'Pickin burries', the Ottawa valley dialect

A University of Toronto professor is studying residents in five Ottawa valley towns to show the distinct dialect could be the root of Canadian English.

Click on the link to the right below to listen to one elderly Almonte resident's dialect

Ottawa valley residents have a distinct dialect, according to a University of Toronto linguistics professor studying the area's accents.

University of Toronto linguistics professor Sali Tagliamonte (left) is studying the accent of Almonte resident Myrtle Crawford, 91. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

Sali Tagliamonte is examining local accents and expressions of people living in five towns throughout the Ottawa valley.

She is spending this week recording oral histories from elderly people in those towns, which include Almonte and Arnprior, to document the dialects the professor thinks are the roots of Canadian English.

One of Tagliamonte's subjects is Almonte resident, 91-year-old Myrtle Crawford. Crawford was born and raised in the town, about 50 km west of Ottawa, and became a dairy farmer.

Valley residents proud of dialect

The professor said Crawford and many others are proud of the dialect. The accents have also existed until now because there has not been an influx of immigrants.

"People have a pride of place and they want to sound like where they come from," Tagliamonte said, adding many Ottawa valley residents still farm like their ancestors countries such as Scotland and Northern Ireland.

"It's not surprising that they've retained the founding population's variety of speaking longer than the people of Toronto."

The dialect might not sound like proper English, the professor also said, but it is not incorrect.

For example, Crawford said she picks strawberries in the spring, but pronounced berries like "burries".