British Columbia English

From Dominion of British Columbia

British Columbia English is the name used to describe the variety of the English language spoken in British Columbia, and its dialects.

There are many varieties of BC English, especially historically, as a result of the relative isolation of the various English-speaking communities, and the widespread use of Chinook Wawa especially in the central and northern parts of the Dominion. However, due to the advent of mass communications the various dialects are exhibiting a tendency towards merging. Until 1971, English-language radio and television broadcasts were made in Received Pronunciation (RP, also known as "BBC English" or "standard British English"), but that restriction was lifted and genuinely BC dialects have been used ever since. RP was taught in schools as "proper English" until 1974, so it is still common, but its actual usage is reflective of education, class, ethnicity, and register.

Dialects of BC English

BC English is divided into three main dialect groups, called Island & Lower Mainland (ILM), West Kootenays (WK) and East Kootenays (EK) respectively, although these names are not entirely reflective of their geographic distribution; the subdialect spoken in Prince Rupert, for example, is an ILM variant, whereas that spoken in Prince George is largely an EK variant.

Like in Australian English, three "levels" of each dialect are defined - the Cultivated ("upper class"), the General ("educated middle class"), and the Broad ("working class" or "lower class"). The General variety of each is the most commonly encountered, and exhibit much less regional variation than the Broad varieties – for example, a speaker of General West Kootenay dialect from Kamloops sounds much like one from Penticton, but a speaker of Broad Nicola Valley variant of the West Kootenay dialect from Merritt has an accent distinct from that of a speaker of the Broad Boundary Country variant of the West Kootenay dialect from Sooyoos.

  • Island & Lower Mainland (ILM)
    • Island (ILM-I)
      • Vancouver Island (ILM-VI)
      • Prince Rupert (ILM-PR)
    • Lower Mainland (ILM-LM)
      • Greater Vancouver (ILM-GV)
      • Sunshine Coast–Squamish (ILM-SCS)
    • Fraser Valley (ILM-FV)
      • Lower Fraser Valley (ILM-LFV)
      • Upper Fraser Valley (ILM-UFV)
      • Lillooet (ILM-L)
  • West Kootenays (WK)
    • Nicola Valley (WK-NV)
    • South Okanagan (WK-SO)
    • Similkameen–Boundary Country (WK-SBC)
  • East Kootenays (EK)
    • Central East Kootenays (EK-C)
    • Southern East Kootenays (EK-S)
    • Cranbrook (EK-Cr)
    • North Okanagan-Shuswap (EK-NOS)
    • Prince George (EK-PG)

Island & Lower Mainland (ILM)

As the dialect spoken on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland (including the lower Fraser Valley west of Hope), the Island & Lower Mainland dialect is the most widely spoken of the BC dialects. It is a non-rhotic dialect; where it is articulated, /r/ is realised as [ɹ]. BC Standard English (BCSE) is based on the cultivated variant of the Island subdialect as spoken in Victoria.

The ILM dialect group has three major subdialects: Island (ILM-I), Lower Mainland (ILM-LM), and Fraser Valley (ILM-FV). Island can be further subdivided into the Vancouver Island (ILM-VI) and Prince Rupert (ILM-PR) variants; Lower Mainland includes the Greater Vancouver (ILM-GV) and Sunshine Coast–Squamish (ILM-SCS) variants; Fraser Valley consists of the Lower Fraser Valley (ILM-LFV), Upper Fraser Valley (ILM-UFV), and Lillooet (ILM-L) variants.

ILM-LFV tends to exhibit more characteristics of ILM-GV, whilst ILM-UFV tends to exhibit characteristics of the Nicola Valley variant of the West Kootenay dialect.

ILM-L is broadly similar to ILM-SCS, but with certain features that are distinctive of ILM-UFV, along with TH-STOPPING, which is otherwise found mostly only in the East Kootenays dialect group.

The influence of ILM-GV extends southwards into northwestern Washington State in the US, dominantly so around Bellingham, but extending as far south as Everett, north of Seattle. This, however, has been fading significantly since the 1960s under the influence of mass national media, notably television. Although the speech of this area is nowadays much more like the Pacific Northwest dialect of American English, with the addition of some features such as YOD-COALESCENCE, TR-AFFRICATION, and, to a lesser extent – a feature perceived as less educated – L-VOCALISATION.

ILM-PR is very similar to the Island subdialect, but is noticeable for the presence of TH-FRONTING, TH-ALVEOLARISATION and the articulation of /t/ as [ʔ].

West Kootenays (WK)

The West Kootenays dialect group is spoken in the West Kootenays, the Boundary Country, the Similkameen, the southern Okanagan, and the Nicola Valley. It is a rhotic dialect with /r/ articulated as [ɹ].

The WK dialect group has three major subdialects: Nicola Valley (NV), South Okanagan (SO) and Similkameen–Boundary Country (SBC). The Nicola Valley dialect is the basis of the stereotypical "uneducated redneck" in BC; the Boundary Country dialect is the closest to the General American and Canadian accents. The South Okanagan dialect shares similarities with certain variants of the East Kootenays dialect.

East Kootenays (EK)

Like WK, the dialect group of the East Kootenays and Central Interior (EK) is, with the exception of the Cranbrook dialect, rhotic; EK, being heavily influenced by the speech of Welsh, Scottish and Irish settlers, realises /r/ as [ɾ] (or, primarily amongst older speakers and in the most formal registers of younger speakers, as [r]). In the non-rhotic Cranbrook dialect, /r/ is realised as [ʋ]. Recently, it has become fashionable amongst lower middle class youth to pronounce it as [ɹ], as in the ILM dialects; however, this is stigmatised by both upper middle class and working class youth alike. The English spoken in the Cymru Newydd region centred on Blaenau, where Welsh is the dominant non-indigenous language, is generally not considered an EK dialect per se; rather, it is viewed in the same way as the English of First Nations populations: a second language influenced by the speakers' first language.

The EK dialect group has four major subdialects: Southern East Kootenays (EK-S), Central East Kootenays (EK-C), North Okanagan-Shuswap (EK-NOS), and Prince George (EK-PG).

EK-S shows very strong influence from the speech of Scottish settlers, though in certain small pockets the local Broad accent is – especially amongst older people – more reflective of the dialect spoken by the original settlers - notable for this is Cranbrook, where the local dialect shows many features, both phonological and lexical, of the dialects of Kent and Sussex in England, along with certain local innovations. Unlike most other local dialects, which are merging into the General variety spoken in the region, usage of the Cranbrook dialect (EK-Cr) remains strong amongst all segments of society in the city of Cranbrook. Some linguists consider the Cranbrook dialect as being entirely distinct from the EK-S group.

EK-C and EK-NOS are very similar to one another; EK-PG is quite distinct, showing heavy influence from the speech of the original - primarily Welsh - settlers, and from the First Nations languages of the area.


The following descriptions of the phonology of the dialects of BC English are based on Wells' lexical sets.


This table gives an at-a-glance comparison of consonants in the various dialects.

Unaspirated stops - (*) (*) (*) * * * - * * - * * *
Rhotic - - - - * * * * * * - * * *
Flapping /t/ → [ɾ] (*) (*) * * * * * * - - - - - -
T-glottalisation /t/ → [ʔ] - - (*) - - - - * - * * * * *
Yod-dropping (*) * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Yod-coalescence * * * * * * * * * * - * * *
TR-affrication - - (*) * * * * (*) - - - - - -
TH-fronting (*) (*) * - * - - - - - - - - -
TH-stopping (*) (*) (*) (*) (*) (*) (*) * * * * * * *
TH-alveolarisation - - (*) (*) - * - - - - - - - -
L-vocalisation - - (*) * - * - (*) - - - - - -
H-deletion (function words) - - * * * - * - * - - * - -
H-deletion (content words) - - - - (*) - * - - - - * - -
Velar fricative [x] * (*) * (*) - - * - * * * * * -
/ŋ/ → [ŋk] substitution - - - * - * - - - - - - - -

Unaspirated Stops

Stops are always unaspirated, similarly to Scottish and northern English dialects, in WK and EK dialects with the exception of WK-SBC and EK-Cr. They are occasionally encountered in Broad and, less commonly, General levels of ILM dialects; this is, however, considered non-standard, and seems to be disappearing.

Rhotic vs Non-Rhotic

BCSE, all ILM variants, and EK-Cr are non-rhotic; where it is articulated, /r/ is realised as [ɹ] in all ILM dialects (BCSE 'run' [ɹɐn], 'very' [ˈvɛ.ɹi], 'probably' [ˈpɹɒː.bə]), but in EK-Cr it is pronounced as [ʋ] word-initially and between vowels, and as [ɹ] after consonants ('run' [ʋɔn], 'very' [ˈve.ʋi], 'probably' [ˈpɹɒ:.bə]).

Recently, it has become fashionable amongst young lower middle class speakers of EK-Cr to pronounce it as [ɹ], as in the ILM dialects; however, this is stigmatised by both upper middle class and working class youth alike, and this usage remains restricted to certain neighbourhoods in the city of Cranbrook. These dialects also feature linking R when a word that ends in an (otherwise unarticulated) /r/ is followed by a word that begins with a vowel (compare BCSE 'letter' [ˈlɛ.tɐ] vs 'letter opener' [ˈlɛ.təɹ ˈɤʊ.pə.nɐ]). Intrusive R (e.g. ILM-LM working class 'Anna answered' [ˈæ.nəɹ ˈa:n.tsəd]) is found primarily in working class variants of ILM, as well as in EK-Cr.

All other EK variants, as well as all variants of WK, are rhotic. In WK /r/ is articulated as [ɹ] in all variants, whilst EK variants other than EK-Cr, being heavily influenced by the speech of Welsh, Scottish and Irish settlers, realises /r/ as [ɾ] or, primarily amongst older speakers and in the most formal registers of younger speakers, as [r].

Flapping /t/ > [ɾ] and T-Glottalisation /t/ > [ʔ]

In all ILM dialects, with the exception of ILM-PR and colloquial ILM-VI in Victoria, as well as in all WK variants, /t/ is realised as [ɾ]; this phenomenon, also very common in Canadian and American English, is called flapping. Flapping does occasionally occur in BCSE as well, though the tendency in carefully articulated BCSE is to pronounce /t/ as [t]. Compare ILM 'letter' [ˈlɛ.ɾɐ] with BCSE 'letter' [ˈlɛ.tɐ].

Colloquial ILM-VI in greater Victoria, ILM-PR, and all EK variants realise /t/ as a glottal stop [ʔ]. Compare ILM 'letter' [ˈlɛ.ɾɐ] and BCSE 'letter' [ˈlɛ.tɐ] with General EK [ˈlɛ.ʔər].


Yod-dropping is present in all BC dialects, as in Canadian and General American English; in EK-Cr, yod-dropping occurs after all consonants, e.g. 'beautiful' [ˈbʏː.ʔə.fʊl], 'cure' [køː]. Some conservative, upper class – primarily older – speakers of BCSE do not yod drop.


With the exception of EK-Cr, Yod-coalescence is present in all dialects of BC English. This is a process that palatalizes the clusters /dj/, /tj/, /sj/ and /zj/ into [dʒ], [tʃ], [ʃ] and [ʒ] respectively across syllable boundaries and at the start of syllables.

  • /tj/ → [tʃ] - 'nature' [ˈnɛetʃɐ], 'tune' [tʃʉun], 'Tuesday' [ˈtʃʉuz.də]/[ˈtʃʉuz.dɪ], 'got you' [ˈgɒː.tʃɐ]
  • /dj/ → [dʒ] - 'soldier' [ˈsɤʊl.dʒɐ], 'educate' [ˈɛ.dʒə.kɛet], 'due'/'dew' [dʒʉu]
  • /sj/ → [ʃ] - 'pressure' [ˈprɛ.ʃɐ], 'issue' [ˈɪ.ʃʉu], 'assume' [ə.ˈʃʉum]
  • /zj/ → [ʒ] - 'measure' [ˈmɛ.ʒɐ], 'azure' [ˈæ.ʒɐ], 'resume' [rə.ˈʒʉum]

(These examples all BCSE)


The phenomenon of TR-affrication – /tr/ → [tʃɹ], /dr/ → [dʒɹ], /str/ → [ʃtʃɹ] ('tree' [tʃɹi:], 'train' [tʃɹɛːn], 'strict' [ʃtʃɹɪkt], all ILM-FV) – occurs in most all variants of WK (with the exception of some speakers of WK-SBC), in the Fraser Valley dialect of ILM, and for some speakers of the Greater Vancouver dialect of ILM, especially those in the Tri-Cities area and on the south side of the Fraser River.


TH-fronting is present in the Nicola Valley dialect of WK, the Fraser Valley dialect of ILM (except the Lillooet subdialect), and for some speakers of all other ILM variants – traditionally a class/education-based distinction. In these cases, /θ/ and /ð/ are realised as [f] and [v] respectively. This results in homophones such as 'thin' ~ 'fin' [fɘn ~ fɘn] and 'than' ~ 'van' [væən ~ væən] (both ILM-LM). Since the end of the 20th century, this feature is becoming ever more widespread in ILM dialects regardless of class, and since the beginning of the 2010s can be heard with growing frequency in local radio broadcasts. By some estimates, TH-fronting will have become standard in all ILM dialects and sociolects - including BCSE - by around 2060.


TH-stopping is present in all EK dialects, in the Prince Rupert dialect of ILM-I, in the Lillooet dialect of ILM-FV, for some speakers in all other ILM dialects, and for some speakers in all WK dialects; though originally found only in areas of heavy Scots settlement, the phenomenon has become widespread throughout the Interior and North, in large part due to the prevalence of Chinook Wawa in day-to-day public use, as opposed to the Island, Lower Mainland and the Boundary Country, where English is the dominant language in daily use. In these cases, /θ/ and /ð/ are realised as the dental stops [t̪] and [d̪] respectively, distinct from the alveolar [t] and [d] of phonemic /t/ and /d/. This results in minimal pairs such as 'thin' ~ 'tin' [t̪ɘn ~ tɘn] and 'though' ~ 'dough' [d̪oʊ ~ doʊ]. It is also found in the speech of some First Nations speakers of the ILM and WK dialects.


TH-alveolarisation is present universally in the Nicola Valley dialect of WK, and in lower-class and First Nations dialects of mainland ILM when forming the plurals of words ending in /θ/, where [θ] is assibilated to the [s] of the plural marker, together with compensatory lengthening, e.g. WK-NV 'smiths' [smɪs:], 'lengths' [leɪŋs:] etc.


L-vocalisation is a phenomenon distinctive of the Nicola Valley dialect of WK, and of the Fraser Valley dialect of ILM; it is also present in working-class dialects of ILM in the Lower Mainland (especially in the Tri-Cities area), extending eastwards for some speakers of the Similkameen-Boundary Country dialect of WK. e.g. WK-NV 'feel' [fiɤʊ], 'kill' [kɛʊ] (WK-NV) ~ [kɪɤʊ] (ILM-FV), 'fell' [fɛəʊ] (WK-NV) ~ [fɛɤʊ] (ILM-FV), 'fall' [fɒːʊ], 'fool' [fʉuʊ], 'fail' [fɛeʊ], 'file' [fɑɪəʊ], etc. When a word ending in a vocalised, final /l/ is followed by a vowel, the /l/ is articulated as [l], e.g. 'feel pain' [fiɤʊ pɛ:n] (ILM-FV & WK-NV) vs 'feel emotion' [fiɤl ɘ'mɤʊʃən] (ILM-FV) - [fi:l ɪ'mɵʊʃən] (WK-NV).


H-deletion in unstressed function words, e.g. 'him', 'her', 'had' in 'had eaten', etc. (ILM: [əm], [ɜː], [æd]), is very common in all ILM variants, in western (Nicola Valley, Similkameen-Boundary Country) WK variants, and in Cranbrook EK. In content words, it is a distinctive feature of Nicola Valley WK and Cranbrook EK (e.g. 'helmet' ['ɛʊ.mət], 'happen' ['ɛ.pən]/['æ.pən] (WK-NV) ~ 'helmet' ['el.mət], 'happen' ['ɛ.pən] (EK-Cr)). It is also found in content words in the broadest working class variants of Fraser Valley ILM.

Velar fricative

The velar fricative [x] is present, especially in certain words of Scots origin (e.g. 'loch' [lɒːx], 'Buchan' ['bjʉu.xən]), in all EK dialects except EK-PG, in most ILM dialects with the exception of ILM-PR, ILM-UFV, and ILM-L, and in WK-SO.

/ŋ/ → [ŋk] substitution

In Fraser Valley ILM and in Nicola Valley WK, "thing" words - "nothing", "anything", "something", "everything" - are pronounced with [ŋk] substituted for /ŋ/: ['nʌ.fəŋk]/['nʌ.fɪŋk] 'nothing' (ILM-FV/WK-NV), ['ɛ.nə.fəŋk]/['ɛ.nə.fɪŋk] 'anything', ['sʌɱ.fəŋk]/['sʌɱ.fɪŋk] 'something', ['ɛv.ɹə.fəŋk]/['ɛv.ɹə.fɪŋk] 'everything'.


This table gives an at-a-glance comparison of vowels in the various dialects.

Canadian Raising * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
HURRY-FURRY merger * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
MARY-MARRY-MERRY merger - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
MERRY-MURRAY merger - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
MIRROR-NEARER merger * * * * * * * * - - - - - -
partial MIRROR-MERE merger * * * * * * * * - - - - - *
North American /-rə/ mergers - - - - - - - (*) - - - - - -
Canadian /ɒr/ → /ɔr/ merger * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
CARD-CORD merger - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
CURE-FORCE merger - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
CURE-NURSE merger - - - - - - - - - - * - - -
HORSE-HOARSE merger (*) (*) (*) (*) - - - (*) - - - - - -
NEAR-SQUARE merger - - - - - - - - - - * - - -
THRONE-THROWN split * * * * * * * - - - - - - -
LOT-PALM merger * * * * * * * - - - - - - -
FATHER-BOTHER merger * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
COT-CAUGHT merger * * * * * * * * - - * - - -
TRAP-BATH split * * * * - - - - - - * - - -
tensing of /æ/ and /ɛ/ * * * * * * * - - - * - - -
VILE-VIAL merger * * * * * * * * * * - * * *
/iːə/-smoothing * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
PANE-PAIN merger * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
MARE-MAYOR merger - - - - - - - * - - * - - -

Canadian raising

Canadian raising, in which /aɪ/ and /aʊ/ are raised before voiceless consonants, is present in all dialects of BC English. This has the result that "writer" and "rider" do not rhyme in BC English. This feature is shared with all dialects of Canadian English, and it is also present for many speakers of American dialects in the Pacific Northwest of the US and in the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

  • BCSE: 'writer' [ˈɹʌe.tɐ] vs 'rider' [ˈɹɑe.tɐ]


The North American HURRY-FURRY merger is present in all dialects.

  • BCSE: 'hurry' [ˈhɜ.ɹi] ~ 'furry' [ˈfɜ.ɹi]


The MARY-MARRY-MERRY merger that is common in many dialects of American English is not present in any dialect of BC English.


The MERRY-MURRAY merger that is found in some dialects of American English is not present in any dialect of BC English.

  • BCSE: 'merry' [ˈmɛ.ɹi] ~ 'Murray' [ˈmɜ.ɹi], 'berry' [ˈbɛ.ɹi] ~ 'bury' [ˈbɜ.ɹi]


The North American MIRROR-NEARER merger is present in all ILM and WK variants of BC English, but is not present in any EK dialect other than EK-NOS.

  • BCSE: 'mirror' [ˈmiə.ɹɐ] ~ 'nearer' [ˈniə.ɹɐ]
  • EK-General: 'mirror' [ˈmɪ.rər] ~ 'nearer' [ˈni:.rər]


Like the MIRROR-NEARER merger, a partial MIRROR-MERE merger (applying only to the vowel in the first syllable of 'mirror') is present in all ILM and WK variants of BC English, but is not present in any EK dialect.

  • BCSE: 'mirror' [ˈmiə.ɹɐ] ~ 'mere' [miɐ]
  • EK-General: 'mirror' [ˈmɪ.rər] ~ 'mere' [ˈmi:r]

North American /-rə/ mergers

Aside from the above-mentioned MIRROR-MERE merger, most North American /-rə/ mergers are not present in BC English. However, these mergers are present for some speakers of WK-SBC, especially in the area around Midway, Kettle Valley, Rock Creek, and Grand Forks; it is less common around Trail and Rossland, but occasionally encountered there as well.

  • BCSE: 'error' [ˈɛ.ɹɐ] ~ 'air' [eɐ] ~ 'heir' [eɐ] ~ 'ere' [iɐ]; 'horror' [ˈhɔ.ɹɐ] ~ 'whore' [hɔ:]; 'Jeremy' [ˈdʒɛ.ɹə.mi] ~ 'germy' [ˈdʒɜː.mi]; 'Morrigan' [ˈmɔ.ɹᵻ.ɡən] ~ 'Morgan' [ˈmɔː.gən]; 'Oregon' [ˈɔ.ɹᵻ.ɡən] ~ 'organ' [ˈɔː.gən]; 'terror' [ˈtɛ.ɹɐ] - 'tare' [teɐ] - 'tear' [teɐ].

/ɒr/→/ɔr/ merger

The merger of /ɒr/ and /ɔr/ before a vowel – distinctive of Canadian English – is present in all dialects of BC English. All of the following words (from BCSE) are pronounced with [ɔːɹ] - borrow, sorry, sorrow, tomorrow; corridor [ˈkɔː.ɹᵻ.dɐ], foreign, forest, Florida, historic, moral, orange, sorority [sə.ˈɹɔː.ɹᵻ.ɾi], warranty, aura, boring, choral, flooring, glory, scorer, Tory, warring, etc. But note: warrior [ˈwɔː.jɐ], memorial [mɛ.ˈmɔːjəl], orient [ˈɔː.jənt].

CARD-CORD merger

The CARD-CORD merger is not present in any dialect.

  • BCSE: 'card' [kɒːd] ~ 'cord' [kɔːd]; 'are' [ɒː] ~ 'or' [ɔː]; 'barn' [bɒːn] ~ 'born' [bɔːn]


The CURE-FORCE merger generally not present in any BC dialect.

  • BCSE: 'tour' [tʊə] ~ 'tor' [tɔː] ~ 'tore' [tɔː]; 'toured' ['tʊəd] ~ 'towards' [tə.ˈwɔːdz]; 'lure' [lʊə] ~ 'law' [lɒː] ~ 'laud', 'lawed' [lɒːd] ~ 'lore' [lɔː] ~ 'lord' [lɔːd]; 'gourd' [gʊəd] ~ 'gaud' [gɒːd] ~ 'gored' [gɔːd]; 'your' [jɔː] ~ 'yaw' [jɒː]; 'moor', 'more' [mɔː] ~ 'maw' [mɒː]; 'poor', 'pour', 'pore' [pɔː] ~ 'paw' [pɒː] (note that for some speakers, 'poor' is realised as [puː]); 'shore' [ʃɔː] - 'shaw' [ʃɒː].

But note:

  • BCSE: 'your' [jɔː] ~ 'yore' [jɔː]; 'whored' [hɔːd] ~ 'hoard' [hɔːd] ~ 'horde' [hɔːd]; 'poor' [pɔː] ~ 'pour' [pɔː] ~ 'pore' [pɔː]; 'boor' [bɔː] ~ 'boar' [bɔː] ~ 'bore' [bɔː] (note that for some speakers, 'boor' is realised as [buː]); 'moor' [mɔː] ~ 'more' [mɔː].

Note also that there is significant variation in the articulation of 'cure' for different speakers: [kjʊə] ~ [kjɵə] ~ [kjɜː].


The CURE-NURSE merger is present only in the Cranbrook dialect of EK: 'cure' [køː] ~ 'nurse' [nøːs] (note that EK-Cr has complete yod-dropping). In other dialects, this merger is present only in one word: 'sure' [ʃʊɐ] ~ [ʃɵɐ] ~ [ʃɜː]


The HORSE-HOARSE merger is only partially present in ILM and WK-SBC dialects:

  • BCSE: 'border' ['bɔː.də] ~ 'boarder' ['bɔː.də]; 'bored' [bɔːd] ~ 'board' [bɔːd]; 'cored' [kɔːd] ~ 'chord' [kɔːd] ~ 'cord' [kɔːd]; 'oar' [ɔː] ~ 'or' [ɔː] ~ 'ore' [ɔː]

But note:

  • BCSE: 'bored', 'board' [bɔːd] ~ 'bawd' [bɒːd]; 'cored', 'chord' [kɔːd] ~ 'cawed' [kɒːd]; 'cores' [kɔːz] ~ 'cause' [kɒːz]; 'core', 'corps' [kɔː] ~ 'caw' [kɒː]; 'court' [kɔːt] ~ 'caught' [kɒːt]; 'floor' [flɔː] ~ 'flaw' [flɒː]; 'oar', 'or', 'ore' [ɔː] ~ 'awe' [ɒː].


The NEAR-SQUARE merger is present only in the Cranbrook dialect of EK.

  • EK-Cr: 'ear' [ɛː] ~ 'air' [ɛː] ~ 'ere' [ɛː] ~ 'heir' [ɛː]; 'fear' [fɛː] ~ 'fair' [fɛː] ~ 'fare' [fɛː]

In other dialects of BC English, it is not present.

  • BCSE: 'ear' [iɐ] ~ 'air' [eɐ] ~ 'ere' [iɐ] ~ 'heir' [eɐ]; 'fear' [fiɐ] ~ 'fair' [feɐ] ~ 'fare' [feɐ].


Like in New Zealand English, past participles like 'thrown', 'known', 'blown' etc. become disyllabic in ILM and WK dialects. This split is not present in EK.

  • BCSE: 'throne' [θɹoʊn] ~ 'thrown' [ˑθɹoʊ.ən]; 'bone' [boʊn] ~ 'blown' [ˈbloʊ.ən]; 'phone' [foʊn] ~ 'flown' [ˈfloʊ.ən]; 'groan' [gɹoʊn] ~ 'grown' [ˈgɹoʊ.ən]

LOT-PALM merger

The LOT-PALM merger found in many North American dialects can also be found in all ILM dialects of BC English. In most North American dialects in which both these mergers have taken place, the vowel in LOT is unrounded and lengthened; in ILM, the vowel in LOT is lengthened like elsewhere on the continent, but unlike elsewhere, the vowel in PALM becomes rounded, whilst retaining its length.

  • BCSE: 'lot' [lɒ:t] ~ 'palm' [pɒ:m], 'bomb' [bɒ:m] ~ 'balm' [bɒ:m]

In WK dialects, the merger has taken place only partially - a distinction remains in terms of length, but vowel quality has merged to [ɒ].

  • WK-General: 'lot' [lɒt] ~ 'palm' [pɒ:m], 'bomb' [bɒm] ~ 'balm' [bɒ:m]

This merger has not taken place at all in EK.

  • EK-General: 'lot' [lɒt] ~ 'palm' [pa:m], 'bomb' [bɒm] ~ 'balm' [ba:m]


The FATHER-BOTHER merger has taken place in all three dialect groups of BC English. In ILM, WK and EK-Cr, the vowels have merged to [ɒ:], whilst in all other EK dialects they have merged to [a:].

  • SBCE: 'father' [ˈfɒː.ðɐ], 'bother' [ˈbɒː.ðɐ]
  • EK-General: 'father' [ˈfaː.d̪ər], 'bother' [ˈbaː.d̪ər]


The COT-CAUGHT merger is present in ILM and WK as [ɒ], but is not present in EK (except for EK-Cr, in which the merger has taken place).

body ~ bawdy [ˈbɒː.di] [ˈbɒ.di] [ˈbɔ.di] [ˈbɒ.de] ~ [ˈbɔ.de]
cot ~ caught [kɒːt] [kɒt] [kɔt] [kɒt] ~ [kɔt]
don ~ dawn [dɒːn] [dɒn] [dɔn] [dɒn] ~ [dɔn]
dotter ~ daughter [ˈdɒː.ɾɐ] [ˈdɒ.ɾəɹ] [ˈdɔ.ʔər] [ˈdɒ.ʔər] ~ [ˈdɔ.ʔər]
on ~ awn [ɒːn] [ɒn] [ɔn] [ɒn] ~ [ɔn]
pod ~ pawed [pɒːd] [pɒd] [pɔd] [pɒd] ~ [pɔd]
rot ~ wrought [ɹɒːt] [ɹɒt] [rɔt] [rɒt] ~ [rɔt]
shone ~ Sean/Shawn [ʃɒːn] [ʃɒn] [ʃɔn] [ʃɒn] ~ [ʃɔn]
yon ~ yawn [jɒːn] [jɒn] [jɔn] [jɒn] ~ [jɔn]


The TRAP-BATH split is present in BCSE, all ILM variants, and in EK-Cr, with the broadening of the vowel having taken place before [f, s, θ, ns, nt, ntʃ, mpl]. In BCSE and most ILM variants, the Broad A is [a:] and the Flat A is [æ], whilst in EK-Cr the Broad A is [ɑː], the Flat A is [ɛ]. It is not present in WK dialects, nor in other dialects of EK.

  • BCSE: 'trap' [tɹæp], 'bath' [ba:θ]
  • EK-Cr: 'trap' [tɹɛp], 'bath' [bɑ:θ]

TENSING of /æ/ and /ɛ/

The tensing of /æ/ and /ɛ/ before a voiced velar consonant is present in BCSE, all variants of ILM, in EK-Cr, and in all variants of WK with the exception of WK-SBC. It is also not present in other EK dialects.

Where /æ/ is followed by /g/ or /ŋ/, it diphthongises to [ɛɪ] in SBCE, ILM, and EK-Cr; in WK, it becomes [eɪ].

  • BCSE: 'magazine' [ˈmɛɪ.gə.ziːn], 'rag' [ɹɛɪg], 'pang' [pɛɪŋ], 'angler' [ˈɛɪŋ.glɐ]
  • WK-General: 'magazine' [ˈmeɪ.gə.ziːn], 'rag' [ɹeɪg], 'pang' [peɪŋ], 'angler' [ˈeɪŋ.gləɹ]

Before any /m/ or /n/ sound, /æ/ diphthongises to [æə] in SBCE, ILM, and WK dialects other than WK-SBC. This tensing does not occur in EK-Cr, nor in other EK dialects.

  • BCSE: 'camp' [kæəmp], 'man' [mæən], 'ram' [ræəm], 'clamber' [ˈklæəm.bɐ]

Where /ɛ/ is followed by /g/ or /ŋ/, it diphthongises to [eɪ] in SBCE, all ILM dialects except Lillooet ILM, all WK dialects other than WK-SBC, and in EK-Cr.

  • BCSE: 'leg' [leɪg], 'length' [leɪŋθ]

VILE-VIAL merger

The VILE-VIAL merger is present in all dialects except EK-Cr: vile - vial [vɑɪəl] etc.; in EK-Cr, these are realised as 'vile' [vaɪl] and 'vial' [vʊɪəl] respectively.


/iːə/-SMOOTHING is present in all dialects of BC English: BCSE 'theatre' [ˈθi.ə.tɐ], 'idea' [ɑe.'di.ɐ] (but note that for some speakers of WK-SBC, 'idea' is realised as [ɑɪ.ˈdiː]).

PANE-PAIN merger

The PANE-PAIN merger is present in all dialects.

  • BCSE: 'ale' ~ 'ail' [ɛel], 'bale' ~ 'bail' [bɛel], 'ate' ~ 'eight' [ɛet], 'cane' ~ 'Cain' [kɛen]

But, before /r/, the merger results in 'fair' ~ 'fare' [feɐ], hair ~ hare [heɐ]. Word-finally in monosyllables, it becomes 'Mae' ~ 'May' [meɪ], but unstressed, in polysyllabic words, it becomes 'Monday' ['mʌn.dɪ] or ['mʌn.də].


The MARE-MAYOR merger not present in any BC dialect except WK-SBC ([me:r]) and EK-Cr ([me:ɐ]).

Morphology, syntax, lexis

  • The dropping of prepositions in certain compound verbs is common in General and Broad variants of ILM and WK dialects, and in all registers and variants of EK, e.g. "she looked out the window", "I took it out the box", etc.
  • 'outwith' is widespread, like in Scottish English: "Reduced fares are applicable outwith peak hours."
  • The use of "yous" as a second person plural is extremely common - nearly universal - in General and Broad variants of all dialects. Though its use is generally discouraged in BCSE, it does occasionally turn up with increasing frequency since the end of the 20th century, and is likely to become accepted in the standard language by the middle of the 21st century.
  • Oblique forms of personal pronouns are generally preferred after 'than': "he is bigger than me".
  • Forms such as "he was angry at me kissing his girlfriend" are generally preferred to those such as "he was angry that I kissed his girlfriend" or "he was angry at me for kissing his girlfriend".
  • In Broad variants of ILM, and in General and Broad variants of WK dialects, the use of 'them' instead of demonstrative 'those' is widespread ("give me one of them sausages"), as are object forms in co-ordinated pronouns ("Effy and me went to the party too - me and her was the last to get there").
  • Doubly-marked superlatives ("most biggest") are common in Broad varieties, especially with 'skookum' (meaning "strong; great;" in Chinook Wawa), as in "skookum biggest"; the 'skookum' formation is also fairly common in General varieties, especially in EK-PG, ILM-PR, ILM-L, and ILM-SCS.
  • Unlike most North American dialects, the use of 'shall' is still nearly universal in BC English: "I shall go to the store after I've finished work."
  • BC English does not exhibit the North American tendency for do-support for have (to), need (to), dare (to), etc, with alternative forms preferred, e.g. "he needn't leave yet" instead of "he doesn't have to leave yet", "Must I?" instead of "Do I have to?". However, BC English prefers the use of do sentence-finally; where most North American dialects might say, "I didn't do it as well as I could have", BC English prefers "I didn't do it as well as I could have done".
  • Broad ILM and all colloquial varieties of WK and EK prefer "ain't" in negative auxiliaries instead of standard "be" and "have", and double negation is common ("there ain't none left").
  • "Never" is widely used in all dialects as a general negator - "you never opened it" for "you didn't open it", "I never said that" for "I didn't say that".
  • "Say" is used as a transitive in the same sense as "tell", e.g. "I said you to call me." This is common in all colloquial spoken variants, and in informal writing.
  • The non-changing negative tag question "innit?" is common in colloquial variants of WK and in Lower Mainland ILM.
  • Rhetorical tag-questions such as "wasn't I?", "didn't I?", etc. are widely used in colloquial ILM variants in response to negative questions - "why didn't you hoover up like I said you to do?" "I was too bushed, wasn't I?" In writing, this usage is generally reflected by the use of a full stop instead of a question mark: "I was too knackered, wasn't I.", reflecting the use of the falling declarative tone as used in declarative statements.
  • Colloquial ILM and WK dialects commonly have zero marking for subjects in relative clauses ("I know a girl works at that pub"); colloquial EK prefers 'what' ("I ken a girl what works at that pub").
  • The use of past participle for the simple past is widespread in ILM, and is accepted in colloquial speech - "we seen it", "I done it", "he rung the bell", "they come here yesterday", etc.
  • Similarly to New Zealand English, the use of "had have" instead of "would have" in accounts of things that didn't happen is common, as in "if I had have known you was such a tosser, I would never have said you klahowya!"
  • The use of "was" for all persons and numbers for the past tense of "be" is widespread in colloquial ILM, and is universal in the Nicola Valley and South Okanagan dialects of WK; Nicola Valley WK also widely uses invariable "are" in the present tense.
  • Through the influence of American English, the use of "gotten" instead of "got" is widespread in all dialects.
  • Nicola Valley WK and Broad variants of Lower Mainland ILM tend to omit auxiliary "have": "I eaten six times today", for "I have eaten six times today". This does not occur in other compound tenses.
  • As in Australian and New Zealand English, the use of High Terminal Rising intonation is widespread throughout BC: the question, "Where can I buy cigarettes?" might be answered with "there's a petrol station around the corner, they sell them?" with a high rising intonation as used in interrogative statements; this often confuses Canadian and American visitors to BC.
  • Where British and American (or Canadian) vocabulary differ, BC English prefers British usage in most, but not all, cases. People thus wear their pants underneath their trousers or knickers under their skirts, but they wear sweaters if it gets chilly out. Two weeks are a fortnight; events that happen twice a month are said to occur fortnightly. Cars have bonnets and boots and run on petrol, but have headlights, roofs, and windshields instead of "headlamps", "hoods", and "windscreens". Other road vehicles include station wagons and vans. Tractor-trailers are called lorries, but smaller goods vehicles that are larger than vans but do not tow a trailer are called trucks. The railways operate trains made up of passenger cars or freight cars. Lift and elevator are used interchangeably, as are torch and flashlight. Lieutenant is always pronounced as [ləf.'tɛ.nənt]; the American pronunciation is stigmatised in general society, and is outright forbidden within the BC Defence Force. The word schedule can be heard with either [ʃ] or [sk], though the former is less common in mainland ILM and in WK.
  • "Home" (capitalised when written) is frequently used by non-First Nations speakers to refer to Britain, even if they are not of British descent; in recent years, this usage is being spurned by some young, urban British Columbians.
  • The use of "at the weekend" is far more common across BC than is "on the weekend", but the latter is not rare in WK-SBC and Lower Mainland ILM. "Weekend" is stressed on the second syllable except in WK-SBC, which follows the general North American pattern of stressing the first syllable.
  • The use of "she" as a gender-neutral pronoun is widespread across all dialects of BC English; the use of singular "they" is less common, but not rare in WK and mainland ILM variants.
  • The use of "eh?" is widespread in EK and WK; in ILM, especially on Vancouver Island, "what" (as "wot") is much more common, while in the Lower Mainland, "yah" (pronounced [jɐ:]) is most common. Compare EK/WK "we're going to the pub tonight, eh?", ILM-VI "we're going to the pub tonight, wot?", ILM-LM "we're going to the pub tonight, yah?"; EK/WK: "So I got a new phone this morning, eh, and I dropped it an hour later", ILM-VI: "So I got a new phone this morning, wot, and...", ILM-LM "So I got a new phone this morning, yah, and..." There are many different contexts in which "eh" and its equivalents are used, not all of them questions.
  • Common in spoken BC English is the use of the word "like" as a quotative, discourse marker or as a hedge, similar to its use in "Valleyspeak" belonging to the "valley girl" stereotype of the United States. Much like "eh", BC English speakers have distinct uses for 'like', pronouncing each type of 'like' slightly differently, so that e.g. "He was like 'yeah' and she was like 'no'" would have a different pronunciation from "And, like, it was raining"). Some speakers use "such as" instead of "like", e.g. "There was trash scattered such as all over the place", or "It was raining so hard I got drenched in such as two minutes!" In this usage, it is pronounced as a disyllabic word with stress on the first syllable, e.g. [ˈsʊ.tʃəz] (ILM-GV).

See also