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‘How do you get to Tim Hortons?’ Direction-giving in Ontario dialects

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 February 2021

Lisa Schlegl
Affiliation:
University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada lisa.schlegl@mail.utoronto.ca
Sali A. Tagliamonte
Affiliation:
University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada sali.tagliamonte@utoronto.ca

Abstract

In this study, we target the speech act of direction-giving using variationist sociolinguistic methods within a corpus of vernacular speech from six Ontario communities. Not only do we find social and geographical correlates to linguistic choices in direction-giving, but we also establish the influence of the physical layout of the community/place in question. Direction-giving in the urban center of Toronto (Southern Ontario) contrasts with five Northern Ontario communities. Northerners use more relative directions, while Torontonians use more cardinal directions, landmarks, and proper street names – for example, Go east on Bloor to the Manulife Centre. We also find that specific lexical choices (e.g., Take a right vs. Make a right) distinguish direction-givers in Northern Ontario from those in Toronto. These differences identify direction-giving as an ideal site for sociolinguistic and dialectological investigation and corroborate previous findings documenting regional variation in Canadian English.

Résumé

Résumé

Dans cette étude, nous ciblons l'acte de parole qui consiste à donner des indications/une orientation et utilisons des méthodes sociolinguistiques variationnistes pour analyser un corpus de discours vernaculaires de six communautés de l'Ontario. Nous découvrons non seulement des corrélations sociales et géographiques aux choix linguistiques dans l'acte d'indiquer le chemin, mais nous établissons également l'influence de la disposition physique de la communauté / du lieu en question. L’étude révèle des contrastes entre le centre urbain de Toronto (dans le sud de l'Ontario) et les cinq communautés du nord de l'Ontario. Dans ces dernières, les gens utilisent des indications plus relatives, tandis que les Torontois utilisent davantage d'indications cardinales, de points de repère et de noms de rue spécifiques – par exemple, Allez à l'est sur Bloor jusqu'au Centre Manuvie. Nous avons également constaté que des choix lexicaux spécifiques (par ex., Take a right vs. Make a right) distinguent les donneurs d'indications dans le Nord de l'Ontario de ceux de Toronto. Ces différences identifient l'acte d'indiquer le chemin comme un site idéal pour les recherches sociolinguistiques et dialectologiques et corroborent les résultats antérieurs documentant les variations régionales de l'anglais canadien.

Type
Article
Copyright
Copyright © Canadian Linguistic Association/Association canadienne de linguistique 2021

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Footnotes

The second author gratefully acknowledges the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for research grants 2001–present, the Canada Research Chairs (CRC) program in Language Variation and Change, and the University of Toronto Faculty of Arts and Science independent experiential study program that funded the fieldtrip from Toronto to Kapuskasing. The first author acknowledges the support of Ontario Graduate Scholarships from 2019–present granted by the Government of Ontario. We would also like to thank additional participants in the fieldtrip Jon Lubanski, Cedric Ludlow, and Jennifer McNeillie who made the trek into Northern Ontario with us; the Research Assistants in the Variationist Sociolinguistics Lab at the University of Toronto who processed and transcribed the data; and the audience at the 2017 American Dialect Society Annual Meeting for feedback on an earlier version of this project. Finally, we are grateful to the anonymous residents of Toronto, North Bay, New Liskeard, Kirkland Lake, South Porcupine, and Kapuskasing for giving us such insightful directions.

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