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Opening Talk

There will be a summer school warming on Tuesday, 3 October including an opening talk by Naomi Nagy on “Cross-cultural approaches: Comparing heritage languages in Toronto” followed by an informal dinner.


Comparable documentation across language varieties can contribute to linguistic knowledge, e.g., what types of structures and patterns are cross-linguistically possible? common? Such analyses provide a proving ground on which to test which theoretical principles of sociolinguistics are universal. To begin to tackle the complex issue of how we might develop a framework for cross-cultural sociolinguistics (also relevant to comparison of World Englishes!), I will share insights from comparative analysis of several languages that are spoken in one city but that have not been subjected to much sociolinguistic analysis. The languages in question (Cantonese, Faetar, Korean, Italian, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian) are heritage languages spoken in Toronto for 50-100+ years and subjected to variationist scrutiny since 2009. I will focus on methodological issues that must be overcome to enable cross-linguistic or cross-cultural comparison.

Comparative analyses of homeland and heritage patterns across several heritage languages will be compared to better understand the processes of language variation and change in this set of lesser-studied varieties. I will highlight trends observed in seven years of study of Toronto’s heritage languages that may help us understand the relationship between (1) cross-generational linguitic differences and (2) effects of ethnic orientation and language use practices. Cross-generational differences are sought using variationist sociolinguistic methods: multivariate analysis of factors influencing the selection of competing variants in naturalistic speech. Ethnic orientation and language use practices are examined by quantifying responses to open-ended questions in a survey adapted from Keefe & Padilla’s (1987) ethnicity questionnaire. The most surprising trend is the lack of correlation between usage patterns and attitudes.

  1. Faculty of Languages, Literature, and Cultures
  2. Department of English and American Studies

ISLE Summer School 2017



Universität Regensburg
Department of English and American Studies
93040 Regensburg