Western researcher studies the distinctive southwestern Ontario accent

Most of us are quick to detect the distinctive accents of people from other regions, but did you know that residents of southwestern Ontario have their own unique accent? Michael Iannozzi , a PhD student at Western University, is studying what distinguishes the dialect of this region.

The southwestern accent says ‘I’m not from Toronto', according to PhD student Michael Iannozzi

Western University linguist Michael Iannozzi is studying the southwestern Ontario accent, which he says was heavily influenced by early immigrants from Scotland and Ireland. (You Tube)

Most of us are quick to detect the distinctive accents of people from other regions, but did you know that residents of southwestern Ontario have their own unique dialect?

Michael Iannozzi, a PhD student at Western University in London, is studying our accent and says it's made up of "different things we borrow from different places."

Appearing on the CBC Radio program London Morning, Iannozzi said the way we speak is heavily influenced by immigration. Many of the early immigrants to the area were from Scotland and Ireland, and Iannozzi says that likely had an early influence on the accent of southwestern Ontario.

"Whereas if you go towards Kingston and that area, that was more of a British accent, so there could be differences there."

Local lingo

Iannozzi recalls, when he was doing undergraduate work at the University of Toronto, people often commented on the way he pronounced the phrase "I can't".

"It sounded to them like I said 'I can', because they were expecting to hear "I cant" (with more of a pronounced 't'). That was something I didn't notice about myself, or about  the people from where I come from, until I was elsewhere."

Iannozzi says another southwestern Ontario trait is the pronunciation of the word 'across'. He says many people pronounce it "acrosst", as though it had a 't' at the end.

Iannozzi says the way place names are pronounced tends to tell others where you are from.

As example, Iannozzi says, is Toronto.

If you pronounce Toronto distinctly, as in Toh-RON-toe, Torontonians will say "Oh, they're not from here" because they tend to slur the word, according to the researcher.

"I remember I got caught out once saying 'Saskatchewhan" and someone said 'no, no'". They then explained to him that the authentic provincial pronunciation was more of rushed "Saskatchewin".

'Not from Toronto' identity

Iannozzi says accents are never permanent. They're always changing. And one of the things he's trying to prove in his research is that there's a push in the London area toward sounding like we're not from Toronto.

 "My hypothesis is we're no longer trying to say 'I'm not American'. We're trying to say 'I'm smaller town. I'm not from Toronto. I have a different accent, and I'm a different identity.' And one of the ways of showing that is through having a different accent."

The PhD student is hoping to interview more people in the region this summer to discover more about the southwestern Ontario accent.

What Londoners say about the southwestern Ontario accent:

  • Elizabeth Crowley: "I know some people who say deese and dohs for these and those but I hope it isn't particular to London. I really don't think we sound American but I do hear that twang in some Windsor folks."
  • Anna Gollen:  "We tend to drop Ts or pronounce them like D's. See Water (often pronounced Wah-der) and Toronto (Toe-ron-oh)"
  • Lynn Morrison Foerter: "My husband who is not from here says Londoners say 'no doubt'"
  • Dawn Gosney: "When I was in Atlanta someone said to me 'you sound like Degrassi'"
  • Olivia Weber: "I moved to Alberta and have been asked what country I was born in. I say Ontario and they are confused. I didn't think my "accent" was that different."