Local accents in the Ottawa valley: Sociolinguistic perspectives on history, culture and language in Ontario

Friday April 26, 2013 – 7:30 p.m. at the Almonte United Church Social Hall

Speaker: Sali A. Tagliamonte

Topic: Local accents in the Ottawa valley: Sociolinguistic perspectives on history, culture and language in Ontario


Why does language change and how? Sociolinguists have discovered that the tracks of history tend to be retained in the cultural heritage and dialects of rural areas (e.g. Chambers & Trudgill 1980). This means that local accents offer important insights into the history and development of Canadian English. In this presentation, I introduce the Almonte project, which is founded on earlier research in the region, i.e. the Linguistic Survey of the Ottawa Valley (Pringle 1983). The project is part of a larger research program which aims to provide a grassroots perspective on history, cultural and language in Ontario.

In the spring of 2012, I visited the Almonte area in hopes of uncovering some of the Scottish and Irish features of the area. With the help of interested local residents, I interviewed 26 members of the oldest generation. The many stories and reminiscences that people shared with us contain an extraordinary reservoir of cultural, social and economic information. We documented innumerable unique expressions and sayings. Indeed, an unprecedented record of dialects unfolds in these materials, including deep-rooted verb forms, pronunciations and grammatical features, many of then harkening back to ancient times in the British Isles. Where once sociolinguists thought that Canadian English is “remarkably homogeneous across the vast expanse of the country” (Chambers 2010), this research affirms a treasure trove of dialect differentiation.

While it will still be some time before these extensive materials will be fully analyzed, I will report on the project so far, offer a description of the data and demonstrate the wealth of information that can be found in story-telling by playing choice audio clips as illustrations.

Selected References:
Chambers, J. K. & Trudgill, P. (1980). Dialectology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chambers, J.K. (2010). English in Canada. In Gold, E. & McAlpine, J. (Eds.), Canadian English: A linguistic reader. Kingston, Ontario: Strathy Language Unit, Occasional Papers, No. 6. 1-39.
Pringle, Ian (1986). The concept of dialect and the study of Canadian English. In Allen, H. B. & Linn, M. D. (Eds.), The Concept of Dialect and the Study of Canadian English. Dialect and language variation: London. 217-236.

Try also: http://www.news.utoronto.ca/sali-atagliamonte-language-detective

Speaker’s Profile:

Sali Tagliamonte is on the Faculty in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Toronto. She has studied the various accents and dialects in the Ottawa Valley and will tell us all about them, with audio examples. She has recently been awarded a Killam Research Fellowship – one of Canada’s most prestigious academic awards.

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