Canadian Vowel Shift in the news

Clarke Canadian Vowel Shift 1995The Canadian Vowel Shift, first identified by ELRC Management Committee member Sandra Clarke in 1995, was a hot topic in the media this week. Following a piece in the August 10 2015 edition of Maclean’s magazine ( ) Dr. Clarke and fellow ELRC Management Committee member and linguist Dr. Paul De Decker each did short interviews about this major vowel change in Canadian English on 11 regional CBC morning radio shows throughout Canada, from St. John’s to Whitehorse. (To hear Sandra Clarke’s interview with Helen Mann on CBC Toronto’s Metro Morning, click here) Paul De Decker was also interviewed on this topic on CTV’s News Network; see his interview at

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Voices of Newfoundland and Labrador wants your photos!

As a follow-up to its highly successful online Dialect Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador (, Memorial University’s English Language Research Centre (ELRC) is creating a new website called Voices of Newfoundland and Labrador. This website will feature high-quality digitized speech samples along with transcripts, notes and interpretive text. Speech samples span the last 50 years and represent traditional and contemporary speakers from 58 different communities, including 11 in Labrador. Like the Dialect Atlas, Voices is being designed for a general as well as a scholarly audience, which includes school and university students, cultural and heritage groups, and actors and dialect coaches.

The Voices project research team, led by Memorial Professor Emerita Dr. Sandra Clarke, is looking for your input. Here’s your chance to put your mark on this exciting project and help make the website as vibrant as possible! We invite you to submit your photos of the communities listed below for potential inclusion on the final Voices of NL website. You can read more about the project at

While we cannot pay for the use of your images, your name will appear in a photo credit on the website that you can share with your family and friends. In addition, you will receive a personal invitation to the launch of the Voices of NL website.

If you would like to share your scenic community photos, they should ideally be in landscape orientation (nicely-shot portrait orientation would also work) and as large as possible (a minimum of 1000 pixels wide). While we are interested primarily in colour photos, good quality black and white pictures from earlier years would also be welcome. Photos can be sent to us directly as email attachments (e.g. .jpg format), or else as scanned originals (.jpg or .tif). Alternatively, if you drop off or mail us your original prints, we can scan them and return the originals to you.

By submitting photos, you will give Memorial University’s Distance Education and Learning Technologies (DELTS) and the ELRC the rights to use them for the Voices website, and to modify them as necessary. You will also be asked to sign a form certifying that you are the rights holder for any photo you submit, and that no copyright is being violated. This form is available here: 2015_VOICES_PHOTO_RELEASE_FORM

Contact information:

The English Language Research Centre
Arts and Administration Building (A3019)
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John’s, NL A1C 5S7

Tel: 709-864-4481/8065

Hours of operation: Mon-Fri 9:30AM-4PM

Photos are required for the following communities:

Avalon Peninsula

  1. Port de Grave
  2. Cappahayden
  3. Patrick’s Cove
  4. Branch
  5. Dunville, Placentia

Burin Peninsula

  1. St. Bernards’s
  2. Baine Harbour
  3. Fox Cove/Mortier
  4. Lamaline

South Coast

  1. Milltown
  2. Burgeo
  3. Rose Blanche

Codroy Valley area

  1. Upper Ferry
  2. Highlands

Corner Brook & Gros Morne area

  1. Corner Brook
  2. Rocky Harbour
  3. Parson’s Pond

Great Northern Peninsula

  1. Blue Cove
  2. Raleigh
  3. St. Anthony
  4. Conche
  5. (Great) Harbour Deep

Notre Dame Bay & Central

  1. Beaumont (Long Island)
  2. Lushes Bight (Long Island)
  3. Grand Falls-Windsor
  4. Lewisporte
  5. Main Point, Gander Bay
  6. Frederickton

Bonavista Bay

  1. Sandy Cove
  2. Red Cliff


  1. l’Anse-au-Loup
  2. Pinware
  3. Battle Harbour
  4. Batteau
  5. Cartwright
  6. North West River & Sheshatshit
  7. Makkovik
  8. Postville
  9. Hopedale (& Big Bay)
  10. Nain
  11. Labrador City
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Participants Wanted for Study

Are you from the Cape Shore of Placentia Bay, the Carbonear-Bay Roberts area, Tilting / Fogo Island, Little Bay Islands/Green Bay, the Port au Port peninsula, or the Codroy Valley? There’s an interesting and exciting new study that needs your voice!

The Music of Dialect: An Electroacoustic Research-Creation Project

We are seeking participants to interview for a musical research and composition project about dialect and folksong in different regions of Newfoundland. The study will take about half an hour and you will be compensated $10 for your participation. We will be conducting interviews in your community between August 8th – 18th.

Willing participants will be asked to read aloud excerpts from Newfoundland folksongs. Then, they will be asked to respond to the texts and to answer some questions about their own experiences with this type of music. Interviews will be recorded for use in future stages of the project.

Any members of your community would be ideal candidates, but we would be especially interested in speaking with people who have lived in this community for most or all of their lives. Please contact us if you or someone you know may be interested.

Jason Noble

Steve Cowan


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Participants needed for PAID study with Memorial University Department of Linguistics

The Department of Linguistics is looking for participants who grew up in and currently live in Newfoundland for a study on speech perception and production. Participants will listen to speech samples and answer questions about them. Participants will also be asked to read some words and phrases aloud. These readings will be recorded and analyzed.

Participants will be paid $10 for their time. Participation should take about an hour. To participate, you must speak English as your first language.

If you are interested in participating please book a time here:

or simply contact

Paul De Decker

Sara Mackenzie

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More handwriting

Another day, another handwriting query. This one has been written by G. M. Story, a note to Dr. Kirwin on the entry for jackatar. The indecipherable bit is in the third full line of text. If you think you can figure it out, please comment below or send us an email. The word-file below reads:


Could you advise on anything you think

needs revision in this entry? We have

one [1851] quote [indecipherable]  DNE a little,

and a few 1980s quots to add.

But have you second thoughts on the

definition (eg. the Micmac indians mix),

..or etym?


Word-file for 'jackatar'. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

Word-file for ‘jackatar’. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

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No good news for Dictionary of American Regional English

This news article was published recently on the Dictionary of American Regional English.  Unfortunately, if they don’t find some funding soon, they will be forced to close up shop, a sad reality many in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences are facing these days. Those of you following Twig already know how important these types of projects are, in terms of cultural celebration and preservation but they do so much more than that. Please spread the word.

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Another handwriting query!

This particular word has shown up on several cards and we cannot figure it out.

The headword here is ‘swat’ (top left corner) and the editors have indicated that the citation is withdrawn by writing ‘Withdraw?’ in the top right corner followed by a check mark. This citation has been withdrawn because, as the card states, “Not much evidence”.

The final word in the last line is the word we need help with. It reads:

“Devine’s item is in [indecipherable]”

We thought that it was Hoelboell, but we are not certain. If you have a guess, submit it here on the blog! This is the clearest example that we have in the ELRC. If we can track down the other slips, we’ll post them as well.

Word-file for 'swat'.  Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

Word-file for ‘swat’. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

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