To appear in International Journal of Bilingualism


Linguistic attitudes and contact effects in Toronto's heritage languages:
A variationist sociolinguistic investigation

Naomi Nagy
Department of Linguistics, University of Toronto, Canada

I review several methods of constructing bridges between structural linguistic variation in language contact situations and linguistic attitudes and prestige. Data is examined for heritage varieties of Cantonese, Faetar, Italian, Korean, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian spoken in Toronto, Canada, and in the corresponding homeland varieties, in an effort to consider how the notions of 'prestige' and 'attitude' are best operationalized in heritage-language studies and to seek associations between structural variation and prestige. Linguistic variation is explored via multivariate analysis of (linguistic and) social factors, in order to determine which factors best account for the selection of competing variants of selected sociolinguistic variables (primarily null subject variation and VOT) in spontaneous speech. The attitudinal or prestige aspect is explored in several ways: comparison of ethnolinguistic vitality, language status (in popular and academic media), and ethnic orientation. It is hypothesized that:

These hypotheses are not supported by our data.


Heritage language, variationist sociolinguistics, prestige, attitude, ethnic orientation, ethnolinguistic vitality


This research is supported by SSHRC grants 410-2009-2330 and 435-2016-1430, the Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies, the Shevchenko Foundation and the University of Toronto.


I am indebted to the many speakers who contributed time and expertise; the research assistants (past and present) who collected, curated and analyzed the data, and to the participants and organizers of the SS21 panel "Exploring attitude and prestige in the 'heritage language' context" for constructive critique.