Aboriginal English in Canada

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Aboriginal English, also known as First Nations English, refers to varieties of English used by the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. They are outwardly similar to standard Canadian English from the perspective of a non-Canadian. However, they differ enough from mainstream Canadian speech that Aboriginal peoples (the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit) are often identifiable by their speech to non-Aboriginals. This is primarily the result of the influence of non-English accents derived from Aboriginal languages combined with a history of geographical and social isolation, since many Aboriginal people live (or formerly lived) in remote communities, in the North, or on Indian Reserves. Since the 1990s, Aboriginal Englishes have also adopted many features of African American Vernacular English under the influence of hip-hop music which is very popular with urban Aboriginal youth.

The use of these "non-standard" dialects is not well perceived by the non-Aboriginal majority, evidenced by mockery and discrimination. Academics have begun to recommend that Canadian schools accept Aboriginal varieties of English as valid English, and as a part of Aboriginal culture.[1][2]

Few written works appear in Aboriginal English Dialects; an exception is Maria Campbell's Stories of the Road Allowance People, a collection of Métis folktales. An example from that work illustrates the type of speech used by Elders in rural Métis communities during her research (thought some stories were collected in Cree or other languages, and translated into dialectical English by Campbell):

Dere wasen very much he can steal from dah table anyways

'cept da knives and forks.
An Margareet he knowed he wouldn dare take dem
cause dat woman you know
hees gots a hell of a repetation for being a hardheaded woman
when he gets mad.
Dat man he have to be a damn fool to steal from hees table. - Dah Teef[3]


  1. http://www.ecdip.org/dialects/
  2. http://aerc.usask.ca/downloads/Fadden&LaFranceDRAFTpaper.pdf
  3. Maria Campbell, Stories of the Road Allowance People, Theytus Books (1995), p. 4