Pacific Northwest English
RegionCascadia, Northwestern United States (Oregon, Northern California and Washington) and Western Canada (British Columbia)
Early forms
Language codes
ISO 639-3
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Pacific Northwest English (also known, in American linguistics, as Northwest English)[1] is a variety of North American English spoken in the U.S. states of Washington and Oregon, sometimes also including Idaho and the Canadian province of British Columbia.[2] Due to the internal diversity within Pacific Northwest English, current studies remain inconclusive about whether it is best regarded as a dialect of its own, separate from Western American English or even California English or Standard Canadian English,[3] with which it shares its major phonological features.[4] The dialect region contains a highly diverse and mobile population, which is reflected in the historical and continuing development of the variety.


The linguistic traits that flourish throughout the Pacific Northwest attest to a culture that transcends boundaries. Historically, this hearkens back to the early years of colonial expansion by the British and Americans, when the entire region was considered a single area and people of all different mother tongues and nationalities used Chinook Jargon (along with English and French) to communicate with each other. Until the Oregon Treaty of 1846, it was identified as being either Oregon Country (by the Americans) or Columbia (by the British).[5]

Linguists immediately after World War II tended to find few patterns unique to the Western region, as among other things, Chinook Jargon and other "slang words" (despite Chinook Jargon being an actual separate language in and of itself, individual words from it like "salt chuck", "muckamuck", "siwash" and "tyee" were and still are used in Pacific Northwest English) were pushed away in favor of having a "proper, clean" dialect.[6] Several decades later, linguists began noticing emerging characteristics of Pacific Northwest English, although it remains close to the standard American accent.


The Pacific Northwest English vowel space. Based on TELSUR data from Labov et al. The /ɑ/ and /ɔ/ are indistinguishable in the F1/F2 means for three speakers from Vancouver, British Columbia, two speakers from Seattle, Washington, and three from Portland, Oregon.

Commonalities with both Canada and California

Commonalities with Canada

These commonalities are shared with Canada and the North Central United States which includes the Minnesota accent.

Commonalities with California

Miscellaneous characteristics


Several English terms originated in or are largely unique to the region:

Variation among Mormons

In Cowlitz County, Washington, outside the Mormon culture region, there are very few phonological differences between the speech of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and non-Mormons. The only statistically significant difference found was that Mormons had a higher F2 formant in /l/ following /i/, /oʊ/ and /ʊ/. This is in contrast to other studies finding some differences between Mormon and non-Mormon speech within the Mormon culture region.[34]

See also


  1. ^ Riebold, John M. (2014). Language Change Isn't Only Skin Deep: Inter-Ethnic Contact and the Spread of Innovation in the Northwest (PDF). Cascadia Workshop in Sociolinguistics 1 at University of Victoria. University of Washington. p. 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 23, 2015.
  2. ^ Riebold, John M. (2012). Please Merge Ahead: The Vowel Space of Pacific Northwestern English (PDF). Northwest Linguistics Conference 28. University of Washington. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 28, 2015.
  3. ^ Ward (2003:87): "lexical studies have suggested that the Northwest in particular forms a unique dialect area (Reed 1957, Carver 1987, Wolfram and Shilling-Estes 1998). Yet the phonological studies that could in many ways reinforce what the lexical studies propose have so far been less confident in their predictions".
  4. ^ Ward (2003:43–45)
  5. ^ Meinig, Donald W. (1995) [1968]. The Great Columbia Plain. Weyerhaeuser Environmental Classic. University of Washington Press. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-295-97485-9.
  6. ^ Wolfram & Ward (2005:140)
  7. ^ a b Becker, Kara; Aden, Anna; Best, Katelyn; Jacobson, Haley (2016). "Variation in West Coast English: The Case of Oregon" (PDF). Publication of the American Dialect Society. 101 (1): 107–134. doi:10.1215/00031283-3772923.
  8. ^ Swan, Julia Thomas (January 5, 2017). The Third Dialect Shift: A Change in Progress in Vancover, BC and Seattle, WA. Linguistic Society of America.
  9. ^ Swan, Julia Thomas (2016). "Canadian English in the Pacific Northwest: A Phonetic Comparison of Vancouver, BC and Seattle, WA" (PDF). Actes du congrès annuel de l'Association canadienne de linguistique.
  10. ^ a b c d Wassink, A. (2015). "Sociolinguistic Patterns in Seattle English". Language Variation and Change. 27 (1): 31–58. doi:10.1017/S0954394514000234. S2CID 145482971.
  11. ^ Swan, Julia Thomas (August 2016). Language Ideologies, Border Effects, and Dialectal Variation: Evidence from /æ/, /aʊ/, and /aɪ/ in Seattle, WA and Vancouver, B.C. (PhD dissertation). University of Chicago.
  13. ^ Freeman, Valerie (May 3, 2021). "Vague eggs and tags: Prevelar merger in Seattle". Language Variation and Change. 33 (1): 57–80. doi:10.1017/S0954394521000028. ISSN 0954-3945. S2CID 235538666.
  14. ^ Swan, Julia Thomas (February 1, 2020). "Bag Across the Border: Sociocultural Background, Ideological Stance, and BAG Raising in Seattle and Vancouver". American Speech. 95 (1): 46–81. doi:10.1215/00031283-7587892. ISSN 0003-1283. S2CID 182889117.
  15. ^ Freeman, Valerie (January 1, 2014). "Bag, beg, bagel: Prevelar raising and merger in Pacific Northwest English". University of Washington Working Papers in Linguistics.
  16. ^ Ward (2003:93)
  17. ^ Conn, Jeff (2002). An investigation into the western dialect of Portland Oregon. Paper presented at NWAV 31, Stanford, California. Archived from the original on November 21, 2015.
  18. ^ Ward (2003:44)
  19. ^ Swan, Julia Thomas (May 29, 2017). "Canadian Raising on the Rise in Vancouver? Canadian Linguistics Association". Academia.
  20. ^ a b Swan, Julia Thomas (January 1, 2021). "Same PRICE Different HOUSE". Swan.
  21. ^ Metcalf, Allan (2000). "The Far West and beyond". How We Talk: American Regional English Today. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 143. ISBN 0618043624. Another pronunciation even more widely heard among older teens and adults in California and throughout the West is 'een' for -ing, as in 'I'm thinkeen of go-een campeen.'
  22. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2005)
  23. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2005:68)
  24. ^ Arnold, Pillai, Tyler Kendall, Lew, Becker, Nagy, Bates, Wassink, Reed. "V[ɛ]ry v[e]ried vowel mergers in the Pacific Northwest - ppt download". Retrieved April 12, 2023.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  25. ^ "Cougar". Dictionary of American Regional English. Harvard University Press. 2013.
  26. ^ Katz, Joshua. "Dialect Survey". Josh Katz. Archived from the original on December 5, 2020.
  27. ^ Raftery, Isolde (December 23, 2014). A brief history of words unique to the Pacific Northwest. KUOW. Archived from the original on September 21, 2015. Duff = The decaying vegetable matter, especially needles and cones, on a forest floor.
    Fish wheel = A wheel with nets, put in a stream to catch fish; sometimes used to help fish over a dam or waterfall.
  28. ^ Vaux, Bert and Scott Golder. 2003. The Harvard Dialect Survey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Linguistics Department.
  29. ^ "Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Skookum". Cascadia Department of Bioregion. March 3, 2019. Archived from the original on January 11, 2022. Retrieved May 31, 2023.
  30. ^ Do You Speak American? § Pacific Northwest. PBS. Archived from the original on July 23, 2015. As Portlanders continue to front their back vowels, they will continue to go to the coast (geow to the ceowst), not the beach or the shore, as well as to microbrews, used clothing stores (where the clothes are not too spendy (expensive), bookstores (bik‑stores) and coffee shops (both words pronounced with the same vowel).
  31. ^ Champagne, Reid (February 8, 2013). "Solar neighborhood projects shine in 'sunbreak' Seattle". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on November 21, 2015. Retrieved May 29, 2013. [I]n this part of the world . . . sunshine is more frequently reported as 'sunbreaks'.
  32. ^ "Tolo Chapter History – University of Washington Mortar Board – Tolo Chapter". Archived from the original on August 18, 2021.
  33. ^ Horns, Stella (May 17, 2022). "Seattle High School Party Tradition: "Spodie" | USC Digital Folklore Archives". Archived from the original on October 26, 2022. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  34. ^ Stanley (2020:106, 109)


Further reading