Researchers at the University of Victoria published the results of the Survey of Canadian English in 1972. It was the first national study of the English spoken by Canadians across the country.
The results showed how Canadian English compares to other dialects of English, like British, American, or Australian; how it varies between provinces and between the sexes; and how it changes from one generation to the next.
Now, fifty years later, a team with the linguistics department at McGill University has replicated the survey and added new questions, in the hope of discovering how the language has changed and how it varies from region to region.
The study, which focuses on pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and spelling, is being led by Dr. Charles Boberg who specializes in North American English with a particular interest in Quebec English.
“In order to get a truly national picture of Canadian English, we naturally need responses to our survey from anglophones here in Quebec, including the many who live outside Montreal, representing distinct and historic communities that may preserve unique linguistic patterns,” says Boberg. “We have never had a significant amount of data from the Chateauguay Valley and southwest Quebec,” he adds, noting he is quite keen to recruit respondents from this area. “I think there are a lot of interesting things to find out.”
One thing they are hoping to discover is whether communities outside of Montreal have distinct dialects. Boberg says there is a real diversity of English being spoken in Quebec, and points to several words that are unique to the province including “depanneur,” “all-dressed” seasoning, and “soft drink.”
He is also interested in the evolution of the language and word usage. For example, the traditional word for a “couch” used to be “chesterfield.” We turn on either a faucet or a tap. And there are more controversial questions as well, such as when exactly during the day is dinner time, and do we say “zed” or “zee.”
All adult speakers of Canadian English can respond to the questionnaire. Boberg says the questions are easy and fun and should take between 15-25 minutes to complete. All responses are anonymous, and the questionnaire does not require a name or contact information to be entered.
Boberg suggests the survey “affirms, encourages, and celebrates our identities as anglophones,” and he is hopeful Valley residents will consider participating in the project.
The survey is available online at https://surveys.mcgill.ca/ls3/414379?lang=en.