The Strathy Blog - 2014

News about the Strathy Language Unit and Canadian English studies

[Please note that this page is an archive of blog posts from 2014. Some of the links to articles are no longer active.]

Australian Babies and Canadian Accents

Date: December 15, 2014 | Category: In the Media

Australian babies have an easier time distinguishing Canadian English vowels than Australian English ones. This is the finding of recent research out of the University of Western Sydney. Read more about the study and the researchers' interpretation of these results in this Daily Mail article.


Language and Diplomacy

Date: December 4, 2014 | Category: In the Media

The Canadian government's new English and French Twitter accounts have sparked controversy with the first tweet over the translation of English tag "eh" as French "ouais". Read more about it in this article and this response in the Montreal Gazette.


Newfoundlandisms in Republic of Doyle

Date: November 12, 2014 | Category: In the Media

In behind-the-scenes footage for CBC's Republic of Doyle, several actors discuss the use of characteristic Newfoundland phrases in the show. Follow this link and then select episode 4 beneath the viewer.



Date: October 20, 2014 | Category: In the Media

Is Canadian English lacking terms for different types of wind? What would you propose? This article in the Wellington Times is a fun exploration of the topic.


Canadian English Speaker in Propaganda Video?

Date: October 12, 2014 | Category: In the Media

The FBI recently released a propaganda video by the Islamic State featuring a masked narrator speaking in a North American accent. Several Canadian English linguists believe that the speaker learned English in Canada based on his pronunciation of several vowels. Read more about the issue in this article from the Regina Leader-Post.


Disappearing Darbies?

Date: September 23, 2014 | Category: In the Media

Storyteller Dale Jarvis explores the origins and meanings of the Newfoundland term "darby" - referring to a supernatural creature - in this piece in The Telegram. [article no longer available]


A Common Shift

Date: September 21, 2014 | Category: In the Media

In his latest Watchwords column, Mark Abley speculates that "common" connotations are increasingly negative. [article no longer available]


Manitoba Dialect

Date: September 5, 2014 | Category: In the Media

"Got a booter bumper-shining to the LC, you say?" This recent article in the Winnipeg Free Press - Finding our voice: A primer on the Manitoba dialect - highlights research on the English spoken in the province.


Vocal Fry in Female Canadian English Speakers

Date: September 4, 2014 | Category: News

The latest article in our series Strathy Student Working Papers on Canadian English is now available on QSpace. In "Would you like fries with thaaaat?" Investigating vocal fry in young, female Canadian English speakers, authors Goodine and Johns present an acoustic study of vocal fry in 21 speakers as well as results of a survey exploring attitudes towards speakers who exhibit vocal fry.


Summer Media Stories

Date: September 2, 2014 | Category: In the Media

The blog is back from hiatus, and we are happy to report that this has been a great summer for media coverage of Canadian English. Below are links to several articles that caught our attention. Please send us any that we may have overlooked!

  • Who is speaking up for Canadian English? (The Globe and Mail, August 11)
  • Regional differences in Canadian English alive and well (Metro News, July 31) [no longer available]
  • How do you pronounce Lieutenant Governor? (Toronto Star, July 6)
  • How a mishmash of English dialects and linguistic quirks morphed into an accent identifiably Canadian (National Post, June 28)
  • Canadian English: Do we really say 'eh'? (Metro News, June 2) [no longer available]
  • Canadian English: Listen up hosers! (Metro News, June 2) [no longer available]


Blog Hiatus - July and August

Date: June 28, 2014 | Category: News

The blog will be on its usual summer hiatus during July and August, returning in September with more news and media stories!


Bad English?

Date: June 21, 2014 | Category: In the Media

On a recent episode of CBC's The Current, author Ammom Shea discussed the pet peeves of language purists and the inevitability of change. You can listen to the episode here. [no longer available]


Genderless Pronouns in Vancouver Schools

Date: June 20, 2014 | Category: In the Media

Efforts to introduce genderless pronouns into English have been a topic of discussion for decades. The Vancouver School Board recently voted to allow students to be referred to by the pronoun of their choice. For some background on the issue and an overview of past proposed innovative forms, see this article from the National Post[no longer available]


Quebec Origins for "mulligan"?

Date: June 17, 2014 | Category: In the Media

Can the origins of "mulligan" be traced to a businessman/chauffeur/golfer in Montreal? Mark Abley explores tales of the word's history in this article The Gazette[no longer available]


CVC 8 Photos

Date: June 10, 2014 | Category: News

Change and Variation in Canada 8 was a great success! The event was hosted by the Strathy Unit May 31-June 1 and featured many interesting talks. (Click here to view the programme.) Here are a few images from the weekend.


CVC8 volunteers

CVC8 reception

CVC8 registration table


Canadian English and Canadian Identity

Date: June 2, 2014 | Category: In the Media

The evolution of English in Canada and the hows and whys of its unique characteristics are explored in this article from Metro News: Canadian English, from 'eh' to 'zed'. [no longer available]


CVC 8 Programme

Date: May 19, 2014 | Category: News

The programme for Change and Variation in Canada 8 is now available. View the programme and register for the conference at


Alberta Accents

Date: May 5, 2014 (updated May 18, 2010) | Category: In the Media

A recent article in the Calgary Herald explores regional accents across the country with a focus on the distinctive sounds of Alberta. Take their quiz and see how well you can distinguish Albertans from Ontarians!

19/05/14 Update.... The quiz results are in.

[quiz and results no longer available]

Funding Available for Student Researchers

Date: April 23, 2014 | Category: News

The Strathy Unit is pleased to offer conference grants and research grants again this year to Queen's students pursuing work on Canadian English. Applications are welcome from both undergraduate and graduate students.


Swear Words in the Media

Date: April 8, 2014 | Category: In the Media

Should Canadian newspapers spell out swear words? Should newscasters pronounce them? Catch up on the latest usage debate with this article in the Toronto Star and this episode of CBC's Q. [no longer available] 


CVC8 Abstract Deadline Extended

Date: March 20, 2014 | Category: News

The abstract deadline for Change and Variation in Canada 8 has been extended to April 25, 2014. For the latest conference information, visit the CVC8 website at:


Orthography and Ideology

Date: March 10, 2014 | Category: News

Dustin Grue's article "Testing Canada's 'honour': Does orthography index ideology?", is the latest addition to our series Strathy Student Working Papers on Canadian English. Read the abstract below and the full article on QSpace.

  Recent studies in orthographic variation have assumed identity-driven motivations for spelling choice (Lipski 1975, Schieffelin & Doucet 1994, Sebba 2000), linking this motivation to national ideological positions. In the Canadian context, Heffernan et al. (2010) propose a method for representing the connection between national sentiment and orthography using quantitative measures and, using data extracted from the University of Alberta's student newspaper The Gateway, demonstrate a strong quantitative correlation between anti-Americanism and a decrease in the use of American spelling variants. This paper tests the ideology/orthography connection using Heffernan et al.'s method on data from the University of British Columbia's student newspaper The Ubyssey and finds an insignificant connection between ideology and orthography. However, this correlation appears to be indicated differently across different article genres. Observations are made on the methodological difficulty of establishing the orthography/ideology connection.  


Language and the Olympics

Date: February 24, 2014 | Category: In the Media

Is it 'So-Chee' or 'Saw-Chee'? How should the names of Québécois athletes be pronounced on air? These are just a few of the language issues inspired by the Olympics. And don't forget to brush up on your curling terminology...


Call for Papers: Change and Variation in Canada

Date: February 5, 2014 | Category: News

The eighth annual Change and Variation in Canada (CVC8) workshop will take place May 31-June 1, 2014 at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. This event brings together researchers working within a variationist framework on Canadian language varieties and/or at Canadian institutions. Students are particularly encouraged to submit abstracts. Presentations (in English or French) will be 20 minutes long, followed by a 10-minute question period. Abstracts should be submitted to by Thursday, April 10, 2014. Abstracts should be anonymous, no more than 300 words (not including title and references) and in either pdf or Word format.

The body of the email should include:

  • Title
  • Name(s) of presenter(s)
  • Department and affiliation for each presenter
  • Telephone number and email for each presenter
  • Technology requirements (other than projector)
  • The subject line of the email should be: CVC Abstract Submission.


Le huitième atelier annuel Changement et variation au Canada (CVC VIII) aura lieu du 31 mai au 1er juin 2014 à Queen's University à Kingston en Ontario. Cet événement réunit des chercheurs travaillant dans le cadre variationniste sur une variété de langues parlées au Canada et/ou dans une institution canadienne. Les étudiants sont vivement encouragés à soumettre leurs résumés. Les communications (en anglais ou en français) seront de 20 minutes, suivies par un temps de discussion de 10 minutes. Les résumés doivent être envoyés par courriel à au plus tard le jeudi 10 avril 2014. Les résumés doivent être anonymes, en format PDF ou Word et ne pas dépasser plus de 300 mots (cela sans compter le titre et les références).

Veuillez inclure les informations suivantes dans votre courriel :

  • Le titre
  • Votre/vos nom(s)
  • Le département et l'université de chaque participant
  • Le numéro de téléphone et le courriel de chaque participant
  • Indiquez si vous avez besoin de matériel particulier (autre que le projecteur)
  • L'objet du courriel doit être comme suit : CVC - << Soumission du résumé >>.


All in a Name: 수지 – Suji- Sushi – (Sophia) – Sooj – Soojala

Date: January 23, 2014 | Category: News
Author: Suji Won

[Editor's note: During the fall 2013 term, students in the Canadian English course at Queen's University kept course blogs. Following is the initial entry by student Suji Won. Strathy staff thought that our blog readers would enjoy reading this.]

Canada is one of the most multilingual countries in the world. Jack Chambers notes in his 2010 article that the nation speaks not only English and French but also dozens of Aboriginal languages and hundreds of languages brought to this country by immigrants. The wave of immigration in the last 25 years has created great linguistic diversity, which one can experience by touring the city of Toronto where there is a Little Italy, a huge Chinese shopping centre called Pacific Mall and a Persian neighbourhood north of Yonge and Finch. Or one could simply examine the history of my webname, "Soojala".

My webname is a nickname I was given as a first generation Korean who was born and raised in Toronto. Following the Korean-Confucian tradition of having the eldest name newborns, my grandfather named me 수지 ("Soo-jee"). He even gave me my English name and decided on "Suji". He did not want "Suzi" as my aunt suggested but wanted my ethnicity to stand out. My grandfather was sure that although I was born in Canada, my Korean heritage would not be replaced but be accepted with the English equivalent of my Korean name.

Growing up, I had a different experience socializing than my Korean friends whose names were "Rachel" and "Sarah". Some kids called me "Sushi" on the playground which made me hate my name very much. I wanted to be "Sophia" instead and inadvertently rejected my language and heritage. My name did not change, however, because I didn't know how to make that happen at the age of 8, and I just gave up. I only came to accept my Korean name as friends, teachers and acquaintances commented on how pretty it was. Later on, friends prolonged the first syllable and cut the last syllable out. My nickname then became "Sooj" among hallways in middle school, instead of "Sushi". I liked my English nickname, which to me was a recognition and acceptance of my ethnicity and language in my Canadian school. I liked it, and later in high school, I was going to like another language in my name as well.

I attended a high school that was in a neighbourhood that was predominantly Jewish. I knew that I could skip school during the Jewish holidays (since classes would be mostly empty), but little did I know my nickname would be affected by this ethnic group in addition to my school life. In my friendships with Canadian Jews, I came to know their customs and traditions. I learned about their holidays and family principles, and I even received a nickname, "Soojala". This isn't a traditional Hebrew name, but it is my old nickname, "Sooj" with an "ala" attached. This ending, according to my friends, is commonly found in Hebrew female names (for example there was "Ayalah", "Carniela", "Daniela"). I didn't mind the Hebrew language in my name. I thought it was cool and used it since I was in an environment where most people knew Hebrew in addition to Canadian English. With this nickname, my Korean heritage and language were accepted simultaneously with the offering of a language that was not of my ethnicity. I did not have to adopt "Sophia" but was respected of my own heritage and even offered to participate in Jewish heritage. I didn't have to be anyone but Korean.

In reflection of the "multilingual" Canada in the course reading, "Soojala" sums up the linguistic diversity I experienced in my youth. My webname doesn't have all of the languages of this nation, but it does have the languages I've encountered as a Korean born and living in Canada. Such linguistic diversity is present in my name and the nation due to the acceptance and valuing of different languages and cultures. That does not mean there are no issues of racism or that Aboriginal languages of Canada are not under threat of extinction, but my name is uniquely Korean, English and Jewish because of the nation's distinct multilingual character. As I start my studies in Canadian English, I think I will start with "Soojala" as a personal reference point for the complex relationships between English and Canada's other languages.

Chambers, Jack K. (2010) English in Canada. In Elaine Gold and Janice McAlpine (Eds.) Canadian English--A Linguistic Reader: Strathy Occasional Papers on Canadian English 6, 1-24.


Canadian Aboriginal English Dialogue Project

Date: January 16, 2014 | Category: News
Author: Catherine Andre

[Editor's note: Catherine Andre is a master's student in English at Queen's University. She undertook a literary internship at the Strathy Unit during the fall 2013 term. Below is a report on her project.]

Under the Queen's University English Department's Literary Internship program, I worked to establish a literary dialogue database under the supervision of Dr. Riehl at the Strathy Language Unit during the fall 2013 term. I tailored my project to focus on the creation of a database that identifies idiomatic words and phrases that represent Canadian Aboriginal English in twentieth and twenty-first-century works of Canadian literature. There were several texts to which I referred, particularly as I first began work on this project, with the expectation that they will be a significant source of representation of Aboriginal English. I, instead, uncovered a political side to the representation of Indigenous dialects in Canadian literature.

The works of prose fiction that I approached by non-Indigenous Canadian authors most often involved a narrator that represents Indigenous characters as being completely silent, or paraphrases and/or translates the original Aboriginal English dialect of each character into an entirely "standard" English dialogue. On the other hand, the works of Richard Wagamese, Thomas King, Thomson Highway, E. Pauline Johnson, and Farley Mowat proved to be rich sources of the textual representations of Aboriginal English that were essential to this project.

As I transcribed the dialogues of the Indigenous characters from these authors' works, I developed a useful and extensive legend that incorporates a total of sixteen linguistic characteristics that effectively organize and classify my textual transcriptions. For example, a phrase might be flagged "phonetic feature" if the author uses non-standard orthography to convey an aspect of pronunciation, such as "had a real natchrel way," where the spelling "natchrel" for the word "natural" conveys a particular phonetic quality.

Ultimately, I created a database that organizes the classified transcriptions into distinct tables, each corresponding to the linguistic categories. The database also contains information about each dialogue sample's literary source, such as the nationality of the author, the general plot of the story, the setting of the story, the nationality of the character, and the linguistic background of the character. In this way, the database can be easily approached for future academic study by, for example, those interested in how the representation of Aboriginal English in Canadian literature compares with the spoken language.

As an M.A. student interested in Indigenous literatures and who intends to pursue a PhD in this field, this project has been most beneficial in exposing me to more works of Canadian Indigenous literatures and to refining my skills of literary transcription, as well as has taught me how to approach the linguistic classification of literary dialogues. One of the most rewarding aspects of the project was facing the challenge of finding textual representations of idiomatic Aboriginal English as a result of its being entangled by political representations. This suggests a potential need for continued work and expansion on such literary dialogue databases of Aboriginal English in Canadian literature.

[Editor's Note: For more on Aboriginal English in Canada, read Sharla Peltier's blog on her perspective as a speaker.]


Weather Talk

Date: January 10, 2014 | Category: In the Media

Recent extreme winter weather in Canada has had a big impact our transportation, our hydro... and our lexicon? Can you think of any other terms to add to the list of examples in this recent Maclean's article? - How the polar vortex is changing the way we talk about weather. [no longer available]


Canadian English Vowels

Date: January 9, 2014 | Category: In the Media

In a recent piece for The Week, Why it's difficult to tell a Canadian accent from a Californian one, James Harbeck discusses how vowels in Canadian English compare to those in American dialects.


Canadian-British English

Date: January 8, 2014 | Category: In the Media

A Canadian now living in England reflects on differences between Canadian and British English and the Briticisms making their way into her speech in this piece for The Huffington Post.


Because Language Change

Date: January 7, 2014 | Category: In the Media

The American Dialect Society recently announced its 2013 Word of the Year. The winner is "because", thanks to recent observations that "because" can now be used to introduce not just a full clause but also a noun, adjective or other part of speech. Click here to read the runners-up as well as winners of other categories including Most Creative ("catfish") and Most Likely to Succeed ("binge-watch").

On CBC's As it Happens earlier this week, Carol Off interviewed Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee, about the winning words. Carol contributed a Canadian perspective on "cronut" and "thigh gap". You can listen to the interview here, beginning at about the 21:40 mark. [interview no longer available]


PhD Fellowship in Lexicography

Date: January 6, 2014 | Category: News

The Department of English at the University of British Columbia invites applications for a four-year PhD fellowship in English lexicography and Canadian English. Click here for details.


Click here to read 2013 blog posts