Canadian raising

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{language, word, form}
{rate, high, increase}
{water, park, boat}
{film, series, show}
{acid, form, water}
{car, race, vehicle}
{area, part, region}
{specie, animal, plant}
{line, north, south}
{service, military, aircraft}

Canadian raising is a phonetic phenomenon that occurs in varieties of the English language, especially Canadian English, in which certain diphthongs are "raised" before voiceless consonants (e.g., /p/, /t/, /k/, /s/, /f/). /aɪ/ (the vowel of "eye") becomes [ʌi], while the outcome of /aʊ/ (the vowel of "loud") varies by dialect, with [ʌu] more common in the west and a fronted variant [ɛʉ] commonly heard in Central Canada. In any case, the /a/-component of the diphthong changes from a low vowel to a mid-low vowel ([ʌ] or [ɛ]).

Individuals who speak with Canadian raising will frequently be baffled by reports that they are being perceived as saying "aboot" or more precisely "a boat". However, such people can note the difference in pronunciation between words with and without Canadian raising: "house" (verb) and "house" (noun), "lies" and "lice", etc.

Perhaps the most common example of Canadian raising in everyday speech is that to non-Canadians "out" is heard pronounced the same as "oat" while to Canadians the two are heard pronounced differently. This means that to a non-Canadian, the vowels in the phrase "out and about in a boat" have all the same sound, rendering them as "oat and aboat in a boat".


Geographic distribution

Despite its name, the phenomenon is not restricted to Canada. It is quite common in New England (including in the traditional accent of Martha's Vineyard), and also occurs in parts of the upper Midwest. Southern Atlantic varieties of English and the accents of the Fens in England feature it as well. While "true Canadian raising" affects both the /aʊ/ and /aɪ/ diphthongs, a related phenomenon with a much wider distribution throughout the United States that affects only the /aɪ/ diphthong also exists. So, whereas the pronunciations of "rider" and "writer" are identical [ˈɹaɪɾɚ] for some Americans, those whose dialects include raising will pronounce them [ˈɹaɪɾɚ] and [ˈɹʌɪɾɚ], respectively (whereas in Received Pronunciation, these words would be pronounced [ˈɹaɪdə] and [ˈɹaɪtə], respectively). The American raising of /aɪ/ can be found in the northern United States, the Mid-Atlantic Dialect region, California, and probably in many other parts of the country, as it appears to be spreading. There are also Canadians who raise /aɪ/ and not /aʊ/ or vice versa. This phenomenon preserves the recoverability of the phoneme /t/ in "writer" despite the North American English process of flapping, which merges /t/ and /d/ into [ɾ] before unstressed vowels.

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