The English language as used in the Canadian island and province of Newfoundland for almost 500 years, and the oldest variety in the Americas, dating from the early 16c. It derives primarily from the speech of early settlers from the English west country and later Ireland, and is the outcome of long, stable settlement and relative remoteness. Many Newfoundland townies have features of pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary that are distinct from the rest of Canada, and the varied dialects of the baymen are possibly the most distinctive in the country. Because of such factors the English of Newfoundland is something more than a dialect of canadian english, and can be described as a variety with a standard and dialects of its own. Harold Paddock, in Languages in Newfoundland and Labrador (1982), delineates five main dialect areas on the island. In a survey by Sandra Clarke (reported in Paddock), the residents of St John's ranked six local accents in terms of prestige: first, BrE Received Pronunciation, then upper-class St John's Irish, Canadian Standard English, non-standard St John's ‘Anglo-Irish’, and a non-standard regional dialect of the southern shore.
(1) Newfoundland speech is mainly rhotic.
(2) There is English West Country influence in initial /v/ for /f/ and /z/ for /s/: ‘a vine zummer’ for a fine summer.
(3) There is Irish influence in /t, d/ for /ɵ, ð/: ‘tree of dem’ for three of them.
(4) Initial /h/ is unstable, sometimes added before the vowels of stressed syllables (‘helbow’ for elbow), sometimes dropped (‘eel’ for heel).
(5) Final consonant clusters are often simplified: ‘a sound in the loff’ for a sound in the loft.
(6) Certain vowel distinctions are commonly not made: boy is a homophone of buy, speak rhymes with break and port with part.
Dialect usage includes:
(1) The use of is or 'm for present forms of be: I is, you is, he is, we is, they is; I'm, you'm, we'm, they'm.
(2) The negative forms baint'e are you not, I idden I am not, you idden you are not, he idden he is not, tidden it is not (reflecting West Country influence).
(3) Distinctive forms of do, have, be: They doos their work; I haves a lot of colds; It bees cold here in winter; Do Mary work here?; Have she finished?; 'Tis cold here now.
(4) In some areas, an -s in all simple present-tense verb forms (I goes, he goes, we goes, etc.), distinguishing the full-verb use from the auxiliary use of do, have, and be.
(5) Weak rather than strong forms in some irregular verbs: ‘knowed’ for knew, ‘throwed’ for threw.
(6) Four variants for the perfect: I've done, I've adone, I bin done, I'm after doin.
(7) He/she as substitutes for inanimate countable nouns: We'd have what we'd call a flake-beam, a stick, say, he'd be thirty feet long.
(8) In some areas, the form un or ən as a masculine pronoun and for it: Tom kicked un (the shovel). If, however, the shovel rather than the rake is stressed, he is used: Tom kicked he.
(9) Some expressions of hiberno-english origin: It's angry you will be; It's myself that wants it.
(1) Expressions that are archaic or obsolete elsewhere: angishore a weak, miserable person (from Irish Gaelic ain dei seoir), sometimes transformed to hangashore; bavin brushwood used for kindling; brewis (from scots, pronounced ‘brooze’) stew (applied to a mix of soaked ship's biscuits, salt codfish, and pork fat).
(2) Words for natural phenomena, occupations, activities, etc., such as terms for seals at various stages of development: bedlamer, dotard, gun seal, jar, nog-head, ragged-jacket, turner, white coat.
(3) A local word familiar elsewhere in Canada is screech, a potent dark rum (from Scots screech whisky).