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From the CanIL Blog

Read below for recent articles of linguistic tidbits and news from CanIL.


Crawling the Web for New Words

To track the history of language change, linguists need a way to determine when new words first made their inception into a language. The only source of language documentation from the era before computers are written (or carved, or chiseled) texts.

Gone are the days when diligent guardians of language and culture preserved texts by writing them out by hand and passing them along for generations (the process that preserved the Bible, for instance).

Today we live in an information-saturated world (news broadcasters race to cover stories before they're disseminated through social media outlets like Twitter). One must marvel at how a customized webcrawler tool, such as NeoCrawler, which weekly scours the Internet for occurrences of any new word, and downloads the relevant pages into a dynamic database, enables us to track social trends as they're happening. We can now investigate neologisms (newly coined words) with the help of the Web and a sophisticated 'toolbox' which monitors and visualizes the life cycle of new words as they emerge.[1]

The ability to determine frequency and domains of use (ie: in professional settings, with peers, at home, etc.), as well as speaker demographics for neologisms like the 2013 Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year 'selfie,' helps Lexicographers make informed predictions about the potential lifespan of such words. Take for example, Aston University in the UK, where researchers are hunting for the next 'selfie,' by analyzing more than one billion tweets from the UK and US to uncover the next most popular word. Sometimes words roll in like an ocean breaker, before cresting and ebbing out of common use. I conjecture that the 2007 Word of the Year, 'locavore' is such a word, while the 2005 Word of the Year, 'podcast' is here to stay - at least until that technology is surpassed, at which point 'podcast' will take less prominent status with the likes of other items of antiquity such as 'phonograph' and '8-track.'

CanIL students and staff gather for an epic 'selfie'

Yes indeed, rapid advances in language technology have expedited the work of Lexicographers, those word wranglers who write, edit, and compile dictionaries. The work of Lexicographers falls under the field of Corpus Linguistics - a text corpus is a large structured collection of "real-world"  texts (ie. tweets in the earlier example) in one or more languages.

Do you want to be on the cutting edge of language change and documentation? CanIL has a track for that! Check out our Lexicography training track: www.canil.ca/lexicography-technician

Learn theoretical and practical bases for analyzing the semantics of the lexicon (and learn what this sentence means!). Learn how to manage a lexical database and produce dictionaries for a variety of audiences including local language communities, translators and linguists.



Sandra Topelko,

Communications Assistant


Danny Foster Commissioned as President of the Canada Institute of Linguistics

Dr. Mike Walrod passes the baton to the incoming president

Canada Institute of Linguistics (CanIL) commissioned Danny Foster as incoming president at the CanIL Presidential Transition and Commissioning held on March 29th at Trinity Western University (TWU). CanIL is a training partner of Wycliffe Bible Translators, preparing students for roles in language survey, language development, Bible translation, Scripture engagement, mother-tongue literacy and linguistic analysis. CanIL provides linguistics training for undergraduate and graduate degrees offered at Trinity Western University and ACTS Seminaries.


English Spelling Reform

English orthography is the alphabetic spelling system used by the English language. English orthography, like other alphabetic orthographies, uses a set of symbols to represent speech sounds in writing.  Standard English spelling follows rules, however the rules are extensive. Nearly every phoneme (sound in the language) is spelled in more than one way, and most spellings and all letters can be pronounced in more than one way and often in many different ways. This is partly due to the complex history of the English language,[1] but mainly due to the fact that no systematic spelling reform has been implemented in English, contrary to the situation in most other languages. English spelling is mainly based on how the language was pronounced in the 15th century.