Professor Shana Poplack awarded honourary doctorate

Posted on Monday, February 26, 2018

Shana Poplack is a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Ottawa whose work has helped to debunk linguistic stereotypes by providing a scientific explanation for the evolution of dialects.

She is “one of the most respected and influential linguists in the world today,” said Professor Vera Regan, UCD School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics, who read the citation.

Her work analyses common speech to understand issues related to bilingualism. It has shown that French Canadians do not speak ‘bad French’ but a French that has evolved naturally on Canadian soil. She also found that using words from multiple languages when speaking is a skilful use of language and not a flaw.

Completing an undergraduate and master’s degree in New York, Professor Poplack then spent seven years in Paris under the guidance of the renowned linguist André Martinet. She earned her PhD at the University of Pennsylvania.

Pictured: UCD President Professor Andrew Deeks presents Professor Shana Poplack with her Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature.

Her seminal paper, Sometimes I’ll start a sentence in English y termino en español: towards a typology of code-switching, was recently recognised as the single most-cited paper in the 50-year history of the journal Linguistics.

In 1982, she founded the Sociolinguistics Laboratory at the University of Ottawa, the leading research centre in the field in Canada. In 2002, she became Distinguished Professor of Linguistics.

She is a member of the Order of Canada, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and Linguistic Society of America and holds the first Canada Research Chair in Linguistics.

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