NL may be one of the most homogeneous places on earth both linguistically (98% of residents speak English as their mother tongue) and culturally (roughly 95% can trace their ancestral roots to The British Isles).
We are also home to the greatest regional diversity of dialects in all of North America. This is largely due to our isolation as an island colony until joining Canada in 1949.
Another contributing factor to our dialect diversity is that NL was predominately a fishing economy well into the 20th Century. Many fishermen that came to these very shores settled in small isolated coves that were also divided along religious lines (Catholic versus Protestant).
NL was one of the first regions in the Western World to be visited and settled by Europeans beginning in the 1500’s. With over 400 years of history, the Standard English was left unfettered to evolve linguistically into what is known today as Newfoundland English.
Historically, Newfoundland English was first acknowledged as a distinct dialect in the late 18th century when George Cartwright printed the Newfoundland words glossary.
Many of our dialects incorporate elements originating from West County England and SE Ireland. While some of our dialects combine elements from both.
So on your travels throughout NL, you will immediately recognize a unique linguistic variation in our consonants.
3 distinct pronunciations of the letter l
Dropping and adding of the initial h
Pronouncing th as t or d and dropping the r
The NL English spoken also contains many distinct linguistic features including vocabulary, meanings, grammar and everyday expressions.
Here are a few of our favourites:
“Best kind, b’y. Ow’s ya gettin’ on?” = I am feeling great. How are you?
“De road is like da bottle” = It is slippery and dangerous to be driving/walking.
“Put da side back in her” = Close the door it is cold outside.
“Da place is magotty wit skin” = There are alot of attractive people here.
“You’re cracked” = You are crazy/foolish.
Sounds confusing right? Well not really…And to get you on your way, download the free Newfoundlander App below, a funny Newfoundland translator and dialect soundboard that will have you speaking Newfinese in minutes. This way your next journey to NL will not be lost in translation!
Another wonderful resource keeping our linguistic culture alive is the Dialect Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador. Created by the Linguistic Department at Memorial University, this online interactive device takes you on a virtual tour of our province. Click image below to experience the geographical and social variations of Newfoundland English.