Canadian raising and other oddities

Canadian flag Canadian raising and other oddities

Canada and its resources Canadian raising is a phonological process characteristic of one variety of Canadian English, in which the onsets of the diphthongs /ay/ and /aw/ raise to mid vowels when they precede voiceless obstruents (the sounds /p/, /t/, /k/, /s/, and /f/). Although this phenomenon has come to be called "Canadian" raising, the name is unfortunately too general, as this manner of speech is not shared by all Canadians.

Click on the speaker icons below to hear genuine examples of Canadian raising.

sound "Knife, knives"

sound "Lout, loud"

sound "Price hike"

sound "About the house"

To American ears, the Canadian pronunciation of about often sounds like aboot, but this is only an illusion. Because the more familiar pronunciation of /aw/ is articulated with the tongue in a low position, and because it raises to a mid position in Canadian English when the vowel precedes the voiceless obstruents listed above, speakers of other varieties of English will immediately detect the vowel raising, but will sometimes think that the vowel has raised farther than it actually does, all the way to /u/, which is a high vowel--hence the mishearing (and not-quite-right imitation) of this pronunciation as aboot.

Canadian raising is used by some citizens of Toronto, who also have a unique way of pronouncing the name of their city.

sound "Toronto"

Please see the following articles for more information about Canadian raising:

Many Americans regard eh as characteristic of Canadian English. Like Canadian raising, eh is used by some citizens of southern Ontario. Click on the speaker icons below to hear examples of some different uses of eh (some of which will be recognized as tongue-in-cheek).

You can read more about Canadian eh in the following articles:

Another quirk of North American speech involves rounding (or lack thereof) of non-high back vowels in individual words. For big fun, compare my vowels in the following sentence to your own vowels and those of your friends.

sound "Sorry, I left my oranges and chocolate in the forest"

Information about this phenomenon may be found in Charles-James N. Bailey, English Phonetic Transcription (Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, and University of Texas at Arlington, 1985), ch. 12.

Accolades: This site was noted by the Toronto Star 1 July 2000: J3 and the New York Times 23 March 2000: G3. The author of this page was interviewed on Montreal's CIQC AM 600 on 9 December 1999, following a review by the National Post, 8 December 1999: A6. This page was also chosen as a Link of the Week by The Humble and Fred Show on Toronto's The Edge 102 FM, on 10 February 1998. Thanks to everyone for their interest!

The sound files on this page were recorded with the Windows 95 Sound Recorder in CCITT u-Law format at 8,000 Hz, 8-bit mono, 8 KB/s, and then converted to audio file format with Soundtool on a Sun machine.

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