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Canadian Maritime English

Canadian Maritime English or Maritimer English is a dialect of English spoken in the Maritime provinces of Canada. Quirks include the removal of pre-consonantal /r/ sounds, and a faster speech tempo. It is heavily influenced by British, Irish English, and Acadian French—especially in northern New Brunswick.


An example of typical Maritime English might be the pronunciation of the letter t. The flapping of intervocalic /t/ and /d/ to alveolar tap [ɾ] between vowels, as well as pronouncing it as a glottal stop [ʔ], is less common in the Maritimes. So "battery" is pronounced [ˈbætɹi] instead of with a glottal stop.

Especially among the older generation, /w/ and /hw/ are not merged; that is, the beginning sound of why, white, and which is different from that of witch, with, wear.

Like most varieties of Canadian English, Maritimer English contains a feature known as Canadian raising: Diphthongs are "raised" before voiceless consonants. For example, IPA /aɪ/ and /aʊ/ become [ʌɪ] and [ʌʊ], respectively, before /p/, /t/, /k/, /s/, /f/.

Although dialects vary from region to region, especially based on the rural/urban divide, there are some other commonalities. For example, there is heavy rhoticism on vowels preceding /r/ sounds. Also, low front vowels seem to be lengthened and sometimes tensed, which in some regions can result in raising, and even a very slight rounding of the higher vowels and diphthongs. These phonetic differences are not all systematic: some lexical items do not apply to these rules, so perhaps it the vowel system is in a process of shift, or there could be interference from other, more urban dialects and the media[citation needed].

Alternatively, one might hear the interrogative "Right?" (often pronounced "rate") which is also used as an adverb (e.g.: "It was right foggy today!") as well. This sense may be of a degree of influence of the Welsh word "reit" [ˈrəɪt] literally meaning "very, rather, or considerably", also being ironic in that those with a Canadian Raise would pronounce "right" in this way. "Right" is often, though less today than before, used with this meaning in the American south, too. "Some" is used as an adverb as well, especially in Nova Scotia (e.g.: "This cake is some good!"). Another example is "s'pose" or "s'poseda" ("suppose" or "supposed"). (Ex. "S'pose'll ga down t' tha store"). Such expressions tend to be widely used in the rural maritimes, but are less common in urban areas. The two expressions combined mean "extremely" and the proper order is always "right some", e.g. "It's right some cold out."

Words such as "fine", "right", "some", and "fearful" are frequent intensifiers, as in, "That's a fine mess!", "Oh, it'll be a right mess by the time they gets done!" and "That girl is a fearful fool!" (implying that the girl is extremely foolish). "That's some good" means "that's really good".

Terminal hard consonants are often dropped from pronunciation when found in sentences. "Ol'" rather than "old", "col'" rather than "cold", "tha'" rather than "that", "suppose'" rather than "supposed." (with the -s pronounced softly, rather than as a -z). When it is pronounced it is softly, almost imperceptibly.

Common in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, but also found in downeast Maine, is aspirated speech; i.e.,"Yeah" or "No", spoken while inhaling. (colloquial pronunciation). This speech pattern bears no particular significance, other than its unusual nature. Competitive aspirated speech has been observed, with the intensity of aspiration increasing as conversation passes from one person to the next. The speaker is generally unaware of using this technique, and will frequently deny using it, when confronted. This is often referred to as a "Gaelic Gasp."

Terms of British origin are very much still a part of Maritime English, although slowly fading away in favour of American or Western terms. Chesterfield, front room, gob, and parlour are examples of this. Another is the use of the somewhat vulgar but colorful term, "arse" in place of the American and central and western Canadian form, "ass". Other examples of British terms that may be heard in the rest of Canada, but less frequently than in the Maritimes, include "holiday" for vacation, "sweets" for candy, "Mum" for Mom and "cellar" for basement. Prince Edward Islanders often use more British terms than any other Maritimers, due to the overwhelming homogeneity of the province's Scottish and Irish ethnicity. Examples include referring to the hood of a car as an "engine bonnet" and a barn as a "byre." The latter is much more common amongst older speakers.

Truancy is often referred to as playing hookey, skipping, ditching, or jigging. Some Maritimers, particularly Prince Edward Islanders, will describe treacherous winter roads as "slippy" rather than "slippery". Some Maritimers will also pluralize words such as "somewhere" or "anywhere".

The names of meals are not always used in the same way as in other parts of the country: "Dinner" may refer to the meal eaten at midday, "Supper" is the evening meal, and occasionally (particularly with older speakers) "Lunch" refers to a snack eaten outside of regular meal times (for example, a "bed lunch" is a bedtime snack). "Breakfast" is used for the morning meal, as it is elsewhere in Canada.

There are also many terms and phrases that are derived from the region's nautical background and are often shared with Britain, Ireland and New England. Examples of this include terms such as "reef" in place of "pull" and a deckhand on a boat being referred to as a "cork." A common way to describe drunkenness is to state that someone is "three sheets to the wind," which is a phrase used to describe a ship swaying in the wind due to loose sheets (ropes) in the rigging.

In a description of ownership the word "our" is commonly pronounced as "are"; so, for example, the sentence "Our car is in the drive way" might sound like "Are car is in the drive way".