LING/ENGL 790/890            

Special Topic: Language Variation in Canada       

Course description: Short version | Long version

syllabus, reading list and resources

Linguistic variation in Canada will be explored by comparison and contrast
with U.S. linguistic patterns.  Students will examine languages and dialects
which are associated with a particular region, culture, and/or ethnic group in
Canada.  We will investigate ways that language represents the identity of
both individual speakers and the groups to which they belong. Canada is a
rich environment for sociolinguistic investigation, because there is every
possible type of language contact situation imaginable.  Beyond the well
known debate over French and English use in Quebec, there are places where
French is the minority language, where other immigrant languages are well
represented, and where Native languages are still used.

The course is cross-listed in Linguistics, English, and Canadian Studies

MA TESOL students may use this course to satisfy the sociolinguistics course requirement, with approval of the professor, provided they select an appropriate research project for the course-- check these guidelines on writing a sociolinguistics paper

 

Long version

This is a sociolinguistics course: a linguistics course with a topical focus on language variation in Canada. Linguistic variation in Canada will be explored via comparison and contrast with U.S. linguistic variation patterns.  We will investigate ways that language represents the identity of both individual speakers and the groups to which they belong. The identity issue is especially complicated when more than one language is spoken by a particular person or group.  This course will give students an introduction to theory, methods, and research findings in the field of sociolinguistics as well as an overview of the many languages and linguistic situations of Canada.

Canada is a rich environment for sociolinguistic investigation, because there is every possible type of language contact situation imaginable. Beyond the well known debate over French and English use in Quebec, there are places where French is the minority language, where other immigrant languages are well represented, and where aboriginal languages are still used.

The course will examine linguistic varieties (languages and dialects) which are associated with a particular region, culture, or ethnic group in Canada or the U.S., with a particular focus on varieties spoken along the border or that have spread from one country to the other. Thus, it serves students in the English Department, the Linguistics Program and the Canadian Studies program.

The course examines various regional dialects of Canadian and American English and the other languages with which English interacts in these two countries. We will study the history of settlement in various regions and see how that correlates with speech patterns and language use. We will examine the ways spoken language varies according to the social characteristics of its speakers. Speech variation according to age, sex, ethnicity, attitude, style, location, time, social status, and network membership will be explored. We will focus on systematic pronunciation and vocabulary differences, as well as looking at some grammatical variation. Throughout the course, examples, readings, and data will be drawn from recent research on language variation in Canada and the U.S. Patterns in the two countries will be compared and contrasted.

Students at the University of New Hampshire are somewhat familiar with nearby Quebec because there are many Franco-American families in New Hampshire. In contrast, little is ever discussed here about other parts of Canada, or other groups in Quebec. This course will serve a valuable purpose in increasing that awareness. Language is a means of entry to the study of any culture, and I hope that this course will open doors for further exploration for our students. Furthermore, the patterns of cross-border language influence are illustrative of the ways many other aspects of U.S. and Canadian cultures have spread from one country to the other. The course will broaden awareness of Canada in three ways:

  1. The very offering of the course makes a minor in Canadian Studies more feasible at UNH by increasing the course offerings. This should attract more students to the field.
  2. Students enrolled in the course will learn how much linguistic and cultural diversity exists in Canada and, by examining the relationships between language and identity, will come to better understand the language policy issues which plague Canada, seeing that it is not "just" language at issue, but the representation of important cultural identities.
  3. Many people who are not currently enrolled students find material on the websites of the UNH Linguistics Program and of my classes. Reading lists, resources, and summaries of research will become increasingly available as this course is taught, with each semester’s students making contributions.