Ðåôåðàò: Canadian English
Ðåôåðàò: Canadian English
English is the second most widely spoken language in the world. It is the
official language of The United Kingdom, Ireland, The United States, Canada,
Jamaica, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and it is widely spoken in
India. It is the language of international business and science, of aviation
and shipping. As so many people speak English in so many countries, there are
many different "Englishes". The best form of English is called Standard
English and is the language of educated English speakers. The government, The
BBC, The Universities, uses it and it is often called Queen’s English.
American English is the variety of the English spoken in the United States.
It is different from English in pronunciation, intonation, spelling,
vocabulary and sometimes – even grammar! An Englishman goes to the town
center to see a film while an American goes downtown to see a movie. If an
Englishman needs a pen he would ask you: "Have you got a pen, please?" but
the American would say:" Do you have a pen?" Australian and New Zealand
English, also called Australian English, are very similar. Especially in
pronunciation they are also similar to British English, but there are
differences in vocabulary and slang. Many terms, such as kangaroo, dingo,
wombat and boomerang, come from the Aboriginal language and many others from
the Cockney dialect spoken by the first settlers, The Londoners. Canadian
English is different both from American and from British English.
Herbert Agar wrote in his article in 1931:
“The English should try to cope with their philological ignorance. They
should train themselves to realize that it is neither absurd nor vulgar that
a language, which was once, the same should in course of centuries develop
differently in different parts of the world. Just as French and Italian may
be described as divergent forms of modern Latin, so it would be helpful to
think of the language of Oxford and the language of Harvard as divergent
forms of modern English. It is perhaps a pity, from the point of view of
international good feelings, that the two forms have not diverged a little
further. At any rate, when an Englishman can learn to think of American as a
language, and not merely as a ludicrously unsuccessful attempt to speak as he
himself speaks, when he can learn to have for American only the normal
intolerance of the provincial mind for all foreign tongues, then there will
come a great improvement in Anglo-American relations. For even though
Americans realize absurdity of the English attitude toward their language,
nevertheless they remain deeply annoyed by it. This is natural, for a man’s
language is his very soul, it is his thoughts and almost all his
consciousness. Laugh at a man’s language and you have laughed at the man
himself in the most inclusive sense.” This statement may refer to any of
“Englishes” mentioned above.
Another American linguist – John Algeo states in his essay “A Meditation on
the Varieties of English”, that “all linguistic varieties are fictions. A
language system, such as English, is a great abstraction, a fiction,
analyzable into large areal varieties – American, Australian, British,
Canadian, Northern Irish, Scots, Welsh, and so on. But each of those is in
turn an abstraction, a fiction”. The point, Algeo argues, is that even though
these terms – American, Australian, Canadian English – describe the reality
that is in fact not there, they are nonetheless useful fictions.
“Useful” is the key term in Algeo’s argument, but unfortunately he fails to
adequately define in what way these fictions are useful. The only definition
of usefulness he offers is this: “without such fictions there can be no
linguistics, nor any science. To describe, to explain, and to predict
requires that we suppose there are stable things behind our discourse”. This
explanation hardly seems to clarify the situation. The claim that the
fictions of national Englishes are useful because they are the foundation for
linguistics is a tautology that serves more to undermine linguistics than to
justify those fictions. Further, Algeo’s point that all science is based on
certain necessary fictions is perhaps true, though usually science attempt to
resolve known fictions into more stable, at least less fictional truths.
Finally, the role of predicting language change hardly seems an essential
component of linguistics.
Algeo returns to the term “useful” in his conclusion. He suggests that the
common practice of equating “English” with UK English, and the English of
England in particular, is one of these useful fictions. How or in what way he
never makes clear.
The suggestion that national boundaries are convenient regional groupings for
studying a linguistic community is valid, and perhaps there is some
“usefulness” in studying that linguistic community as such provided there is
indeed a unique or binding set of linguistic features shared by that group.
But by emphasizing Algeo’s remark that “all linguistic varieties are
fictions”, we may argue that in certain circumstances, “Canadian English”
being one, the “usefulness” of the fiction is so limited, that not only is it
almost purposeless but it can and does result in negative social and
Unique nation, unique language?
The fundamental political problem is that a language, or a variety of a
language, is too often equated with a nation. Léandre Bergeron
emphasizes this in his Charte de la Langue Québécoise by
selecting as an epigraph this sentence by Michelet: “La langue es le signe
principal d’une nationalité” [Tr.: “Language is a principle symbol of
nationality”]. The association between a unique language group and a unique
political nation is not necessarily incorrect or worthless. Our oldest
political boundaries are clearly a representation of the fact that a common
language at one time was one of the crucial determining factors in how a group
of people delimited their community. In England they speak English, in France
French and so on. But in Canada they do not speak Canadian, nor do they speak
“Canadian English”, for there is hardly such a thing. Historically, the
geographic isolation of these nation states must have contributed to the
development of unique languages. The political reality of this century is that
the existence of a language, or a unique variety of a language, cannot
necessarily be equated with the existence of a unique political nation. To
point to the problem more directly: a group of individuals speaking a shared
language that is different from that of the majority of the people outside of
that community, does not constitute a nation.
Thus, the desire to create a term such as “Canadian English” is born from a
reversing of the process. There is a nation Canada. Therefore there must be a
unique language to complement it. The assertion of a national language is an
assertion of political existence, as Léandre Bergeron makes very clear
in his introduction to The Quebecois Dictionary (1982). And while many
writers on the subject are clear to point out that they are not discussing a
Canadian Language, but a “variety of English”, emphasis is placed on the
uniqueness of that variety and its geographical integrity, essentially using,
or allowing the terms to be used interchangeably.
The role of dictionaries and lexicography in this assertion of a national
language and thus nationhood is interesting, and as old as Johnson and his
desire to enter into “contest with united academies” of France and Italy and
permit English to rival those “more polished languages” (Plan of an English
English in Canada
The term “Canadian English” has a pedigree dating back to 1857, at which time
the Reverend A. C. Geikie referred to it as “a corrupt dialect growing up
amongst our population”. Geikie’s preference was obviously for the British
English spoken ‘at home’. In the 1950s and 1960s an awareness of, and a
concomitant amount of scholarship, developed that was dedicated to the subject.
In 1962 Gage Publishing of Canada began its Dictionary of Canadian English
series with The Beginning Dictionary in 1962, followed by The
Intermediate Dictionary, and The Senior Dictionary in 1967. The
Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles (DCHP), also published
by Gage, appeared in the same year. As was to be expected, the primary
justification made for preparing Canadian Dictionaries was a lexical one. As
Walter Avis states in his introductory essay to The Senior Dictionary
(1967), “That part of Canadian English which is neither British nor American is
best illustrated by the Vocabulary, for there are hundreds of words which are
native to Canada or which have meanings peculiar to Canada”. He goes on to
elaborate that much of this new vocabulary is the result of the unique Canadian
landscape, flora, fauna, weather, etc.
M. H. Scargill, writing a decade later, structures his book, A Short History
of Canadian English, around essentially the same idea: that the defining
feature of Canadian English is its unique lexicon. He does add a brief chapter
on grammar, but as he states the unique vocabulary is “the most obvious and
major item to answer the question ‘What is Canadian English?’»
It is impossible to object to most of the words Scargill presents as “Canadian”
on grounds that they are not truly so. The problem of defining a “Canadianism”
is one that DCHP comments upon, citing a great difficulty in
distinguishing between a “Canadianism”, an “Americanism”, and a “North
Americanism”. Nonetheless, they do in the end manage to come to a conclusion.
One possible objection to Scargill’s word list is that it for the most part
contains specific technical words or proper names, very limited regional words,
or words that are either rare, obsolete or obsolescent. This method of
attempting to establish the periphery of Canada as its center is one of the
seemingly inevitable tendencies of discussions of “Canadian English”. In a
review of Scargill’s work by the American linguist Raven I. McDavid, Jr.,
opposition to Scargill’s “Canadianisms” is founded on the observation that
Scargill seems consciously “to ignore the existence of the United States”. He
argues that in fact “many words cited by Scargill are well known in various
parts of the United States”. McDavid provides a list of several specific
examples from Scargill’s text. It seems disputable how many of the lexical
claims made by Scargill are indeed incontrovertible.
According to McDavid, this tendency to over-exaggerate difference
vis-à-vis Americans is evident in Scargill’s discussion of pronunciation
as well. To cite only one example: he argues that “the phonemic coalescence of
such pairs as ‘cot’ and ‘caught’ is not a peculiarly Canadian phenomenon: it
occurs in northeastern New England, the Pittsburgh area, much of the Rocky
Mountain and Pacific Coast”.
Language, nation, and dictionary
There have been a great number of accounts recently which question exactly
what or whose history is reflected in language change. Literacy was the
province of the few, and historical texts represent the writing of a certain
exclusive segment of the society. Yet each of the Canadian dictionaries
preface their work with a history of the settlement of English Canada, and
then proceed to a generalization explicitly or implicitly equating the
history of the language and the history of the nation. Here are few examples:
· “Foreword”, DCHP, 1967:
By its history a people is set apart, differentiated from the rest of
humanity. That separateness of experience, in the bludgeoning of the Atlantic
waves, the forest overburden of the St. Lawrence valley, the long waterways
to the West, the silence of the Arctic wastes, the lonesome horizons of the
prairie, the vast imprisonment of the Cordilleras, the trade and commerce
with the original Canadians – all this is recorded in our language.
· “Introduction”, Gage Canadian Dictionary, 1983,1997:
The Gage Canadian Dictionary is thus a catalogue if the things relevant
to the lives of Canadians at a certain point in history. It contains,
therefore, some clues to the true nature of our Canadian Identity.
· J. K. Chambers, “Canadian English: 250 Years in the Making”,
Canadian Oxford Dictionary, 1998:
In the living language there is a reflection of where we have been and where
we are likely to go next, and what we have considered important on the way.
It is the codification of our common understanding.
These accounts conflate political history and the history of the language,
and in doing so leave out significant events and aspects of Canadian
political reality. Not the least of these is the omission of the issues
surrounding Quebec and Canadian French, which for twenty years have dominated
Canada’s political landscape. Further, as in so many of the features of
Canadian English and its study, these histories gloss over certain very real
distinctions in order to accentuate others. In their mini-histories of the
settlement of Canada as read through the language, the exchange between
Aboriginals and Europeans, and between French and English is made to seem
flawlessly smooth and equitable. Sample token Aboriginal words are often
cited as examples of this harmonious interaction and implicit assimilation of
Native and French words and people into the dominant “Canadian English”. Such
a method of reading history through language is a mode of propagating a myth
that serves to heighten underlying tensions in Canadian society, and
interfere with the process of mutual understanding and tolerance.
Separate from this more philosophical problem encountered with the historical
implications and assumptions of these Canadian dictionaries, there are other
reasons to question their intention and use value. The first is the
circumstance of their publishing. Many of the Canadian dictionaries embrace the
fact that they are overtly political acts. The firs wave of dictionary
publishing came in the late 1960’s, with a push for the DCHP and the
Gage Senior Dictionary to be published in time for the Centenary in 1967.
Both dictionaries refer to this event. At the conclusion of the Foreword to the
DCHP, W. R. Wees states: “The publishers hope that, as a contribution to
Centennial thinking, the Dictionary of Canadianisms will assist in the
identification, not only of Canadianisms but of whatever it is that we may call
‘Canadianism’”. Elsewhere in the Introduction it is essentially revealed that
the work was rushed to print, not wholly error-free, in order to be published
in 1967. The Senior Dictionary likewise acknowledges this event: because a
dictionary is a “catalogue if the things relevant to the lives of Canadians”,
the editor suggests “it is therefore fitting that this book should be first
published in the year of Canada’s Centenary”.
The second wave of dictionary publishing comes in the early 1980’s, with Gage
refurbishing its Senior Dictionary as the Gage Canadian Dictionary
. 1980 marked the height of Quebec nationalist fervour (publication of
Bergeron’s overtly political Dictionnaire de la Langue
Québécoise) and, with the inaugural Referendum on
Sovereignty, the first real threat to Canada’s political integrity since 1812.
Perhaps this is the reason for the passage acknowledging the inclusion of
“regionalisms” in the 1983 edition of the Gage Canadian Dictionary, as
well as a striking change from a mention of the Centenary to a reassuring
comment on Canada’s fragile “identity”. This era marks the rise to national
consciousness of Canada’s “identity crisis”, a rise fuelled by both an anxiety
over differentiation from the United States and the fear of internal
disintegration. The final passage remains unchanged in the most recent version
of the Gage Canadian Dictionary (1997), but the passage on regionalisms
has changed, to include among other things a reference to “tourtiere” and,
instead of borrowing from a Native Language, the term “residential school”.
The current period of the late 1990’s, in which we are witnessing a renewed
outburst of dictionary production, is also a period of supposed national
identity crisis. Canada narrowly survived politically intact from yet another
Quebec referendum in 1995 and increasingly the “Aboriginal question” has
risen to the political forefront. Does the inclusion of “residential school”
reveal a rising political awareness and shifting consideration of the
treatment of the First Nations of Canada? We may suggest that the pressures
and desires to create a National Dictionary arise from more than linguistic
sources. These dictionaries, consciously unconsciously, carefully present a
picture of a Canada that is relatively free of division and strife by
presenting a coherent account of a “Canadian English” that serves to ease
anxieties about the fragility of the political nation.
Speaking reductively, though not necessarily erroneously, the primary use of
dictionaries is for consultation in a question of the definition or spelling of
a word. It is obvious, from the special mention given in the prefatory material
to the dictionaries, that the more famous thorns of Canadian orthography such
as the colour/color debate remain unresolved, and no effort is made to do so by
the dictionary makers. As a litmus test, then, we may choose a less
controversial, though equally unresolved spelling dilemma of Canadian English:
do we analyze or analyse?
The following descriptions are given in the Gage Canadian Dictionary
(1997), the ITP Nelson Canadian Dictionary of the English Language
(1997) and the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (1998). Gage lists the
both under the headline “analyse”, citing them as entirely neutral equivalents.
Under the headword “analyze” are the instructions “see ‘analyse’”. Nelson
provides no headword for “analyse” but does list the s-spelling under the
headword for “analyze” – the reverse of Gage. The Canadian Oxford
Dictionary defines “analyse” as “a variant of analyze”. Under the
headword for “analyze”, the variant spelling is repeated in parentheses. Each
of these dictionaries appears to pronounce neutrally on the subject of the
‘correct’ spelling, by choosing to list the definition under one or the other
headword preferences. It is interesting that not at all three stress the same
headword. It is perhaps surprising that Nelson is not the odd case,
considering it is one of those dictionaries put out by an American publisher
with token Canadian content often deplored by purists (although its complete
omission of a headword for “analyse” is perhaps indicative of this American
This example illustrates two things. The first is that in a desire for
clarification on usage the Canadian dictionaries provide no overt guidance;
only through the suggestion of definition placement do they advocate one
spelling over another. Thus either version is “correct”. Further it reveals
that there is not even consistency between the dictionaries on which spelling
So is there in fact any pragmatic value in a Canadian Dictionary?
Dictionaries are designed to be consulted, and we still long in Canada to be
able to go to “The Dictionary” and know once and for all how to spell the
generic name for red, white, etc. The search for a standard is precisely what
dictionary making is about, but this arbitrary cross-section of Canadian
Dictionaries yields no consensus.
The result of the realization of the highly variant nature of “Canadian
English” and the inability to appeal to any convenient authority to resolve
conflicts is that ideal conceptions of Canadian dictionaries become
impossible – unrealizable projects.
Canadian slang as a variation of substandard speech is obvious nowadays. The
lexical constituent of Anglo-Canadian slang is very dissimilar. There can be
singled out the following units:
· Units that are common for American and Canadian Languages, North-
· Units, that appeared and are used in USA, but that gradually get
into Canadian language;
· Units that appeared and are used in Canada, but can be met in
· Units that appeared and are used exceptionally in Canada.
These units appeared in the slang in XIX-XX centuries. They are different in
their origin but are gut assimilated by Canadian and American languages.
1.1. Units that were registered first in USA and then in Canada:
- Nouns denoting living beings:
buff (enthusiast) AE 1930; CdnE 1940; floozie (prostitute) AE 1935, CdnE
1940; ripstaker (a conceited person)AE, CdnE 1833
- Nouns denoting inanimate objects:
jitney (a cheap taxi) AE 1915, CdnE 1924; beanie (a freshman's cloth cap) AE
1945, CdnE 1946; dump (a pub, a bar) AE 1903, CdnE 1904.
- Nouns denoting process:
bend (outdoor party, feast) AE 1903, CdnE 1904; shellacking (defeat) AE 1919,
- Nouns of material:
lightning (cheap whisky) AE 1858, CdnE 1959; weeno (wine).
- Collective Nouns:
bull (idle talk) AE 1915, CndE 1916; guff (nonsense, lies) AE 1888, CdnE 1890.
1.2. Units that were first registered in Canada and then in USA:
- Nouns denoting living beings:
boomer (seasonal worker) CndE 1910, AE 1926; flannel-mouth (smb who is fond
of backbiting) CdnE 1910, AE 1912.
- Nouns denoting inanimate objects:
bug (a small automobile) CdnE 1919, AE 1920; jolt (a mouthful of alcohol
drink) CdnE 1900, AE 1920.
- Nouns denoting process:
hush-hush (confidential talk) CdnE 1940, AE 1950; fakery(insincere behavior)
CdnE 1912, AE 1925.
- Collective Nouns:
bushwa(h) (nonsense, rubbish) CdnE 1916, AE 1924.
It should be mentioned that the nouns with expressive meaning are easier
borrowed from American into Canadian and vice versa:
gunsel (murderer) CdnE 1950, AE 1951; split (sharing of the profit) AE 1917,
2. Units that appeared and are used in USA, but that gradually get into
- Nouns denoting living beings:
eager-beaver (boarder) AE, the beginning of the XX cent; CdnE 1950; fink
(unpleasant person) AE 1925; CdnE 1965.
- Nouns denoting inanimate objects:
Doodad (a thing for reminding about smth) AE 1900; CdnE 1931.
3. Units that appeared and are used in Canada, but can be met in American
These units were not well spread, because:
a) there were American equivalents for the Canadian words:
noodle, CdnE: nut, AE (head);
b) this word appeared in the language later, than its equivalent:
fink (strike-breaker, blackleg) AE, CdnE 1925.
In this part of lexis a great influence of American on Canadian language, but
not vice versa, is evident. Canadian units are often of the regional nature,
so they are twice called in question before getting into the American
4. Units that appeared and are used exceptionally in Canada.
The common Canadian slang can be subdivided into two groups: the common slang
that is described in the previous points and the professional slang of the
- railway men’s slang: pig (locomotive), plug(a small train);
- musicians' slang: canary (a female singer), to blow(to play);
- military slang: Joe boy (a recruit) , moldy(torpedo);
- sport slang: rink-rat (a boy, cleaning the rink),arena rat(fan, supporter);
- criminal argot: pod (cigarette with narcotic), skokum house (prison).
So, we can say that Canadian slang is a very complicated system that unites
chronologically different layers of the American and Canadian slang. And in
the whole it is a new and quite original system that doesn't copy either
American or British system. This system appeared due to the co-operation of
all these systems and the national tendencies.
In conclusion we could mention with the statement of Walter Avis who wrote in
his essay “Canadian English” which introduces the Gage dictionaries, that
“unfortunately, a great deal of nonsense is taken for granted by many
Canadians” when it comes to language issues. And into that category of
nonsense we may add a notion that there is such a thing as “Canadian
English”, and that this fiction has any value linguistically, pragmatically,
1. Putiatina E, Bystrova P. English on Linguistics and crosscultural
communication. Surgut, 2001, 334pp.
2. John Agleo. The myth of Canadian English. English Today 62, Volume
16, Number 2, April 2000, pp.3-9.
3. Ì.Â. Áîíäàðåíêî. Ñèñòåìíûå õàðàêòåðèñòèêè âîêàáóëÿðà àíãëîêàíàäñêîãî
ñëåíãà (íà ìàòåðèàëå èìåí ñóùåñòâèòåëüíûõ).
ocially, or politically.