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In a recent post, I was trying to describe Spanish vowels succinctly to an unsophisticated participant, and used the Canadian "eh?" as an example. A participant from the U.S. (California, to be specific) commented, 'I thought Canadian "eh" is pronounced "ey", as a diphthong.'

Question 1a: How do Canadians pronounce "eh?"?

Question 1b: Is it a reasonable approximation of the Spanish pronunciation of the vowel e (as in, for example, bebé)?

Question 2: Is there a better way to explain this (succinctly!) to an unsophisticated participant?

Edit:

For an unsophisticated ELU participant, who is asking, approximately, "Hey, why do non-native English speakers talk different from me?", a very simplified way of explaining that Spanish speakers (the example he gave) pronounce their vowels differently from us. Even if the Canadian "eh?" is not identical to Spanish e as in bebé, is it different enough from the vowel in the English word day to get the point across?

  • As a Canadian, I've heard variations in how is pronounced. I personally pronounce it like the French "é". – ikegami Dec 26 '16 at 1:03
  • @ikegami - Ah ha! What would you say to recording your version, as well as some others that you have heard? No hurry. This question will still be interesting a month from now (and more...). – aparente001 Dec 26 '16 at 1:05
  • Gotta give that a no, sorry. – ikegami Dec 26 '16 at 1:09
  • @ikegami - Can you describe the ways you've heard it, and how you pronounce it? – aparente001 Dec 26 '16 at 1:21
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Question 1a: How do Canadians pronounce "eh?"?

As mentioned before, just like the letter "A" in English. It comes from a shortened form of "hey", which is actually still in use in some regions. "That was a great game of hockey, hey?"

Question 1b: Is it a reasonable approximation of the Spanish pronunciation of the vowel e (as in, for example, bebé)?

No. Not at all close. Some accents do pronounce the interjection interrogative word (word used to "ask when surprised") "ehh" like the "e" in "bebé". But the more common word for this purpose is "huh", which cannot be faithfully rendered in Spanish, but perhaps the closest rendering would be "ja" if you allowed the sound to escape through your nasal passages at the same time as your mouth.

Question 2: Is there a better way to explain this (succinctly!) to an unsophisticated participant?

In Spanish, the Canadian "eh" can just be rendered as "eih", but is pronounced while exhaling, and without the typical Spanish glottal stop preceding the "e".

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    Very clear, thank you. Clearly, I can't use the Canadian eh to explain to English speakers how to produce a pure Spanish E. – aparente001 Nov 30 '17 at 21:50
  • The "e" in "bed" is what you are looking for. That sounds exactly the same in Spanish. – insaner Dec 1 '17 at 8:10
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I am Canadian. 'Eh', sounds exactly like the letter A in the English alphabet. I grew up in Montreal and lived in Toronto, so this might be regional.

I do not speak Spanish so someone else will have to connect those 'dots'.

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My qualifications to answer the question are: I'm a Canadian, lived in three different regions and have studied phonology. To my ear "eh" is a diphthong but the second vowel is clipped quite short. It is nothing like the pure vowels you find in parts of Europe. My observation is that Anglophone Canadians don't generally use pure vowels and in fact, have a hard time mastering them.

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