24 February 2009

Moncton (NB)

Attached Files

What Language Do We Speak?

When Shana Poplack came to Canada many years ago, she noticed differences between the French she had learned in school, and the French spoken here. Local francophones were quick to assure her that their language was not Voltaire’s language: good French was to be found in France. Where did this idea come from? Who decides what is good and what is not? If the way we speak is non-standard, then what is standard? Who speaks it? Shana Poplack will tell us the surprising story of how the grammatical enterprise has failed to regulate the way we speak, based on her research confronting the way grammatical rules have evolved since the 16th century with our speech today. Using examples from French and English, she will show us that the notion of standard language is an arbitrary one, and that the forms grammars prescribe have little to do with the language we speak.