Canadian raising

Canadian raising

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., IPA|/p/, IPA|/t/, IPA|/k/, IPA|/s/, IPA|/f/). IPAEng|aɪ (the vowel of "eye") becomes IPA|ʌj, while the outcome of IPA|/aʊ/ (the vowel of "loud") varies by dialect, with IPA| [ʌw] more common in the west and a fronted variant IPA| [ɛʉ] commonly heard in Central Canada. In any case, the IPA|/a/ component of the diphthong changes from a low vowel to a mid vowel or else a back vowel IPA|( [ʌ] or [ɛ] ). As IPA| [əʊ] is an allophone of IPA|/oʊ/ (as in "road") in many other dialects, the Canadian pronunciation of "about the house" may sound like "a boat the hoce" to non-Canadians. Some stand-up and situation comedians exaggerate this to "oot and aboot" for comic effect.

It is important that these exaggerated pronunciations, such as "a boot the hoce", are usually only apparent to people "without" Canadian raising. They represent an attempt to imperfectly approximate the sounds they hear with sounds available in their own dialects. Because this approximation is imperfect, individuals who do speak with Canadian raising will frequently be baffled by reports that they are being perceived as saying "aboot".

Geographic distribution of Canadian raising

Despite its name, the phenomenon is not restricted to Canada; it is quite common in New England and Minnesota, Upper Michigan, and other upper Midwestern states, and has been reported in the traditional accent of Martha's Vineyard, as well as in Southern Atlantic varieties of English and in the Fens in England. True Canadian raising affects both the IPA|/aʊ/ and IPA|/aɪ/ diphthongs, but a related phenomenon, of much wider distribution throughout the United States, affects only the IPA|/aɪ/ diphthong. So, whereas the General American pronunciations of "rider" and "writer" are identical IPA| [ɹaɪɾɚ] , those whose dialects include either the full or restricted Canadian raising will pronounce them as IPA| [ɹaɪɾɚ] and IPA| [ɹʌɪɾɚ] , respectively. (In British English, these words would be pronounced IPA| [ɹaɪdə] and IPA| [ɹaɪtə] , respectively.) This raising of IPA|/aɪ/ can be found in the Pacific Northwest, New England, and Philadelphia, and probably in many other parts of the country as well, as it appears to be spreading. Note also that this phenomenon preserves the recoverability of the phoneme IPA|/t/ in "writer" despite the North American English process of flapping, which merges IPA|/t/ and IPA|/d/ into IPA| [ɾ] before unstressed vowels.

Varieties of Canadian raising

Note that, for many speakers,Fact|date=May 2008 Canadian raising applies not only before voiceless consonants, but more generally in a non-final syllable of a morpheme. This is sensitive to morpheme boundaries in a word. For such speakers, "rider" and "spider" do not rhyme, since the former has a morpheme boundary before the "-er", and hence the voiced IPA|/d/ inhibits raising, whereas the latter has no such boundary, and hence raising can apply freely in a non-morpheme-final syllable. Similarly, "pilot" and "pile it" may be non-homophonous, since the former has a raised diphthong (due to its being in a non-morpheme-final syllable) while the latter has a normal, non-raised diphthong -- although in such circumstances (before resonant consonants, it seems), the raising may be optional for some speakers. There are many other dialect-specific complexities: For example, even the speakers just described, for whom "rider" and "spider" do not rhyme, may differ on whether raising applies in "hydrogen", although unquestionably it does apply to "nitrogen".

Possible origins

The phenomenon of Canadian raising may be related historically to a similar phenomenon that exists in Scots and Scottish English. The Scottish 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 IPA|/aɪ/ in the long environments and IPA|/əɪ/ in the short environments. Significantly, though, the Scots Vowel Length Rule applies only before voiced fricatives and /r/, whereas Canadian raising is not limited in this fashion; thus, it may represent a sort of merging of the Scots Vowel Length Rule with the general English rule lengthening vowels before voiced consonants of any sort.

The most common understanding of the Great Vowel Shift is that the Middle English vowels IPA| [iː, uː] passed through a stage IPA| [əɪ, əʊ] on the way to their modern pronunciations IPA| [aɪ, aʊ] . Thus it is difficult to say whether Canadian raising reflects an innovation or the preservation of an older vowel quality in a restricted environment.


*Chambers, J. K. "Canadian raising". "Canadian Journal of Linguistics" 18.2 (1973): 113–35.
*Dailey-O'Cain, J. "Canadian raising in a midwestern U.S. city". "Language Variation and Change" 9,1 (1997): 107-120.
*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.

ee also

*Canadian Shift
*North American English regional phonology

External links

* [ Canadian Raising and Other Oddities] with audio files

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