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Memorial University Sociolinguistics Laboratory

Founded in 2006, the Memorial University Sociolinguistics Laboratory (MUSL) supports students and faculty at MUN who conduct research on language variation and the relationships between language and society.

MUSL supports sociolinguistic research by:

  • furnishing recording, archiving, and analytical equipment and software
  • collecting, transcribing, and archiving local vernacular speech
  • offering training and financial support to graduate and undergraduate researchers
  • supporting MUN Linguistics courses in sociolinguistic theory and method
  • conducting in-class collaborative research projects
  • hosting visiting scholars

Topics that MUSL-affiliated researchers are currently working on include:

  • rapid change and its effects on the language of small communities
  • historical links between English in Newfoundland, the Caribbean, and the US South
  • the language of online youth subcultures
  • language differences across region and age in Newfoundland
  • the participation of rural Canadian youth in ongoing sound changes
  • gender and identity practices among hip-hop fans, Appalachian African Americans, drag queens, and fans of Grey’s Anatomy
  • the roots of African American English
  • the influence of racial attitudes on American sound change

Our current major research project involves recording and analysing the speech of Petty Harbour/Maddox Cove, a small community near St. John’s that has seen rapid social changes in the last two generations. We are studying how these changes affect the morphology, syntax, and phonology of residents, and how residents express their identity and aspirations through linguistic choices. This project currently employs 12 graduate and undergraduate research assistants and involves two full-time faculty members.

2009 will be a landmark year for MUSL, as we move into permanent custom-built laboratory space at MUN. This space will house state of the art recording, archival, and analytical equipment and facilities, as well as permitting advanced training and study.

MUSL and its researchers have received funding from the Canada Research Chairs (CRC) programme, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Industrial Research and Innovation Fund (IRIF), the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER), the J.R. Smallwood Foundation, and MUN’s Faculty of Arts, School of Graduate Studies, and Office of the Vice-President (Research).

Faculty affiliated with MUSL are:

  • Dr. Gerard Van Herk (Director), Canada Research Chair in Regional Language and Oral Text, Assistant Professor (Linguistics), MUN
  • Dr. Paul De Decker, Assistant Professor (Linguistics), MUN
  • Dr. Becky Childs, Assistant Professor (English), Coastal Carolina University


To contact the project, visit our web site or email us at musl (at) mun (dot) ca.

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