November 29, 2015

Ruth Maddeaux in Ireland

Second-year PhD student Ruth Maddeaux spent the month of August in Ireland, where she conducted an experiment as part of her research for her first Generals Paper. She first spent a week in Dublin attending Sociolinguistics Summer School 6 at Trinity College Dublin. Then, traveled on to the rural village of Carna, in County Galway, where she spent the next two weeks. Carna is part of a Gaeltacht – a predominantly Irish-speaking region, and the perfect place to find native Irish speakers to participate in a phonological experiment! Though monolingual Irish speakers are virtually non-existent these days, Ruth was happy to find that Irish is proudly spoken in this region, by old and young alike. Renting a room from a local Irish language teacher provided a helpful introduction to the community. Her travels also included day trips into Cill Chiaráin, An Cheathrú Rua, and Casla – all similar villages in the Connacht area Gaeltacht – as well as the larger Galway City. Ruth highly recommends this landscape as the backdrop to writing a Generals Paper!

The one day it was warm enough to go without a jacket. Locals
recommended that Ruth wash her face in the Irish Sea as a cold remedy!

November 28, 2015

Sali A. Tagliamonte on CBC's 'Fresh Air' tomorrow

An interview between host Mary Ito and one of our faculty members will be airing on CBC Radio One's 'Fresh Air' tomorrow morning starting at 6 AM. Ito has released the following preview via the 'Fresh Air' Facebook page:

Join me tomorrow on FA for a fascinating discussion on how we speak in this province! Linguist Sali Tagliamonte will talk about Ontario dialects and how language, culture, history and geography all intersect to create differences in the way we speak English.

November 27, 2015

TBB199 poster session

There will be a poster session for Elaine Gold's TBB199 class (Languages of Canada: Identity and Culture) in the department lounge on Thursday, December 3 from 10 AM to 12 PM. Stop by and check out what the students have been researching in terms of language maintenance and revitalization!

November 24, 2015

Congratulations, Iryna!

We're delighted to be able to congratulate fifth-year Ph.D. student Iryna Osadcha and her husband Pavlo Penenko on the arrival of their daughter, Alice Penenko, born on the evening of November 21, 2015 at 7 lbs, 8 oz. Everyone is doing well.

Welcome, Alice, and all our best wishes to the new parents (and their own families)!

Research Groups: Friday, November 27

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Phonetics/Phonology Group
Radu Craioveanu (Ph.D.) on a new phonetic/phonological analysis of recordings from North Saami.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Language Variation and Change Group
Matt Hunt Gardner (Ph.D.) leading a software workshop on an introduction to R as used in variationist sociolinguistics.

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Semantics Group
Naomi Francis (MA 2014, now at MIT): "Positive polarity item modals and scope in negative inversion constructions."

Negative inversion (e.g. "Never have I seen such a majestic giraffe!") involves the preposing of a negative expression and obligatory subject-auxiliary inversion. Collins and Postal (2014) claim that the preposed negative element takes scope over everything else in the clause. I show that, while the negative expression does take scope over quantificational DPs, deontic modals "should" and "must", which have been argued to be positive polarity items (Iatridou and Zeijlstra 2013), are able to outscope it. I argue that a full account of modal scope in these constructions will have to involve a contrast in scope-taking abilities between deontic and epistemic modals, one that is independently needed to explain the behaviour of these modals in other environments.

November 21, 2015

Photos from the Symposium on Graduate Research in Canadian English

Ph.D. student Matt Hunt Gardner is teaching an undergraduate class on Canadian English at Queen's University this semester. On Wednesday the 18th, several other Ph.D. students -  Marisa Brook, Erin Hall, and Ruth Maddeaux - followed Matt to his class and all four presented their own research in the form of a symposium on graduate research on Canadian English.

Thanks to Anastasia Riehl at Queen's for the photos!

Matt introduces the event.

 Marisa talks about restrictive relative clause behaviour inside and outside the city.

Erin describes Canadian Raising in Toronto and Vancouver dialects.

Ruth discusses experimental evidence for divergent perceptions of different uses of like.

Group shot of our travelling band of sociolinguistics students!

Jack Chambers in the Chronicle Herald

Faculty member Jack Chambers was quoted in the Halifax Chronicle Herald this week, providing his opinion on the matter of whether a recording linked to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris might be Canadian.

November 20, 2015

18ième Atelier bilingue en linguistique théorique / 18th Bilingual Workshop in Theoretical Linguistics

The 18th Atelier bilingue en linguistique théorique / 18th Bilingual Workshop in Theoretical Linguistics is taking place today at the University of Western Ontario. Two of our postdocs and one alumnus are presenting:

Darcie Blainey (postdoc):
"Nasal versus nasalized vowels: The case of Louisiana French."

Heather Burnett (postdoc) and Julie Auger (Indiana University):
"Mie versus point in Picard: Semantics, pragmatics, and power."

Michael Iannozzi (BA 2014, now at the University of Western Ontario):
"I SWORE they talked differently."

November 19, 2015

Report from NWAV44

Our department co-hosted NWAV44 with York University from October 22-25. This was a massive undertaking that had seen ongoing effort over several years from seven faculty members on the committee (including our own Aaron Dinkin, Naomi Nagy, and Sali A. Tagliamonte, as well as former U of T French faculty member Anne-José Villeneuve, now at the University of Alberta), plus more than forty student volunteers.

The city of Toronto did its part and helped welcome sociolinguists from all over the world to Hart House with some gorgeous fall weather.

                                (Photo by Sali A. Tagliamonte.)                                                                                   (Photo by Marisa Brook.)

On the Thursday, faculty member Sali A. Tagliamonte hosted a workshop on cross-disciplinarity: four faculty members from very different backgrounds were chosen to analyze the same phenomenon (was/were variation in the city of York, England) and then discuss their findings together. One of the four was faculty member Diane Massam, who gave her account of the variation from a syntactic/Minimalist perspective. Later in the afternoon, once the committee had welcomed the attendees, Ph.D. student Ruth Maddeaux introduced the first 'Crossroads' workshop speaker, David Adger (Queen Mary University of London).

In the morning, plenary speaker Jack Chambers (faculty) took attendees through a history of sociolinguistics as studied in Canada over the years.

(Photo by Sali A. Tagliamonte.)       

Current department members and alumni who presented on the Friday included Emilie LeBlanc (MA 2014, now at York University), Katherine Rehner (faculty), Darcie Blainey (postdoc), and Julien Carrier (Ph.D.). The day's plenary was given by faculty member Elizabeth Johnson from the Mississauga campus, whose research is centered on language acquisition.

Hart House also welcomed a number of Great Hall Birds.

(Photo by Radu Craioveanu.)

The evening poster session included contributions from Heather Burnett (postdoc), Paulina Lyskawa (MA 2015, now at the University of Maryland), Emilia Melara (Ph.D.), Ruth Maddeaux (Ph.D.), Michael Iannozzi (BA 2014, now at the University of Western Ontario), and Shannon Mooney (MA 2012, now at Georgetown University).

Saturday's events included talks that involved Claire Childs (former visiting student, now back at Newcastle University), Alexandra D'Arcy (Ph.D. 2005, now at the University of Victoria), Aaron Dinkin (faculty) and Ruth Maddeaux (Ph.D.). The day concluded with a lively party in the Great Hall.

(Photo by Radu Craioveanu.)

Talks on Sunday included those by Maddie Shellgren (MA 2011, now at Michigan State University), Derek Denis (Ph.D. 2015, now at the University of Victoria), Bridget Jankowski (Ph.D. 2013), Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty), Marisa Brook (Ph.D.), and Emily Blamire (Ph.D.).

The conference concluded with an address/summary by William Labov, introduced by one of his former graduate students, Aaron Dinkin (faculty). Labov, along with all of the other plenary speakers, received a special hand-knitted toque with an NWAV44 patch on it as a thank-you for his contribution to the conference.

(Photo by Marisa Brook.)

The conference will be staying on this side of the border for next year: NWAV45 is being held in downtown Vancouver, co-hosted by the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University.

Wug Life video produced by undergraduates

Wug Life is an initiative aiming to introduce high-school students to the idea of studying linguistics at the postsecondary level - and to consider the University of Toronto in doing so. The idea came from our undergraduate students at the Mississauga and Scarborough campuses - the Linguistics League at UTM and the Linguistics Student Association at UTSC.

Earlier this semester, Wug Life team members interviewed linguistics faculty, postdocs, grad students, and undergrads across all three campuses as part of a video project. The resulting video has now been released and will be used in future visits to high schools on the part of Wug Life participants. Check it out!

Kudos to our undergrads on all their efforts on the video and the entire Wug Life undertaking!

November 18, 2015

Guest speaker: Marcus Maia (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro)

Our department is very pleased to welcome Marcus Maia, who is current an Associate Professor at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 1994 and has worked on a range of topics and languages, including psycholinguistics, syntax, Spanish, Portuguese, and the indigenous languages of Brazil.

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Department of Linguistics are co-hosting a talk of his on Friday, November 27, at 3:30 PM sharp in SS 560A. It will be followed by a reception in our department lounge.

"The processing of embedded and coordinated PPs in Karaja and in Brazilian Portuguese: Eye-tracking evidence."

As much as there is a vast literature on the processing cost of long distance dependencies between sentences, not much has been written on the on-line processing of locally embedded phrases. In the present work we structured a set of comparative tests between a series of embedded PPs (Prepositional/Postpositional Phrases) and coordinated ones, in Brazilian Portuguese and in the Brazilian indigenous language Karajá (Macro-Jê). Our hypothesis was that, even at short distance, embedded structures would still be more costly computationally than the coordinated ones. We will start by reporting oral/sentence picture matching experiments run with Karaja and Brazilian Portuguese subjects (Maia, França, Lage, Gesualdi, Oliveira, Soto & Gomes, to appear). We will then present a new eye-tracking study with Brazilian Portuguese and Karaja subjects (Maia, to appear) to argue that a basic cognitive efficiency process is at play in the computation of multiply embedded PP constructions, accounting for the experimental results obtained. We conclude that recursion is the result of a syntactic algorithm that is costly to be launched, but once it is established, it undergoes habituation and does not pose any extra significant effort to the system.

November 17, 2015

Guest talk for SLUGS: Regina Jokel (University of Toronto/Baycrest Hospital)

SLUGS is hosting a talk by Dr. Regina Jokel, an Assistant Professor of Speech-Language Pathology at the U of T and a speech-language pathologist at Baycrest Hospital: "Linguistic autopsy: The mystery of Agatha Christie." It will be taking place on Tuesday, November 24, from 3 to 4 PM in OISE 2198.

This talk will present some highlights from a large-scale longitudinal study of written language based on works of three British writers, Iris Murdoch (who died with Alzheimer's), Agatha Christie (who was suspected of it), and P.D. James (who aged healthily). We will discuss some lexical and syntactic changes in language of Alzheimer’s disease based on complete, fully parsed texts and a large number of measures. Presented results support the hypothesis that Agatha Christie may have suffered from Alzheimer’s while writing her last novels, and that Iris Murdoch exhibited a ‘trough’ of relatively impoverished vocabulary and syntax in the years preceding her dementia.

Public lecture: Marcus Maia (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro)

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese, as part of its Complexity and Recursion Project, is sponsoring a public lecture by Marcus Maia. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 1994 and is now an Associate Professor at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. His work has encompassed psycholinguistics, syntax, Portuguese, Spanish, and indigenous languages. The last of these will be the subject of his talk, "Linguistic diversity in Brazil", being held in Victoria College 211 on Thursday, November 26 from 3 to 4 PM.

This talk will provide a broad view of the indigenous peoples of Brazil, starting from the very concept of what it means to be 'indigenous' in Brazil today and showing data on population, lands and languages. Then the focus turns to the main linguistic stocks and families, presenting their classification and briefly analyzing  some experimental linguistic data,  focusing on deixis and argument structure in two languages belonging to the Macro-Jê stock (Karaja, Xavante).

November 16, 2015

Research Groups: Friday, November 20

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Psycholinguistics Group
Angela Nyhout (OISE): "Children's spatial situation models of narrative."

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax Group
Group discussion on incorporation led by Nicholas Welch (postdoc).

Incorporation - the synthesis of non-verbal lexical elements with verb roots - is a phenomenon that has been widely discussed in the literature for over a century, yet both theoretical and empirical debates about it continue today. How do we define incorporation? By what diagnostics can we recognize it? Is it categorially restricted? Is it a lexical, syntactic, or post-syntactic process? How can we analyze it formally? What is its relationship with processes such as voice alternations and grammaticalization?

Since many of us work on languages where incorporation is productive, I hope to have a mutually instructive discussion where we can clarify some of the issues and identify cross-linguistically fruitful areas of future research.

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Fieldwork Group
Ruth Maddeaux on her experience running a psycholinguistic experiment in the field in Ireland over the summer. Plus, a paper discussion: Whalen and McDonough (2015): "Taking the laboratory into the field." Annual Review of Linguistics, 1, 395-415.

November 11, 2015

Guest speaker: Sali A. Tagliamonte (University of Toronto)

Our department has recently welcomed back faculty sociolinguist Sali A. Tagliamonte from a two-year research leave after she was awarded a Killam research fellowship in 2013. Sali has spent her leave writing two books - Making Waves: The Story of Variationist Sociolinguistics, a history of the subfield, and Teen Talk: The Language of Adolescents - on top of giving talks all over the world, keeping up with her other research activities, and supervising half a dozen graduate students.

Sali will be giving a invited talk for our department on her recent research on Friday, November 20, in SS 560A at 3:30 PM sharp: "Roots and branches in the variation of English." A reception will follow in the department lounge.

I analyze corpora of spoken vernaculars in three geographic regions, the UK, Canada and the Caribbean. The communities comprise a range of relic, rural and urban contexts as well as source and off-shoot situations. Taken together they offer multiple tests for probing questions of historical origins, transmission and diffusion, obsolescence and innovation. What can a comparative perspective, variationist sociolinguistic methods and quantitative analyses contribute to probing these questions and offering insights?

I focus on several linguistic features that contrast different types of change. An obsolescing feature, verbal -s as in (1), is found in most places. Longitudinal changes, such as in the stative possessive, as in (2), flourish but with diverse composition of the alternating forms, have/’s/’ve got, has/have and got. Within the relative pronoun system, circumscribed use of the well-known change from above, who, exposes the influence of the standard language and social evaluation.

(1)    The dialects really comes through strong. (PVG/I)
(2)    We always have an advance’s got its advantages. (MPT/n)
(3)    All the farmers who were able, they’d go.  (ALM/005)

While the dialects may differ in their favoured variant in each change and frequency can vary dramatically, the internal linguistic factors that constrain the variability offer decisive insights. When parallel constraints can be traced in the history of the English language, they can be interpreted as persistence. While cross-dialectal differences in frequency expose how the changes are progressing, contrastive internal patterns offer insights into stages in the evolving system and distinguish transmission vs. diffusion Through the lens of contrast and comparison, it is possible to identify exogenous vs. endogenous change and to expose universal patterns vs. local deviations. The findings combine to show that that synchronic data contribute a great deal to understanding the mechanisms that constrain processes of linguistic change. The large scale multi-variety perspective is critical for making sound use of the dialectic between diachronic change and synchronic variation.

November 10, 2015

Photos from APLA

Here are a couple of photos from the 39th meeting of the Atlantic Provinces Linguistic Association.

Faculty members Elizabeth Cowper and Elan Dresher talk music. Is this a touring show for F-Zero?
(Photo by Nicole Rosen [Ph.D. 2007, now at the University of Manitoba].)

Sam Lo (BA) amidst a classic Atlantic streetscape! (Photo by Naomi Nagy [faculty].)

Symposium on Graduate Research in Canadian English

Queen's University is hosting a Symposium on Graduate Research in Canadian English, being held on Wednesday November 18 and sponsored by the Strathy Language Unit and by the Linguistic Research Group of the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. The workshop is being organized by U of T Ph.D. student Matt Hunt Gardner, the instructor for the Canadian English class at Queen's this semester. He and three other Ph.D. students in the department will be presenting:

Matt Hunt Gardner:
"I (have) (got) a story for you: Stative possessives and the Loyalist origins of Cape Breton English."

Marisa Brook:
"Not so co-relative: The past and present of restrictive who and that in Toronto and Belleville, Ontario."

Erin Hall:
"Canadian Raising in Toronto and Vancouver."

Ruth Maddeaux:
"Is like like like? Evaluating the same variant across multiple variants."

Research Groups: Friday, November 13

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Phonetics/Phonology Group
Group discussion led by Ross Godfrey (Ph.D.): Trommer and Zimmerman (2014). Generalised mora affixation and quantity-manipulating morphology. Phonology, 31(3), 463-510.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Language Variation and Change Group
Heather Burnett (postdoc) and Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty): "Using intra-speaker variation to diagnose syntactic structure."

In this talk we argue that cross-linguistic studies of patterns of intra-speaker morphosyntactic variation can help solve longstanding puzzles associated with the syntactic structure of the expressions that are in variation. It has been long observed in the field of language variation and change (since Labov, 1966, see the recent discussion in Bresnan 2007 for syntax) that, in addition to social and general cognitive factors, the grammatical structures of synonymous linguistic expressions in a language at least partially determine the patterns of use of these expressions. This paper shows how we can exploit this connection between syntactic structure and language use to contribute to the theoretical debate concerning the syntactic analysis of negative concord sentences in Canadian French.

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Semantics Group
Frederick Gietz (Ph.D.): "Pragmatics for left-adjoining again."

The left-adjoining use of again adjoins obligatorily to adverbials, and exhibits very rigid behavior with respect to prosody and syntax.  In addition, the left-adjoining use is much more pragmatically restricted than the more common, right-adjoining use.  Synthesizing these facts, I hypothesize that left-adjoining again is bound by pragmatic rules which arise in relation to focus on the adverbial phrase.

Guest speaker: Albert Valdman (Indiana University)

This week, Albert Valdman, the Rudy Professor of French linguistics at Indiana University and the founder/director of the IU Creole Institute, will be giving two talks at the U of T.

St. George:
"The reconstitution of colonial French, the source of North American varieties of French and French-based creoles."
Senior Common Room, Brennan Hall (81 St. Mary Street)
Wednesday, November 11 - 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM, with a reception thereafter.
Hosted by the Department of French.

"Toward a standardization of Haitian Creole."
Room 305, Humanities Wing
Thursday, November 12 - 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Hosted by the Centre for French and Linguistics.

November 9, 2015

Fall Convocation 2015

The fall convocation for the School of Graduate Studies took place earlier today. Congratulations to our new graduate alumni:

Ailís Cournane
Julie Goncharov

T. J. Dunn
Frederick Gietz
Paulina Lyskawa
Daniel McDonald
Yining Nie
Katherine Schmirler
Anna Seltner
Luke West

(Photos courtesy of Ailís Cournane and Luke West.)

Ailís's turn!

Celebrating with supervisor Ana Teresa Pérez-Leroux.

New MA alumni! Luke West (now at UCLA), Yining Nie (now at New York University),
Frederick Gietz (now in our department's own Ph.D. program), Anna Seltner, and T. J. Dunn.

As befits the Halloween season.