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Nov 21

Big Thinking

Mythes et sciences: The ideology of “standard” language

Shana Poplack, Canada Research Chair in Linguistics, Distinguished Professor at the University of Ottawa and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
November 21, 2014

Spoken language is characterized by inherent variability, or alternate grammatical patterns for saying exactly the same thing. Many of the linguistic forms participating in such variability are forbidden by grammarians.  The standard language they prescribe is assumed to be invariant and immutable; accordingly, observers interpret competing variants as signs of ongoing deterioration. We have tested this alarmist conclusion as it applies to French, one of the most highly codified of languages. By collecting and scrutinizing grammars published over the last five centuries, we could confront the standard with data on the evolution of spontaneous speech.

Join world-renowned sociolinguist Shana Poplack, Canada Research Chair in Linguistics, Distinguished Professor at the University of Ottawa and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, as she shares her studies of language as it is spoken, especially in bilingual and minority language contexts in Canada. Learn how she applies novel analytical methods to one-of-a-kind databases of natural speech to trace the evolution of linguistic varieties within their social, historical, and linguistic contexts.

This lecture was sponsored by the Royal Society of Canada.

 

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