Varieties of English

Varieties of English

Course number: LET015M10

Fall, 2009-2010



English is spoken in dozens of countries world wide, often in pidgin or creolized forms, and often as a lingua franca in situations where many native languages compete. The present course will examine these varieties from a variationist perspective, asking which varieties are most similar and which most different from British English, which linguistic characteristics are most often the means of signaling differences. Special attention will be paid first to the British-American axis and to examining whether and to what degree American dialects can be traced back to local British varieties, and second to attempts to link the diffusion of linguistic variation to the propagation of other cultural differences (Fischer).

The course will be held as a seminar style, where each student is responsible for at least one presentations (perhaps two if there are few participants).

Nederlandse Beschrijving (OCASYS)


The course is designed to give students a broad view of current research on varieties of English across the world, including especially the light it sheds on discussions of typology (Kortmann) and on the degree to which linguistic variables reflect the migration of peoples (Fisher, Shackleton).

At the end of this course students should be able to evaluate scholarly literature on varieties of English, especially in the areas of the case studies.


John Nerbonne,, H1311.436
Office Hours (Fall, 2009): Mon. 15:30-16:30

Meetings: Location, Times (2009)

Fri. 10:15-13:00 pm A-weg 30, Room 327

Nestor Site

Practical Sessions

Will be scheduled if needed. We'll try to cover the use of the essential software during the regular meetings.

Exam, Grading

The grade will be based on classroom presentations, on participation ensuing from those presentations, and on a written paper, due by Jan. 8, 2010 at 5 pm. Topics for papers will be discussed during class. Note that due to the importance of seminar presenations and discussion, attendance will be reflected in the grades.


Due to my (JN's) commitments made before agreeing to take this course on in the first semester of 2009-2010 and due to the very full schedule of students involved with teaching internships, we will unfortunately miss several Fridays, incl. Sept 11 and Sept. 18. We determined at the first meeting (Sept. 4) that there was no good way to make up the missing days. This makes it imperative that people do attend the remaining meetings!

Week Date Theme Presenter Sheets Remarks
1. 4 Sept. Why Study Language Variation? J. Nerbonne
2. 25! Sept. Several sketches of world varieties class participants Ass. 1
3. 9 Okt. Methods for studying variation. J. Nerbonne Nerbonne, 2009
4. 16 Okt. Several sketches of world varieties class participants Ass. 1
5. 30 Okt. Several research perspectives class participants Ass. 2
6. 6 Nov. Exploring Varieties class participants Ass. 3
7. 13 Nov. Exploring Varieties class participants Ass. 3
8. 20 Nov. Exploring Varieties class participants Ass. 3
9. 11 Dec. Presenting results class participants Final


Student Presentations

See presentations.


Please note that the first two elements below, i.e. Fischer's book and Kortmann et al.'s series, are on reserve for the length of the fall semester 2009-2010 in the Arts library (Letterenbibliotheek). The other readings are available electronically.


The (old) LAMSAS site, which allows one to investigate the geographic distribution of the lexical realizations of various concept.

Locations of sites surveyed in the Kortmann et al. handbook (Google Earth)

Phonological Data (Excel) from Kortmann et al. handbook, by kind courtesy of Prof. Edgar Schneider, Regensburg.

Form for experimenting with the phonological data above.