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Most Canadians live close the the border. If you cross to the American side of border, in a rural area, do Canadianisms (1) like "aboat" (2) suddenly become much less common?


Since this created controversy, allow me to quote the dictionaries:

(1)

Canadianism

noun

  1. a word, expression, or other language feature that is characteristically Canadian.
  2. the state of being Canadian, or the character and spirit characteristic of Canadians.

(2)

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    That's not a Canadianism. There is a vowel change known as "Canadian Raising" which changes the allophone of /aw/ before voiceless consonants, and it's common in Canada and in parts of the northern US. Feb 20, 2022 at 23:54
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    @JohnLawler "That's not a Canadianism" -- Why do you say that? "Canadianism" is defined as "a word, expression, or other language feature that is characteristically Canadian". If "characteristically Canadian" means P(X | speaker is Canadian) > P(X) (conditional and marginal probabilities, respectively), then it's a Canadianism.
    – MWB
    Feb 21, 2022 at 0:08
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    First, it's not "aboot". No such word exists and that spelling doesn't represent Canadian speech. Second, the phenomenon you're referring to is not "Canadianism", but a variant diphthong -- a sound, not a word -- parallel to the odd way all North Americans pronounce diphthongs before voiceless consonants. Canadians are just consistent, in using the same rule for /aw/ that everybody uses for /ay/. For Americans and Canadians, the vowels in five and fife are different - listen and you'll hear it. For Canadians but not USAers, the same is true of loud and lout. Feb 23, 2022 at 16:35
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    It's about. Pronounced the way Canadians say it. Spelling it different is like spelling with as widh when it's voiced, which is about half the time. Feb 24, 2022 at 3:34
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    Why are people closing the most on-topic of on-topic ELU questions as opnion-based? This is a fact-based question. It is not asking for opinions. It may not be easy to -know- the answer but that doesn't it make it opinion based.
    – Mitch
    Feb 25, 2022 at 17:58

2 Answers 2

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No, Canadian pronunciations of "about" (approximated as "aboat/aboot", IPA [ə.ˈbʌʊt] or [ə.ˈbɛʊt] in Southern Ontario) are not equally common on the American side of the border, adjacent to it.

Timothy Vance wrote about this question back in 1987 in his article "Canadian Raising" in Some Dialects of the Northern United States, where he looked at both /aɪ/ raised to [ʌɪ] (as in Canadian pronunciations of "knife") and /aʊ/ raised to [ʌʊ] (as in Canadian pronunciations of "about"). He found the latter to be rarer - though not absent - on the American side of the border.

As a Canadian linguist married to a woman from rural Western New York, I can confirm that this observation still holds true anecdotally in 2022. My wife's pronunciation and her family's pronunciation of "knife" are similar to mine, while their pronunciation of "about" is not. They're also very aware of this difference, even as non-linguists.

By the way, we have an authoritative resource on Canadianisms called A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles. It covers words, expressions, and meanings characteristic of Canadian English.

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  • "rarer - though not absent" -- I think it'd be nice to have actual numbers, if they are available
    – MWB
    Mar 1, 2022 at 2:44
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When I was in Minnesota I heard people saying what I thought was 'aboot', and a fellow outsider (from New York) told me it was the Yooper (UP - Upper Pensinsula) accent. Years later, I heard an approximation of it in a film, Fargo, set in Minnesota.

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  • What one hears a lot more in Fargo, is how they say Yeah.
    – Lambie
    Feb 21, 2022 at 21:54
  • @Lambie - and they say 'eh' at the end of sentences, too, which my Ontario cousin said is more common 'down there' than where she is. Feb 21, 2022 at 22:55

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