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 because of the linguistic background of settlers to the area. The majority of people living in the Upper Peninsula are of either Finnish, French Canadian, Cornish, Scandinavian, German, or Native American descent. Yooper is so strongly 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. Almost half the Finnish immigrants to the U.S. settled in the Upper Peninsula, some joining other Scandinavians who moved on to Minnesota.
Some common features of Yooper English in the U.P.
- 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 19th and early 20th centuries.
- /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 U.P.
- Ending of sentences in "Eh." Used at end of sentences with the expectation of receiving an affirmative response or as another word for "huh." ("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.
- 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.
- In some cases, deletion of "to the" has been observed, e.g., "I'm going store," "We went mall," and "We go Green Bay." This is an influence from Finnish, which doesn't have the articles "a," "an," or "the", and the preposition "to" is replaced by the illative and allative cases, which, being absent from English, are simply deleted (cf. FinnishMenemme Green Bayhin).
- The word "boat" is sometimes given two syllables. (bo-ut)
- Words such as "pank" (to make compact, pat down), "chuk" 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" (pronounced with a short a), "bakery" (baked goods), "make wood" (cut or chop wood), "snow scoop" or "yooper scooper" (a metal implement for "moving snow"), "wa" (instead of wow) and pronunciations such as "grodge" (garage), "crick" (creek), "ruts" (roots) and "ruf" (roof) to rhyme with "hood".
- Replacing the "-ing" at the end of certain words with "-een" (doing becomes "do-een", happening becomes "happen-een", something becomes "some-theen"), or with the Cornish characteristic of just "-n" and ins "cook'n" or "walk'n".
- Deletion of the object of the preposition. Example: Instead of saying "Would you like to come with us?" A Yooper might say "Would you like to come with?" This may be an influence from German, which has similar structures available in its grammar.
- Saying "I'm gonna go by your house" when really meaning they are going to come visit. While somewhat archaic, this is fairly common in other Wisconsin dialects (such as the Milwaukee dialect). In this case the false friend between the English word "by" (adjacent to) and the German word "bei" (at/to) resulted in a new English sentence structure.
- "Towards" is favored over "toward". The former is usually favored in British English while the latter is favored in American English.
- Tendency to replace a short a with a long a, such that words like bag and rag are spoken like bayg and rayg. Interestingly, the short e in the word beg is also spoken like bayg so that there is no difference in sound between the words bag and beg.
- Yoopers use "pop" for a carbonated beverage. "Soda" is either seltzer, club soda, or effervescent tonic water. They also use "ant" instead of "aunt."
- Common Finnish words are often used in conversation even if the communicants are not of Finnish descent. For instance, "Mitä," when responding, "What?" "Maitoa" (milk), "kahvia" (coffee), "leipää" (bread), "poika" (boy), "tyttö" (girl), "hyvää päivä" (good day), "hyvästit" (good-bye), "isä" (father), "äiti" (mother).
Although these features are found in the U.P., they are primarily in the western U.P., 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 Wisconsinand northern Minnesota and to a degree in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan.