Upper Peninsula English

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Upper Peninsula (U.P.) English,[1] also known as Yooper English,[2] or colloquially as Yoopanese,[3] is an advanced variety of North Central (or Upper Midwestern) English native to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (locally abbreviated as "U.P." and the basis for the endonym "Yooper").[4] Although spoken throughout the U.P., not all residents use these features.

Yooper English differs from standard English primarily because of the linguistic background of settlers to the area of Finnish, French Canadian, Cornish, Scandinavian, German, or Native American descent. The Yooper dialect is also influenced by the Finnish language making it similar in character to the so-called "Rayncher" dialect (an eye spelling of "Ranger")[5] spoken in the Mesabi Iron Range in northeast Minnesota. Almost half the Finnish immigrants to the U.S. settled in the Upper Peninsula, some joining Scandinavians who moved on to Minnesota.

Phonology and phonetics[edit]

Ethnic makeup of the US in 2000; the western Upper Peninsula is the only region in the U.S. where Finnish Americans (light green) form the plurality.

The Yooper accent follows the local North Central (Upper Midwest) pronunciation system, but with the following noticeable additions:

  • 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.
  • Replacement of dental fricatives, /ð/ and /θ/, like in "this" and "thigh", with alveolar stops /d/ and /t/, so then (/ðɛn/) becomes den (/dɛn/), etc.
  • The word "about" is sometimes pronounced as (a-boat) with a soft a.
  • 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" as in "cook'n" or "walk'n".

Lexicon and grammar[edit]

  • Use of German/Scandinavian "ja" [jä] as "yeah" or "yes," often spelled "ya."
  • 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 /jɚ/ 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" ("hey") is used interchangeably and perhaps more often among younger speakers.
  • 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 päivää" (good day), "hyvästit" (good-bye), "isä" (father), "äiti" (mother).
  • "Towards" is favored over "toward". The former is usually favored in British English and Canadian English while the latter is favored in American English.
  • 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 soft a), "bakery" (baked goods), "make wood" (cut or chop wood), "snow scoop" or "yooper scooper" (a metal implement for "moving snow"), "wah" (instead of wow) and altered pronunciations such as "grodge" (garage), "crick" (creek); "root" and "roof" may use the same vowel (/ʊ/ IPA) as "soot" and "hoof" respectively.
  • Saying "I'm gonna go by your house" to mean "I'm going to come by your house."
  • 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. Finnish Menemme Green Bayhin).
  • The use of "come" rather than "came" when referring to a past event, eg. "It come undone" or "It come clean."
  • The use of the word "youse" (pronounced the same as the word "use") in a style very similar to the use "youse" in New York City English, Philadelphia English, and Northeastern Pennsylvania English, and to the use of "y'all" in the South, both being defined by Merriam-Webster as being pronouns used in addressing two or more persons. In daily usage however "youse" is used almost interchangeably with "you"; where a Southerner would ask "Are y'all going to the game?", a Yooper would typically ask "Are youse guys going to the game"?
    • Pronunciation and usage of youse can differ across the UP. South and east, it tend towards youse (like a "use"). West tends to be youze or youze guys (like to "use").


  1. ^ Rankinen, Wil (Fall 2014). "The Michigan Upper Peninsula English Vowel System in Finnish American Communities in Marquette County". American Speech. 89 (3): 312–347. doi:10.1215/00031283-2848989. eISSN 1527-2133. ISSN 0003-1283. Archived from the original on December 28, 2016. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  2. ^ Remlinger, Kathryn; Salmons, Joseph & von Schneidemesser, Luanna (Summer 2009). "Revised Perceptions: Changing Dialect Perceptions in Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula". American Speech. 84 (2): 176–191. doi:10.1215/00031283-2009-014. eISSN 1527-2133. ISSN 0003-1283. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
  3. ^ Zimmerman, Karla (2010). "Great Lakes: Lake Lovers' Trail". In Benson, Sara; Balfour, Amy (eds.). USA's Best Trips: 99 Themed Itineraries Across America. Oakland: Lonely Planet. p. 350. ISBN 9781741797350. OCLC 668112230. Retrieved January 30, 2016 – via Google Books.
    Kleine, Ted (June 18, 1998). "Turning Yoopanese". Chicago Reader. Archived from the original on February 5, 2016. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
  4. ^ Jenkins, Richard (May 21, 2015). "Linguistics Professor Provides Insight into 'Yooper' Accent Trends". The Daily Globe. Ironwood, MI. Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
  5. ^ Kalibabky, Mike (1996). Hawdaw Talk rayncher, and Iron range Words of Wisdom. Chisolm, Minnesota: Moonlight Press.


  • Remlinger, Kathryn A. (2007). "The Intertwined Histories of Identity and Dialect in Michigan's Copper Country". In Hoagland, Alison K.; Nordberg, Erik; Reynolds, Terry (eds.). New Perspectives on Michigan's Copper Country. Hancock, MI: Quincy Mine Hoist Association. pp. 62–84. OCLC 166351721.
  • —— (2006). "What It Means to Be a Yooper: Identity, Language Attitudes and Variation in Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula". In Filppula, Markku; Palander, Marjatta; Klemola, Juhani; Penttilä, Esa (eds.). Topics in Dialectal Variation. Joensuu, Finland: University of Joensuu Press. pp. 125–144. ISBN 978-952-458-829-4.
  • —— (August 2002). "Talking the Talk of the Copper Country". Marquette Monthly (Feature article). pp. 22–25.
  • Simon, Beth (2005). "Dago, Finlander, Cousin Jack: Ethnicity and Identity on Michigan's Upper Peninsula". In Joseph, Brian D.; Preston, Carol G.; Preston, Dennis Richard (eds.). Language Diversity in Michigan and Ohio: Towards Two State Linguistic Profiles. Ann Arbor, MI: Carvan Books. pp. 129–152. ISBN 978-0-88206-110-8.