Linguistics at U of T

LIN1256H1F Fall 2011


(Topics in Language Variation)

Schedule | Description | Assessment | Readings | Professor Naomi Nagy

Thursdays 3:10-5:00 in University College 175

Course Description

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

  • Phonetic variation -- how much of it is socially predictable? What kinds are / are not?
  • Social variation -- What parts of language are socially patterned, i.e. correlated to social variables like age, sex, network membership?
  • Is phonetic variation which is measurable by machine, but not audible to the human ear (or not perceived by humans), relevant to sociolinguistic models?
  • How does variation in perception and production at the phonetic level relate to language change?
  • Do the principles of language variation and change that have been established based on large languages like English also apply to smaller and lesser-studied languages?

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.


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, and lit. review due earlier in the term. The final paper is due one week after classes end. Group work is anticipated. In fact, it is hoped that all (or most) students will work on a cohesive project.

Participation: Contribute productively and thoughtfully to class discussion every day, bringing in your knowledge from assigned readings and other resources in your background.


Presentation: Each student will present 1 (or 2, depending on enrollment) of the theory” papers listed in purple in the “Theory” column of the syllabus, or other papers the class deems relevant. Presentation should elicit discussion from the class. Presenters will be the class’s “go-to” person for that topic throughout the semester. See presentation guidelines.


Homework assignments: You must submit 6 of the 10 HWs.  Each is due the week after it is listed in the syllabus. Choose assignments useful in building necessary skills for your research project. (Start early. We may need to trouble-shoot this new textbook!)


Research proposal: descriptive title, topic of the final paper; goals & hypotheses; methodology; short reference list. 2-3 pages (1.5 spaced). Group projects are strongly encouraged. Topics will be discussed in class.


Research paper: Topics  and requirements will be discussed during the class, with the option of group projects strongly encouraged. No length maximum or minimum will be stipulated. An outline of necessary components will be developed in class.


Readings for the course

A preliminary reading list is online here. Readings are available through Blackboard. (Info on access to Blackboard)

Please consider printing double-sided, using 1.5 spacing, omitting title pages, and reading onscreen when possible.

Updated September 13, 2011

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