Experts weigh in on English, debates, and wage racism

Prof. Charles Boberg: Canadian English, eh?
Prof. Charles Boberg: Canadian English, eh?

By Laurie Devine

Broken Canadian English

An article in the Toronto Star questions whether the increasing use of spell-checkers and online dictionaries could lead to the loss of Canadian English spelling. Interviewed for the story, McGill linguistics expert Charles Boberg said there’s a possibility but wondered whether it’s anything to worry about. “I would agree that, yes, because of their wide use and the way they’re used, they’ll put a new pressure on Canadian English to converge with American English. As long as people can understand what you’re saying, from a purely linguistic standpoint it doesn’t matter.” Boberg said Canada’s inferiority complex is showing when we make a big deal over it. “If it helps people satisfy their need for in-group feeling and a way of asserting their independence from their so-called ‘dominant’ neighbour (neighbor?) then it serves a


The great debate debate

How well or how poorly a candidate performs during a leadership debate may not have any effect on the outcome of an election a new McGill study shows. After the U.S. debates, very few respondents said the debate changed their mind about which candidate to support. After the Oct. 2 Canadian leadership debate, Elizabeth May’s support rose from four to seven among the small sample of 28 respondents (and she handily won the five-candidate debate, according to nationwide polls) but voters did not elect her or any other Green Party member to Parliament. “Debates are obsolete in this age of multimedia punditry, spin and advertising,” concluded Michael Dorsher, the U.S.-Canada Fulbright Scholar, who led the international research team. “North Americans make up their mind about candidates based on what the

media say, not what the candidates themselves say.” Dorsher coordinated this study as the 2008-09 Fulbright Visiting Chair in Health, Indigenous Populations, Media and Education at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. (Dorsher is visiting from the University of Wisconsin). The study was reported in the Green Bay Press Gazette.

Remuneration discrimination

Black Montrealers still earn substantially less than whites, The Gazette reported earlier this week. “The data demonstrate that blacks have dramatically lower incomes than non-blacks… at every age and even among university graduates,” the study by McGill’s Consortium for Ethnicity and Strategic Social Planning states. “No matter how you cut it, blacks earn less than non-blacks, irrespective of age, gender, occupation and level of bilingualism,” consortium director Jim Torczyner, a McGill social work professor, told Jeff Heinrich of The Gazette after presenting the findings. The study’s preliminary findings were released this week at a Quebec Human Rights Commission conference on discrimination in the workplace and were based on the 2006 federal census.