Friday, February 14, 2020

Kanata Seniors Centre 9:30 a.m. (click to see map)

Professor Shana Poplack 
Canada Research Chair in Linguistics, University of Ottawa 

Admission $3 to cover cost of room rental

What history can teach us about Vernacular Black English 

Professor Poplack will contribute to our recognition of Black History Month with a lively discussion about her research work in the field of sociolinguistics - the study of language and its relationship with society.

The unique project she will discuss investigated the origins of Vernacular Black English (VBE), which is one of the most tenacious controversies in sociolinguistics.

It examined the speech of geographically and socially isolated communities in the African American Diaspora to tap into an earlier stage of the language. Systematic analyses of thousands of examples of a wide variety of linguistic phenomena in the diaspora converge: They show that many VBE features today considered to be non-standard were not created, but they were rather retained from an older stage of English. The results of this research legitimize VBE as a conservative variety of English as opposed to an incorrect one. Its core grammatical differences appear to reside largely in resistance to mainstream change.

Shana will illustrate her discussion with one-of-a-kind audio clips of VBE as actually spoken across the African American Diaspora.

Shana Poplack, C.M., D.Litt., FRSC, CRC(I), is Distinguished University Professor and Canada Research Chair in Linguistics at the University of Ottawa, and founding director of the Sociolinguistics Laboratory ( there. Her work applies theoretical and methodological insights gained from the scientific study of everyday speech to a variety of languages and linguistic phenomena involved in language contact, language change and linguistic ideology. She has published widely on the linguistic history and development of Vernacular Black English.

Recommended Reading:

Poplack, Shana (ed.). 2000. The English History of African American English. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Poplack, Shana & Tagliamonte, Sali. 2001. African American English in the Diaspora. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

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