- 1964-2009 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
3.92 m of textual records and sound recordings (30 boxes)
Name of creator
John Kenneth (Jack) Chambers was born in Grimsby, Ontario July 12, 1938. He received his undergraduate university education at the University of Windsor (B.A. Honours English, 1961) and his M.A. in English from Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario in 1962. After just one term at the University of Minnesota, where he took his first linguistics course while enrolled in their Ph.D. programme in English, he returned to Canada. Following graduation he received a Diploma in Education and taught at high schools in London and East Elgin, Ontario. In 1967 he entered the Ph.D. programme in General Linguistics at the University of Alberta where he completed a thesis on “Focused Noun Phrases in English Syntax” in 1970. In July,1970 he accepted an appointment as Assistant Professor of Linguistics in the Centre for Linguistic Studies at the University of Toronto. He chose U. of T. over offers from Carleton University and the University of Minnesota (where he had spent a brief time in their Ph.D. programme in the early 1960s.) The Centre for Linguistic Studies had a graduate programme and he, along with Ed Burstynsky, were the only other Canadian-born linguists on staff. The Centre, which had been established in 1966, became the Department of Linguistic Studies in 1974. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1976, and to full Professor July 1, 1982. In 2005 he was appointed Professor Emeritus.At the University of Toronto Prof. Chambers has been actively involved in both administrative, academic and research activities. He has participated in many departmental committees dealing with curriculum, admissions, promotions and tenure, as well as chair of the Visiting Lectures committee and 30th anniversary celebrations with Keren Rice. From 1986 to 1999 he was Chair of the Department, and acting Chair for six months in 2006.At the University level he was member of many search committees for departments and divisions at Scarborough and Mississauga campuses.Prof. Chambers was the Centre’s first syntax professor and a proponent of generative semantics. The model fell out of favour in the discipline with the theoretical shift toward Noam Chomsky’s EST model. Since he was not interested in Chomsky’s model, Prof. Chambers began nurturing an interest in sociolinguistics and dialectology. It was during this time that he taught the ‘first-ever course’ in Canadian English. He has (and continues) to teach courses in linguistics and related disciplines such as sociology, anthropology and Canadian English. From 1999 to 2001 he taught the course Jazz Century (HUM199Y). A popular teacher, he received the Faculty of Arts and Science Outstanding Teacher Award in 1999. He also held many appointments as Visiting Professor at universities in England, Europe, South Africa, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the United States between 1990 and 2007. In 2008 he was visiting professor at University of Cape Town, South Africa.Since the mid 1960s, Prof. Chambers has published extensively in the field of linguistics, with more than 200 articles and reviews, as well as 8 books either as editor, co-author or sole author. He has also been editor (and interim editor) of The Canadian Journal of Linguistics/La Revue cnaadienne de linguistique (volumes 19, 24 to 28). A major research project since 1990 has been the Dialect Topography project since “Canada was one of the few nations in the world without a databank or linguistic survey of accents and dialects.”  In 2008, he was honoured for his contributions to the discipline through the publication of All the Things You Are: A Festschrift in honour of Jack Chambers (Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics 27).During his career with the University of Toronto, Prof. Chambers has also actively pursued his other ‘avocation’, jazz. His jazz writing predates his work in linguistics, having published his first article in 1963. This has been manifested in the course mentioned above, and in numerous published articles and several books on prominent figures in the history of jazz such as Miles Davis, and Richard Twardzik. He also is a frequent contributor to Coda magazine. When asked in 2005 about the connection between language and music he stated"Both have syntax and phonology, and if I am good at talking about them it is because I can use the same analytic skills on both. Linguistic structure is, of course, hard-wired and irrepressibly human. Musical structure is not hard-wired but learned, and learned with great effort for the greatest practitioners. But it is also uniquely human, and I suspect that it takes its form by spinning off our language faculty, like a kind of satellite. And jazz is especially language-like, because musicians use the syntax and phonology to construct motifs (phrases and sentences) and melodies (discourses) that no one has ever heard before, and they do it spontaneously, just as speakers do in ordinary conversation, except that at its very best it is more like a poem than like ordinary conversation. And how they do it, no one knows. Every three-year-old can do that with language. But only the most gifted musicians can do it in music." Another specialized area for Prof. Chambers that has evolved from his academic work in linguistics has been forensic linguistics and consulting, an activity dating to the early 1970s. One of the earliest cases involved his role as expert witness on the language of pornography at obscenity trials in 1973. Since then he has testified and /or consulted on dozens of criminal and civil court cases. In addition he has prepared numerous affidavits relating to cases under the Trade Marks Act for companies such as Coca Cola.Prof. Chambers continues to live and work in Toronto. Canadian English in the Global Context – Tribute to Jack Chambers. “ A conversation with Jack Chambers” by Catherine Macdonald. http://groups.chass.utoronto.ca/canengglobal/jack.htm http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~chambers/interv2.html
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
This fonds consists of one accession received in 2009. The fonds is arranged and described in ten series documenting Jack Chambers’ 35 year career as professor of linguistics, primarily at the University of Toronto, and his external activities as a forensic linguist, consultant and his passion for jazz. Series 1 contains personal records relating to his appointment, salary, and annual activity reports as a member of the faculty of the University of Toronto’s Centre (and later Department) of Linguistic Studies. Series 2 relates to his administrative activities in the Department and the University. Correspondence will be found in Series 3 and 4. Series 3 contains letters of reference and evaluation for students and colleagues. Series 4 contains more general correspondence with colleagues within and outside the University in the field of linguistics, with some correspondence predating his arrival at the University of Toronto. Series 5 Jazz contains files of correspondence, manuscripts, reviews, evaluations and other records documenting his special interest in this subject. Series 6 documents his teaching activities and contains course files, examination questions and tests as well as student evaluations for some of the courses he has taught. Series 7 Consulting contains files relating to his activities as a forensic linguistic and consultant in criminal and civil court cases, as well as written testimony for Trade Mark cases. Records relating to his publication activities will be found in Series 8 and 9. The majority of the files of articles (published and unpublished) relate to academic writings in the field of linguistics. Series 9 Books contain manuscripts and correspondence documenting his books on two jazz musicians (Miles Davis and Richard Twardzik), and one unpublished novel. There are no manuscripts for his eight books written or co-written on the field of linguistics. The final series, Series 10, documents a 10 year research project on Dialect Topography on various Canadian regions.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
Further accruals are expected.
System of arrangement
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Some records are restricted. See series descriptions for details.