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The Toronto Accent(s)

Mystic Point

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There's been a lot of comment and observation regarding the Toronto Accent, Toronto Accents and an emerging Toronto Accent in the Diversity Thread that's been running.

I work in recording and record all manner of Torontonians, young and old all the time.

As a result, I hear all kinds of different accents within the city and surrounding suburbs.

The West Side -- High Park area -- definitely has a different sound than the East Side -- Scarborough --.

Downtown kids -- people under 25 who grew up in core -- have a very specific accent -- they sound similar to Anderson Cooper -- and the suburbs -- especially Woodbridge -- have their own spin on things.

On the West Side, the East Side and in Woodbridge, I hear a lot of Canadian Raising. ( oat and a boat for out and about )

Downtown kids display almost no Canadian Raising and sound very similar to people raised in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Woodbridge sounds like Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Many of my friends, who came to Toronto from other places in Canada have all mentioned how " American " Torontonians sound. There are probably numerous reasons for this. Still I wonder, is Toronto developing its own accent?

Comments and observation please.
 
Any "Toronto accent" I could think of would just be a mix of other types of accents. I haven't heard any distinctness at all in any specific accent.
 
I have. The old working class Scots-Irish of Leslieville area have a distinctly different sound than the upper class Wasps around town.
Interesting. Is there much left? I've heard the area was Orange in the 1930s/1940s ... but I don't see much remnant of it these days along Gerrard ...except the Ulster Tavern, which looks like it has seen better days. And I think there is something called Ulster Memorial Club near there as well.
 
The West Side -- High Park area -- definitely has a different sound than the East Side -- Scarborough --.

Downtown kids -- people under 25 who grew up in core -- have a very specific accent -- they sound similar to Anderson Cooper -- and the suburbs -- especially Woodbridge -- have their own spin on things.

On the West Side, the East Side and in Woodbridge, I hear a lot of Canadian Raising. ( oat and a boat for out and about )

Downtown kids display almost no Canadian Raising and sound very similar to people raised in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Woodbridge sounds like Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Many of my friends, who came to Toronto from other places in Canada have all mentioned how " American " Torontonians sound. There are probably numerous reasons for this. Still I wonder, is Toronto developing its own accent?

Comments and observation please.

You say High Park and Scarborough have differing accents, yet your only observation about them is that they both exhibit Canadian raising (e.g. pronouncing the "i" in knife/knives; life/lives; wife/wives the same way). Do you have any examples of how your "west side" and "east side" sound different?

And would group Etobicoke/Mississauga/Oakville/Brampton into your definition of "west side" and Ajax/Pickering/Oshawa into "east side"?

And maybe a moderator could merge the posts regarding the Toronto accent in the other thread into this one?
 
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Any "Toronto accent" I could think of would just be a mix of other types of accents. I haven't heard any distinctness at all in any specific accent.

I agree. I talked a lot about this over on the "Toronto's Obsession with Diversity" thread. What's interesting is how different ethnic groups in the city are affecting each other's accent. I hear kids named "Wang" and "Smith" adopting Italian and Jamaican inflections and expressions. I also, interestingly, notice that all newcomers seem, for the most part, to adopt the Canadian "out & about" sound. Maybe not as strong as Don Cherry, but definetly not "a-o" sound. For this reason I suspect that a Toronto, or south-central Ontario accent is developing.
 
There's been a lot of comment and observation regarding the Toronto Accent, Toronto Accents and an emerging Toronto Accent in the Diversity Thread that's been running.


Woodbridge sounds like Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Many of my friends, who came to Toronto from other places in Canada have all mentioned how " American " Torontonians sound. There are probably numerous reasons for this. Still I wonder, is Toronto developing its own accent?

Comments and observation please.

The only thing that Woodbridge has in common with Brooklyn or Staten Island is the Italian influence. Brooklyners would say "noo yawk", "aba-ot" and "kee-anada" as other East Coasters would. Woodbridgers would say "noo yorrk", "abe-ot" and "Canada" (often with less hint of "ee" than most Anglo-Ontarians.) My wife (Portuguese-Canadian) says "Canada", "can't" and "bad" almost as if she has a cold.

I don't really get how Torontians sound particularly America. We don't sound at all like US east coasters, southerners, or even miswesterners. All you have to do is cross the border into Buffalo or Detroit and, bam, the difference is unmistakeable. Some say that we talk like Californians who have the most "neutral" American accents. I'm not sure that Californians would agree, though, since Canadians actors all seem to need accent coaches when they arrive in LA. I think we're just so used to the way that we talk that we THINK we sound neutral and normal.

Like I've said before, because our differences aren't pointed out much on TV and in the movies, we're not as aware of our uniqueness as someone from any big American city is.
 
The closest American accent to our own is the west coast accent, which is why so much American media based on Hollywood sounds less foreign to us than, say, a local broadcast in Buffalo.

The phonology of West/Central Canadian English, also called General Canadian, is broadly identical to that of the Western U.S., except for the following features:

* The diphthongs /aɪ/ and /aʊ/ are raised to approximately [əɪ] and [ʌʊ][3] before voiceless consonants; thus, for example, the vowel sound of out [ʌʊt] is different from that of loud [laʊd]. This feature is known as Canadian raising.
* There is no contrast between the vowels of caught and cot (cot-caught merger, as above); in addition, the short a of bat is more open than almost everywhere else in North America [æ̞ ~ a]. The other front lax vowels /ɛ/ and /ɪ/, too, can be lowered and/or retracted. This phenomenon has been labelled the Canadian Shift.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regional_accents_of_English#Canada

BTW, there's no such thing as a neutral accent. I don't know why people keep using that term, it doesn't mean anything.

On the West Side, the East Side and in Woodbridge, I hear a lot of Canadian Raising. ( oat and a boat for out and about )
That's not Canadian raising. Out and about typically sound different from oat and a boat (the fact that you're using those as examples proves that they're different). Canadian raising is simply that, as the quote above states, the vowel sound in "out" sounds different than in "loud". To most Americans they sound the same. But "out" sounds different from "coast" too. Three distinct sounds where an American or Australian would hear two.

Anyway I don't think the Toronto accent is substantially different than the accent of any other ango Canadian city. The differences are so minor that it's all basically considered one accent to linguists.
 
Don't overlook the midwestern (from upstate NY westward to the mountains) vowel shift where 'pen' sounds like 'pin' and 'dollars' sound like 'dallers' etc. You will never hear this in Canada which is one of the major reasons why our accent sounds increasingly different from that of the US.
 
this is a very interesting discussion, but its difficult to really talk about accents in words rather than hear examples and compare the sounds.

here's something I came across that gives an example of a Toronto accent amongst others from around the world.... I think the Toronto one is the only one she gets wrong!
[video=youtube;3UgpfSp2t6k]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UgpfSp2t6k[/video]
 
The closest American accent to our own is the west coast accent, which is why so much American media based on Hollywood sounds less foreign to us than, say, a local broadcast in Buffalo.

The phonology of West/Central Canadian English, also called General Canadian, is broadly identical to that of the Western U.S., except for the following features:

* The diphthongs /aɪ/ and /aʊ/ are raised to approximately [əɪ] and [ʌʊ][3] before voiceless consonants; thus, for example, the vowel sound of out [ʌʊt] is different from that of loud [laʊd]. This feature is known as Canadian raising.
* There is no contrast between the vowels of caught and cot (cot-caught merger, as above); in addition, the short a of bat is more open than almost everywhere else in North America [æ̞ ~ a]. The other front lax vowels /ɛ/ and /ɪ/, too, can be lowered and/or retracted. This phenomenon has been labelled the Canadian Shift.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regional_accents_of_English#Canada

BTW, there's no such thing as a neutral accent. I don't know why people keep using that term, it doesn't mean anything.


That's not Canadian raising. Out and about typically sound different from oat and a boat (the fact that you're using those as examples proves that they're different). Canadian raising is simply that, as the quote above states, the vowel sound in "out" sounds different than in "loud". To most Americans they sound the same. But "out" sounds different from "coast" too. Three distinct sounds where an American or Australian would hear two.

Anyway I don't think the Toronto accent is substantially different than the accent of any other ango Canadian city. The differences are so minor that it's all basically considered one accent to linguists.

The way us Canadians say "out and about" is Scottish if I'm not mistaken. Watch some British TV and most of them say it the American way, but in some accents it's exactly the way we say it, but the thing is they use that sound consistently, e.g. the "ou" in "out" would match "thousand" whereas for Canadians it doesn't.

this is a very interesting discussion, but its difficult to really talk about accents in words rather than hear examples and compare the sounds.

here's something I came across that gives an example of a Toronto accent amongst others from around the world.... I think the Toronto one is the only one she gets wrong!


That video is one of the reasons I became interested in talking about the Toronto accent recently, because her Toronto is so off. But from the comments I've read, a lot of her accents are off to people from the places she's from; even some people said she got Seattle wrong, but that's her actual accent!
 
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I agree. I talked a lot about this over on the "Toronto's Obsession with Diversity" thread. What's interesting is how different ethnic groups in the city are affecting each other's accent. I hear kids named "Wang" and "Smith" adopting Italian and Jamaican inflections and expressions. I also, interestingly, notice that all newcomers seem, for the most part, to adopt the Canadian "out & about" sound. Maybe not as strong as Don Cherry, but definetly not "a-o" sound. For this reason I suspect that a Toronto, or south-central Ontario accent is developing.
Yep, as a strongly scottish-canadian, I've actually subconsciously developed a bit of a chinese accent. Nothing big, but if I'm speaking casually it's sometimes really apparent, enough for people to question where I'm from.

I agree with the second point though, through all the variance of different accents, just about everyone I know in the region uses that pronunciation. I wouldn't really call it an accent though, more a specific pronunciation.
 
The Western New York accent has certainly seeped across the border into Niagara, and I think a big part of it has to do with the fact that a lot of people down there primarily watch and listen to Buffalo radio and TV stations. My brother says some things in a very Buffalo-way, and you can especially notice it with things like the pronunciation of "Canada" which comes out as "key-an-a-da". It's also somewhat normal to hear things like "Lacker" and "hackey" (Locker and Hockey) though we always used to make fun of Buffalo kids for talking like that when they'd come over to play us.

Luckily, I've somehow avoided the WNY accent (or at least no one has ever pointed out that I speak in that way) and I'm pretty glad. It might be the worst ever haha.My Dad and aunt live in Buffalo and luckily my Dad's accent isn't that thick, but my aunt's is very Buffalonian and sometimes intolerable.

The other language related phenomenon I've encountered is Welland-centric. Growing up I used to come up to Toronto along with 5 or 6 guys from my hockey team to play on a summer hockey team where we proceeded to get made fun of by the GTA guys for saying "way too" a lot (as in, "That's way too cool"). Other people in Welland were being told similar things (or at least noticing it) to the point where Welland's main facebook group was called "way too Welland". it was something that only us Welland kids said and no one had a clue why.


Now, as someone from outside Toronto, I haven't noticed any sort of distinct accent.
 
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The Western New York accent has certainly seeped across the border into Niagara, and I think a big part of it has to do with the fact that a lot of people down there primarily watch and listen to Buffalo radio and TV stations. My brother says some things in a very Buffalo-way, and you can especially notice it with things like the pronunciation of "Canada" which comes out as "key-an-a-da". It's also somewhat normal to hear things like "Lacker" and "hackey" (Locker and Hockey) though we always used to make fun of Buffalo kids for talking like that when they'd come over to play us.

Luckily, I've somehow avoided the WNY accent (or at least no one has ever pointed out that I speak in that way) and I'm pretty glad. It might be the worst ever haha.My Dad and aunt live in Buffalo and luckily my Dad's accent isn't that thick, but my aunt's is very Buffalonian and sometimes intolerable.

The other language related phenomenon I've encountered is Welland-centric. Growing up I used to come up to Toronto along with 5 or 6 guys from my hockey team to play on a summer hockey team where we proceeded to get made fun of by the GTA guys for saying "way too" a lot (as in, "That's way too cool"). Other people in Welland were being told similar things (or at least noticing it) to the point where Welland's main facebook group was called "way too Welland". it was something that only us Welland kids said and no one had a clue why.


Now, as someone from outside Toronto, I haven't noticed any sort of distinct accent.

Seeing as about half of Torontonians are foreign-born, we probably won't know what the Toronto accent will sound like until some point in the future when the majority of Torontonians are Toronto-born. I think the only thing that we can be sure of is that we'll continue saying "out and about" the Canadian way. Other than that, nothing is certain.
 

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