Linguistics at U of T

LIN1152H1S Spring 2010

Quantitative Analysis of Contact Languages (QACL)

(Topics in Language Variation & Change)

Schedule | Description | Assessment | Readings | Professor Naomi Nagy

Thursdays 10:10-12:00 in Sid Smith 1080

Course Description

In this graduate seminar, students will engage in research to answer to some of the big questions currently under debate in the field of contact linguistics. These include:

  • How can we distinguish change due to language contact vs. universal tendencies or inherent change?

  • (How) can we quantify the degree of change or difference between two varieties in order to see where there is more or less?

        • This question applies both to different levels of language and to different sectors of a community.
        • Once we work that out, what parts of language are more susceptible to change?
          • What levels?
          • Places where the two languages are similar ? or where they are saliently/markedly different?
          • Are certain types of morphology more malleable?
        • How are social factors relevant?
        • What role does the social context play?
  • Does variation exist in the grammar or just in speech (i.e., competence vs. performance)?

The course will involve reading recent work in the field and engaging in primary research, making use of newly collected data from the Heritage Language Variation and Change in Toronto project. Speakers of the languages examined in that project are especially encouraged to take the course. The focus will be on grammatical and phonological contact effects, rather than lexical variation or code-switching.


Assessment will be based on participation in discussion, in-class presentations, short assignments, and a major research paper. The paper will be built incrementally, with a proposal, abstract, lit. review, outline, and certain sections due at various points during the term and the final paper due at the end. Group work is anticipated. In fact, it is hoped that all (or most) students will work on a cohesive project. NEW: This semester the class is analyzing variation in subject pronoun variation, across a range of Heritage Languages spoken in Toronto (Cantonese, Faetar, Korean, Italian, and Russian). It is a group project that the whole class is constructing together.

2 in-class presentations (of published works)
your project presentation (last day of class)
1 research paper (group project)
participation in discussions (daily)

Readings for the course

A preliminary reading list is online here and more fully updated as a PDF here. Readings are available through Blackboard. (Info on access to Blackboard)

Updated Febraury 15, 2010.

email: naomi dot nagy at utoronto dot ca | Return to my home page