Naomi Nagy

Linguistics at U of T

ROP 299/399, 2018-2019: Heritage Language Variation and Change


  • Propdrop: Comparing Homeland and Heritage Korean, and maybe Cantonese
  • Phonological variation in syllable-initial sounds in Heritage and Homeland Cantonese
  • Lexical variation in Heritage and Homeland Cantonese


The Heritage Language Variation and Change Project (HLVC) examines usage and patterns of change in several heritage languages spoken in Toronto. We look at intra- and interlanguage choices made by multilingual speakers (who comprise well over half the world’s population). Specific goals include:

  • document and describe heritage languages spoken by immigrants and two generations of their descendants in the Greater Toronto Area, contrasting grammars at various degrees of contact to homeland varieties and to English spoken in those communities.
  • develop a standardized framework for examining variation in different languages, which includes a quantification of “similarity,” so that degrees of similarity between grammars can be compared.
  • define the types of changes that occur in “ethnic enclave” languages more fully.

    Students are fluent (ideally native speakers) in (at least) one of the languages being studied.
    Students are second or third year undergraduates.

    Tasks are selected from the following:

  • recruiting interviewing speakers to learn about their background, language attitudes, and language use
  • learning to use ELAN, a program for making time-aligned transcriptions linked to audio files; using ELAN to transcribe recorded conversations in the languages listed
  • finding examples of certain linguistic patterns (such as all examples of use of a certain grammatical case or a certain sound sequence)
  • preparing these examples for quantitative analysis by organizing examples into a spreadsheet
  • conducting research about the histories and social structures of these language communities in Toronto
  • producing webpages that describe Toronto's heritage languages

    Students participate in research group meetings with other RAs, grad students and professors, giving them an opportunity to see many different phases of this large-scale project. They receive training in all software and equipment that they need to use and may be invited to help develop aspects of presentations and publications related to the project.

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