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Talking Canadian

Chris

Well-Known TRIBEr
Just a heads up! eh!


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Talking Canadian
January 29, 2004 at 9 p.m. ET on CBC Television

"You say ee-ther, I say eye-ther, you say nee-ther, I say nye-ther;
ee-ther, eye-ther, nee-ther, nye-ther, let’s call the whole thing off.”
Ira Gershwin, who probably didn’t know he was more closely
describing Canadian English than American.

Why do English-speaking Canadians talk the way we do? Why do we say couch instead of chesterfield, windshield instead of windscreen, and ee-ther and eye-ther, sometimes interchangeably? Why do Newfoundlanders have a distinctive accent and use colourful words like ballicatter that can’t be heard anywhere else? How have French words like portage and prairie, and Native words like chipmunk and toboggan become part of our everyday speech? How have immigrants who are not from the British Isles had an impact on the way we speak?


Few of us are aware that the language we speak - the words we use and the way we say them, has less to do with conscious choice than it has to do with our past: when and why we came here, where we settled and the tug of war between British and American influences, which has been part of our live for centuries.
But Talking Canadian is not so much a history lesson as an often-amusing look at our accent, intonation and vocabulary – how Canadians speak today, and how we will talk in the future.

The program takes a light-hearted look at how we differ from the British and the Americans, and how something uniquely Canadian has emerged from that historical mix. It will also look at how our language is changing, how like-speaking and uptalk are becoming standard among young Canadians at the same time they’re being adopted by English-speaking teenagers around the world. Certain pronunciations are becoming global too: stoo-dent, instead of styu-dent, for example, and witch instead of which. And the past tenses of a number of verbs are evolving into something new.


But that doesn’t mean Canadian English is dying. Regional variations remain strong. Newfoundlanders don’t sound like mainlanders, and rural Canadians often don’t sound like urban ones. Even within cities new local dialects may be emerging as the population of Canada grows more dense. In Montreal, for example, where closely-knit Jewish and Italian communities are surrounded by a French-speaking culture, there are signs that permanent local dialects may be taking root. In the rest of Canada, Canadians show signs of clinging firmly to what we think makes us distinct."
 
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