Yooper is a form of North Central American English mostly spoken in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which gives the dialect its name (from U.P. for Upper Peninsula). The dialect is also found in many northern areas of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and largely in Northeast Wisconsin.
Yooper differs from standard English primarily due to the linguistic background of settlers to the area. The majority of people living in the Upper Peninsula are of either Finnish, French Canadian, Flemish, Scandinavian, or German descent. Yooper is so massively influenced by these areas' languages that speakers from other areas may have difficulty understanding it. The Yooper dialect is also influenced by the Finnish language making it similar in character to the so-called "Rayncher speek" of the Mesabi Iron Range in northeast Minnesota.
Some common features of English in the UP
- Canadian raising
- Use of German/Scandinavian "ja" as "yeah" or "yes," spelled "ya."
- Tendency towards intonation that stresses the first syllable of each word, which is an influence of Finnish spoken by many immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
- /w/ sometimes becomes /v/, for example, /ˈkiːvənɔː/ for Keweenaw. This is an example of language transfer, where immigrant languages have affected the variety of English spoken in the area. This feature is especially found among residents born before 1950 and in the western region of the UP.
- Ending of sentences in "Eh". Used at end of sentences with the expectation of receiving an affirmative response ("So, you're /jɛr/ goin' out t'nide, eh?"), or to add emphasis to a statement, "That's a pretty dress, eh." "Eh" is often associated with Canadian English. "Heh" is used interchangeably and perhaps more often among younger speakers. The use of "eh" and "heh"
- Replacement of dental fricatives, /ð/ and /θ/, like in "this" and "thigh," with alveolar stops /d/ and /t/, so then (/ðɛn/) becomes den (/dɛn/) and thigh (/θaɪ/) often becomes tie (/tʰaɪ/), etc.
- Deletion of "to the" ex. "I'm going store," "We went mall," and "We go Green Bay." This is an influence from Finnish, which doesn't have the preposition "to" or articles "a," "an," or "the."
- Words such as "pank" (to make compact, pat down), "chuke" or "chook" (a knit winter cap, from Canadian French "tuque" [tsʏk]), "choppers" (long-sleeved mittens, sometimes with removable finger flaps, often made of deerskin), "swampers" (boots with rubber bottoms and leather uppers), "pasty" (a hand-held meat and vegetable (onion, potato, rutabaga) pie), "bakery" (baked goods), "make wood" (cut or chop wood), "snow scoop" (a metal implement for "moving snow").
Although these features are found in the UP, they are primarily in the western UP, and not all residents use these features. Equally important is the fact that many of these features are found throughout the upper midwest, especially in northern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota.
- Remlinger, Kathryn A. (2007). The intertwined histories of identity and dialect in Michigan's Copper Country. In Alison K. Hoagland, Erik Nordberg, & Terry Reynolds (Eds.), New perspectives on Michigan's Copper Country, pp. 62-84. Houghton, MI: Quincy Mine Hoist Association.
- Remlinger, Kathryn A. (2006). What it means to be a Yooper: Identity, language attitudes and variation in Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula. In Markku Filppula, Marjatta Palander, Juhani Klemola and Esa Penttilä (Eds.), Topics in dialectal variation. (pp. 125-144). Joensuu, Finland: University of Joensuu Press.
- Remlinger, Kathryn. (2002). Talking the talk of the Copper Country. Marquette Monthly, August feature article, pp. 22-25.
- Simon, Beth. (2005). Dago, Finlander, Cousin Jack: Ethnicity and Identity on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In Linguistic Diversity in Michigan and Ohio. D. Preston, B. Joseph, and C. Preston (eds.) Cleveland: Carvan Books, pp. 129-152.