Canadian raising

From Academic Kids

Canadian raising is a phonetic phenomenon that occurs in varieties of the English language, especially Canadian English, in which diphthongs are "raised" before voiceless consonants (e.g., , , , , ). For example, IPA (the vowel of "eye") and (the vowel of "loud") become and , respectively, the component of the diphthong going from a low vowel to schwa . As in many other dialects is an allophone of (as in "road"), the Canadian pronunciation of "about the house" may sound like *"a boat the hoas" to non-Canadians. Some stand-up and situation comedians exaggerate this to *"aboot the hoos" for comic effect.

Despite its name, the phenomenon is not restricted to Canada: it has been reported in the traditional accent of Martha's Vineyard, for example. The example above deals with the diphthong, but, as noted, the diphthong can be affected as well. So, whereas the General American pronunciations of "rider" and "writer" are identical , those whose dialects include Canadian raising will pronounce them as and , respectively. This raising of can be found in the United States as well, for example in the Pacific Northwest, New England, and Philadelphia. Note also that Canadian raising preserves the recoverability of the phoneme in "writer," even though in Canadian English, as in most other versions of North American English, the and undergo flapping to before unstressed vowels.

The phenomenon of Canadian raising may be related historically to a similar phenomenon that exists in Scots and Scottish English. The Scots Vowel Length Rule lengthens a wide variety of vowel sounds in several environments, and shortens them in others; "long" environments include when the vowel precedes a number of voiced consonant sounds. This rule also conditions in the long environments and in the short environments.

The most common understanding of the Great Vowel Shift is that the Middle English vowels passed through a stage on the way to their modern pronunciations . Thus it is difficult to say whether Canadian raising reflects an innovation or the preservation of an older vowel quality in a restricted environment.

Bibliography

  • Chambers, J. K. "Canadian raising". Canadian Journal of Linguistics 18.2 (1973): 113–35.
  • Labov, W. "The social motivation of a sound change". Word 19 (1963): 273–309.
  • Wells, J. C. Accents of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

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