Every year, faculty member Sali A. Tagliamonte applies for funding for a LIN398 course in order to take undergraduate students on a research excursion trip to Northern Ontario and teach the methods and practises of fieldwork in variationist sociolinguistics. This year's field trip is well underway, and the students have been hard at work!
Why is LIN398 so worthwhile?
Well, the short answer is because it's fun. The more important reason is because the immense hinterland of Ontario presents a sociolinguistic goldmine of untapped regional variation. The research coming out of my laboratory on Ontario dialects is not only an enterprise of language documentation, it is also leading to innovative contributions to sociolinguistics. LIN398 is an invaluable adjunct to these enterprises. Moreover, it offers the ideal training ground for students. An add-on benefit is the incredibly positive community outreach and engagement that is forged in the process. In the research excursion, we collect oral histories from people born and raised in whatever community we go to and then produce a book and DVD of stories that we return to the library, museum or other community organizations.
Where are you this year?
We are Kapuskasing, Ontario, a small city on the most northerly point of Highway 11. It took us two days to get here. From Toronto, it is 850 kilometers due north. Kap (as it is called by locals) is a minority English-speaking community where two-thirds of the population are francophone. This presents a unique language-contact situation.
Which students are with you this year?
Cedric Ludlow, John Lubanski, Jennifer McNeillie, and Lisa Walkey.
What are they doing right now?
They are very busy conducting sociolinguistic interviews with people born and raised in the community and asking them questions that bring local culture, lore and language to the surface in narratives of personal experience. So far we have discovered an incredible wealth of traditions, experiences, and many heartwarming tales. As of yesterday morning the students had collected 55 interviews!