Canadian English

Canadian English
Native speakers
19.4 million in Canada (2011 census)[1]
about 15 million, c. 7 million of which with French as the L1
Latin (English alphabet)
Unified English Braille[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3
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Canadian English (CanE, CE, en-CA)[5] is the set of varieties of the English language native to Canada. According to the 2011 census, English was the first language of approximately 19 million Canadians, or 57% of the population; the remainder of the population were native speakers of Canadian French (22%) or other languages (allophones, 21%).[6] A larger number, 28 million people, reported using English as their dominant language.[7] 82% of Canadians outside the province of Quebec reported speaking English natively, but within Quebec the figure was just 7.7% as most of its residents are native speakers of Quebec French.[8]

Canadian English contains major elements of both British English and American English, as well as many uniquely Canadian characteristics.[9] While, broadly speaking, Canadian English tends to be closest to American English in terms of linguistic distance,[10][11] the precise influence of American English, British English and other sources on Canadian English varieties has been the ongoing focus of systematic studies since the 1950s.[12]

Phonologically, Canadian and American English are classified together as North American English, emphasizing the fact that the vast majority of outsiders, even other native English speakers, cannot distinguish the typical accents of the two countries by sound alone. There are minor disagreements over the degree to which even Canadians and Americans themselves can differentiate their own two accents,[13][14] and there is even evidence that some Western American English (Pacific Northwest and California English, for example) is undergoing a vowel shift partially coinciding with the one first reported in mainland Canadian English in the early 1990s.[15]


The term "Canadian English" is first attested in a speech by the Reverend A. Constable Geikie in an address to the DCHP-1 Online, s.v "Canadian English", Avis et al. 1967[16]). Geikie, a Scottish-born Canadian, reflected the Anglocentric attitude that would be prevalent in Canada for the next hundred years when he referred to the language as "a corrupt dialect", in comparison with what he considered the proper English spoken by immigrants from Britain.[17]

Canadian English is the product of five waves of immigration and settlement over a period of more than two centuries.[18] The first large wave of permanent English-speaking settlement in Canada, and linguistically the most important, was the influx of Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution, chiefly from the Mid-Atlantic States – as such, Canadian English is believed by some scholars to have derived from northern American English.[19][20] Canadian English has been developing features of its own since the early 19th century.[21][22] The second wave from Britain and Ireland was encouraged to settle in Canada after the War of 1812 by the governors of Canada, who were worried about American dominance and influence among its citizens. Further waves of immigration from around the globe peaked in 1910, 1960 and at the present time had a lesser influence, but they did make Canada a multicultural country, ready to accept linguistic change from around the world during the current period of globalization.[23]

The languages of Aboriginal peoples in Canada started to influence European languages used in Canada even before widespread settlement took place,[24] and the French of Lower Canada provided vocabulary, with words such as toque and portage,[13] to the English of Upper Canada.[17]

While the process of the making of Canadian English - its documentation and codification - goes back to the 1930s,[25] the 1960s were the key period.[26] Like other social developments in Canada, the general acceptance of Canadian English has taken its time. According to a recent study, a noticeable shift in public discourse can only be seen in the middle of the first decade of the 2000s, when Canadian English was seen as a "given", generally accepted default variety, while before such statements were usually "balanced" by doubts.[27]

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