Naomi Nagy

Linguistics at U of T

Analyzing Ethnic Orientation in the Quantitative Sociolinguistic Paradigm

Naomi Nagy, Joanna Chociej & Michol Hoffman

Methods in Dialectology 14 Abstract (2011)

Speakers who control 2 (or more) languages may use features of one language while speaking the other. We expect that speakers' patterns of language use and attitudes toward each language (and their speakers) would influence this variation. In a project examining a range of linguistic variables and how they pattern in the heritage dialects of 7 languages, plus English, in Toronto, disparate patterns of correlation emerge between linguistic variants and measures of ethnic orientation and language use, in spite of consistent methods of data collection.

The data are a corpus of 240 sociolinguistic interviews and responses to an Ethnic Orientation (EO) Questionnaire (adapted from Keefe & Padilla 1987). Correlations exist between measures of EO and the phonological variable (t,d) and phonetic variation (Canadian Vowel Shift) in the English of the Chinese and Italian communities (Hoffman & Walker 2010), and a discourse pattern (code-switching) in Korean (Chung 2010). However no correlations emerge with the morphosyntactic variation between pronoun and null subjects in Russian, Polish, Cantonese, or Italian (Nagy et al. 2010).

Here, we seek to understand whether these differences truly reflect differing behaviour of the different types of variables (phonetic, phonological, morphosyntactic, discourse), or whether, under appropriate methods of analysis, more consistent patterns emerge. We contrast a range of methods for quantifying and statistically analyzing EO, raising the following issues:

  • use of the Principle Components Method vs. paired correlation coefficient comparisons vs. multivariate regression analyses with EO scores as independent variables to understand relationships among the different measures and gauge their relative contribution;
  • the relationship between generation (since immigration) and EO (i.e., having grown up in the home country, first generation speakers tend to be more positively oriented toward the HL and heritage culture (Chung 2010);
  • addressing changes in EO patterns across a speaker's lifespan (Chociej 2010, Flores Ferrán 2010).


Chociej, J. 2010. Bilingual Workshop in Theoretical Linguistics, Toronto.

Chung, S. 2010. Code-switching as a means of cultural identity among Koreans in Toronto. Toronto Undergraduate Linguistics Conference, University of Toronto.

Flores Ferrán, N. 2010. Social Variables and Spanish Speakers in the U.S.: Data Collection Concerns. NWAV39 Plenary address, San Antonio, TX

Hoffman, M. & J. Walker. 2010.Ethnolects and the city: Ethnic orientation and linguistic variation in Toronto English. Language Variation and Change 22:37-67.

Keefe, Susan, & Amado Padilla. 1987. Chicano Ethnicity. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press

Nagy, N., N. Aghdasi, D. Denis, A. Motut, & D. Uscher. 2010.Pro-drop in Heritage Languages: A cross-linguistic study of contact-induced changeNWAV 39, San Antonio, TX.

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