The Dialect Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador

at , St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, A1C 5S7

The interactive online dialect atlas documents the geographical and social distribution of many features of the distinctive traditional dialects of English spoken in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Dialect Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador

St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador , NL A1C 5S7
Contact Phone
P: 709.864.4481


The Dialect Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador project is directed by Professor Sandra Clarke (Linguistics) and co-directed by Professor Philip Hiscock (Folklore) of Memorial University of Newfoundland. Further information regarding project participants and funding sources is provided in the Acknowledgements section of the website. Why an atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador English? The English spoken in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) exhibits perhaps the greatest regional diversity to be found anywhere in North America. The settlement history of NL, along with its geographical setting, has proved ideal for the preservation of many older speech features which have declined more rapidly elsewhere. However, such factors as socioeconomic change, population loss and out-migration – along with the pressures on local varieties that result from increased access to higher education, plus greater exposure to the speech of mainland North America – mean that many traditional features of local speech are currently undergoing decline. The beginnings of this regional atlas date back to the mid 1970s, when Professor Harold Paddock of the Linguistics Department of Memorial University undertook a survey of similarities and differences in traditional features of pronunciation and grammar for 69 communities on the island of Newfoundland. In the early 1980s, he began a second phase of his atlas project: the development of a lexical questionnaire and the collection of approximately 600 different words and phrases from 20 communities representing Labrador as well as the island. Following in the tradition of dialect geography (the study of dialects in terms of their geographical distribution), both project components investigated the speech of older, less regionally and socially mobile community residents, in order to gain as much insight as possible into the traditional speech of NL. Professor Paddock published some of his findings in the following papers: 1. Paddock, Harold. 1982. Newfoundland dialects of English. In Languages in Newfoundland and Labrador, second ed., ed. Harold Paddock, 71-89. St. John’s, NF: Memorial University of Newfoundland. 2. Paddock, Harold. 1984. Mapping lexical variants in Newfoundland English. In Papers of the Seventh Annual Meeting of the Atlantic Provinces Linguistic Association, ed. Helmut Zobl, 84-103. Moncton: University of Moncton. In 2002, a working group of Memorial University faculty members (Professors Sandra Clarke, Linguistics; Philip Hiscock, Folklore; and Robert Hollett, English Language and Literature) undertook to preserve the work of Harold Paddock and his research assistants by converting it to a computerized database format, and making it available online. They enlisted Professor Alvin Simms of Memorial University’s Geography department to help direct this process. Funding support was provided by Memorial University, in a number of forms: grants from the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) and the J.R. Smallwood Centre; graduate student research assistance from the Departments of English, Folklore and Linguistics; and university-administered provincial and federal student job funding (MUCEP, GradSWEP and Canada Summer Jobs programs). This support, for which the project expresses its sincere thanks, produced an initial, non-interactive beta version of the atlas. Major funding in 2011 from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), through its Public Outreach Dissemination Grant program (Grant 608-2010-0002), enabled the atlas to be placed online in its present interactive format. This development would not have been possible without the direction provided by Memorial University’s Distance Education, Learning and Teaching Support (DELTS), and Computing and Communications (ccwebworks). The uniquesness of the English language on the island of Newfoundland stems from its European settlers who arrived between the 17th and 19th centuries, primarily from the southwest and west of England, and the southeastern corner of Ireland. These were followed by Scots and Acadian French, who settled the island’s southern west coast. In Labrador, the aboriginal Innu and Inuit population base was expanded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by small numbers of European settlers, largely from the same geographical sources. These immigration patterns, along with the province’s historically large rural population and isolated geographic location, have preserved many older speech features that have declined in other regions. WITH THE ATLAS, YOU CAN: ** search for grammatical features (for example, see where ‘in is used instead of him or it); ** search for different pronunciations (for example, see where thin sounds like tin, or beat sounds like bait); ** discover the province’s wealth of vocabulary (such as the 19 different terms collected for fried bread dough, and where these are used); ** search for specific words and their regional distribution (barm, beaver-tail, breezing down, conkerbell, fiirking, scrammed, touton – the choice is yours!); ** provide input to the atlas by documenting the speech forms of your own community; ** play our online games to familiarize yourself with aspects of English in Newfoundland and Labrador while exploring the atlas’ content.

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688 FB users likes The Dialect Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador, set it to 4 position in Likes Rating for St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador in Education category

How widespread is the phrase "Black Tickle Fog"? For users, it refers to the community of Black Tickle, but it may be a recent development from the more widespread phrase "thick of fog." "It's Black. T'ick o' fog!" So: who uses "Black Tickle Fog" -- and where are you from? What decade were you born in?

Published on 2015-05-04 23:58:29 GMT

Cubbages. Cubbichus. A friend from Southern Bay, BB, tells me that he is very familiar with the word "cubbages" from his childhood in the 1960s. And he has a co-worker from Herring Neck, NDB, who knows it too. It means "greedy" -- as in his sentence, "He's some cubbages, me son." In 1963, the compilers of the Dictionary of Newfoundland English received a report (from St. Mary's, SMB) of the word "cubbichus" or "cubbitous" used in that same way. Because it was their only report and because they thought it may have been just a one-off re-pronunciation of the word "covetous," they made no mention of it in the published DNE. Had they these 2015 reports, they probably would have included the word. Do you know "cubbages" or "cubbichus"? Where and when do you know it from? And how would you pronounce it? Got a sentence it would be used in?

Published on 2015-03-10 11:00:34 GMT

Nellies. I had a call a few days ago from someone asking about the word "nellies" (or perhaps "nallies"). He had heard it in a popular song being played on some Newfoundland radio stations. That song has a line about a ship which runs something like, "We'll fill her to the nellies." He didn't know the meaning of the word though he could guess it was something like "the hatches" or the "gunwale." (He also didn't know what the song is, or who sang it.) I have never heard the word. It's not in the Dictionary of Newfoundland English. My check through various international dictionaries of the English language and through the unpublished files of the Dictionary of Newfoundland led to nothing. Does anyone know the word? Can you tell us where and when you heard it? What *does* it refer to?

Published on 2015-03-04 17:19:00 GMT

The ELRC has a Twitter account! Come find us! @ELRC_MemorialU We'll be posting about the Dialect Atlas, the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, the Twig blog and lots of other exciting language-related things!

Published on 2014-11-19 21:59:32 GMT

Did you know that you can comment directly on the pages of the Dialect Atlas? If you don't want to fill out a contribution form, you can always have your say in the comments section below the map of the province when looking at any feature in the Atlas! Have your say and help document NL language.

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