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Reviewed by:
  • Dialects of English: Newfoundland and Labrador English
  • Gordon Alley-Young
Sandra Clarke. 2010. Dialects of English: Newfoundland and Labrador English. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Pp. 212. $34.80 (softcover).

Newfoundland and Labrador English (NLE) is the most distinct dialect of Canadian English (CE) while it more closely resembles southwest British English (BE) and southeast Irish English (IE) (Fee 2002, Boberg 2010). NLE’s uniqueness as a dialect within Canada is why it is the best-documented variety of CE. In this book Clarke blends published research with unpublished Master’s theses on NLE, which were widely unavailable until recently. The book transcribes and analyzes the source of the most salient features of NLE phonology and grammar through their introduction to the region, rise, and in some cases decline. Other chapters provide analysis of the language and the speakers of NLE within a greater cultural context. The book is one of six already published in the Dialects of English series by Edinburgh University Press (four new books are forthcoming). This review will first provide an overview of the book and then discuss each chapter in greater detail with special attention to selected elements.

The first three chapters of the book orient the reader to the history of Newfoundland and Labrador’s main linguistic areas and then familiarize the reader with the phonetics/phonology and morphosyntax of NLE. The following two chapters compare and contrast NLE with CE, American English (AE), BE, and IE, first on the basis of vocabulary and discourse and then in terms of language attitudes and language change. The sixth chapter surveys the literature on NLE. Chapter 7 provides the sample texts that are referenced throughout the book in a longer format that can be used along with audio files provided by the author and publisher.

Chapter 1 explores migration and settlement patterns that helped to characterize NLE in terms of Newfoundland British English (NBE) and Newfoundland Irish English (NIE). Basque, Portuguese, and French influences are also explored but NBE and NIE are the main foci of the book, as NLE retains such high homogeneity to these two language founder groups. The province is divided into four linguistically distinct areas: the Avalon Peninsula, the southern west coast, the English settled coastline, and Labrador. Discussion of Aboriginal language influence on NLE is limited as the author argues that these languages have not had the systematic investigation needed in order to discuss them effectively in this volume. However, Chapter 4 does reference the contribution of Aboriginal languages to the lexicon of NLE, particularly in Labrador. [End Page 459]

Chapter 2 covers vowel and consonant systems by first introducing relevant phonetics/phonology terminology and then presenting NLE relevant IPA characters. Clarke uses Wells’ (1982) keywords list to make the phonetic differences of NLE understandable to speakers of AE and BE as six lax and four tense vowels, three diphthongs, and six pre-/r/ vowels. This section effectively relates how NLE speakers engage Canadian Raising differently through the use of backing and rounding. The discussion of consonant features include the treatment of /ð/ and /θ/, the insertion of an initial /h/, and insertion and deletion of /r/ in NLE. For instance, Clark states that /θ/ is frequently turned into /t/ in words such as thrash, thus making it sound like trash. The /ð/ sound evokes more stopping and this is used in speech to consciously reference Newfoundland identity. Web resources for Chapters 4 and 5 show NLE speakers using these linguistic features to claim their own and/or contest others’ identity performances in music videos and media texts. Such content that references linguistic elements as central to identity performance makes the volume relevant for academics in communication arts oriented disciplines (folklore, performance/cultural studies).

Chapter 3 introduces NLE morphosyntax; at the outset Clarke states that research often distinguishes versions of English phonetically but argues that NLE has a rich and historically significant morphology that warrants examination. Similarly, a recently published review of a comparative analysis of CE was criticized for a less thorough analysis of grammatical structures (Brock 2011). This chapter is thorough, however, in its analysis of historical syntax and word structures. It offers an ample listing of how NLE has regularized, partially...


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