Indigenous English in Canada

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Indigenous English, also known as First Nations English, refers to varieties of English used by the Indigenous peoples of Canada. They are outwardly similar to standard Canadian English from the perspective of a non-Canadian. However, they differ enough from mainstream Canadian speech that Indigenous peoples (the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit) are often identifiable by their speech to non-Indigenous people. That is primarily the result of the influence of non-English accents derived from Indigenous languages combined with a history of geographical and social isolation, since many Aboriginal people live (or formerly lived) in remote communities, in the North, or on Indian reserves.

Some analyses have concluded that contemporary Indigenous Canadian English may represent the late stages of a decreolization process among peoples who historically spoke more creolized or pidginized forms of English.[1] Since the 1990s, the use of the "non-standard" dialects has been poorly perceived by the non-Aboriginal majority, as evidenced by mockery and discrimination.[1] Some features of the dialects, for example, may have led aboriginal children to be wrongly diagnosed as having a speech impairment or a learning disability.[1] Academics have begun to recommend that Canadian schools accept Indigenous varieties of English as valid English and as a part of Indigenous culture.[2][3]

Few written works appear in Indigenous English dialects; an exception is Maria Campbell's Stories of the Road Allowance People, a collection of Métis folktales. An example from that work illustrates the type of speech used by Elders in rural Métis communities during her research, but some stories were collected in Cree or other languages and translated into dialectical English by Campbell):

Dere wasen very much he can steal from dah table anyways
'cept da knives and forks.
An Margareet he knowed he wouldn dare take dem
cause dat woman you know
hees gots a hell of a repetation for being a hardheaded woman
when he gets mad.

Dat man he have to be a damn fool to steal from hees table. - Dah Teef[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Jessica Ball and B. May Bernhardt, "First Nations English dialects in Canada: Implications for speech-language pathology". Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, August 2008; 22(8): 570–588
  2. ^ "Jessica Ball | Early Childhood Development Intercultural Partnerships". Archived from the original on 2013-09-07. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
  3. ^ "Recognizing Aboriginal English as a Dialect in Curriculum: Advancing Aboriginal Students' Academic Successes" (PDF). December 25, 2010. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2010-12-25.
  4. ^ Maria Campbell, Stories of the Road Allowance People, Theytus Books (1995), p. 4