Vowel Shift, Accent ModificationI am always correcting my daughter’s pronunciation of MILK which always sounds like MELK. It is a losing battle since I realize that language changes and clearly the Canadian accent is shifting. I just hadn’t realized that MILK is one of those words. The shift is moving vowels lower than they tend to be at the moment. Here are some examples:

/i/ sounds more like /e/ as in the example I just gave, as well as, for example, SINCE (sounding like SENSE,) FIFTH (like FEFTH,) HILL (like HELL) and SLIPPED (like SLEPT;)

/e/ sounds more like /ae/, such as HEAD (sounding like HAD,) SLEPT (like SLAPPED) and FRESH (like FRASH.)

/ae/ sounds more like /a/, such as CAST (sounding like COST,) SACK (like SOCK) and GAS (like GOS.)

Accent is all about identity and this shift represents a style that many young people identify with. So in keeping with this, I suppose when my daughter says BAEGUL for the word BAGLE (which I pronounce BEYGUL,) it is just following the rule – lowering the vowel. What can I say!

The following article (from the Toronto Star) discusses this shift and has some great audio clips which illustrate the shift.


Canadian accent is shifting, changing how we pronounce words

The same is simultaneously happening to Californians though it’s often too slight to notice

People living in Toronto and California might live on opposite ends of the continent, but they have at least one thing in common. They both like to get down … with their vowels.

New research says the Canadian accent is going through a subtle shift, making “laugh” sound like “loff,” “red dress” sound like “rad drass” and “milk” sound like “melk.” It’s all part of a change quietly seeping into our language to make us pronounce vowels lower than usual, say sociolinguists from Memorial University of Newfoundland.

A similar shift, at times borrowing some qualities from the Valley Girl cadence, is simultaneously happening to Californians, but researcher Paul De Decker says, “It is not making us sound more like them. We are just both on the same path at the same time.”

That path has gone largely unnoticed, though it’s been creeping into our accents for at least 20 years.

Read more…