2. The American 'tap' /ɾ/ and Canadian raising

(with video demonstration by Avril Lavigne)


Note: Make sure that you have the Lucida Sans Unicode font installed in your computer so that the IPA symbols will display correctly.

        The American 'Fishhook':

 The following letter by Larry Trask was posted over the LINGUIST discussion list on 9/3/01 (American date order!):


         Do you think it would be OK for an authoritative dictionary to represent an American tap [ɾ]   ('fishhook') as in atom as /d/? Why or why not? If you don't agree, what do you suggest instead?

      Trask says that the editors of the new Oxford English Dictionary 3 (OED3) want to avoid using too many special symbols, but want to reflect actual American pronunciation, and contrast it with RP (Standard Southern British English). What problems and contradictions are inherent in trying to achieve a "compromise between phonemic and phonetic transcription", especially when comparing two dialects of the same language? Think about this question yourself first, then click below to read Trask's summary of the responses he received:


About the house in Canada:

     In the same post, Trask mentions "Canadian raising". This refers to Canadian diphthongs which are pronounced differently than in standard American English. Here is a Website that explains Canadian raising, with audio files of examples:


     The first vowel [a] in the diphthongs
[aɪ] and [aʊ] has a mid rather than low tongue position when the diphthong is followed by a voiceless obstruent (so writer and rider contrast).

     Here are some more audio samples illustrating Canadian raising:



     Here's a video example of "Weird Al" Yankovic making fun of pop singer Avril Lavigne's Canadian raising (and another video making fun of Canadians).

     I personally (and probably most Americans, and Brits as well) find the "raised"
[aɪ] less noticeable than the raised [aʊ] in running speech. Can you think of a reason why this might be?

     Standard American and Standard Canadian English sound so similar, it is not very easy to tell them apart. But you can amaze your friends by identifying a Canadian with a simple phrase like about the house. (Be warned, however, that not every native English speaker from Canada exhibits Canadian raising in their pronunciation; and in fact there are a number of other relatively small differences). The same kind of raising occurs in Standard Scottish English (SSE) as well.

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