History & Mission

The Strathy Language Unit was established in the Department of English at Queen's University in 1981. It is funded by a bequest from an alumnus, J.R. Strathy, whose business interests revolved around mines and stock markets but whose lifelong passion was the English language. Strathy's will mandates the Unit that bears his name to "study standard English usage" and to produce a guide to Canadian English usage, as well as ancillary publications. Over the last thirty years, the unit has investigated English usage in Canada from various angles. The unit has produced two editions of the Guide to Canadian English Usage as well as two paper series; established the Strathy Corpus of Canadian English; collaborated in projects such as the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles; supported an undergraduate course in Canadian English at Queen's; hosted conferences; and served as a resource for students, international scholars and members of the public interested in Canadian English.

Today, the unit continues to study English usage in Canada with the types of projects described above. In addition, we are interested in the evolving role of English in our society. Canada is a linguistically diverse country, with two official languages, dozens of Indigenous languages, and many heritage languages spoken by immigrant communities. With shifting demographics, a large population reporting a mother tongue other than English (see Census Canada's 2016 figures), increasing numbers of multilingual speakers, and increasing varieties of English in our midst, the role of English in Canada and of what we conceive of as the "standard" variety is ever-changing. The study of English in Canada is as fascinating today as it ever has been, and it is easily as relevant and interesting as when J.R. Strathy envisioned the Strathy Language Unit several decades ago.