FIU’s Phillip Carter was recently asked by “Inside Edition” to analyze the latest propaganda video released by the terror group known as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The FBI posted the video on its website in early October, asking the public for help in identifying the individual. Many believe the terrorist to be an American because of his “perfect English.”
However, Carter suspects he is actually Canadian-born or Canadian-educated.
“Within 10 minutes of listening to the tape, I was struck by his Canadian raising,” Carter said during the interview with “Inside Edition” that aired last week. “My strong suspicion is that this man was born or raised in Canada. If not, he certainly spent a lot of time there.”
The professor of linguistics says Canadian raising occurs when the tongue raises slightly inside the mouth, before voiceless consonants, including p, t, k, s and f. It results in the stereotypical Canadian pronunciation of about as “a boat” and outside as “oat side.” While Canadian raising can be heard in small parts of the U.S., it is most common to Canada including Vancouver and Toronto. This phonetic trait is why Carter is convinced of the terrorist’s Canadian background.
Carter believes the terrorist in the video is a native bilingual and probably grew up speaking English and Arabic.
ISIS is a separatist Sunni jihadist state in Iraq and Syria that is recognized as a terrorist organization by the United Nations, United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Israel, Turkey, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International has declared ISIS guilty of ethnic cleansing at a historic scale.
“In the case of this video, forensic linguistics and sociolinguistics will be fundamental in pinpointing this terrorist’s home community,” Carter said. “I think it’s important to know if he’s from Canada or the U.S., because ISIS is not only trying to, but has already successfully recruited, someone from the west. This information will help understand how he was supported in North America.”
Carter, a sociolinguist, has conducted research on Hispanic-English dialects in the United States, particularly in Texas and North Carolina. He has also brought attention to the Miami English dialect through national and international media, including the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, The New York Times, CNN, CNN en Español, MSN Latino and BBC Mundo.