror", "pallor" and "tremor". (McConnell 1979:46) Furthermore, when a suffix is added to -our words in BE, generally, the -our changes to -or, as in "coloration" and "humorous". (McConnell 1979:47)

In CE, usage in this case is very much divided. Maclean's uses the AE -or (Peters and Fee 1989:142), and according to Chambers (1986:6), this spelling has been the common practice of newspapers in Canada since 1887. Conversely, the BE -our spelling is more often used in academic and professional journals. (Pringle 1985:189)

Bailey (1991:20) indicates that use of -our predominates among Ontario high school students (80%), while -or is more common among Alberta high school students (60%). He attributes this discrepancy to the fact that, education being a provincial jurisdiction, favoured spelling practices vary from one province to another. Because of such divided usage, it is virtually impossible to designate one form over the other as the preferred national standard.

However, ECP indicates a definite tendency in Canadian journalism to use -or rather than -our.(13)
color 98.5% 99.5% 12%
colour 1.5% 0.5% 88%

honor 99% 99.5% 0
honour 1% 0.5% 100%

armor 76% 100% 0
armour 24% 0(14) 100%

labor 98% 99.9% .4%
labour 2% .1% 99.6%

While both -or and -our forms were found in all three corpora, each shows a distinct preference for one form: the ECP and the WSJ favour -or and the BRCOR favours -our.


While the -er ending is the predominant form in AE, there are some exceptions. In order to retain the "k" sound, -re is used after the letter "c", as in "acre", "massacre" and "mediocre". (McConnell 1979:47)

In BE, according to McConnell (1979:47), use of the -re and -er spellings may vary according to sense. For instance, while "meter" is the spelling normally used in AE to designate all 3 senses of the word, i.e., the musical sense, the unit of measurement and the instrument for measurement, in BE, "metre" is used for the musical sense and the unit of measurement, while "meter" is used in the sense of an instrument for measurement.
meter 7% 100% 13%
metre 93% 0 87%

The corpus findings confirm that "meter" is the only spelling found in the WSJ, and that both forms are found in the ECP and the BRCOR although "metre" is predominant. The sense of the word does appear to affect the spelling in the ECP and the BRCOR as mentioned above. Of the occurrences of "meter" in the ECP and the BRCOR, the majority of these are in the sense of an instrument for measurement. Therefore, Canadian usage appears to follow the BE practice in this case.

The -re form has the added benefit of usually matching the French spelling, which is very useful in Canada since it simplifies the Government's task of making bilingual signs, titles, etc., for example: "interpretive centre d'interpretation". (McConnell 1979:47)


Another area where usage is not consistent in English is in the doubling of final consonants. BE tends to double the final consonant in words like "travelled" and "worshipped", whereas AE typically does not. However, in verbs where the accent is on the second syllable, BE will often drop the second "l", for example, "enrol", "enthral" and "fulfil", while AE tends to retain it. (McConnell 1979:49)

CE also reveals some inconsistencies in its practice. The study of data from Maclean's reveals "travelled" and "worshipped" alongside "libelous" and "gossiping" within the same text. (Peters and Fee 1989:144) BCD corpus data presents a slightly different picture.
traveled 4% 99.4% 3%
travelled 96% 0.6% 97%

worshiped 16% 55% 0
worshipped 84% 45% 100%

The BCD corpus shows that the double consonant forms are more prevalent in the ECP and the BRCOR.(15) But the results are not as clear for the WSJ. The single consonant form is favoured without question in the case of "traveled"; however, in the case of "worshiped" and "worshipped", the figures present no clearly favoured form.

As for the spelling of verbs accentuated on the second syllable, such as "fulfil"/"fulfill", results from the corpora substantiate McConnell's statement that BE prefers the single consonant, while AE prefers the double. They also show that CE appears to follow the British practice in this respect.
fulfil 73% .7% 91%
fulfill 27% 99.3% 9%


There are a number of miscellaneous words with variant spellings in AE and BE which do not fit into any of the above categories. In most of these cases, according to McConnell (1979:45), CE tends to follow the British practice, for example, "axe" instead of "ax", "cheque" instead of "check", "catalogue" instead of "catalog", "plough" instead of "plow" and "programme" instead of "program". The ECP confirms McConnell's statements about these words with two exceptions: "plough" and "program". The American spellings of these two words appear to have taken precedence in Canada over the British forms.
ax 7% 89% 0
axe 93% 11% 100%

check 1% 99.9% 5%(16)
cheque 99% 0.1% 95%

catalog 8% 97% 0
catalogue 92% 3% 100%

plow 84% 90% 0
plough 16% 10% 100%

program 99.8% 100% 9%
programme 0.2% 0 91%


As suspected, the BCD corpora have attested to the fact that spelling practices in CE include a mixture of BE and AE practices. One might wonder why Canada's close geographical proximity to the United States has not led it to abandon British spellings in favour of American ones. There are several possible explanations for why this has not occurred. First, Canada has retained its historical political and cultural ties to Britain, and second, the British spellings are a way for Canada to differentiate itself from the Americans and assert a separate identity.

However, spelling usage is not uniform across the country. It is therefore somewhat difficult to precisely determine Canadian spelling practices. It is not as simple as saying that CE follows the spelling practices of Britain or America. Some of the preferred practices are British and others are American. Even within one practice, some people may prefer one form, while others prefer another. Essentially, what gives CE spelling its Canadian identity is the fact that it incorporates a mixture of practices from both BE and AE.


There is much in the pronunciation of CE and CF which greatly resembles other varieties of English and French. This is especially true in the case of CE. Nevertheless, it is also fair to say that there do exist some significant Canadian variations in pronunciation.

Once again, in this section, CE and CF will be treated separately since the pronunciation differences are not comparable in the two languages.


Canadian scholars have repeatedly remarked on the homogeneity of CE pronunciation. Chambers (1986:12) notes that "Probably no other country has a standard accent that is so geographically widespread and so socially ubiquitous." Nevertheless, there are features which distinguish our speech from other varieties. These features may be distinctly Canadian, but here again, as in grammar and orthography, the primary source of these variations is the competing influence of Britain and the United States. VARIATION IN THE VOWEL SYSTEM

The phonetic variations in CE lie primarily in the vowel system. The most famous of these variations is what is known as "Canadian Raising". Briefly, this phenomenon refers to diphthongs with a higher onset in words like "right" [r it] and "house" [h us], in contrast to lower onset diphthongs in words such as "ride" [ra d] and "house" (verb) [hauz]. (Gregg 1993:37-38 IN FOCUS ON CANADA) Woods (1993:159) considers this variation the major phonological variation which differentiates CE from AE IN FOCUS ON CANADA; however, as Chambers has noted (1975:96), it is not a phenomenon exclusive to Canada.

There are several other variants pertaining to the vowel system which differentiate the pronunciation of CE from AE. Contrary to AE, CE shows a preference for the British pronunciations of certain vowels: /i:/ over /aI/ as in the word "anti"; /i:/ over /I/ as in the word "been"; / / over / / as in the word "shone"; /i:/ over / / as in the word "lever"; and /ae/ over /eI/ as in the word "ration". This preference for British pronunciations can be explained in the same way as the preference for certain British spellings: Canadians have retained close ties with the British, and they hang on to ways of differentiating themselves from Americans.

One example of a distinctly Canadian pronunciation is illustrated by the word "khaki". The Canadian pronunciation [karki] is quite different from the typical American pronunciation [kæki] and the British pronunciation [k :ki]. The [karki] pronunciation may be falling out of use, however, as research indicates that the majority of CE speakers, especially younger Canadians, use the American variant. (Gregg 1984:71 QUOTED IN KYLVEK'S ARTICLE IN FOCUS MORRISET DOESN'T HAVE GREGG'S ARTICLE)

According to Chambers (1993:11), the most structurally significant phonological feature of CE is the merger of the low back vowels / / and / /. In most English-speaking areas, speakers differentiate between these two vowels, as in the / / in "cot" versus the / / in "caught". However, as Chambers notes, (1993:11) this distinction has disappeared in CE, and Canadians now have only one vowel, usually the / /. Therefore, both words, "cot" and "caught" are pronounced the same way. Interestingly, this same phenomenon is encountered in western Pennsylvania, which attests to the Loyalist origins of CE. (Chambers 1993:11) VARIATION IN THE CONSONANT SYSTEM

One phonological variant which pertains to consonants is the transformation of /t/ into /d/ when it occurs in the middle of a word with a vowel on either side, as in "butter". In BE, the /d/ pronunciation is regional, whereas in AE it is so prevalent that the Webster's International (3rd edition) gives the ['b d r] pronunciation before ['b t r]. (Gregg 1993:38) According to Gregg (1993:38), the American variant is becoming more prevalent in CE, but speakers still revert to the /t/ in more formal communication. CONCLUSION ON PHONOLOGICAL CANADIANISMS IN CE

It will be interesting to follow the evolution of pronunciation in CE in the future as, according to Clarke (1993:105), the traditional British pronunciations, which have been regarded as prestigious, now seem to be losing ground to the American pronunciations, at least in terms of certain phonological variables. Clarke states that there is a trend towards Americanization which indicates that many Canadians may be experiencing increasing identification with Americans. If this is the case, the days of AE and BE variants competing against one another in CE may eventually come to an end.


There are several phonological variables distinguishing CF from the standard French from France. Although we think of them as typically Canadian, some of them actually stem originally from the west of France and are still heard there today. (Léon, Bhatt, Baligand 1988:214-215) VARIATION IN THE VOWEL SYSTEM

The majority of variation occurs in the vowel system. One variation is the tendency for the closed vowels /i/, /y/, and /u/ to become more open when they occur within a closed syllable (a syllable which finishes with a pronounced consonant, with the exception of /r/), such as "site" - [sIt], "chute" - [ Yt] and "route" - [R t]. (Léon, Bhatt, Baligand 1988:214)

Another variation is noticed when the vowel /a/ occurs within an open syllable;(17) it then tends to become a posterior / /, as in "chat" - [ ], or it can even become a posterior, open / /, as in "là - [l ]. (Léon, Bhatt, Baligand 1988:214)

There are three relatively common diphthong variables which occur in the CF vowel system. One is the tendency for the long / / within a closed syllable, such as "maître" and "fenêtre", to be pronounced as [maItR] or [m ItR] and [f n ItR]. (Léon, Bhatt, Baligand 1988: 214) The second is for the long /o/ within a closed syllable, such as "saute" and "ôte", to be pronounced as [sO t] and [O t]. (Léon, Bhatt, Baligand 1988:214) The third occurs when "eu" is within a syllable closed by the letter "r", such as "beurre". The pronunciation becomes [bYR]. (Léon, Bhatt, Baligand 1988:214) VARIATION IN THE CONSONANT SYSTEM

In contrast with the vowel system, there is relatively little variation in the consonant system. The most well-known and probably the most widespread phonological variation in the consonant system of CF is the assibilation of /t/ and /d/. This phenomenon occurs when /t/ or /d/ precedes the anterior vowels /i/ or /y/, as in "petite" or "du", resulting in the pronunciations [ptsIt] and [dzy]. (Léon, Bhatt, Baligand 1988:215) CONCLUSION ON PHONETIC CANADIANISMS IN CF

Limited though they are, there are a number of differences between the pronunciation of CF and FF. This fact is not surprising, given that CF has existed independently of FF for over three hundred years. CF has developed a sound of its own, combining some features which are peculiar to Canada and others which attest to the heritage of its ancestors.


In every aspect of language, i.e., the lexicon, the grammar, the orthography and the phonology, there are features which distinguish CE and CF from the English and French varieties spoken in other parts of the world. In some cases, what distinguishes the Canadian variety may be the presence of a feature which is distinctly Canadian; in others, it may be the fact that Canadian usage consists of a mixture of features from other varieties of the language. Both are instances of Canadian usage, for, as Avis's definition of the term "Canadianism" states, a Canadianism need not necessarily be native or exclusive to Canada, but rather distinctively characteristic of Canadian usage.

1. There were only 2 occurrences of "lives on".

2. The one occurrence found is peculiar in its use of the definite article before the street name: "lives in the Rav Ashi Street...".

3. The surveys being referred to are the Survey of Canadian English by Scargill and Warkentyne in 1972 and a regional survey of usage in Toronto by Chambers in 1979.

4. This Usage Panel consists of writers, editors, professors, journalists, news reporters, etc.

5. The reason for many of the spelling differences between AE and BE are the reforms that the American Noah Webster proposed in the early part of the 19th century. Many of his suggested changes have become firmly ingrained in AE, while others never caught on. Others have been adopted, not only by Americans, but by Britons and Canadians alike, for example, dropping the "k" from "musick", "traffick" and "publick". (McConnell 1979:41)

6. The Canadian Press Stylebook (1992:248) indicates either form can be used and expresses no preference for one form or the other.

7. The only exception is the "license" form.

8. There are over 11,000 occurrences of this form in the ECP. Since the concordance generating system used with the BCD corpora does not permit differentiation between grammatical categories, the breakdown between noun and verb forms was achieved by eliminating all possible verbal combinations, e.g., "to practice" or "will practice". Therefore, it is possible that these figures may not be completely accurate.

9. The -ce form is preferred by the Canadian Style (1985:55) and the Globe and Mail Style Book (1981:121), regardless of grammatical category.

10. Note that there were actually nine occurrences of "connexion", but each of these occurrences was the proper name of an organization.

11. Although the -ize form seems to be winning favour among many English speakers, McConnell (1979:44) offers an explanation as to why some -ise forms remain. She suggests they are helped along by the existence of words in English that have endings in -ise, though not as a suffix, such as "surprise", "advise", "exercise" and "disguise".

12. The Canadian Style indicates a preference for -ize (1985:55), but the Globe and Mail Style Book indicates no preference (1981:123).

13. Both the Globe and Mail Style Book (1981:121) and the Canadian Press Stylebook (1992:248) choose the -or form. Only the Canadian Style (1985:55), the style guide of the federal public service, favours the -our ending.

14. There were actually 88 occurrences of "armour", but these were all proper names.

15. The Canadian Style indicates a preference for a single "l" in words such as "instil" and "enrolment", but a double "ll" in "travelled" (1985:55).

16. There was one occurrence of "rain check", which, according to the Collins Cobuild Dictionary, is the proper spelling, and is characteristic of informal American usage.

17. A syllable which finishes with a pronounced vowel.