The Strathy Blog - 2015

News about the Strathy Language Unit and Canadian English studies

[Please note that this page is an archive of blog posts from 2015. Some of the links to articles are no longer active.]

Writing English in Montreal

Date: December 11, 2015 | Category: Guest Column
Author: Rachel Montour

Editors Note: This is part one of a four-part series exploring the work of multilingual authors in Montreal who choose to write in English. Why do these individuals choose English, and how have their own linguistic backgrounds and the bilingual context of Montreal shaped this choice and their work? Strathy literary intern and English graduate student Rachel Montour, herself a bilingual Montrealer, interviewed four young writers on this topic. The focus of our first piece is Patra Dounoukos Reiser.

Patra Dounoukos Reiser, a doctoral student in English at the Université de Montréal who is interested in the female gothic, likes to “explore people caught between [two] worlds and struggling to find their place” in her fiction. In her creative works, one can find “a sense of mystery and vaguely supernatural hints here and there”. In further describing her creative inclinations, Patra admits to her usual “referencing [of] a Greek god or goddess” and the “influence of the Greek myths [she] grew up hearing”.

Indeed, Patra grew up speaking Greek at home with her parents. She learned English in kindergarten and French once she moved to Montreal. When asked if language acts as a significant component of her identity, she writes:

I suppose so if I think deeply about it. Each language is different and rich and resonant in their own way, and when I speak Greek, I feel Greek if that makes any sense. English makes me feel accomplished and educated and a bit persecuted too here in Montreal. I love the feel of French on my tongue. Being able to communicate with many people makes me feel a citizen of the world aussi.

Click here to read the full piece.


Old Words, New Popularity

Date: December 10, 2015 | Category: In the Media

The rise and rebranding of "badass" and "squad" - thanks to social media - are up for analysis in two recent newspaper articles:


Eskimos' Name Controversy

Date: December 4, 2015 | Category: In the Media

The Edmonton Eskimos won The Grey Cup, but discussion of the team name continues. Canada's national Inuit organization, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, has asked the team to change the name, sparking debate outside of the community as well as some within. Read more in these articles:


Overuse and Misuse

Date: December 3, 2015 | Category: In the Media

From car porn to criminal masterminds to political bloodbaths... The Globe and Mail's public editor discusses recent complaints to the paper about the overuse and misuse of particular words and phrases.


Excuse Me Ma'am/Miss

Date: November 27, 2015 | Category: In the Media

When does a "miss" become a "ma'am", and what are the connotations of each title? In this article for the Toronto Star, writer Sofi Papamarko explores these questions and consults with linguist Aaron Dinkin on the origins of "ma'am".


Montreal Mix

Date: November 26, 2015 | Category: In the Media

In his latest column for the Montreal Gazette, Marc Abley reflects on English borrowings in French and French borrowings in English in Montreal.


Graduate Research on Canadian English

Date: November 19, 2015 | Category: News

Queen's linguists and students in the course Canadian English were treated to talks by four University of Toronto graduate students yesterday. The speakers shared results from their ongoing variationist studies on different Canadian English topics.

From left to right...

  • Marisa Brook: Not so co-relative: The past and present of restrictive WHO and THAT in Toronto and Belleville, Ontario
  • Ruth Maddeaux: Is like like like?: Evaluating the same variant across multiple variables
  • Erin Hall: Canadian Raising in Toronto and Vancouver
  • Matt Hunt Gardner: I (have) (got) a story for you: Stative possessives and the Loyalist origins of Cape Breton English


Canadian English Speaker in ISIS Recording?

Date: November 18, 2015 | Category: In the Media

The features of Canadian English have become a recent media topic for unexpected and unfortunate reasons. The speaker in an audio clip released by ISIS exhibits certain vowel pronunciations characteristic of someone raised in Central or Western Canada. The following articles include observations by Canadian English scholars Charles Boberg and Jack Chambers.


Word of the Year

Date: November 17, 2015 | Category: In the Media

Oxford Dictionaries' Word of the Year - the emoji "face crying tears of joy" - has left many people crying tears of another kind. Would you have preferred "Dark Web" or "on fleek"?

emoji: face crying tears of joy

New Perspective, New Names

Date: November 13, 2015 | Category: In the Media

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's priorities are reflected in his new names for cabinet positions. "Minister of Environment" is now "Minister of Environment and Climate Change". "Northern Development" is now "Northern Affairs". Read about some of the other changes in these articles:


Graduate Research Symposium

Date: November 10, 2015 | Category: News

On November 18th, the unit will host the Symposium of Graduate Research on Canadian English, featuring talks by four graduate students engaged in sociolinguistic research on various aspects of Canadian English. The event is organized by Matt Hunt Gardner, instructor for Canadian English. Click on the flyer below for details. All are welcome!

Poster of graduate research symposium


Which Color/Colour?

Date: November 4, 2015 | Category: In the Media

A school spelling test in Vernon, B.C. ignited the debate over Canadian spelling when kids were taught American variants. Read more about it in this article.


Time for Change?

Date: October 30, 2015 | Category: In the Media

Language change... We often resist it, but sometimes we seek it. Two recent articles highlight efforts in the latter category:


English Accent Identification

Date: October 29, 2015 | Category: In the Media

British Airways surveyed American and British passengers on their knowledge of, and preferences for, different English accents. Read more about the survey in this article from The Telegraph, including the finding that 97% of respondents from the U.K. identified the Canadian accent as American.


Cape Breton English

Date: October 27, 2015 | Category: In the Media

A Cape Breton native reflects on the Irish and Scottish influences on her English in this piece for the Cape Breton Post. [article no longer available]


Are Millennials Grammar Nerds?

Date: October 15, 2015 | Category: In the Media

Millennials often get a bad rap for destroying the English language, but they may be surprisingly stern prescriptivists according to this recent article in the Toronto Star.


A Bird by Any Other Name

Date: October 14, 2015 | Category: In the Media

In his latest piece for the Montreal Gazette, Mark Abley explores the origins of bird names in English and French Canada.


Language and Politics

Date: October 14, 2015 | Category: In the Media

The origins of "canvass" and legislative debates over proper grammar have made their way into the news recently...


NWAV is Coming!

Date: October 13, 2015 | Category: News

New Waves of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) 44, co-hosted by the University of Toronto and York University, will take place October 22-25 at the University of Toronto. There will be some great Canadian English content, including plenary talks by Jack Chambers and Shana Poplack, a session on the Canadian Shift and a number of other talks and posters of interest. Here’s a link to the preliminary program. [no longer available]


New from Newfoundland

Date: October 9, 2015 | Category: News

The latest issue of Regional Languages Studies... Newfoundland is now online! Check out the interesting new contributions here.


Who's Accent?

Date: October 8, 2015 | Category: In the Media

In the latest clash between politics and linguistics, Minister of National Defense and Minister for Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, is criticized for praising an immigrant's "unaccented English".


Renaming in Quebec

Date: October 1, 2015 [Updated December 3, 2015] | Category: In the Media

Following a petition effort, the Quebec Topography Commission has decided to change eleven place names in the province that contain the N-word (six in English, five in French). Here are a few other details from CTV. New names are still to be determined.

[Update: This article in the National Post includes further detail on the name-changing debate.] [no longer available]


Gaspé English

Date: September 30, 2015 | Category: In the Media

In his latest column for the Montreal Gazette, Mark Abley explores a few unique features of the English of anglophones in Gaspé, Quebec.


'Newfie' Troubles

Date: September 25, 2015 | Category: In the Media

While discussion continues around Harper's 'old stock Canadians' comment, NDP leader Tom Mulcair is dealing with his own linguistic controversy surrounding his use of the term 'Newfie' twenty years ago. Here's a taste of the commentary...


'Old Stock' Canadians

Date: September 24, 2015 | Category: In the Media

Stephen Harper's 'old stock Canadians' comment arose as one of the big stories from last week's federal leaders' debate. Since then, dozens of articles have explored the meaning and history of the phrase as well as Harper's intentions. Here are just a few...


Wolfe Island Fieldwork

Date: September 22, 2015 | Category: News

A few images of Wolfe Island, Ontario taken during a summer fieldwork trip to record speakers for our Oral Stories of Wolfe Island project...

Photos of Wolfe Island

Pictures of people: Hank Connell, President of Wolfe Island Historical Society in his barn (bottom left); Brian MacDonald, Treasurer of Wolfe Island Historical Society and partner in the Strathy Unit's Oral Stories of Wolfe Island project at his home (center); Tabitha Daly, Fieldwork Project Manager in the Old House Museum (bottom right)


Summer Stories of Canadian English

Date: September 10, 2015 | Category: In the Media

We're back with part 2 of our collection of summer media stories! It is an impressive list, with topics ranging from our shifting vowels to the "Flora syndrome", from old words changing in meaning to new ones entering the language.


Vocal Fry in the Media

Date: September 3, 2015 | Category: In the Media

It was a busy summer for Canadian English in the media. 'Vocal fry' was the big story, sparked by Naomi Wolf's controversial comments in The Guardian about this speech pattern as used by young women. Below are links to articles exploring different perspectives on fry from the Canadian press. (Next week we'll post links to the summer stories about everything else!)


Summer Hiatus

Date: June 25, 2015 | Category: News

The blog will be taking its annual July-August hiatus. Please keep in touch with us during this time via email, and check back in September for more news and media stories.

Meanwhile at the unit...

research assistants working in office

Research assistants hard at work in the Strathy offices


OED Welcomes 'Inukshuk'

Date: June 25, 2015 | Category: In the Media

'Inukshuk', 'stagette' and other Canadianisms were among 500 new words added to the Oxford English Dictionary today. Read more on the story from the CBC.


Dominion Day?

Date: June 25, 2015 | Category: In the Media

Dominion Day gave way to Canada Day in 1982, but as the holiday approaches, some are nostalgic for the older term. Check out Who remembers Dominion Day? and Brewery brings back Dominion Day with off-beat Canadiana party[article no longer available]


New Country, New English

Date: June 24, 2015 | Category: In the Media

Moving to a new country means many life changes for immigrants. For English speakers moving to Canada, adjusting to a new language is one change most don't consider. In this piece in The Observer, new citizens reflect on their early experiences in Canada, including adapting to Canadian English.


Euphemisms and Race

Date: June 23, 2015 | Category: In the Media

Obama's recent use of the N-word in an interview has drawn attention to how we talk about race in North American English. Read a CBC news analysis here.


Literally Coming to Terms with Change

Date: June 17, 2015 | Category: In the Media

Writing for the National Post, Catherine Glazer muses about her journey from annoyance to acceptance with the word "like" and her hopes to ultimately embrace her new linguistic nuisance - "literally". [article no longer available]


"Supply-Side" Economics?

Date: June 9, 2015 | Category: In the Media

The Toronto Star has recently decided to stop using the term "voodoo economics" after several readers raised the issue of its racist connotations. Read their explanation here and some complaints about the political correctness of their decision here.


In Sync

Date: June 4, 2015 | Category: In the Media

In this article from the Montreal Gazette, Mark Abley traces the origins of "sync"... from our contemporary use of "sync up" back to references to audio and video "synchronization" in early talkies.


How to Talk Canadian

Date: June 3, 2015 | Category: In the Media

Actor Nick Kroll shares his experience developing Canadian accents for television in this brief article from CTV News. [no longer available]


Canadian English Talks at CLA

Date: May 29, 2015 | Category: News

This year's meeting of the Canadian Linguistics Association will take place May 30 - June 1 in Ottawa as part of Congress 2015. Click here for the program which contains links to abstracts for all presentations. [Program no longer available.] Below are titles of some of the talks and posters that focus on a variety of English in Canada or that make use of data from Canadian English participants.

  • Coronal stop deletion in Blackfoot English
  • Bilingualism and cognitive control: The ANT in a Canadian context
  • The effect of length of residence on the phonetic accommodation to three English dialects
  • A sociolinguistic analysis of the current state of /l/ allophony in St. John's English
  • Losing light /l/: An acoustic and articulatory investigation of Newfoundland English
  • The impact of accented prosody on parsing speech
  • Sociophonetic variation of Northern Ontario English vowels: Canadian Shift in two non-urban communities
  • Foundering: Reconsidering adjectival intensifiers



Date: May 28, 2015 [updated June 3, 2015] | Category: In the Media

The Scrabble dictionary will soon increase by 6,500 words. Test your knowledge of some of the more unusual additions with this CBC Books quiz. Read about some of the other new entries in this article from the National Post[Articles no longer available.]


Racial Stereotypes and Accent Perception

Date: May 27, 2015 | Category: In the Media

A new study at UBC finds that Canadian English listeners' perceptions of foreign accent is influenced by their understanding of the ethnicity of the speaker. You can read more about the study in this article from The Vancouver Sun[no longer available]


Interview with Strathy Director

Date: May 20, 2015 | Category: News

This week's blog post for the Canadian Language Museum features an interview with Strathy Director Anastasia Riehl. You can read the piece by Michael Iannozzi here.


It's All in the Nouns?

Date: May 11, 2015 | Category: In the Media

Is it the nouns that make Canadian English distinctive? Montreal Gazette write Marc Abley ponders our unique nouns and continues his thoughts on the origins of "to kettle" (following up on his previous column).


International Trade and National Lexicons

Date: May 6, 2015 | Category: In the Media

Feta-style? Parmesan-like? Gorgonzola-ish? Trade agreements sometimes include restrictions on the terms that can be applied to Canadian products. Read about the latest debate over names for cheeses in this article in the National Post. [no longer available]


The Language of Protests

Date: April 27, 2015 | Category: In the Media

In his recent Watchwords column in the Montreal Gazette, Mark Abley considers new terminology arising from student protests.


Emojis in Canadian English

Date: April 22, 2015 | Category: In the Media

The UK's Daily Mail published an article today on use of emojis in different languages based on a SwiftKey analysis. Canadian English speakers apparently use more violent emojis than those of the other languages studied and interestingly include more ocean creatures! Read more about the study here.


Youth Language: Irritating or on Fleek?

Date: April 15, 2016 | Category: In the Media

In a recent article in The Globe and Mail, columnist Sarah Hampson reflects on some of the annoying - and beautiful - new words spreading through social media.


Canadian English Research Posters

Date: April 9, 2015 | Category: News

Students in Queen's undergraduate course Canadian English have completed research projects. Here are a few of the research teams with their posters.
Student poster presentation
Ben's Bin of Pens and Pins: An analysis of the pre-nasal ɪ and ɛ merger in young adult Canadian English speakers

Student poster presentation

Um, Well... How do I put this?
(Gender variation in the use of filler words)

Student poster presentation
I speak Canadian Konglish, you speak American Konglish
(Use of Canadianisms by first, 1.5 and second generation Korean-Canadian English speakers)


Where Nigerian and Canadian English Meet

Date: April 8, 2015 | Category: In the Media

It's exam season. Are Canadians more likely to "write" their exams (as opposed to "take" them) than in any other English-speaking country? This is one topic in a recent column on Nigerian English in the Daily Trust newspaper. Columnist Farooq Kperogi writes about issues of Nigerian English grammar and usage, often comparing Nigerian English to British, American and Canadian English. For those interested in this perspective, here is a page that includes links to the articles. [Articles no longer available.]


Saskatchewan Slang

Date: April 1, 2015 | Category: In the Media

A humorous video about Saskatchewan slang posted earlier this year by Insightrix Research is continuing to generate interest in the media. Here are a couple of recent articles:

Bunnyhug and gotch among the most popular Saskatchewan slang: survey (The Star Phoenix[no longer available]

10 slang terms all Saskatchewan people should know (CBC)


Bibliography Updates!

Date: March 26, 2015 | Category: News

We just updated the Strathy Bibliography of Canadian English, adding over 150 new sources. Access the bibliography here, and as always, please let us know if you are aware of sources we should include!


Canadian English Dialects and Foreign Accent Syndrome

Date: March 26, 2015 | Category: In the Media

In a 2008 medical case resurfacing in the media, a woman from Ontario acquires a Maritime accent after a stroke. It is an interesting case of Foreign Accent Syndrome in that the new accent is an identifiable regional dialect and from a part of the country the woman has never visited. Read the story here.


Are You a Keener?

Date: March 19, 2015 | Category: In the Media

Here is a recent BuzzFeed addition to the plethora of "Canadian slang" lists... a few classics and a few surprises.



Date: March 12, 2015 | Category: In the Media

In this brief article from the Alberta Teacher's Association, Australian exchange teachers share their experiences with some confounding Canadian English terms. [Article no longer available.]


CVC Mini-Conference

Date: March 11, 2015 | Category: News

The Strathy Language Unit and the Canadian English course at Queen?s will host the Change and Variation in Canadian English Mini-Conference Thursday, March 12 from 2:30-3:50 in Kingston Hall, room 200. Three speakers from the University of Toronto will discuss their Canadian English research projects. All are welcome!


Marisa Brook, Relatively distinct: Localized loss of prestige on the periphery of Canadian English

Matt Hunt Gardner, Where does Canadian English end? Cape Breton Speech Island

Derek Denis, Homogeneity, convergence, mega-trends and stuff like that


Take a Survey!

Date: March 5, 2015 [updated March 11, 2015] | Category: News

Update (April 27, 2015) - The surveys are now closed. Thank you for your participation!

Students in the Canadian English course at Queen?s are working on research projects. Several are collecting data through online surveys and seek your participation. Take one of the following surveys, or take them all!

What did you learn in university?

How do you slang?

What?s in a name?

Sound Mergers in Canadian English

Language Variation in Canada

You say what?


Call for Student Papers

Date: March 4, 2015 | Category: News

Calling all student researchers of Canadian English! The Strathy Student Working Papers on Canadian English accepts submissions on a regular basis. Papers may be by undergraduate or graduate students at any institution, studying any aspect of the Canadian English language. Click here for details.


Reflections on Change

Date: February 11, 2015 | Category: In the Media

In this personal essay for The Globe and Mail, a writer reflects on language change.


Canadian Language Museum Blog

Date: February 4, 2015 | Category: In the Media

The Canadian Language Museum has an excellent new blog with weekly posts on language research in Canada. The latest post on signed languages, as well as previous posts on the English of Victoria, Newfoundland English and the English of the Prairies are of particular relevance to Canadian English studies.

More from the Mavens

Date: February 3, 2015 [updated February 4] | Category: In the Media

In the previous post, we told you about a recent article in the Montreal Gazette that lists examples of readers' complaints about grammar and usage in the newspaper. Here is another recent article, this one in the Globe and Mail, in a similar vein but with great new examples. This follow-up article was published a few days later.


Between you and I...

Date: January 27, 2015 | Category: In the Media

In his latest column for the Montreal Gazette, Mark Abley shares readers' linguistic pet peeves. Do you have any to add to this list?


Oxford Dropping Nature Words

Date: January 14, 2015 | Category: In the Media

There has been an outcry over Oxford's decision to drop around 50 nature words from its junior dictionary. A group of authors, including Margaret Atwood, is urging the publisher to reinstate the words expressing concern over the decline of nature in the "increasingly interior, solitary childhoods of today". Read more about their argument and the publisher's response in this article from The Guardian.


Words of the Year

Date: January 8, 2015 | Category: In the Media

"Vape" - Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year - wasn't the only interesting new addition in 2014. This short article in Maclean's shares a few of the highlights.


Click here to read 2014 posts