Friday, October 23, 2009

Yay, linguistics!

Over the past couple of weeks, Mackenzie and I have noticed yet another interesting difference between American and Canadian English. This difference has only occurred with a few Canadians we've heard speaking. It might have taken longer for us to pinpoint if we hadn't both taken that seminar on intonation in our last year of undergrad.

So as background: perhaps you have noticed (perhaps faintly) that in many dialects of British English, question intonation is quite different from most dialects of American English. It would be easier to get this with graphic representation, but I'm not skilled in that area, so I'll try to describe it as clearly and as non-wordily as possible.

American yes/no questions normally have rising intonation at the very end of the sentence. Imagine (if you are American or probably if you are Canadian, as well) saying a sentence like, "Do you have a cell phone?"
The rising intonation at the end is one way we signal that it's a question rather than a statement.

For many dialects of British English, yes/no question intonation has a rise earlier in the sentence, and then it falls again, and then rises a little bit at the very end. If you can imagine a British person saying, "Do you have a mobile?" (since they wouldn't say "cell phone"), you might be able to imagine this different intonation.

The whole point is, a few people at the house where we're living - including the lady who owns the house and who actually lives in northern BC - often say yes/no questions with this same British intonation! I wonder if it is a holdover from the days of British colonization... and yet the US was a British colony in the past, and I've never heard that intonation from a native-born US citizen.

Anyway. I thought it was pretty interesting!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The rainy season has arrived

Which is to say, we have now reached that part of fall where one doesn't expect to see much more of the clear, crisp blue sky, and one does expect to see a lot of rain and wind. I bet we will still have a few more sunny days, since the leaves haven't completely turned yet, but 'tis also the season for raincoats and umbrellas.

A lot has happened since my last post. Most importantly, my grandmother has gone to be with her Lord after several days of failing health. I'm very grateful that Mackenzie and I had the chance to go home and spend some time with her and with family. I'm also going to miss her.

We also had the chance to decompress a little bit by going to see Snow Patrol in concert this past Wednesday night in Seattle. That was awesome and beyond my expectations.

Now, I should probably get down to some of the homework I haven't been doing because of all these things. Thankfully, my professors are very understanding and have given us some extra time, along with their sympathy.