Written sources for Canadian English

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The study of Canadian English has, for the most part, relied on synchronic data and description. Via the apparent-time method and earlier linguistic studies, evidence is available for the most part of the twentieth century. This paper provides possible pathways towards examining pre-twentieth century evidence for Canadian English. Using principles of sociohistorical research, the paper offers an outline of how to make the best use of existing data by combining evidence from both literary and authentic written sources. As a test case, central focus is given to the reconstruction of a pivotal Canadian feature, the low-back vowel merger. Texts are used, in conjunction with secondary materials, such as Canadian informants in linguistic atlas data, accounts of settlement history and anecdotal evidence, to show the possibilities and limitations of written evidence in historical phonetics and phonology. As a test case, the approach, which is complemented by a rudimentary sketch of sources across the country, is intended to be easily transferrable to other linguistic levels.


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