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Wpg Free Press: The Manitoba Sound

March 27, 2017 — 

As the Winnipeg Free reports: 

At the University of Manitoba, linguistics professor Nicole Rosen is on a mission to understand that better.

Ever since Rosen got the language bug, she’s wanted to document Manitoba’s English. Partly, that’s because it hasn’t really been done before; there have only been a handful of studies of Manitoban English. None are definitive.

Yet she knows something about how Manitobans speak stands out. When Rosen, who is from Winnipeg, moved to Toronto for grad school, colleagues in the Big Smoke picked up on her accent: “You sound different,” they told her.

But how? That’s harder to pin down. For one thing, there’s no one Manitoban dialect; English can sound very different in Winkler than it does 60 kilometres away in Roseau River First Nation, let alone in Winnipeg or Thompson.

Still, there are a few broad trends. Think of the way many Manitobans tend to say the name of the province, rushing through the “ma” and the “ni” to get to the real meat of the word: the thick, emphasized “o” of “toba.”

That’s just one example. Linguists have found other vowels that live on the Prairies, in ways they don’t elsewhere in the country. Other Canadians may find our pronunciation distinctive; some Americans may find it downright funny.

“I think we do sound just a little bit more hick than other people,” Rosen says with a laugh.

Now, Rosen wants to know why. In 2013, she set out to collect and analyze recordings of English speakers from across key Manitoban ethnic communities. That work, she hopes, could help create a roadmap of how we speak.

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