Sali A. Tagliamonte

University of Toronto

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Tagliamonte and Roeder 2009
Tagliamonte and Molfenter 2007
Toronto English Project

Tagliamonte and Roeder 2009 (© 2009 Sali A. Tagliamonte)

2009. Sali A. Tagliamonte and Rebecca V. Roeder. Variation in the English definite article: Socio-historical linguistic in t'speech community. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 13(4), 435-471.

This paper provides a sociolinguistic analysis of variation in the English definite article, a.k.a. definite article reduction (DAR), in the city of York, northeast Yorkshire, England. Embedding the analysis in historical, dialectological and contemporary studies of this phenomenon, the findings uncover a rich system of variability between the standard forms as well as reduced and zero variants. These are involved in a system of multicausal constraints, phonological, grammatical, and discourse-pragmatic that are consistent across the speech community. However, the reduced variants are not derivative of each other, but reflect contrasting functions in the system. Interestingly, the reduced variants are accelerating in use among the young men, suggesting that DAR is being recycled as an identitymarker of the local vernacular. This change is put in sociohistorical context by an appeal to the recently developing interest and evolving prestige of Northern Englishes more generally.

Audio examples of definite article reduction in York English (? = reversed glottal stop)

Male speaker born in 1906 (91 years old in 1997)

The main thing is be happy. And if I get a bit miserable with miself, I go t ? top ? garden and talk to mi tomatoes.

Male speaker born in 1905 (91 years old in 1996)

T' only thing - only way you'd find ? well would be to follow ? pipe from where ? pump was.

Female speaker born in 1959 (38 years old in 1997)

We both went t ? chip shop. Next thing I know, these fellas are picking me up off the floor (laughs). I remember handin' t' ten pound note over and that was it...gone onto ? concrete floor.

Female speaker born in 1959 (38 years old in 1997)

These professional ones that fish on ? lakes now all ? time. You ever been up there t ? lakes? [To the Lake District? Yeah. I used to go up there quite a bit with my parents.]

Tagliamonte and Molfenter 2007 (© 2007 Sali A. Tagliamonte)

2007. Sali A. Tagliamonte and Sonja Molfenter. How'd you get that accent? Acquiring a second dialect of the same language. Language in Society, 36(5), 649-675.

This article presents a case study of second dialect acquisition by three children over six years as they shift from Canadian to British English. Informed by Chambers's principles of second dialect acquisition, the analysis focuses on a frequent and socially embedded linguistic feature, T-voicing (e.g., pudding versus putting). An extensive corpus and quantitative methods permit tracking the shift to British English as it is happening. Although all of the children eventually sound local, the acquisition process is complex. Frequency of British variants rises incrementally, lagging behind the acquisition of variable constraints, which are in turn ordered by type. Internal patterns are acquired early, while social correlates lag behind. Acceleration of second dialect variants occurs at well-defined sociocultural milestones, particularly entering the school system. Successful second dialect acquisition is a direct consequence of sustained access to and integration with the local speech community.

Audio examples of Tara acquiring British English:

January 1, 1996

Sali: But she can't do anything with it, sweetheart. Where are you going, Shay?
Tara: Mommy, but she's got [d] it [d] on herself.
Sali: Could you stay on your chair, please?
Tara: Well she's got [d] it [d] on herself. Mommy, I'm getting [d] very cross with you.
Sali: Why?

June 4, 1996

Tara: Thank you, Mum. It's making me draw much better [d]. Look at my girls. Mine are prettier [d] than Shaman's.

December 26, 1996

Tara: Is that a beautiful [d] thing? We'll do the inside of that [?] after. So let's do teamwork. I'll do this, and then you do that.
Sali: Okay.
Tara: And then we'll do- we'll both do this different patterns [d].
Sali: Okay.
Tara: Today we're gointa do very very nice patterns [?].

March 9, 1997

Sali: This is March the ninth, nineteen ninety seven.
Tara: At March the nineteen ninety [t] seven.

March 9, 1997

Tara: Mommy! That will be beautiful [t] in the end, won't it?
Sali: Mm-hm. Mommy's putting [d] sparkles in, so it will be blue with sparkles. What do you think?
Tara: Beautiful [d].
Shaman: Beautiful [d].

March 18, 1997

Tara: Butter [t], melted butter [t]. Melted butter [t].
Shaman: Mom, we always started [d] out by butter [d].
Sali: Well, you should be knowing this recipe by heart now. 'Kay, we save this-
Tara: Butter [d], melted butter [d], egg. I don't know what the rest.

August 24, 1997

Tara: Look at what [?] I'm making, Mum, clover leaves.
Sali: That's very nice.
Tara: Shaman's not making it [?] as nice as me.
Sali: Shaman's doing his own thing and you're doing your thing.
Tara: But [?] I really want to have mm cardboard.
Shaman: Well, sorry, I needed cardboard.
Tara: Well I'll get [d] it next. What ha- ppened? Did you cut yourself? (inc) acting [t] funny. Mum, Shaman's acting [t] funny with his finger. What's the matter [d] Shay? Did you cut yourself? Did you do something wrong? I need a bit [d] of brown, for a deer.

October 12, 1997

Tara: Girls are better [d] than boys I think. Mm. Mommy, you know, girls- guess what? Guess what, boys at my school think girls are sort [d] of rubbish.
Sali: They do? Well, they're wrong. They're wrong, Tara. Boys and girls just aren't the-
Shaman: Has Daddy got the garbage can out there?
Tara: Mommy have you- have you got [?] a clue what [?] I'm drawing?
Sali: No.
Freya: Draw in there.
Tara: Look, look at [?] it. Look at [t] it.
Sali: Oh I think it's a Christmas tree.
Tara: Yes.

November 1, 1997

Tara: What was your favourite thing when you were little [?] ?
Sali: I don't know, can't even remember.
Tara: What did you hate when you were little [?] ?
Sali: Snakes.
Tara: Snakes? No, not [?] an animal. What kinds of things did you hate [?] eating [?] ?
Sali: Cooked green peppers, I didn't like.

March 21, 1998

Tara: Starting [t] to get juicy. Freya, that's- Freya just took a bite [?] out [?] of this.
Sali: Freya-
Freya: (inc)
Tara: Yes you did, you bad girl. That's not [?] allowed. No you're not, Freya. If I have- If I have a cook, no one lets anyone steal batter [d] for my cakes.

April 24, 1998

Tara: Daddy said he forgot [?] about [?] it [?] and he didn't.

April 24, 1998

Tara: Have we got [?] eggs?
Sali: Hmm?
Shaman: Yeah.
Tara: We've got two eggs, quarter [d] cup of flour, half a cup of butter [d].
Freya: (inc)
Tara: Have we got [?] all of that [?] ingredients?

July 12, 1998

Tara: Okay, Mommy, have you got [t] a three? Ha!
Sali: Three, Frey. Okay, have you got [d] an ace?
Tara: Nope. Fish. (laughter)
Freya: She has got [?] a ace.
Tara: I haven't got [d] an ace! Freya's lying. Freya was cheating [t] then. Cheater [t].

July 12, 1998

Tara: Do you know what [d] it [?] is now?

September 13, 1998

Tara: Mommy, I'm right.
Freya: No, Tara's not.
Tara: Yes I am. It [t] is an elephant, isn't [t] it, Mommy?
Sali: (inc) elephant to me.
Freya: It isn't. It's a hippo.
Tara: No it's- isn't. It's an elephant, isn't [t] it, Mommy?
Sali: Mh-mm.
Tara: See.

November 21, 1998

Tara: Mommy, there's the potato [t].
Sali: Excellent.
Tara: Can I cut [t] it [t] up?

January 14, 1999

Tara: Have you got [d] a joker?
Sali: Wait.
Freya: We've got a-
Tara: Have you got [?] a joker?

July 27, 2001

Tara: Yeah, she's gonna get [?] out [?] of it. She's got really sick and tired of it. 'Cause she can't do anything, she can just walk around in it. But, her leg's getting [?] better [?]. 'Cause you c-- ‘Cause when I went down to Joanna's sleepover you could actually see the bump in her cast where the bone poked out [?] of her skin.
Helen: (disgusted noises)
Tara: (laughs) Exactly. Yeah, but she's really sick and tired- but she's got [?] a present for when she leave- when she gets out [?] of the cast, go straight to park. 'Cause she always wants to go to the park but she's not [t] allowed.

Findings from the Toronto English Project (© 2006 Sali A. Tagliamonte)

2005. Alexandra D'Arcy. Like: Syntax and development. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Toronto.

2006. Sali A. Tagliamonte. "So cool, right?" Canadian English entering the 21st century. Canadian Journal of Linguistics, 51(2/3), 309-331.

The use of quotatives in Toronto

Quotatives are words that people use to quote what people say. Here are some examples of quotatives in Toronto English:

He's like, "Yeah."
So then I was like, "Oh no!"
I'm thinking to myself, "What does she want?"
I just said, "Oh, now I know I'm in trouble."

This figure shows how often each of several quotatives is used in Toronto by people of different ages:

The two most frequent quotatives are be like and say. People over 40 years old primarily use say while people under 30 prefer be like. For the in-between group, the 30- to 40-year-olds, there is competition between say and be like.

The use of intensifiers in Toronto

Intensifiers are adverbs that boost or maximize the meaning of an adjective, as in the examples below:

If he's really dull, but he's like, so hot...
It was very pretty...I loved her hair, it was amazing...and it was really pretty.

This figure shows how often each of the main intensifiers in Toronto is used by people of different ages:

Very is quickly falling out of favour. Use of really is increasing, and so is beginning to rise too. These developments are particularly interesting because they differentiate generations of speakers. If you are over 40, your main intensifer is very. If you are under 40, it's really.

The use of like in Toronto (D'Arcy 2005)

A lot of people think that teenagers use like frequently. But how frequently? Can like really go anywhere? Here are some examples of like in Toronto:

18-year-old female speaker:

I love Carrie. Like, Carrie's like a little like out-of-it, but like she's the funniest, like she's a space-cadet. Anyways, so she's like taking shots, she's like talking away to me, and she's like, "What's wrong with you?"

75-year-old female speaker:

Well, you just cut out like a girl figure and a boy figure and then you'd cut out like a dress or a skirt or a coat, and like you'd colour it.

In her 2005 Ph.D. dissertation, Alexandra D'Arcy analyzed the use of like acording to speaker age in Toronto. One of her main findings is that like is used systematically and is gradually evolving. This figure shows the linguistic contexts in which like appears.

Like never exceeds more than 30% of the contexts - even among teenagers! Notice that once like spreads to a new location in the grammar, all of the next-youngest speakers start using it there as well.

For more information on like, contact Alex.

The use of tags in Toronto

Tags are forms which often end sentences. Although eh has become an icon of Canadian English, there are actually dozens of other ways Canadians end their sentences, as in the examples below:

It's about like animals and stuff, right?
I believe in God and everything. But I stopped because my mom stuck me in Sunday school. Like I don't mean to be rude to God or whatever. But that was so boring.
They would sing for hours, you know.
I think they paid me fifteen cents a day or something.
They weren't pissed off or anything.
And then, pretty much I got to know the maze, so.
Cheese cleans their teeth, though, eh.

And stuff is used most often by younger people, while you know is preferred by older speakers. Or something, on the other hand, is relatively stable across age groups:

What about the Canadian eh? It is more a feature of the elderly. The favourite tag in most age groups is right. There are also two newer tags on the rise in Toronto: whatever and so:

The use of have/has in Toronto to describe possessions and states-of-affairs

Torontonians can say 'I have a cat' or 'I've got a cat'. Notice the different uses in these examples:

It has a huge diving platform, diving tower and an Olympic size pool, and we've got hundreds of thousands of people going into that pool.
So you have a mixture of, you know, highly educated people, you got a lot of actors and professors, right?

Do people choose between have, got, and have got randomly? Or is there a pattern? This figure shows how often each form is used in Toronto by people of different ages:

The most popular choice is have. The younger the speakers, the more often they use have. It is virtually the only form used by the youngest age-group. Have got is more popular among the older speakers. Got on its own is barely used at all in Toronto.

The use of have to/has to to express obligation or necessity in Toronto

Deontic modality is the expression of obligation or necessity. There are many ways to express obligation or necessity in Toronto English:

I must admit I think I was a little bit of a city snob.
And I gotta say, that's pretty lucky.
I have to tell you, they smile, say, "Hello".
She would be like, "No no no, we've got to keep going, we have to make it to the next level."
I said, "You have to come up." I said, "You must come up." And um the person on the phone, I said, "I've gotta go."

This figure shows how often each form is used by speakers of different ages:

Must is quite rare; have got to and got to are not very frequent either. Instead, have to starts out quite high among the oldest speakers (60%) and is virtually the only form used among the youngest speakers (90%).

The use of the 'going to' future in Toronto

There are two main forms used to express the future in Toronto English: will and going to.

Music's gonna evolve and change, so language will evolve and change too.
If it's gonna be that much of an inconvenience, I'll just do it myself.
There's one lady there, she's going to be ninety. She'll be ninety years old.
I'm afraid that she's going to get annoyed of me. Eventually she will but yeah, it's great.

This figure shows the distribution of these forms in Toronto by people of different ages:
Will and going to are in competition across the board. However, among younger speakers, going to is rising. Will going to overtake will? Only time will tell.

Last updated: April 9, 2021

© 2014-21 Sali A. Tagliamonte