The New Survey of Canadian English
Five decades ago, at the University of Victoria in 1972, M.H. Scargill and H.J. Warkentyne published the results of the Survey of Canadian English (SCE), the first national study the English spoken by Canadians from coast to coast. They collected over 14,000 responses, from Grade 9 students and their parents, to 104 questions about pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and spelling. These data offered our first nationwide view of 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 is changing from one generation to the next.
Thanks to their work, we now have an opportunity to get a longer-term perspective on the evolution of Canadian English by asking the same questions again today, in a New Survey of Canadian English. A team at McGill University in Montreal, led by Prof. Charles Boberg, has undertaken this project with a new questionnaire that features fifty of the original questions and thirty new questions that will offer fresh insights into regional variation and change over time. By comparing the new data with those from fifty years ago, we hope to learn:
- how today’s Canadian English compares to British, American, Australian and other types of English spoken around the world;
- whether the regional and sex differences of 1972 have gotten larger or smaller;
- whether the speech of the 1972 generations – now in their 60s and 80s, respectively – has shifted since they were originally surveyed;
- how the speech of today’s parents and teenagers differs from their analogues in 1972;
- and whether Canadian English is converging with American English (as suspected or feared by many) or following an independent path.
These are vital questions for scholars interested in the study of Canadian English in particular, but they also relate to broader issues: how languages and their dialects vary and change at a more general level; and how aspects of Canadian English help to shape Canadian culture and society, as it evolves from one generation to the next.
Participate in our research by taking our survey
All adult speakers of Canadian English are invited to participate in this project by responding to our questionnaire. It is easy and fun: it takes about 15-25 minutes to complete, depending on how much you want to think about your answers. It includes a few demographic questions and 85 multiple-choice questions about pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and spelling. Your responses will be anonymous: the questionnaire does not ask for names or contact information and any publication of the results will refer to aggregate or group analyses, not individual responses.
To participate, follow this link to the survey:
To protect your rights as a participant, before starting the survey you will be asked to read and agree to a short consent form. In accordance with national research ethics standards, participants must be adults (18 or older).
If you have any questions about the survey or about your participation, please contact the research team at: nsce [at] mcgill.ca.
This study is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Insight Development Grant No. 430-2022-00270) and has been approved by the Research Ethics Board of McGill University (File No. 22-06-070).
Looking for more information on Canadian English? Check out our Resources page.