Memorial University Sociolinguistics Laboratory

In operation from 2006-2016, the Memorial University Sociolinguistics Laboratory (MUSL) supported students and faculty at MUN who conduct research on language variation and the relationships between language and society.

MUSL supported 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 worked on included:

  • 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

One of our major research projects involved 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 studied how these changes affected the morphology, syntax, and phonology of residents, and how residents expressed their identity and aspirations through linguistic choices. This project employed 12 graduate and undergraduate research assistants and involved two full-time faculty members.

MUSL and its researchers 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 formerly affiliated with MUSL were:

  • 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

For more information about the project, contact Dr. Gerard Van Herk.