Case 8: The Strathy Language Unit and Canadian English

Literature and Canadian English — the Strathy Language Unit
One of the important changes brought to the Department of English with the appointment of James Cappon in 1888 was a shift to literature and away from philology as the focus of English studies. A focus on language was to return nearly a century later, however, with a bequest in 1981 from an alumnus, J.R. Strathy.

Strathy’s gift mandated the creation of the Unit that bears his name, whose mission is to study standard English usage in Canadian speech and writing. The corpus on which this study is based includes, among other sources, the work of several Canadian authors who gave permission for their fictional and nonfictional texts to be entered into the database: Margaret Atwood, Max Braithwaite, J.K. Chambers, Robertson Davies, Eugene Forsey and Makeda Silvera.

The Strathy Language Unit has produced two editions of the Guide to Canadian English Usage as well as two paper series; established the Strathy Corpus of Canadian English; collaborated in projects such as the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles; supported an undergraduate course in Canadian English at Queen’s; hosted conferences such as the 2010 English Dictionaries in Global and Historical Context; and served as a resource for students, international scholars and members of the public interested in Canadian English. From 2000-2010 the unit published Strathy Undergraduate Working Papers on Canadian English, featuring papers by students in the Canadian English course at Queen’s University. A new version of the series, Strathy Student Papers on Canadian English, includes papers by undergraduate and graduate students at any institution. The new series is hosted on the Strathy QSpace site, text taken in part from

Margery Fee, Director, Strathy Language Unit (1987-1993)
The second director of the Strathy, succeeding W. C. Lougheed, was Margery Fee , whose scholarship included literary criticism as well as linguistic analysis. While overseeing the research that would lead to Guide to Canadian English Usage (co-authored with Janice McAlpine [Arts ’77 and Director of the Strathy from 2000-2010]), Fee also edited Silence Made Visible: Howard O’Hagan and Tay John , a collection of essays regarding O’Hagan’s novel.