[Please note that this page is an archive of blog posts from 2012. Some of the links to articles are no longer active.]
Thanks to a reader for bringing this article from Toastmaster magazine to our attention. Julian Worker writes about being "lost in translation" as a British English speaker who moves to Vancouver:
Strathy Student Working Papers on Canadian English, the new online version of our student paper series, is now available on QSpace, an online repository hosted by Queen's University. You can visit the Strathy page and download our first article - Singular Concord in Ottawa Valley English, by Shayna Gardiner - here:
Students in the undergraduate course Canadian English at Queen's University have completed their term projects. For many students, this was their first experience collecting and analyzing data and creating a research poster. Topics included texting slang, low vowel pronunciations, bilingual education, French loanwords and accent discrimination. Below is a photo of some of the students during the poster exhibit as well as several sample posters.
Click on a thumbnail to download the Powerpoint file.
Are we losing the low front vowel in words such as pasta, drama and gala (where “a” is pronounced as in cat) in favor of the low back vowel (where “a” is pronounced as in father)? This may be a language change in progress in Canada, a topic recently explored in an article in the Ottawa Citizen.
A day-long workshop on Canadian English - "Canadian English: Linguistic Variation in Time and Space" - will be held at York University in Toronto on November 23rd. Click here for a preliminary program. If you are interested in attending, please contact one of the conference organizers, James Walker or Michol Hoffman.
The Montreal Gazette is running a great series of articles this week on the evolving bilingualism of the city. You can access the list of articles and also take a reader survey on “Frenglish” here: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/frenglish/index.html.
The Dictionary of Newfoundland English just celebrated its 30th birthday! Click here to read a recent article in The Telegram on the importance of this great work and ongoing related research. You can visit the online version of the dictionary here: http://www.heritage.nf.ca/dictionary/.
Canada's "Word Lady" and editor of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, Katherine Barber, will give a talk on distinctive features of Canadian English at a fundraiser in Guelph, Ontario on November 17. For details and a preview of topics, you can read this article in the St. Catharines Standard: http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2012/11/12/the-word-lady.
Students in the undergraduate course Canadian English at Queen's would appreciate you taking their language surveys!
Baubles or ornaments?
Canadian English vowel preferences
The following two articles appeared in August while the blog was on hiatus. Mark Abley writes in The Montreal Gazette about Newfoundland "bakeapples" and the extinct term "muffin" in Canadian English.
'Bakeapple' one of many linguistic delights
Inseparable combo? Pastries and sex
Canadian English, Eh?, the inaugural exhibit of the new Canadian Language Museum, will be on display at Queen’s University this week. Stop by and test your knowledge of regional vocabulary; learn about Aboriginal place names, and discover ways in which the language is changing over time. The exhibit will be located on the fourth floor of Watson Hall just east of the Department of English main office, Tuesday October 9th through Thursday October 11th from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM.
While it is common to hear complaints that North American English words are creeping into British English (and many other languages), it is less common to hear about Briticisms finding their way into the English of North Americans. This is the trend, however, described in a recent BBC article, Britishisms and the Britishisation of American English. The article includes an inset on Canadian English highlighting work by linguist Jack Chambers (which has largely focused on the opposite trend – the loss of Briticisms in Canada over the last century.)
[Editor's Note: Jennifer Hardwick, a PhD candidate in English at Queen's University, was the recipient of a Strathy Student Research Grant. Below is a report on her summer field research . ]
Emerging Voices: Reading Canadian Youth Online seeks to address both a growth in online literary production and a shift in what can be regarded as “youth culture” through an examination of youth-generated online writing. I contend that the writing habits of Canadian youth are indicative of a cultural transformation that scholars need to engage with; as subsequent generations become increasingly comfortable with digital mediums, we can expect continued changes in the way literature is produced, disseminated and read in Canada. If we fail to acknowledge these changes in favour of tradition and habit, we risk overlooking valuable new voices that will facilitate the development and consolidation of communities, expand the social and political reach of literary activism, and alter the flow of information. My dissertation addresses these shifts by examining the linguistic, thematic, and structural nature of Canadian youth’s online writing and interrogating the issues that young people are exploring and expressing.
The Strathy Language Unit supported my research on Another Slice, a multimedia online hub produced for and by street entrenched youth in Vancouver, BC. Interviews were held with young writers and artists in August of 2012 at Directions Youth Services. Participants answered questions about writing habits, language, multimedia, community formation, stereotypes, and collaboration. The general consensus was — to borrow from Slice writer K. Rufus — that “literature is not just in books, it is on the streets”; artistic production is diverse, and it does not necessarily need to be formalized through publication in order to be meaningful and worthy of attention.
The innovation and talent at Another Slice suggests that Canadian linguistic and cultural practices are going to continue to change, and I look forward to continuing to trace and analyze new writing practices as they develop. I would like to extend my gratitude to the Strathy Unit for supporting my research and to the young writers and artists at Another Slice for providing their knowledge and expertise.
Images of the media room at Directions Youth Centre. Photos by Colin Ford.
The Strathy Language Unit is currently highlighted on the Language Portal of Canada's homepage. You can check out the headline as well as access the portal's resources here: http://www.noslangues-ourlanguages.gc.ca/index-eng.php.
The Wolfe Island Historical Society's annual journal Winword was published this summer, and it includes a piece on the Strathy Unit's Wolfe Island recording project. You can read the article by clicking on the image.
No other language topic stirs the public’s passions the way issues of “correct” grammar and usage do. This was highlighted in two recent articles by Toronto Star columnist Kathy English:
Test yourself against our gaffes
When is a gaffe not a gaffe?
Here’s another relevant piece by columnist English on spelling that we missed from earlier this year:
Is spelling now for snobs?
The Strathy Blog was on hiatus for July and August, but that did not mean a lack of attention to Canadian English in the media.
Babel, a program on CBC radio, explored our evolving Canadian English in a series of ten episodes. Host Mariel Borelli tackled accents, spelling, teaching and a range of other issues, all within the context of our multilingual nation. You can listen to all ten episodes at the Babel website: http://www.cbc.ca/babel/episodes/.
John Widdowson, one of the editors of the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, was interviewed about the development of the dictionary, originally published 30 years ago, on CBC’s Weekend Arts Magazine. Listen to his engaging reflection here: http://www.cbc.ca/wam/episodes/2012/07/28/wam-july-28-29-john-widdowson---dictionary-of-newfoundland-english/.
Let us know of any summer stories that we missed!
During the months of July and August, we will not be posting any new material on the blog. This is your chance to get caught up on our interesting guest pieces. We will return in September with new material and updates on our projects.
In a recent post on Language Log, linguist Julie Sedivy reflects on the interplay between Quebec French and Quebec English in Montreal in the context of shopkeepers' greetings. You can read her piece, "Much ado about Montreal" greetings here.
Sali Tagliamonte’s Canadian dialects research is continuing to draw media attention (see also posts below from May 25 and May 16). This time the focus is on her work in the Ottawa Valley. The following CBC article includes an audio link where you can hear an interview with Professor Tagliamonte as well as excerpts from a recording with an Ottawa Valley English speaker: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2012/06/01/ottawa-valley-accent-study-distinct-dialect.html.
Updated June 5... Here is another article on this topic from The Ottawa Citizen: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/Linguist+finds+Ottawa+Valley+talk+alive+well/6727556/story.html.
This weekend, the sixth annual Change and Variation in Canada workshop will take place in Montreal, co-hosted by McGill University and Université du Québec à Montréal. Talks will address issues in various Canadian languages, including Canadian English. Check out the programme here: http://www.linguistique.uqam.ca/component/content/article/31/94-cvc-6-programme.html.
As a linguist interested in language on the Prairies, I have recently begun collecting a Southern Alberta Corpus of English (SACE) which stratifies speakers according to the usual social variables: age, sex, and socioeconomic status, but which adds two dimensions which are not always present in other corpora: rurality and religion. Rural Canadian English has been sorely underrepresented in the study of Canadian English, generally, though it is likely one of the most salient varieties of Canadian English. There has not been much discussion of religion as a variable in Canada either, though there have been a few recent papers discussing Mormonism (Baker & Bowie 2010, Sykes 2010) or Judaism (Benore 2011) as a variable in the U.S. Getting back to Canada, in 1998, Marjory Meechan published a paper on the “American” variety of English in Lethbridge, Alberta, spoken by Latter-Day Saints (referred to generally as the Mormons, or LDS). This led me to include LDS as a variable in the development of SACE. Why would LDS members have their own variety of English, you might ask? Well, it is likely based on at least two things: immigration history and tight social networks.
Starting in 1887, as tensions between the United States government and Church of the Latter-Day Saints became more and more strained, a large number of LDS began to migrate north from Utah into Southern Alberta, seeking a friendlier government and religious freedom (Palmer 1972). By 1911, LDS in southern Alberta had established 18 communities, and ten thousand members of the church lived in the region. This group continues to be important in the area today. According to the 2001 Canadian Census, 49.7% of Canada’s entire LDS population is situated in Alberta. In the 2001 Canadian Census, 8.5% of Lethbridge and 13% of Taber self-identified as LDS, far higher than the national rate of .3% and even the provincial rate of 1.7%. Though there are no public documents giving us numbers of people practicing different religions in the smaller municipalities in Southern Alberta, locals know which towns are “Mormon towns.” They include towns such as Magrath, Raymond, Sterling, Cardston, etc. We can estimate LDS population by the number of ‘stakes’ or ‘wards’, administrative units composed of multiple congregations. A ward is composed of 200-500 people in a geographical area, and a stake is generally made up of at least 5-8 wards, and equal to approximately 3000 people. There are at least 9 stakes south of Calgary, and six in Calgary itself. Note that Cardston, a town with 3500, has two stakes (which includes the district surrounding the town), and so we can extrapolate from that an extremely high LDS population. Indeed, Cardston was the initial settlement in 1887 by LDS settlers from Utah, and boasts the oldest Mormon temple outside the United States.
Despite participating fully in Canadian society, attending public schools and universities and working ‘in town’, Meechan (1998) describes the LDS community as having ‘largely remained a cohesive group reinforced by the social activities associated with their church’. It is true that they form a tightly knit network within the region.
LDS members interact intensely with one another, establishing a community of their own. There are generally three hours of church services on Sundays; Monday is set aside for family night; there are singles activities during the week on Tuesday or Wednesday; and most people have ‘callings’ which are responsibilities/jobs within the church that keep one busy a number of times a month. Saturdays are spent preparing for Sunday services. High school students also attend Seminary for an hour before school during the week. In and around Cardston, there is an additional factor of the Temple. Practicing members are expected to attend the temple regularly, and this attendance maintains the tight-knit feel between those who attend regularly. There is a high expectation to always be eligible to go to the temple and to attend as much as possible.
Cardston-area LDS members are thus an excellent example of a tightly-knit social network in the sense of Milroy & Milroy (1992):
…a close-knit, territorially based network functions as a conservative force, resisting pressures for change originating from outside the network…Close-knit networks, which vary in the extent to which they approximate to an idealized maximally dense and multiplex network, have the capacity to maintain and even enforce local conventions and norms - including linguistic norms - and can provide a means of opposing dominant institutional values and standardized linguistic norms.
Linguist Sali Tagliamonte discussed her Canadian dialects project with CBC’s Ontario Morning host Wei Chen on Wednesday. Listen to this interesting interview by clicking on “That’s HalliBURton” on the show’s website: http://www.cbc.ca/ontariomorning/. (See also the May 16 blog post about this project below.)
Lexical variation in Canadian English was the topic of two articles in the Globe and Mail this month. In the first piece, linguist Charles Boberg of McGill University answers questions ranging from what we call a carbonated beverage to how we order a pizza with all of the toppings. In the second article, Globe writer John Allemang explores regional variation in names for summer retreats. You can find them here:
Why do some places say ‘pop’ and others say ‘soda’? Your questions answered
Camp, cottage or cabin? What do you call your weekend getaway?
University of Toronto linguist Sali Tagliamonte has been traveling to small Ontario communities and recording interviews with residents as part of a rural sociolinguistics study. You can read about the study and about her research trip to Haliburton, Ontario this week in an article from Haliburton's The Echo: http://www.haliburtonecho.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3562585.
The Strathy Language Unit is pleased to support Come Together: Digital Collaboration in the Academy and Beyond, a conference to be held this weekend at Queen's University, May 11-13. Here is the description from the conference website:
Come Together: Digital Collaboration in the Academy and Beyond seeks to explore the relationship between digital technology and academic, activist and artistic collaborations. Our focus is on how these collaborations come into being, what challenges they present, and how they are reshaping both the academy and the world at large. While we welcome all papers on the topic of digital collaboration, we are especially interested in those that examine the ways in which technology enables work across disciplinary, geographic, cultural and/or other boundaries, those that identify and/or propose solutions to the barriers that still need to be overcome, and those that offer frameworks for innovative forms of digital collaboration.
For a schedule and other information, visit the conference's website here: http://cometogether2012.wordpress.com.
We have added new entries to the Strathy Bibliography of Canadian English as well as made some modifications to the search format. Check out the bibliography here and don't forget to send us your feedback!
I am an American sociolinguist who began my research on vowel change in the Midwestern United States then spent time living in Toronto and studying vowel change in Ontario English. I have returned to the United States and am currently engaged in sociophonetic research on both Canadian and American varieties of English. I was honored by the invitation to contribute an entry to the Strathy Blog, and it seemed appropriate that my contribution should highlight recent American research on a vowel change that straddles the border between the United States and Canada—the Canadian Shift.
The Canadian Shift is a change in vowel quality whereby the front vowels in words like KIT, DRESS and TRAP are retracting and lowering in the acoustic space. This shift is happening in regions of Canada and the United States that also exhibit a merger between the back vowels in words such as LOT and THOUGHT (that is, these two words have the same vowel for speakers in these regions whereas in other areas the two vowels are distinct). The Canadian Shift was first documented and named in Canada by Clarke et al (1995). Clarke et al immediately noted the similarity between the Canadian and California vowel spaces, and subsequent research has provided more evidence of a common pattern (e.g. Hagiwara 2006). Here’s a link to a picture and explanation of the Northern California system on Penny Eckert’s website: http://www.stanford.edu/~eckert/vowels.html. Aiello (2009) suggests that Northern and Southern California represent the same general vowel system.
Evidence of Canadian Shift-like vowel configurations has also been noted recently in two cities that lie on the edges of the area categorized by The Atlas of North American English as the Midlands. In his work on vowel change in Ohio, David Durian has documented the shift as a change-in-progress in Columbus. His research is part of the Century of Language Change in Columbus (CLCC) Project at the Ohio State University, and more information on these findings is available on the project website: http://www.ling.ohio-state.edu/~ddurian/CLCC/. A comparison of phonetic data from my own work on the Canadian Shift in Toronto (Roeder and Jarmasz 2010) to the findings of Durian (2008, 2009) for Columbus indicates strong similarities between the trajectories of change over apparent time in those two cities, including 1) a connection between retraction of the merged LOT/THOUGHT vowel and retraction of the TRAP vowel and 2) concurrent DRESS vowel retraction. KIT vowel retraction, documented by Boberg (2005) as a part of the Canadian Shift in Montreal, is also attested by Durian in Columbus speech. With each new set of data comes an accompanying theoretical explanation that informs the larger conversation around this pervasive vowel change.
In related research, Douglas Bigham (2009) presented evidence that pronunciations of the KIT, DRESS and TRAP vowels in young adult speakers in the southern tip of Illinois are very similar to those found in California. As with other research on the Canadian Shift, Bigham (2010) finds a connection between TRAP vowel retraction and the LOT~THOUGHT merger. Furthermore, he proposes a model of change to explain the contrast between community-wide cross-generational vowel shifting and individual-level variation in production of the TRAP, LOT and THOUGHT vowels that offers a convincing explanation of why a retracted TRAP vowel sometimes appears in the speech of a local speaker whose LOT and THOUGHT vowels are not fully merged.
The new evidence provided in these studies challenges the Labov et al (2006: 221) observation that no North American region outside of Canada “shows a high concentration of the complete set of Canadian Shift features”. Given the widespread distribution of this pattern across areas of North America that have experienced extensive dialect mixing in the relatively recent past—the Western U.S., the edges of the U.S. Midlands region, and Canada—there has been talk of renaming the shift to the “Third Dialect Shift”, after the North American dialect distribution proposed by Labov (1991). But the larger question continues to revolve around a theoretical explanation for the observed changes. Despite variation between regions in the phonetic realization of each vowel, a common phonological explanation is likely, and a number of compelling ideas have already been put forward. My current research is focused on the relationship between phonetics and phonology in the Canadian Shift, and my ideas are informed by the excellent and exciting work being done on this topic by my colleagues on both sides of the U.S. ~ Canada border.
Aiello, Angela. 2009. A Phonetic Examination of California. MA Thesis, University of Southern California, Santa Cruz.
Bigham, Douglas S. 2009. Northern California Vowels in Southern English. Paper presented at the American Dialect Society Annual Meeting, Anaheim, CA.
Bigham, Douglas S. 2010. Correlation of the Low-Back Vowel Merger and TRAP-Retraction. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics: 15,2: Article 4.
Boberg, Charles. 2005. The Canadian Shift in Montreal. Language Variation and Change 17:133–154.
Clarke, Sandra, Ford Elms, and Amani Youssef. 1995. The third dialect of English: Some Canadian evidence. Language Variation and Change 7:209–228.
Durian, David. 2008. A New Perspective on Vowel Variation Throughout the 20th Century in Columbus, OH. Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation 37, Houston, TX.
Durian, David. 2009. The Canadian Shift in the U.S. Midland: purely a chain shift? Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation 38, University of Ottawa.
Hagiwara, Robert. 2006. Vowel production in Winnipeg. Canadian Journal of Linguistics 51:127–141.
Labov, William. 1991. The three dialects of English. In P. Eckert (ed.), New Ways of Analyzing Sound Change. New York: Academic Press: 1–44.
Labov, William, Sharon Ash, and Charles Boberg. 2006. The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Roeder, Rebecca and Lidia-Gabriela Jarmasz. 2010. The Canadian Shift in Toronto. Revue canadienne de linguistique/ Canadian Journal of Linguistics 55: 387–404.
Actor Aidan Quinn has been working to develop a Canadian accent for a new film to be set in British Columbia, Horses of McBride. You can read about his efforts in this Canadian Press piece published in the Winnipeg Free Press: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/entertainment/TV/aidan-quinn-works-on-canadian-accent-while-shooting-horses-of-mcbride-142067013.html.
From the Canadian Language Museum...
The Canadian Language Museum is pleased to announce the launch of its inaugural exhibit, Canadian English, Eh?
This exhibit, curated by Master of Museum Studies candidates, will focus on Canadians' distinctive use of English. It will also explore variations in Canadian English across the country, as well as the influences from French and Aboriginal languages.
Come out and celebrate with us during the opening reception on Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 5:00 p.m. in Wilson Lounge, New College (40 Willcocks Street), on the University of Toronto campus. Check out the Facebook event page for more details at: http://www.facebook.com/events/281999035206090/.
Everyone is welcome! There will be refreshments, treats, and delicious home baking!
I grew up in western Canada where jokes about “native” accents are commonplace (click here for one example of this kind of linguistic othering). While my lessons on the relationship between colonialism and stereotypes of “accented” Englishes began at a young age, my research interest emerged roughly ten years ago when I came across a discussion article describing the language needs of speakers of Indigenous English (Englishes spoken by some First Nations and Métis in Canada) in Saskatchewan schools (Heit & Blair, 1993). For more information about these varieties of English, Sharla Peltier, an Anishinaabe speech and language pathologist, provides an in-depth description of the origins, nature, and educational implications of Indigenous Englishes, or First Nations English dialects, in her Strathy guest column blog post here.
As an educational researcher, I’m interested in the ways in which settler schools are involved in producing linguistic homogeneity through school practices. Some examples of the ways in which this production of sameness can occur are: curriculum materials that privilege a national, monolithic, and native-speaker ideal as “standard English”; an absence of teachers who speak minority language varieties of English;teacher referrals to speech and language pathologists of students who are speakers of minority English language varieties; and print literacy programs that do not scaffold learners in their task of developing fluency in a new English language variety. Over the last decade, I’ve explored my research interests in Indigenous Englishes through two classroom-based studies in elementary schools (2003, 2009, 2011) as well as a study of Faculty of Education students’ views of Indigenous Englishes (2010).
My classroom-based studies examined the experiences of Indigenous English-speaking students in Saskatchewan elementary schools. While I did not set out to produce a linguistic description of the English language varieties spoken by the First Nations and Métis students in my study, I did gather examples, through interviews with educators as well as classroom observations of children, of some features specific to Indigenous Englishes in Saskatchewan. The study results indicate that some of the First Nations children of this study speak a variety of English that differs phonologically, morphologically, syntactically, and lexically from “standard” or settler Saskatchewan Englishes. The findings also indicate that many of the settler educators involved in this study demonstrated little awareness of the linguistic characteristics of Indigenous English, constructing these Englishes, instead, as language “deficits” resulting from the students’ homes and families. My 2010 study of Education students’ views of Indigenous English included analysis of student assignments from a required course in language and literacy development. Similar to my school classroom-based research, results from this study found that these pre-service teachers demonstrated deficit views of Indigenous Englishes. Students attributed their views of Indigenous Englishes to their own childhood experiences, both in and out of school.
What my educational research of Indigenous English indicates is that, while schools are sites of linguistic pluralism, English language varieties like Indigenous Englishes can often be viewed by teachers as a detriment, something that gets in the way of students’ development of literacy skills and mastery of subject material. More long term research is needed to determine how to best counter standard language discourses that continue to circulate in schools and society and in determining how these views of language influence educational outcomes in schools and the lives of First Nations and Métis students who are speakers of Indigenized Englishes.
Heit, M., & Blair, H. (1993). Language needs and characteristics of Saskatchewan Indian and Métis students: Implications for educators. In S. Morris, K. McLeod, & M. Danesi (Eds.), Languages and learning: Aboriginal and heritage language education in Canada (pp. 103‑128). Oakville, ON: Mosaic Press.
Sterzuk, A. (2011). The struggle for legitimacy: Indigenized Englishes in settler schools. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Sterzuk, A. (2010). Indigenous English and standard language ideology: Towards a postcolonial view of English in teacher education. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 32, 100-113
Sterzuk, A. (2009). Language as an agent of division in Saskatchewan schools. In C. Schick & J. McNinch (Eds.), “I Thought Pocahontas Was a Movie”: Perspectives on Race/Culture Binaries in Education and Service Professions (pp. 1-14). Regina, SK: Canadian Plains Research Center.
Sterzuk, A. (2003). A study of Indigenous English speakers in a standard English classroom. Unpublished master’s thesis, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
A new on-line game and app that train listeners to hear Canadian English sounds has been getting some media attention recently. Ron Thomson of Brock University (St. Catharines, ON) has created a program to help Canadian immigrants better perceive the sounds of Canadian English, as articulated by a variety of native speakers, and thus improve their pronunciation. The project was funded by the Social Science Research Council of Canada and Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Try it for yourself here: http://www.englishaccentcoach.ca.
A parrot in Ontario who acquired the Newfoundland accent of one its owners has been getting some media attention. Here's an article and video from the CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/story/2012/02/29/nl-parrot-accent-229.html.
The Strathy Undergraduate Working Papers on Canadian English launched in 2000 as a venue for exhibiting research by undergraduate students enrolled in the course Canadian English at Queen’s University. Beginning this year, we are broadening the focus of the journal to include work by students at any level of study from any institution and renaming the journal Strathy Student Working Papers on Canadian English.
The journal will include papers on a range of topics dealing with the structure or usage of the English language in Canada, broadly defined. This may include articles dealing with grammatical analysis, second language acquisition, sociolinguistics, corpus linguistics, historical research, lexicography and discourse analysis. The “Canadian English” under investigation may be any variety of English spoken in any region of the country, by native or non-native speakers. English may be the sole language of analysis or may be examined within the context of other languages.
We anticipate the first volume of this re-envisioned journal to be released on-line by the end of the year. For more information, please contact series editor Anastasia Riehl at firstname.lastname@example.org. A call for papers with submission guidelines is available by clicking here.
Editorial Board members:
Charles Boberg, McGill University
Alexandra D’Arcy, University of Victoria
Paul De Decker, Memorial University
Stefan Dollinger, University of British Columbia
Eric Mathieu, University of Ottawa
Anastasia Riehl, Queen’s University
Gerard Van Herk, Memorial University
Why do so many say zee?
We speak the way we're taught
Some characteristic Newfoundland terms and tools for their translation are discussed in a recent article Manitoba's Brandon Sun: http://www.brandonsun.com/lifestyles/breaking-news/dont-be-crooked-by-dictionaries-phone-app-translate-newfoundland-lingo-140562543.html?thx=y.
Montreal's bilingual French-English identity is highlighted in a new bilingual comedy show by Sugar Sammy called Le Show Franglais: You're Gonna Rire. You can read about the show in this recent article from the Montreal Gazette:
The fall semester of 2011 provided an exciting opportunity for me. I taught, for the first time, McGill’s new course in Canadian English (LING 325). I designed this course around my book on Canadian English, which appeared recently: The English Language in Canada: Status, History and Comparative Analysis (Cambridge University Press, 2010). Here's a link to a description of the book on the CUP website: http://www.cambridge.org/ca/knowledge/isbn/item2711984/?site_locale=en_CA.
Since several other universities have such courses, and since others may be considering designing such a course in the future, I thought it might be helpful and interesting to use this forum as a space in which to share my experiences with this new venture.
In designing the course, I was hoping to do two things. First, my strong interest in teaching Canadian English to undergraduates had previously been constrained by the lack of a dedicated course on that subject. I had been treating Canadian English as a unit or module in a broader course on Dialectology, along with modules on American and British dialects. This was the best place for it at the time, but clearly did not permit the sort of depth or breadth I wanted my students to be exposed to. Moreover, a Dialectology course should really focus primarily on matters of dialectological history and theory, and not on the particulars of individual dialects. A separate course on Canadian English seemed the best solution to this problem.
A second motivation was my interest in developing cross-disciplinary links in my teaching by engaging students beyond the field of Linguistics, using Canadian English as the subject material. As all linguists are aware, Linguistics has connections to many “allied” disciplines in the arts and sciences. While links to subjects like Cognitive Science, Philosophy and Psychology had been well established in McGill’s Linguistics program for some time (and with good reason), links to fields in the humanities and social sciences were, I felt, somewhat weaker. This represented a fresh opportunity for introducing new groups of students to the sorts of things we do in Linguistics. I find these links very interesting myself. In fact, while the core of my book is concerned with linguistic analysis, the first two chapters are primarily devoted to looking at Canadian English from a wide range of non-linguistic perspectives: from Demography, Geography, History, Law and Political Science to Cultural Studies, Film, Literature and even Popular Music. A new course dedicated to Canadian English would allow these points of view to be addressed, in such a way as to attract a non-traditional population of students who might be encountering Linguistics for the first time. While these students would learn a lot about linguistic analysis in the course, their unifying characteristic would be, not an interest in Linguistics per se, but an interest in Canada and things Canadian.
Administrative delays in getting the course approved meant that the first class would be small, since most students had already chosen their courses by the time LING 325 became available for registration. Despite this setback, the strategy of reaching out to other departments proved effective: of the 14 students who did register, only 4 (29%) were from Linguistics. The majority came from programs as diverse as Biology, Education, English, Environment, Geography, Political Science and Psychology, a stimulating mix that supported a perspective-widening exchange of views in class discussions. Even more surprising was that not all of them were Canadian: several students were American and one was an exchange student from overseas. That Canadian English should attract the interest of such a widely varied group of students is a very encouraging result, I trust, for most readers of this website.
Jim Cummins of the University of Toronto, OISE, will give a talk at York University today entitled "Reflections on the Policy Impact of 40 Years of Applied LInguistics Research in Canada". The talk will be held at 5:00 on the Keele Campus, Ross Building S562. Here is the abstract:
The presentation will address the intersections between research, theory, ideology, and educational policies focusing on two major areas: (a) core and immersion programs for the teaching of French to Anglophone students, (b) policies concerning the learning of English and French to immigrant-background students. With respect to the teaching of French, policy-makers at both federal and provincial levels have ignored the fact that core French programs (typically 30-40 minutes per day) produce very meagre results for the vast majority of students despite 5+ years of learning. French immersion and Intensive French (typically about 5-6 months teaching of French and through French starting in grade 6) have far greater research credibility but only a relatively small proportion of students across Canada are enrolled in these courses (<10%). Policy-makers and some researchers are also subject to ideological blind-spots in the area of French immersion, specifically their adherence to the “two solitudes” assumption that French and English should be kept rigidly separate, an assumption for which there is no empirical evidence.
In today’s The Coaster, a community paper from Harbour Breton, the “Feller from Callum” reflects on the use of Newfoundland English in contrast to a “standard mainland” variety. You can read the opinion piece here: http://www.thecoaster.ca/Opinion/2012-02-08/article-2889151/%0D%0AFeller-from-McCallum/1.
The Strathy Language Unit now provides research grants for undergraduate and graduate students at Queen’s University undertaking research on Canadian English. These grants are intended to cover travel expenses for fieldwork (for example, to undertake linguistic data collection in a Canadian community) or to access resources at an institution other than Queen’s University (for example, to view archival materials at a Canadian library). Applicants may be from any discipline and may approach the topic from any theoretical perspective, but the research must focus on some aspect of the structure or usage of the English language in Canada. Click here for more information and to download an application.
The Strathy Language Unit maintains an on-line bibliography of articles, books and other media related to Canadian English. The bibliography is continually being updated and currently contains over 2000 citations. You can access the bibliography here. We welcome your feedback and suggested additions!
A joint project of Simon Fraser University, University of Ottawa, and Université de Montréal seeks to understand social networks, dialect differences, borrowing and language change through a study of text messages written by English and French speakers in Canada. The project was profiled on The Now News website and can be accessed here.
In summer 2005, I was granted a scholarship under the auspices of the Faculty Enrichment Program provided by the Canadian government that enabled me to spend two weeks at the University of Toronto and another two weeks at Queen’s University in Kingston. In Toronto, Jack Chambers was a very inspiring source for my work, provided me with much food for thought as well as with a number of his published and at the time still unpublished contributions to the field of Canadian English. At Queen’s, I received outstanding support from Janice McAlpine, the director of the Strathy Language Unit at that time, who most kindly provided me with workspace within the Unit, with precious insight into her work on the 2nd edition of the Guide to Canadian English Usage which was then under preparation and also with the Strathy Corpus. A modified version of the corpus is now hosted at Kiel University and is frequently consulted by Uwe Vosberg who is currently working on his post-doctoral dissertation (‘Habilitationsschrift’) dedicated to a comparison of the syntax of Canadian English, by many students at Kiel University and by myself. I have found it extremely useful to study the competition of British and American spelling standards, issues of Canadian English usage and verb complement patterns and their versatility.
I am also very grateful to Anastasia Riehl, the current director of the Strathy Language Unit for kindly suggesting to me to make a contribution to the series of blogs published by the Unit. When she got in touch with me, I had just been looking at various verbal patterns from the Strathy corpus in order to put my new syntactic theory called Passivisable Object Theory (or PO Theory) to the test against Canadian data. While I had restricted my attention to British English in my first outline of the theory (Meyer, 2009), I have now taken Anastasia’s invitation to contribute a blog as a welcome encouragement to provide this alternative introduction to PO Theory using exclusively Canadian data from the Strathy corpus.
Passivisable-Object Theory (PO Theory) and an improved syntactic description of verbal complements in Canadian English
1 A short outline of PO Theory
Around 2006 I started thinking about developing a new model of English verb complementation. The reason for this was a growing dissatisfaction with current non-transformational models such as those presented in the Comprehensive grammar of the English language (Quirk et al. 1995) or the Cambridge grammar of the English language (Huddleston & Pullum 2005). It seemed counter-intuitive to me, for instance, to class predicates such as lack courage, weigh 15 kilos, resemble one's aunt, have a sense of humour and other non-passivisable structures as being transitive and as involving an object. I found it improper to lump them together with classic transitive structures such as write a story, shoot the enemy, buy some sugar whose complements are easily passivisable. In varieties of Modern English where, unlike e.g. in Latin or Modern German, the morphological opposition between a dative and an accusative had broken down, the criterion of passivisation seemed to be the only one by which objects could reasonably be delimited from other verbal complements. Notice, for instance, that subject and object complements (in be a hero viz. in make Susan captain of the club) as well as adverbials can all be realised as noun phrases following the verb.
Thus many traditional objects are no longer seen as objects in any strict syntactic sense and passivisability is assumed to be mandatory for objects (though this is not a sufficient condition). The model advocated here also attempts to avoid the pitfalls of taking a semantic definition based on participant roles and semantic equivalences at the outset that obscure significant syntactic similarities and dissimilarities of verbal constructions. It also seems to be true that more functional differentiation is needed within the area of complements hitherto classed as direct or indirect objects so as to capture more subtle changes in grammatical behaviour on the one hand and grammatical differences within varieties of English and of other languages on the other.
Another early consideration for developing PO Theory was to make it suitable for corpus annotation. This meant that the theoretical overhead was to be kept to a minimum and that it should not invoke more complexity than is required to account for the facts. It thus requires no deep-structure level of analysis, no abstract/empty categories and no crash course in symbolic logic.
The model is described in greater detail in an article I published in 2009 (see the bibliography at the end of this blog) - I will only highlight a few basic issues here. All full-sentence examples are taken from the Strathy corpus (in the form hosted at Kiel University). The record identifier appended to each example used below provides the original file name of the text along with the year of publication plus a unique number identifying each sentence in each file.
It has been an interesting year for Canadian English in the media. From the pronunciation of Toronto street names to Justin Bieber’s efforts to shed his Stratfordian accent, from features of Northern Ontario and Southern Alberta Englishes to the debate over the Canadian term for a hockey garment, Canadian English topics have appeared in newspapers and on radio programs throughout the country over the past year. Below are a few of those that have caught our attention. Whether the stories are serious or silly, whether we agree with their perspectives or not, we offer them up for you to judge, and hopefully enjoy, and to help us understand how Canadian English studies and issues are portrayed outside the academy.
This post also marks the launch of the new Strathy blog category “In the Media”. Throughout 2012, we will post topics from the popular press as they appear. If any stories catch your attention, please bring them to ours! Write to email@example.com.
Jump to a 2011 media topic:
Justin Bieber’s accent
Canadian dialects on YouTube
Pronunciation of Toronto street names
Multilingualism in Toronto schools
Canadian English identity abroad
Briticisms in Prince Edward Island
Western Canadian English
Northern Ontario English
The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi
“Jersey” vs. “sweater”
English in Victoria, B.C.
Newfoundland English app
Canadian accent and identity
Steve Gallucio’s film about the disco craze in 1970s Montreal was released in early 2011. With dialogue in both English and French, the film’s “bilingual” label has created some controversy. You can listen to an interview with the writer on CBC’s C’est la Vie in which he discusses some of the language issues.
"Lessons in Biebonics, Or how a milquetoast kid from Stratford learned to speak like a true Amurrican"
On CBC’s Spark, host Nora Young interviewed Rick Aschmann, a linguistics hobbyist who is plotting dialect features on a map of North America based on YouTube clips. Below are links to the interview and to the dialect map and videos.
YouTube Dialects Map, CBC’s Spark, March 27 & 30, 2011
North American English dialects, based on pronunciation patterns
The pronunciation of street names in Toronto got some attention this month, inspired by the rendering of certain names by the computer-generated voice of the Toronto Transit Commission in subways and streetcars. The following series of articles was published in the Toronto Star.
“The Fixer: You say Spa-dinah, I say Spa-deenah”
"The Fixer: They say Spa-deenah, but are they right?"
"Taronna names: How our city leaves us tongue-tied"
Multilingualism and English education, particularly in urban Canada, tends to be a popular topic in the media. In an interview with CBC’s Here and Now, Dr. Chumak-Horbatsch of Ryerson University discusses the importance of honouring the native heritage languages of students in the classroom, not only as a way of promoting confidence and cultural awareness but as a way of aiding their acquisition of Canadian English. A link to the program page is below.
ESL for Canadian born children
In a Globe and Mail essay, Rebecca Connop Price writes about the identity struggles associated with being a Canadian English speaker in Britain.
“I’m losing my Canadian English”
While many British terms have been declining in Canadian English over the last few decades, the controversial addition of several roundabouts in Charlottetown PEI offered an opportunity to reflect on new British forms entering the lexicon.
“Sussing out the roundabout”
Research by Dr. Nicole Rosen at the University of Lethbridge on the variety of English spoken in southern Alberta was highlighted by several news outlets this month. Below are two of the articles.
“Southern Albertans might have local dialect, prof says” [CBC News]
“Canadian dialect put under the microscope; West, Prairies, ‘Jambusters’ being studied” [National Post]
A study of English in Northern Ontario by Dr. Sali Tagliamonte of the University of Toronto was featured in several newspaper articles this month. Below are two examples.
“Look North for real Canadian English, eh” [National Post]
“Looking for true Canadian English, there? Go north” [Toronto Star]
Twenty-five years ago, Tremblay’s play explored English-French linguistic tensions through a French monologue with entirely English words. A new production at the National Arts Centre this month offered Tremblay an opportunity to reflect on how issues of language and culture have evolved in Quebec and globally since the play’s 1995 premier, as reported in the following article from the Ottawa Citizen.
“Playing on the language wars; Theatre piece has resonated in Quebec for 25 years”
Jersey vs. Sweater
A debate raged this month over the proper Canadian term for the hockey garment. You can read our previous blog post on the topic and find links to several articles here.
Research on the evolving - but not declining - Newfoundland dialect by linguist Gerard Van Herk at Memorial University was featured in an article in The Telegram.
"Oil industry, other changes, not killing Newfoundland language"
Do residents of Victoria have more “British” features in their English than Canadians elsewhere? Ongoing research by Dr. Alexandra D’Arcy at the University of Victoria that explores this issue has been highlighted recently in the media.
“Pass the crumpets, please" [Times Colonist]
"UVic prof studies Victoria's British accent" [bclocalnews.com]
Unsure of how to translate "Buddy's right snapped off, he is"? Check out the humorous new Newfoundland English smartphone app, as mentioned in the following CBC news piece.
In a piece for Salon.com, as well as in an interview with CBC's Q, Thomas Rogers reflects on first embracing, and later losing, his Canadian accent after years of living in New York City, and on his evolving views of Canadians and Americans more generally.
"The loud American I swore I'd never be" [Salon]
http://www.cbc.ca/q/episodes/ [Q interview, December 21, 2011]