Here’s a short story about Proper English Pronunciation:
The way Canadians pronounce their diphthongs (double vowels), especially in the word “about” has been the butt of many American jokes. We are often fabled to pronounce the word as aboot or aboat. The particularly humorous phrase “oat and aboat in a boat” is frequently attributed to our quirky Canadian accents. On the northern side of the 49th Parallel, most Canadians are clueless as to why Americans continue to relentlessly poke fun at them while repeating the word “about” in a preposterous accent. Most Canadians will agree that they do not say the word ‘out’ as oot or oat. Here, at L2 Accent Reduction Centre, clients frequently ask our specialists about the difference between words such as ‘rider’ and ‘writer’. Often, the environment in which they learned English did not distinguish between the vowels in these words, and it often comes as a surprise when Canadians have trouble understanding their speech because of the lack of vowel distinctions.
However, the truth is that Canadians do pronounce their vowels differently from Americans and what results from this difference is the perception of the Canadian accent that has served as a common stereotype the world over. That being said, what Canadians are not doing is saying ‘about’ as aboat or ‘house’ as hoose. In the linguistic phenomenon called Canadian Raising, vowel combinations such as the /ay/ sound in the word ‘five’ and the /aw/ sound in the word ‘crowd’ are raised to the higher vowel combinations /Ãy/ and /Ãw/ respectively before a voiceless consonant, such as /t/, /s/, f/, etc. This results in a vowel differentiation between the words ‘writer’ and ‘rider’ or ‘house’ (verb) and ‘house’ (noun). Americans may perceive this vowel difference to be more exaggerated than it truly is and hear the high vowels /o/ or /u/ when Canadians are engaging in their characteristic vowel raising. Of course, there are other aspects that distinguish Canadian English from General American English, but Canadian Raising is perhaps the most salient and well-known characteristic of Canadian speech. As always, it is important to remember that, just like everywhere else, it’s unwise to generalize and Canadian accents can vary widely from coast to coast.
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