New research study will finally explain how people pronounce Toronto
How do you pronounce Toronto? There's a survey being conducted right now that's seeking your answer.
Some say true locals only pronounce it "Turonno," due to our inexplicable inability to pronounce the second "t" (and the letter t in general). Typically, it feels like only people who aren't from here pronounce it "To-ron-to": but is that really true?
Ph.D. student Caitlin Bergin studies linguistics, language documentation, and revitalization at the School of Linguistics and Language Studies at Carleton University, and she wants to end the debate once and for all.
Though she's studying in Ottawa, Bergin is originally from Toronto. Her first encounter with the Toronto pronunciation phenomenon was a tote bag.
"It read, TERANO, TRAWNO, TRONNO, TARONNA, TORONOE."
Suddenly, it seemed like debate surrounding the acceptable pronunciation of Toronto was everywhere on the city's subreddit, with people receiving hundreds of responses to queries on how it should be said.
"Artwork and photographs were posted featuring various pronunciations and what they represented. Clothing, buttons, and accessories featuring various pronunciations were also made," says Bergin.
"I found it both intriguing and inspiring. I spotted an opportunity to conduct a little sociolinguistic research."
She's actually been bouncing the idea of researching the subject off peers for a good six years while pursuing her main research focus, Indigenous language revitalization.
This year, she's finally addressing the question with the help of supervisor Dr. Beth MacLeod, assistant professor and associate director of the School of Linguistics and Language Studies at Carleton.
The intention of the study is to nail down at long last how people from Toronto actually pronounce Toronto, but it's a little more complicated than that. The goal is to break down which pronunciations indicate in-group and out-group membership to locals, and break down pronunciation by GTA postal code.
seeing all the ways people pronounce Toronto and thinking about how cool language variation is 🤩 pic.twitter.com/zf7cw2LoAl— el ✨ (@tensevowel) September 13, 2021
"Alongside communication, language can also be used as an expression of group membership," says Bergin.
"Language variety, word choice, or the specific pronunciation that a speaker uses can display an affinity or closeness with certain social groups and distance the speaker from other social groups."
This is of interest to her when it comes to Toronto, as we're one of the world's most diverse cities, with around half of our population comprised of immigrants, visible minorities and people whose first language is neither English nor French. Around 200 languages are spoken here.
"Toronto's diversity and uniqueness make this study important as it seeks to answer what group membership means to such a culturally and linguistically diverse population," says Bergin.
If you want to have your say on the specific way you pronounce Toronto, you have until Oct. 31 to do the survey before data analysis begins.
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