English in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Asia

Simon Horobin, Writing for
6-minute read
Episode #522

How English Became English

English in Canada

The spread of English to Canada was the consequence of colonies established by New Englanders in the eighteenth century, principally constituted of those who remained loyal to Britain following the American Declaration of Independence in 1776. At the same time, settlers arrived from England, Scotland, and Ireland, adding further dialects to the mixture. As a result, there are many similarities between the English heard in Canada and America, although Canadian English shares several features with the English spoken in the UK. In terms of pronunciation, Canadians tend to sound like Americans to most people from outside North America; distinctive features include the rhotic pronunciation of car, the ‘d’-like pronunciation of bottle, and the use of American alternatives like ‘tomayto’ for British English ‘tomahto,’ and ‘skedule’ for British English ‘shedule.’

Canadian English does not follow American English in all such cases; British English preferences are found in words like news, which is pronounced ‘nyoos’ rather than ‘noos’, and in the pronunciation of anti-, where American English has ‘antai’. While Canadian English follows American English in much of its vocabulary, compare gas (British English petrol), sidewalk (BrEng pavement), trunk (BrEng boot), it preserves English words such as tap (American English faucet), cutlery (American silverware), and serviette (American napkin). Canadian English spelling tends to follow British conventions, as in honour, colour, centre, and theatre, although some individual words, like curb and tire, follow the American practice.