The status of the present subjunctive in Acadian French

Phillip Comeau

York University


The fate of the subjunctive in contemporary colloquial French is a matter of some debate (Laurier 1989; Poplack 1992). While some suggest its demise, Poplack (1992, 1997) has found that a number of linguistic factors, including choice of particular matrix verbs and non-verbal matrices, affect subjunctive use in Ottawa-Hull French, as do social factors including age, sex, degree of bilingualism, and neighbourhood. This study focuses on a variety of Acadian French spoken in southwestern Nova Scotia (Baie Sainte-Marie). Acadian French is well-known for preserving rich inflectional morphology lost in other varieties of French, and Baie Sainte-Marie is particularly conservative in this regard. Unsurprisingly, then, it retains the present subjunctive (1).


(1) Je sais faut que ça seye fait.

I know is-necessary that it be.SUBJ. done

‘I know it has to be done.’ (GC-11-29)


I consider the linguistic conditioning of subjunctive usage in this variety and also in earlier French, with data from 17th century plays (cf. Martineau & Mougeon 2003). Preliminary results for the present-day data show a strong association between use of the verb falloir and subjunctive usage, and somewhat less so for the verbs vouloir, espérer, croire point, and aimer. As well, I investigate the influence of non-verbal matrices, specifically avant que ‘before’, mais que ‘when’, and après que ‘after’, where the subjunctive also appears. The paper thus contributes to the study of both variation in present-day French and the degree of persistence of constraint hierarchies across time.



Laurier, Michel. 1989. Le subjonctif dans le parler franco-ontarien: un mode en voie de disparition? In R. Mougeon & É. Beniak (Eds.), Le français canadien parlé hord Québec: Aperçu sociolinguistique, 105-126. Québec: Les Presses de l’Université de Laval.

Martineau, France & Raymond Mougeon. 2003. A Sociolinguistic study of the origins of ne deletion in European and Quebec French. Language 79.1:118-152.

Poplack, Shana. 1992. The Inherent variability of the French subjunctive. In C. Lauefer & T.

Morgan (Eds.), Theoretical Studies in Romance Linguistics, 235-263. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Poplack, Shana. 1997. The Sociolinguistic dynamics of apparent convergence. In G. Guy, C. Freagin, D. Schiffrin & J. Baugh (Eds.), Towards a Social Science of Language, 285-309. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.


Diachronic evidence of was/were variation: going back in time through the Ottawa Repository of Early African American Correspondence (OREAAC)


Nicté Fuller Medina

University of Ottawa


            The current study mines the Ottawa Repository of Early African American Correspondence to explore was/were variation in the English of African American settlers to Liberia as illustrated in (1a-b). This corpus consists of 427 letters written between 1834 and 1866 by semiliterate African-Americans (Van Herk & Poplack 2003):


 1.        a. there was dead trees (100/7894) 1

            b. I saw Mr Says today and told me you was well (25/1568)


Was/were variation is widely attested across contemporary dialects of English  e.g. in Britain (Tagliamonte 1999, Britain 2002) and Canada (Smith & Tagliamonte 1998, 2000). Smith and Tagliamonte’s (1998, 2000) comparison of Buckie (Scotland) with African-Canadian and British-origin communities in Nova Scotia indicate that African Nova Scotian English is of Northern British origin and that contemporary patterns reflect synchronic retention. Since OREAAC correspondents emigrated from the South of the United States as did African diaspora Nova Scotians, this study opens up interesting avenues for cross-variety comparison and tracking inter-variety affiliations (Poplack and Tagliamonte 2001: 96).

               An analysis of 822 tokens reveal robust rates of leveling to non-standard was in standard were contexts. Furthermore, The NP>PRO constraint is found to be operative and data reveal compelling parallelisms regarding leveling of non-standard was across grammatical person. This study provides diachronic evidence for historical links between the OREAAC data and contemporary African disapora varieties of English and also highlights the utility of written documents composed by semiliterate writers as an important historical source of vernacular usage.



Britain, David. 2002. Diffusion, levelling, simplification and reallocation in past tense BE in the English Fens.  Journal of Sociolinguistics  6. 16-43.

Poplack, Shana and Sali Tagliamonte. 2001. African American English in the Diaspora. Malden, Mass. : Blackwell Publishers

Tagliamonte, Sali and Jennifer Smith. 1998. Roots of English in the African American Diaspora. Links & Letters 5. 147-165.

Tagliamonte, Sali and Jennifer Smith. 2000. Old was, New Ecology: Viewing English through the Sociolinguistics Filter. The English history of the African American Diaspora ed. by Shana Poplack. 141-171. Malden, Mass. : Blackwell Publishers.

Van Herk, Gerard. 2002. A message from the past: Past temporal reference in Early African American letters. PhD. Dissertation. University of Ottawa.

Van Herk, Gerard and Shana Poplack. 2003. Rewriting the past: Bare verbs in the Ottawa Repository of Early African American Correspondence. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 18.2. 231-266.


1. Codes refer to speaker number and line number in the OREAAC (Van Herk & Poplack 2003). Examples are reproduced verbatim from correspondents’ letters.   


The Presence and Progress of the Canadian Shift in Halifax and Vancouver

Meredith Tamminga

Emily Sadlier-Brown

McGill University


Clarke et al. (1995) identified the Canadian Shift (CS) as a change in progress in Ontario involving /ae/ retraction and /i/ and /e/ lowering. Later studies have found the CS in other Canadian locations but have not agreed on its phonetic direction, with Boberg (2005) describing a change characterized by parallel retraction in Montreal. The geographic extent of the CS is also uncertain; Labov, Ash and Boberg (2006) did not find that it was present in the Maritimes. This study compares data from Halifax and Vancouver to further investigate these issues. We recorded interviews with 26 speakers native to Halifax and Vancouver. Word list tokens of  the relevant vowels were analysed acoustically using CSL and then compared statistically across age groups and cities.


The CS is shown to be present in Halifax speech, indicating that Labov et al.’s (2006) isogloss defining the Canadian dialect region may need to be extended to include the Maritimes. Although the CS is not following identical phonetic paths in Vancouver and Halifax (suggesting a possible role for regional variation), both cities clearly demonstrate chain shift behavior rather

than parallel retraction. We also observe that the older Halifax speakers maintain an additional low central vowel, /ah/, which contrary to expectation has not inhibited their adoption of the shift. We therefore propose that the CS should be discussed as a change restricted to the lax vowel subsystem (Labov, 1994), operating independently of other subsystems. Overall, the CS

appears to be a uniting feature of Canadian English.



Boberg, Charles. (2005). The Canadian shift in Montreal. Language Variation and Change17:133-154.

Clarke, Sandra, Elms, Ford & Youssef, Amani. (1995). The third dialect of English: Some Canadian evidence. Language Variation and Change 7: 209-228.

Labov, William. (1994). Principles of linguistic change: Internal factors. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell.

Labov, William, Ash, Sharon, & Boberg, Charles. (2006). Atlas of North American English: Phonetics, phonology, and sound change. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.


The Future in Friends

An investigation of future temporal reference in media-based language

Tanya Romaniuk

York University

      Much has been written on the variable expression of future temporal reference in English (Poplack & Tagliamonte, 2000; Roy, 2007; Torres Cacoullos & Walker, forthcoming; Walker, Poplack, & Torres Cacoullos, 2004) as well as other languages (Blas Arroyo, 2008; Poplack & Malvar, 2006, 2007; Poplack & Turpin, 1999; Walker et al., 2004), using traditional sociolinguistic interviews as the source of data. In this paper, I examine the usefulness of media-based data, the extent to which such data reflects what is going on in contemporary English with respect to the expression of future time, and ‘just how far the use of such data can go’ (cf. Tagliamonte & Roberts, 2005: 297). The corpus on which the present analysis is based comes from unofficial transcripts from the entire first season of the popular American television program, Friends. Drawing on previous analyses of future temporal reference and the literature of grammaticization, I operationalize a number of linguistic constraints that contribute to the choice of going to and will, the two main morphosyntactic variants used to express future time (see, for example, Torres Cacoullos & Walker, forthcoming). Comparing and contrasting the results of a multivariate analysis of these data with those of earlier studies, I demonstrate how the use of media data can prove a worthwhile investigation. Given some of the particular ‘functional niches’ each construction occupies, I also provide some suggestions on directions for future research on the future in English and other languages.        


Blas Arroyo, J. L. (2008). The variable expression of future tense in peninsular Spanish: The present (and future) of inflectional forms in the Spanish spoken in a bilingual region. Language variation and change, 20(1).

Poplack, S., & Malvar, E. (2006). Modelling linguistic change: The past and the present of the future in Brazilian Portuguese. In F. Hinskens (Ed.), Language variation--European perspectives: Selected papers from the Third International Conference on Language Variation in Europe (ICLaVE 3), Amsterdam, June 2005 (pp. 169-197). Amsterdam John Benjamins.

Poplack, S., & Malvar, E. (2007). Elucidating the transition period in linguistic change: The expression of the future in Brazilian Portuguese. Probus, 19(1), 121-169.

Poplack, S., & Tagliamonte, S. (2000). The grammaticization of going to in (African American) English. Language Variation and Change, 12, 315-342.

Poplack, S., & Turpin, D. (1999). Does the FUTUR have a future in (Canadian) French? Probus, 11, 133-164.

Roy, J. (2007). Peering into the future: The emergence of going to in the 18th century. Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation 36, University of Pennsylvania.

Tagliamonte, S., & Roberts, C. (2005). So weird; so cool; So innovative: The use of intensifiers in the television series Friends. American Speech, 80(3), 280-300.

Torres Cacoullos, R., & Walker, J. A. (forthcoming). The present of the future: Discourse variation and the bounds of grammaticization. Unpublished manuscript, University of New Mexico/York University.

Walker, J. A., Poplack, S., & Torres Cacoullos, R. (2004). Looking into the future in English and French. The role of minority status in language contact and change: The past and the future in Canada. Paper presented at the Sociolinguistics Symposium 15, University of Newcastle, UK.

Shifts and Splits

 The Canadian shift as a catalyst for phonemic change

Rebecca Roeder

University of Toronto

Observations on sound change from the historical record have revealed several widespread cross-linguistic tendencies that can be framed in terms of violable principles, and which guide the interpretation of results from contemporary synchronic studies on vowel change (Labov 1994; Labov, Ash and Boberg 2006). Relying on empirical evidence from two cities in Ontario—Toronto and Thunder Bay—the current study provides an apparent time analysis that enables a unified account of the Canadian Shift as a change in progress which follows these Labovian principles of sound change and is diffusing outward from large urban centres to smaller cities and towns, corresponding with a cascade or gravity model of diffusion (Trudgill 1974, Callary 1975). The study also demonstrates a link between the Canadian Shift and the development of the merger of /æ/ and /e/ before voiced velars—as in flag and plague, respectively—which has been observed in parts of the northern United States and Canada (Labov, Ash and Boberg 2006; Zeller 1997). The proposed causal link between the Canadian Shift and the phonologically conditioned split in words containing /æ/ illustrates the symbiotic relationship between phonetics and phonology in processes of sound change, as well as allowing for insight into the complex relationship between national boundaries and dialect diffusion. 


Callary, R.E. 1975. Phonological change and the development of an urban dialect in Illinois. Language in Society 4: 155-170.

Labov, William. 1994. Principles of Linguistic Change (Vol. 1): Internal Factors. Oxford: Blackwell.

Labov, William, Sharon Ash & Charles Boberg. (2006). The Atlas of North American English.  Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Roeder, Rebecca and Lidia-Gabriela Jarmasz. 2007. “The Canadian Shift in Toronto”.  Paper presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) 36. Philadelphia, PA, October 14.

Trudgill, P. 1974. Linguistic change and diffusion: Description and explanation in sociolinguistic dialect geography. Language in Society 3: 215-246

Zeller, Christine. 1997. “The Investigation of a Sound Change in Progress: /ae/ to /e/ in Midwestern American English”. Journal of English Linguistics 25: 142-155.

The effects of prosodic score, tempo and social identity on vowel reduction in Montreal French

Henrietta Cedergren

Université du Québec à Montréal


Casual observations of everyday speech in the French speaking world concur that the sound patterns of native speakers function as identity markers of regional origin. Thus, in general, North American descendants of French settlers are readily recognized as non Europeans during social encounters in Europe. However, native speakers, be they of European or north American origin, are less successful in perceiving subtle markers of social class, ethnic, age group and gender identity of speakers outside of their speech community. That this is so follows from the fact that sociolinguistic communicative competence implies knowledge of grammar and knowledge of community practice of language use.


The variationist research paradigm initiated by Labov (1966) has been concerned with the analysis of structure/function relations as revealed by patterns of everyday speech in socially constituted communities. This research paradigm has contributed evidence that variation in patterns of everyday speech are constrained both by properties that relate to speaker social identity characteristics and by properties of sound patterns, such as segmental features, position in the string, prosodic prominence, etc. A paradigm variable of French phonology such as liaison exemplifies how variation is constrained by properties of speech text and properties of context.


In this paper, we examine vowel reduction processes in Montreal French: the vowel types that are affected by reduction and the socio-structural parameters that underlie reduction in spontaneous speech.


The data for this study come from a subsample of the Cedergren-Sankoff sociolinguistic corpus of Montreal French. The current analysis makes use of a digitized database of 26657 segment durations produced by 16 speakers differentiated according to gender, age group membership and social class. Three minute excerpts of running speech were sampled at a rate of 16kHz/s. Segment durations were measured by manually placed cursors time-aligned with a waveform. The data was annotated for features of surface prosodic constituency, syllable composition and tempo. Multiple regression analysis is used to determine the relative influence of prosodic constituency (onset and rhyme complexity, positional effects within the intonational phrase and the rhythm group), prominence and tempo on vowel reduction. Cluster analysis is used to identify inter-speaker social differences.


Newfoundland and Ocracoke Englishes

An examination of phonological and morphosyntactic features of two North American dialects

Jennifer Thorburn

Memorial University of Newfoundland


Although geographically distant, the communities of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland, and Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, have similar histories and shared  donor dialects. Despite their commonalities, the two dialects spoken in these communities are on different trajectories: Ocracoke English (OE) is considered highly endangered (Wolfram 2006) while Newfoundland English (NE) is more stable, though by no means safe (Clarke 2006). This combination of shared inputs and differing levels of sociolinguistic vitality permit us to study divergent processes of language change by  investigating constraints on the use of two variables – one phonological, one morphosyntactic – in an age-stratified sample (N=24) drawn from the two communities.


The phonological variable selected is /aj/, the most iconic OE variable, prototypically produced as [çj], as in hoi toide, although there are other variants, including standard [aj] and monophthongal [a:] (Schilling-Estes 1996; Wolfram, Hazen and Schilling-Estes 1999). /aj/ is also realized as [çj] in some parts of Newfoundland (Harris 2006, Lanari 1994), although other variants ([I] and [Ej]) have also been documented (Lanari 1994, Newhook 2002).


Negation, the morphosyntactic variable, has not been studied in great detail in either community. Work in Ocracoke has focused primarily on the regularization of past tense be (Wolfram, Hazen and Schilling-Estes 1999; Schilling-Estes and Wolfram 1994)

while research on Newfoundland varieties has been limited to occasional observations (Clarke 2004, Harris 2006, Noseworthy 1971), making the present paper the first variationist analysis of negation in NE, as well as one of a few studies comparing NE to a

variety other than its donor dialects or Canadian English.



Clarke, Sandra (2004). Newfoundland English: Morphology and syntax. In B. Kortmann, E.W. Schneider, K. Burridge, R. Mesthrie and C. Upton (eds.), A Handbook of Varieties of English, Vol. 2: Morphology and Syntax, p. 95-110. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

------- (2006). From cod to cool (Newfoundland, Canada). In W. Wolfram and B. Ward  (eds.), American Voices: How Dialects Differ From Coast to Coast, p. 203-209. Malden: Blackwell.

Harris, Linda (2006). Two Island Dialects of Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland. M.A. thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Lanari, Catherine E. Penney (1994). A Sociolinguistic Study of the Burin Region of Newfoundland. M.A. thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Newhook, Amanda (2002). A Sociolinguistic Study of Burnt Islands, Newfoundland. M.A. thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Noseworthy, Ronald G. (1971). A Dialect Survey of Grand Bank, Newfoundland. M.A. thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Schilling-Estes (1996). The Linguistic and Sociolinguistic Status of /ay/ in Outer Banks English. PhD dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

------- and Walt Wolfram (1994). Convergent explanation and alternative regularization patterns: Were/weren’t leveling in a vernacular English variety. Language Variation and Change 6.3: 273-302.

Wolfram, Walt (2006). Dialects in danger (Outer Banks, NC). In W. Wolfram and B.  Ward (eds.), American Voices: How Dialects Differ From Coast to Coast, p. 189- 195. Malden: Blackwell.

-------, Kirk Hazen and Natalie Schilling-Estes (1999). Dialect Change and Maintenance on the Outer Banks. Publication of the American Dialect Society 81. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama.


Above and Beyond Phonology in Ethnolinguistic Variation

 Variable Agreement in Toronto English Existentials

James A. Walker

York University


Recent work on phonological variation in Toronto English shows that, while speakers from different ethnic groups may vary in their overall rates of use, parallel linguistic conditioning across groups indicates that they share a single linguistic system (Hoffman & Walker 2007). The

focus of this work assumes that phonology is more salient than grammar in ethnolinguistic variation (Giles 1979; Fought 2006). However, as shown in (1), there is robust variation in one area of the grammar: agreement with plural existentials. Does this grammatical variable function as an ethnic marker?


(1) a. We had to hang our food because there were bears. (TO/4/774)

b. There’s black bears, I believe there’s brown bears. (TO/6/59)


This paper examines variable agreement in a corpus of Toronto English, with speakers stratified by ethnic group (British/Irish, Italian, Chinese) and ethnic-enclave status. All plural existentials were extracted and coded for singular or plural agreement, as well as for a series of linguistic

factors: verb tense, contraction, polarity, modifier type, plural –s, intervening material and NP extension.


Preliminary results show linguistic conditioning of singular agreement similar to that in other Canadian locales (Meechan & Foley 1994; Walker 2007): contraction, past tense, absence of plural –s and intervening material all favour. While ethnic group and enclave status are

significant, the linguistic conditioning is nearly identical across all groups. These findings suggest that, just as with phonological variation, speakers of different ethnic backgrounds may differ in rates of use while sharing the same grammatical system.



Fought, C. 2006. Language and Ethnicity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Giles, H. 1979. Ethnicity markers in speech. In K.S. Scherer & H. Giles (eds.), Social Markers in Speech. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 251-89.

Hoffman, M.F. & J.A. Walker. 2007. Ethnolects and the city: Ethnicity and linguistic variation in Toronto English. Ms., York University.

Meechan, M. & M. Foley. 1994. On resolving disagreement: Linguistic theory and variation —there’s bridges. Language Variation and Change 6: 63-85.

Walker, J.A. 2007. “There’s bears back there”: Plural existentials and vernacular universals in (Quebec) English. English World-Wide 28: 147-66.


What’s new?

 A variationist analysis of the marking of discourse-new referents in children’s speech

Stephen Levey

University of Ottawa

To date, the variationist framework has been most successfully applied to the study of adult and adolescent speech, with considerably less focus on younger populations. In this paper, I make use of this framework to uncover some of the ‘hidden’ constraints on variation (Poplack 2007:xii) in the marking of discourse-new referents in the vernacular speech of preadolescents, an age cohort which has not figured prominently in the foundational sociolinguistic literature.

      Previous research suggests that the marking of discourse-new referents is sensitive to both speaker sex (Cheshire 2005), and age, with important developmental changes taking place in preadolescence in the use of local marking (i.e. use of nominal determiners) and global marking strategies (i.e. manipulation of clausal syntax) (Hickman et al.1996) to identify discourse-new entities.

      Drawing a on a recently compiled corpus of preadolescent vernacular speech recorded from children age 7-11, I investigate variation in the use of diverse strategies, including pragmatic particles, nominal determiners, existentials and clefts constructions, which are employed either alone or combinatorially to introduce new referents into discourse, as in:

    1. she started hitting him with this like crowbar [8M10/11]
    2. there was these dogs chasing them and stuff  [6F10/11]

      Preliminary analysis of the data reveals that variant choice correlates in nuanced ways with both speaker sex and age. Provisional findings reveal evidence of provocative developmental changes in the use of vernacular forms to facilitate the identification of discourse-new entities, offering fresh insights into the nature of child language variation. 


Cheshire, Jenny (2005). Syntactic variation and beyond: Gender and social class variation in the use of discourse-new markers. Journal of Sociolinguistics 9: 479-508.

Hickmann, Maya, Henriette Hendriks, Françoise Roland, and James Liang (1996). The marking of new information in children’s narratives: A comparison of English, French, German and Mandarin Chinese. Journal of Child Language 23: 591-619.

Poplack, Shana (2007). Foreword. In Joan Beal, Karen Corrigan and Hermann Moisl (eds.) Creating and Digitizing Language Corpora. Vol 1.: Syncronic Databases. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. ix-xiii.

Variable r-lessness in a border community

Laura Baxter

University of Toronto

R-vocalization is a well-known, if currently receding, characteristic of certain American varieties of English, particularly in New England, but it has never been reported in any part of Canada. This paper presents data from a small community, Stanstead, Quebec, located on the Vermont border. Using data from interviews conducted by amateur historians in the late 1970s, I present a sociolinguistic analysis of the rate of r-vocalization (r-dropping) in the speech of elderly members of this community at that time.  

Phonologically, r-vocalization was found to be most likely in unstressed syllables, morpheme finally, and in the environment preceding a semi-vowel. Socially, men were found to vocalize /r/ more than twice as much as women. Similarly, speakers in the lower socioeconomic group dropped /r/ twice as often as those of the higher class.  

I argue that the presence of r-vocalization in this Canadian community likely traces back to the first American settlers who emigrated from New England. While r-vocalization was still a prestige variant in New England at the time when the speakers in this study were acquiring their variety of English, it is clear from the data that the r-less form is no longer the prestige form in Stanstead at this time. Instead, the prestige form has shifted towards the Canadian r-pronouncing standard. 

Thus, despite being the descendants of New Englanders living in a border community, the residents of Stanstead clearly identify as Canadian, and this identity comes through in their speech. 


Kurath, Hans and McDavid, Raven I. 1961. The Pronunciation of English in the Atlantic States. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 

Labov, William.1966. The Social Stratification of English in New York City. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics. 

Labov, William, Sharon Ash and Charles Boberg. 2006. The atlas of North American English : phonetics, phonology, and sound change : a multimedia reference tool. New York: Mouton de Gruyter 

Trudgill, Peter and Elizabeth Gordon. 2006. "Predicting the past. Dialect archaeology and Australian English rhoticity." English World-Wide 27.3: 235-246 

Wells, John C. 1982. Accents of English (3 Volumes). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Wyld, Henry Cecil. 1936. A History of Modern Colloquial English. New York: Peter Smith.


A New Perspective on Deontic Modality in Canadian English

Derek Denis

University of Toronto


The Directions of Change corpus (DoC), a growing corpus of Canadian  English, is conducting interviews in small Ontario towns, as well as several ethnic  communities within Toronto (Tagliamonte 2007-2010). This paper is a preliminary quantitative investigation of the variable patterning of the deontic modality system in the DoC. Deontic modals are said to encode obligation/necessity as shown in (1).


(1) a. I couldn't stand being where the senators are, if they're winning, so I was like, "I have to come home". (Toronto, F/23)

b. I loved the solid toffee. I must go to a fair and get some. (Belleville, F/79)

c. It's gotta take its course. (Burnt River, M/86)


Tagliamonte and D’Arcy (2007) observe dramatic change in the frequency of different variants of deontic modality over time. Indeed, must has declined into obscurity while, at least in Toronto,  have to is clearly the primary form. Initial analysis reveals have to is not only widespread throughout southern Ontario, but the same internal constraints that are active in Toronto condition its realization. Furthermore, immigrant communities within Toronto appear to tackle the complex variation by acquiring the most frequent form in the native speech community, have to, and applying it near-categorically throughout the system. By considering social and linguistic factors, as well as the effect of community (location, size, immigration), this paper seeks to address the primary questions of the DoC project - “where did recent changes in Canadian English come from?” and “where are they headed?” (Tagliamonte 2007-2010).



Tagliamonte, S. (2007-2010). Directions of Change in Canadian English. Research Grant. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). #410 070 048.

Tagliamonte, S. & A. D’Arcy. (2007). The modals of obligation/necessity in Canadian perspective. English World Wide 28:1 (47-87)

The use of subject relatives in Quebec English

 Evidence of contact-induced language change?

Allison V. Lealess

Cheslea T. Smith

University of Ottawa


Whether language contact induces language change in contact situations is a contentious issue (Thomason & Kaufman 1988; Winford 2003) and of key interest to the status of Quebec English (QE), which, as a minority language, is claimed to have undergone change due to contact with Quebec French. Here, we adopt the variationist framework to empirically address these issues by taking as a diagnostic the variable use

of relative markers in subject function in restrictive relative clauses. In particular, since English speakers can alternate between several variants, including that and WH-forms (who, which), while in French the only option in this context is qui, which most literally  translates as who/which, it could be argued that contact with French may provoke greater use of WH-forms in QE.


We stratified a subsample of 16 Anglophones drawn from the Quebec English Corpus (Poplack et al. 2006) according to language status (contact vs. non-contact), age and bilingual ability. Over 800 tokens were extracted and coded for several factors reported to influence variant choice.

Multivariate analyses reveal that neither language status nor bilingual ability are selected as significant to variant choice, arguing against a convergence hypothesis. An analysis of linguistic conditioning across cohorts also fails to show evidence of contact-induced change. However, age is selected as significant to variant choice in the contact cohort, with younger speakers favouring who at .68 (overall rate of 48%). This finding may be taken as preliminary evidence that contact with French may be inducing greater use of who in QE.



Poplack, Shana, Walker, James, and Malcolmson, Rebecca. 2006. An English “like no other”?” Language contact and change in Quebec. Canadian Journal of Linguistics 51: 2/3. 185- 213.

Thomason, Sarah Grey, and Kaufman, Terrence. 1988. Language Contact, Creolization, and Genetic Linguistics. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. 13-34.

Winford, Donald. 2003. An Introduction to Contact Linguistics. Malden: Blackwell Publishers.


Breaking Old Habits

 Syntactic constraints underlying habitual effects in Newfoundland English

Gerard Van Herk

Memorial University of Newfoundland

Becky Childs

Coastal Carolina University

Across varieties of English, variable s-marking on present tense verbs (1-2) has been found to be conditioned by syntactic factors (subject type and adjacency) (Poplack & Tagliamonte 2001, Montgomery et al. 1993, Murray 1873, Walker 2001), semantic aspect (habituality) (Singler 1999, Clarke 1997), or both  (Van Herk & Walker 2005). 

(1) They finds the dumbest-of-the-dumb.

(2) I say my prayers and things like that.  

In this paper, we examine data (N=1090) from a noted aspect-marking variety, Newfoundland English, considered from a syntactic perspective. Multivariate analysis reveals a sharp split in the behaviour of the habitual types. When-type constructions (3) strongly favour s-marking, while adverbially marked habituals (4) actually disfavour s-marking, even compared to sentences with no overt indication of habituality (5). Lexical stativity effects are also prominent, which we attribute to a reallocation of functions triggered by dialect contact. 

(3) When you goes down around the wharf you’ll always end up doing something.

(4) I always goes up to Mick ‘s cabin on the weekends.

(5) But people pictures a Newfie as the dumbest person alive. 

We investigate two (possibly compatible) interpretations of our findings. In one, s-marking shares the job of habituality marking with adverbs of frequency and preverbal markers (do be, bees, steady). In the other, the aspectual category of habituality/durativity represents a grab-bag of competing syntactic constraints, whose relative frequency in other data sets might help explain conflicting findings in earlier studies.  


Clarke, Sandra. 1997. English verbal –s revisited: The evidence from Newfoundland. American Speech 72(3): 227-259.

Montgomery, Michael, Janet M. Fuller, and Sharon DeMarse. 1993. "'The Black Men Has Wives and Sweet Harts [and Third Person Plural -s] Jest like the White Men': Evidence for Verbal -s from Written Documents on Nineteenth-Century African American Speech." Language Variation and Change 5: 335-54.

Murray, James A. H. (1873). The dialect of the Southern Counties of Scotland: Its pronunciation, grammar and historical relations. London: Philological Society.

Poplack, Shana, and Tagliamonte, Sali. 2001. African American English in the Diaspora. Oxford: Blackwell.

Singler, John V. (1999) Passing verbal -s from Northern British Vernacular to the Liberian Settler English of Sinoe: Transfer interrupted! Paper presented at the special session on Accountability in Reconstructing Verbal –s, Methods in Dialectology X, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Van Herk, Gerard & Walker, James A. 2005. S marks the spot? Regional variation and early African American correspondence. Language Variation and Change 17 (2): 113-131.

Walker, James. 2001. Using the past to explain the present: Tense and temporal reference in Early African American English. Language Variation and Change 13(1): 1-35.

Walker, James, & Meyerhoff, Miriam. 2006. Zero copula in the eastern Caribbean: Evidence from Bequia. American Speech 81(2):146-163. 

Sociolinguistic Variation in Rijaal Alma, Saudi Arabia

Ahmad Assiri

Memorial University of Newfoundland

Since its establishment in 1932, Saudi Arabia has undergone fundamental political and economic changes which have paved the way for some noticeable socio-demographic changes.  In light of such changes, the current study investigates a sociolinguistic variation situation in Rijaal Alma, Asir Province. This rural community has experienced the effects of recent rapid changes in access to education and economic ecology.  To best capture this type of variation, two linguistic variables are analyzed: the definite article il- and its nonstandard variant im- (N= 1600); and the fricativized [x] of standard stop /k/ (N= 1225). These nonstandard variables are stigmatized outside of this community.

All in all, the high use of the local variant im- is attested among men. However, women use the local phonological variant [x] more than men. The data reveals that change in the linguistic behavior of women over the generations is primarily related to education. Among young speakers, nonlocal forms are preferred by educated speakers; whereas, uneducated speakers prefer the local variants.  Young men, unexpectedly, exceed old men in the high use of im-, but both show no difference in their use of [x].

The distribution of both stigmatized variants adds to the complexity of the linguistic situation in this community.  Pride of affiliation, the type of social network speakers are involved in, and the linguistic variants’ historical and geographic distributions, are principal considerations in interpreting variation in this community.   

  Cross-variety Comparison

 Use of Statitive Possesives

Yukiko Yoshizumi

University of Ottawa

     Language change may occur in different ways in different places (Trudgill, 1975). A great deal of researches has investigated various morphosyntactic variation, but, to date, little attention has been paid to stative possessives (see, however, Tagliamonte, 2003). There are three forms for denoting possession as in contemporary British English.

   (1) I have friends. (NECTE/Pvc01b)1

   (2) I’ve got nor more money. (NECTE/Pvc01v)

   (3) I got some old photo. (NECTE/Pvc018a)

     Using a variationist methodology and the comparative method, we examined how the use of stative possessives is internally and externally conditioned in Newcastle English and whether Newcastle English evinces parallels with other northern British English varieties observed in the literature (Tagliamonte, 2003). The data are taken from the Newcastle Electronic Corpus of Tyneside English (NECTE) (Beal et al., 2007a, 2007b). A total of 393 tokens were extracted from 32 speakers and coded for four linguistic factors reported to influence variant choice.

     Preliminary results show that the have got is more used than have in Newcastle English and that have is favoured by older speakers. It suggests the possibility of change in progress from have to have got in Newcastle English. Compared to the results of other northern British dialects (York, Wheatley Hill, and Buckie) in Tagliamonte (2003), our results are parallel to them in terms of constraint hierarchies and direction of effect for each of internal factors. Our results suggest that Northern England constitutes a uniform area of stative possessives.  


Beal, J.C., Corrigan, K.P. and Moisl, H.L. (2007a). Creating and Digitising Language Corpora, Vol.1: Synchronic Databases. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Beal, J.C., Corrigan, K.P. and Moisl, H.L. (2007b). Creating and Digitising Language Corpora, Vol.2: Diachronic Databases. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Tagliamonte, S. 2003. ‘Every place has a different toll’: Determinants of grammatical variation in cross-variety perspective. In G. Rohdenburg and B. Mondorf (eds.) Determinants of Grammatical Variation in English. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 531-554.

Trudgill, P. 1975.Accent, Dialect and the School. Frome and London: Edward Arnold.

Extending Variable Rule Analysis

Comparing variables with equivalence classes

Joseph Roy

Yukiko Yoshizumi

University of Ottawa

A fundamental feature of variationist analysis is enshrined in the Goldvarb program and variable rule analysis it provides. This talk provides a critical analysis of the assumptions underlying a traditional VRA approach (Sankoff, 1988; Tagliamonte, 2006; Bayley, 2002). A new methodological construct is developed that allows for the valid statistical comparison of hierarchies across varieties (either diachronically or synchronically) while maintaining the basic idea of a constraint hierarchy (i.e. ordered factor groups by range of factor weights). Several alternative diagnostics are introduced. In particular, the notion of having equivalence classes of constraints where a set of several factor groups are statistically equivalent, but produce numerically different ranges. Embedded within this talk are two variables that have been extracted from several varieties of English: stative possessives and markers of future temporal reference. In both cases we need to compare the hierarchies across several varieties (and time periods) in order to answer questions of language contact (Poplack, S., J. Walker & R. Malcolmson, 2006) and grammaticalization (Torres-Cacuollos and Walker, 2008).  Preliminary results indicate that in both cases our extension to the variable rule analysis provides some surprising results. Several varieties of British English display contrasting effects for social variables that disappear when we account for the natural occurring variation within the factor weights themselves.  In future tense markers, evidence of grammaticalization becomes evident as we are able to show not only a numerical difference in the effect (i.e. range) of grammatical person, but a statistically significant shrinkage in the range.  


Bayley, Robert. 2002. The quantitative paradigm. In The Handbook of Language varation and Change. J.K. Chambers, Peter Trudgill and Natalie Schilling-Estes (eds.), Malden and Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. 117-41. 

Cacoullos, Rena Torres, & James Walker, 2008. The present of the future: Discourse variation and the bounds of grammaticalization. Ms 

Poplack, Shana, Walker, James & Malcolmson, Rebecca. 2006. An English “like no other”?: Language contact and change in Quebec.Canadian Journal of Linguistics. 185-213. 

Sankoff, David. 1988. Variable Rules. In Sociolinguistics: an international handbook of the science of language and society. Frederick J. Newmeyer (ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 140-61. 

Tagliamonte, Sali. 2006. Analysing Sociolinguistic Variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Linguistic change in adolescence
 Comparing a trend and panel study on be like

Sali Tagliamonte

University of Toronto

In this paper, I report on a study that has been tracking a single individual, Clara Felipe from adolescence (age 16) to early adulthood (age 22). How has Clara’s language changed over the duration?


I target a linguistic change known to be accelerating in the broader community of which Clara is a part, quotative be like, as in (1):


(1)     I’m like, “No, they sell coffee too.”  And she’s like, “Oh yeah?”   nd then he’s like, “Oh yeah?”  And I was like, “Yeah.” (CF/16/2002)


The results permit a number of observations.  First, Clara’s variable grammar for this linguistic systems parallels that of her age and sex matched cohort in the community-level studies.  Not only does she match her peers in frequency of use of the incoming forms, but also in the direction and relative strength of effects (constraints) operating in the underlying systems. Second, Clara follows the same trajectory of change in real time as her community-matched cohort does in apparent time.  Third, Clara’s use of incoming linguistic forms exhibits a peak in frequency followed by stabilization in late adolescence. Finally, although Clara’s use of be like shows constancy in the ranking of constraints at each age, there is one key difference— their relative strength.  Grammatical person is the first ranked constraint at age 16-17.  However, it is usurped by tense/temporal reference at 18-19.  This real time development corroborates an earlier apparent time-based interpretation of this shift as the result of ongoing specialization of be like for historical present (Tagliamonte & D'Arcy, 2007).


These findings provide confirmation of the detailed nature and depth of individual vs. group parallels. They also corroborate building evidence of the validity and usefulness of apparent time as a powerful tool for the identification of language change in progress (Labov, 2001; Sankoff, 2004, 2006).  Finally, they support Labov’s (2001) incrementation model of linguistic change and extend its application to levels of grammar beyond phonology.




Bailey, Guy (2002). Real and apparent time. In Chambers, J., Trudgill, P. & Schilling-Estes, N. (Eds.), The handbook of language variation and change. Malden: Blackwell Publishers.

Labov, William (2001). Principles of linguistic change: Volume 2: Social factors. Malden and Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Sankoff, Gillian (2004). Adolescents, young adults and the critical period: two case studies from “Seven Up”. In Fought, C. (Ed.), Sociolinguistic Variation: Critical Reflections. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 121-139.

Sankoff, Gillian (2006). Apparent time and real time.  Elsevier Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. Elsevier.

Tagliamonte, Sali A. & D'Arcy, Alexandra (2007). Frequency and variation in the community grammar: Tracking a new change through the generations. Language Variation and Change 19(2): 1-19.



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