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Encyclopedia > Newfoundland English
Dictionary of Newfoundland English

Newfoundland English is a name for several dialects of English found in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, often regarded as the most distinctive dialect of English in Canada. Some specific Newfoundland dialects are similar to the accent heard in the southeast of Ireland (See Wexford and Waterford, while others are similar to those of West Country England, or a combination of both, mainly due to mass immigration from a limited number of ports in those specific regions. Dictionary of Newfoundland English This image is a book cover. ... Dictionary of Newfoundland English This image is a book cover. ... For dialects of programming languages, see Programming language dialect. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... This article is about the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. ... This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ... This article is about the Irish town. ... WGS-84 (GPS) Coordinates: , Irish Grid Reference S604123 Statistics Province: Munster County: Area: 41. ... The West Country is an informal term for the area of south-western England roughly corresponding to the modern South West England government region. ...

These separate dialects developed because of Newfoundland's history as well as its geography. Newfoundland was one of the first areas settled by England in North America, beginning in small numbers in the early 1600s [1] before peaking in the early 1800s. Newfoundland was British colony until 1907 when it became an independent Dominion within in the British Empire and did not become a part of Canada until 1949. Newfoundland is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, separated by the Strait of Belle Isle from Labrador, the sparsely populated mainland part of the province. Most of the population remained rather isolated on the island, allowing the dialects time to develop independently of those on the North American continent. This article is about Dominions of the British Empire and of the Commonwealth of Nations. ... The British Empire in 1897, marked in pink, the traditional colour for Imperial British dominions on maps. ... Newfoundland —   IPA: [nuw fÉ™n lænd] (French: , Irish: ) is a large island off the east coast of North America, and the most populous part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. ... The Strait of Belle Isle (French: Détroit de Belle Île), sometimes referred to as Straits of Belle Isle or Labrador Straits) is a waterway in eastern Canada that separates the Labrador Peninsula from the island of Newfoundland, in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. ... Labrador (also Coast of Labrador) is a region of Atlantic Canada. ...

Newfoundland English was recognized as a separate dialect by the late 1700s when George Cartwright published a glossary of Newfoundland words.


Phonological and grammatical features

Some Newfoundland English differs from General Canadian English in vowel pronunciation (e.g., in much of Newfoundland, the words fear and fair are homophones), in morphology and syntax (e.g., in Newfoundland the word bes [biz] is sometimes used in place of the normally conjugated forms of to be to describe continual actions or states of being, as in that rock usually bes under water instead of that rock usually is under water, but normal conjugation of to be is used in all other cases; bes is likely a carryover of Irish grammar into English), and in preservation of archaic adverbial-intensifiers (e.g., in Newfoundland that play was right boring and that play was some boring both mean "that play was very boring"). Dialect can vary markedly from community to community, as well as from region to region, reflecting ethnic origin as well as a past in which there were few roads and many communities, and fishing villages in particular remained very isolated. Note: This page contains IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. ... Look up pronunciation in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The English language has undergone a number of phonological changes before the historic phoneme . ... Homonyms (in Greek homoios = identical and onoma = name) are words which have the same form (orthographic/phonetic) but unrelated meaning. ... For other uses, see Morphology. ... For other uses, see Syntax (disambiguation). ... Irish syntax is rather different from that of most Indo-European languages, notably because of its VSO word order. ... In language, an archaism is the deliberate use of an older form that has fallen out of current use. ... An adverbial phrase is a linguistic term for a phrase with an adverb as head. ...

Other marked characteristics of Newfoundland English include the loss of dental fricatives (voiced and voiceless th sounds) in many varieties of the dialect (as in many other nonstandard varieties of English); they are usually replaced with the closest voiced or voiceless alveolar stop (t or d). The dialect also includes nonstandard or innovative features in verb conjugation. In many varieties, the third-person singular inflection is generalized to a present tense marker; for example, the verb "to like" is conjugated I likes, you likes, he/she/it likes, we likes, you likes, and they likes. (And in some communities on the island's northeast coast, you (singular), you (plural), and they become dee, ye, and dey, respectively.) Th-stopping is the realization of the dental fricatives as stops, which occurs in several dialects of English. ... The voiced alveolar plosive is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. ... The voiceless alveolar plosive is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages. ... It has been suggested that Verbal agreement be merged into this article or section. ... In linguistics, conjugation is the creation of derived forms of a verb from its principal parts by inflection (regular alteration according to rules of grammar). ... Inflection of the Spanish lexeme for cat, with blue representing the masculine gender, pink representing the feminine gender, grey representing the form used for mixed-gender, and green representing the plural number. ... For referencing in Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Citing sources. ...

In a move almost certainly taken from Hiberno-English and influenced by the Irish language, speakers avoid using the verb to have in past participles, preferring formulations including after, such as I'm after telling him to stop instead of I have told him to stop. Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... This article is about the modern Goidelic language. ... In linguistics, a participle is an adjective derived from a verb. ...

The merger of diphthongs [ai] and [ɔi] to [ɑi] (an example of the line-loin merger) is extensive throughout Newfoundland and is a significant feature of Newfoundland English. The phonological history of the English vowels involves a large number of diachronic sound changes, especially involving phonemic splits and mergers. ...

In Newfoundland English the affirmative yeah is made with an inhalation rather than an exhalation. This is an example of a rare pulmonic ingressive phone. In human speech, pulmonic ingressive sounds are those in which the air stream is created by the lungs (pulmonic) inhaling and pulling air in (ingressive) through the mouth or nose. ...

To non-Newfoundlanders, speakers of Newfoundland English may seem to speak faster than speakers of General Canadian. This perceived tempo difference may be a coupling of subtle pronunciation differences and unusual sayings and can be a contributing factor to the difficulty non-Newfoundlanders sometimes experience with the dialect.

Other languages and dialects which have influenced Newfoundland English

There is also a dialect of French centred mainly on the Port au Port Peninsula on the west coast of the island which has had an impact on the syntax of English in the area. One example of these constructs unique to Newfoundland is Throw grandpa down the stairs, his hat, in which the hat makes the trip, not the grandfather. Another is the use of French reflexive constructions in sentences such as the reply to a question like Where are you going?, reply: Me I'm goin' downtown (this reflexive form of grammar also exists in Irish Gaelic); or borrow me your pencil. The Port au Port Peninsula is a peninsula in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. ...

Newfoundland French was deliberately discouraged by the Newfoundland government through the public schools during the mid-20th-century, and only a small handful of mainly elderly people are still fluent in the French-Newfoundland dialect. In the last couple of decades, many parents in the region have demanded and obtained French education for their children, but this would be Standard French education and does not represent a continuation of the old dialect per se. Some people living in the Codroy Valley on the south-west tip of the island are also ancestrally Francophone, but represent Acadian settlers from the Maritime Provinces of Canada who arrived during the 19th century. This population has also lost the French language. Newfoundland French is a dialect of French that was once spoken by settlers in the French colony of Newfoundland. ... It has been suggested that Survey of the twentieth century, The 20th century in review be merged into this article or section. ... Standard French (in French: le français standard, le français neutre or even le français international) is an unofficial term for a standard variety of the French language. ... The Codroy Valley is a valley in the southwestern part of the island of Newfoundland in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. ... An ancestor is a parent or (recursively) the parent of an ancestor (i. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... The Acadians (French: Acadiens) are the descendants of the 17th-century French colonists who settled in Acadia (located on the northern portion of North Americas east coast). ... The Maritimes or Maritime provinces are a region of Canada on the Atlantic coast, consisting of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. ...

The greatest distinction between Newfoundland English and General Canadian English is its vocabulary. It includes some Inuit and First Nations words (for example tabanask, a kind of sled), preserved archaic English words no longer found in other English dialects (for example pook, a mound of hay), compound words created from English words to describe things unique to Newfoundland (for example stun breeze, a wind of at least 20 knots (37 km/h)), English words which have undergone a semantic shift (for example rind, the bark of a tree), and unique words whose origins are unknown (for example diddies, a nightmare). A vocabulary is a set of words known to a person or other entity, or that are part of a specific language. ... For other uses, see Inuit (disambiguation). ... First Nations is a Canadian term of ethnicity which refers to the aboriginal peoples located in what is now Canada, and their descendants who are neither Inuit nor Métis. ... A compound is a word (lexeme) that consists of more than one free morpheme. ... Semantic drift, in historical linguistics, is a phenomenon whereby words change in meaning over a period of time, resulting in semantic differences between cognates. ...

Deterioration of the dialectic distinctiveness

Newfoundland English dialects are steadily losing their distinctiveness through the action of the mass media and an education system that has traditionally regarded the dialect as a backward corruption of "proper" English. This perception occurs in both the public and private sectors of the system. Institutional education steadily became more and more available and normative after Confederation in 1949. This encouraged many Newfoundlanders, particularly in the urban centres, to take positive steps to ensure their children spoke in a fashion similar to their mainland counterparts lest they be perceived as inferior. This is not to suggest the transformation was always viewed as a necessarily coerced response. Rather, many Newfoundlanders embraced the notion of the inferiority of the dialect in favour of "proper English" as they moved toward an economic system closer to those of the Canadian Mainland. It is tempting to speculate that these persons attached the dialect to a way of life that appeared to be economically untenable and fading fast. In other words, the dialect has fallen victim to notions of "progress". In general, each generation speaks a dialect of English closer to General Canadian though it is significant to note that this trend is far more pronounced in the urban centres. The employment of strict General Canadian can actually hinder the speaker's ability to effectively socially mesh in rural areas as it signifies that the speaker is closely attached with the social structures of the non-rural world. The speaker runs the risk of being treated as a non-community member for an extended period. Pride in Newfoundland language and culture has also encouraged a conscious retention of some obvious Newfoundlandisms, however, and speakers can often be observed switching between standard Canadian English for formal settings and language closer to Newfoundland English for personal communication. Popular press redirects here; note that the University of Wisconsin Press publishes under the imprint The Popular Press. Mass media is a term used to denote a section of the media specifically envisioned and designed to reach a very large audience such as the population of a nation state. ... A confederation is an association of sovereign states or communities, usually created by treaty but often later adopting a common constitution. ... Generation (From the Greek γιγνμαι), also known as procreation, is the act of producing offspring. ...

Indeed, the transformation of Newfoundland English offers a case study of the politics of language. On the one hand, Newfoundlanders have learned that to be taken seriously in institutional settings connected to off island structures standard Canadian English is necessary. This also occurred in the pre-confederation period though the adopted dialect was closer to British English reflecting the political circumstances of the day. On the other hand, use of Newfoundland English is used to establish common political identity with other Newfoundlanders in a fashion unavailable to non-Newfoundlanders who have yet to be accepted into the local cultural community. This manner of using language can be readily observed in other socially marginalized populations including persons of African descent in the United States, persons of aboriginal descent from rural areas and persons originating from lower strata in the social class structure in a general sense. Each group must learn to speak the language of the dominant group yet may also derive social benefits from retaining the original dialect when interacting with fellow group members. This perspective lends credence to the complex and contentious argument that Newfoundlanders resemble what conventional wisdom posits as a discrete and unique "ethnic group" quite separate from the ethnicity of the larger population.

Newfoundland English expressions

In recent years, the most commonly noted Newfoundland English expression might be Whadd'ya at? (What are you at?), loosely translated to "How's it going?" or "What are you doing?" Coming in a close second might be How's she cuttin'? to which one often responds Like a knife (the question/greeting is a phrase still current in the Irish midlands although it is often pronounced as cudding and rarely if ever responded to with such a literal answer).

Other colourful local expressions include:

  • Where ya to?: Where are you?
  • Stay where you're to 'til I comes where you're at.: Wait there for me.
  • Flat on the back for that!: An expression of approval, female speaker
  • Get on the go: Let's go (also, a common euphemism for partying)

(Some examples taken from A Biography of the English Language by C.M. Millward)

Also of note is the widespread use of the term b'y as a common form of address. It is shorthand for "boy", but is used variably to address members of either sex. Another common term of endearment is me ducky, used when addressing a female in an informal manner, and usually placed at the end of a sentence which is often a question (Example: How's she goin', me ducky?). Also pervasive as a sentence ending is right used in the same manner as the Canadian eh or the American huh or y'know. Even if the sentence would otherwise be a non-question, the pronunciation of right can sometimes make it seem like affirmation is being requested.


Year 2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the AD/CE era in the 21st century. ... is the 270th day of the year (271st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...

See also

Newfoundland Irish (Irish: Gaeilge Talamh an Éisc) is a dialect of the Irish language specific to the island of Newfoundland and widely spoken until the mid-20th century. ... This page lists communities of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. ... List of people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. ...

External links

  Results from FactBites:
Newfoundland English - definition of Newfoundland English in Encyclopedia (1066 words)
Newfoundland English is a dialect of English specific to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, distinct from Canadian English.
Newfoundland, which was settled in the early 1600s, was one of the first areas settled by English speakers in North America.
Newfoundland remained separate from Canada as a British colony (apart from a period of self-government from 1855 to 1934) until 1949.
  More results at FactBites »



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