Naomi Nagy

Linguistics at U of T

TBB 199: Exploring Heritage Languages

Course Description

Course description

Course Description

In this First-Year Seminar, we will explore how speakers use Heritage Languages in Toronto. We will examine recently collected data from Cantonese, Korean, Russian, Italian, Polish, Ukrainian and Faetar speakers in the GTA, so students should be familiar with one of these languages. We will collect and organize information about heritage languages in Toronto. We will look for speech patterns that differentiate first, second and third generation speakers in Toronto from corresponding speakers in their countries of origin, and look at the effects of cultural and language attitudes and usage.

Course Methods

A primary goal of this course is to prepare a Wikipedia article about the ethnolinguistic vitality of several heritage languages spoken in the Greater Toronto Area and the way the languages are spoken.

To do this, we need to learn about:

  • the definition(s) of "heritage language"
  • academic writing in general
  • the structure and requirements of Wikipedia articles
  • field methods for conducting sociolinguistic research
  • the concept of ethnolingustic vitality and how to measure it
  • the status of the heritage languages that you, as a group, may speak (or understand)
  • how to conduct a sociolinguistic investigation of a variable pattern
  • We also need to know about academic research in general: reading about it, doing it, and writing about it.

Course work will both contribute to and use resources from the Heritage Languages Variation and Change in Toronto project.

We will use at least some of the following research methods:

  •  searching for existing information published online and in print (academic journal articles, books, the popular press)
    • reports about the usage of the heritage languages
    • actual usage of the heritage languages (participant/observation)
  • interviews with heritage language speakers
  • surveys
  • reviewing books and other publications about heritage languages
  • describing our own knowledge
  • analyzing variable sociolinguistic patterns


To learn about the relevant topics, you will be expected to read several articles, usually short, for class each week. You should read them BEFORE lecture and be prepared to discuss them. In many cases, just skimming for important content will be sufficient. It is also helpful to take some notes. You might want to do this in your blog sometimes.

There are 2 types of reading for this course:

  1. Content readings, listed in the syllabus; full bibliography here
  2. Support readings for the Wikipedia project, listed on our Wiki assignment page

Meeting time and place

In Winter 2016, TBB 199 (Section 0281) meets on Wednesdays, 10:10-12:00 in 1078 Sid Smith (SS).

Course expectations

There are several important parts of this course and to be successful, you must do well in all of them.

Participation & Attendance

You will attend all classes and participate actively in discussion each day. The quality and quantity of your participation will determine 25% of your final grade.

Undocumented absences will severely affect your grade: your final course grade will be dropped 10% for each undocumented absence.

Please make every effort to show up on time.

14 written assignments
You will submit 14 written assignments over the course of the semester, according to the directions, and on-time. Assignments are due online BEFORE CLASS BEGINS, unless otherwise noted. Due dates are provided on the syllabus.
In-class presentations
On 2 of the course days, students will read different articles and present what they have read to the class. You will make a clear presentation of the relevant aspects of the article and engage the class in discussion related to these aspects.
Blog at least twice a week. In total, there should be 20 or more entries. You will NOT be graded on spelling, punctuation, length of entries, or adherence to formal writing rules. You will receive full marks if you complete the 20 entries in a timely fashion.
  • Please feel free to contact me outside of class if there is something you want to discuss or anything you don't understand.
  • If you will miss class, turn in the homework AHEAD OF TIME so that you are not behind when you return.
  • Arrange to get lecture notes from another student BEFORE coming to talk to me about what you missed.
Please consider printing double-sided, using 1.5 spacing and omitting title pages on your own work, and reading onscreen when possible.

Last updated Jan. 17, 2016

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