14 April 2014

Sali and Derek in Language

Congratulations to Sali Tagliamonte and Derek Denis on the publication of their article "Expanding the transmission/diffusion dichotomy: Evidence from Canada" in Language!

This article represents the latest success in a long and productive partnership between Sali and Derek that began with an article published in American Speech in 2008 when Derek was still an undergrad.


We present analyses of linguistic features undergoing change in South Eastern Ontario, Canada: stative possession, deontic modality, intensifiers, and quotatives. The largest urban center of the country (Toronto) and three towns outside the city are analyzed from the comparative sociolinguistic perspective. Parallel frequency and constraints are found in changes with a time depth of 200 years or more, corroborating the parallel transmission of complex systems over time and space. However, changes that began more recently show marked differences across communities. While the youngest generations in the small towns have appropriated the incoming forms, the accompanying suite of functional constraints found in the urban center is absent. This confirms that diffusing changes do not perfectly replicate the model system. There is, however, notable divergence within patterns of diffusion. The expanding changes exhibit varying configurations, depending on the community, its founders, and the stage of development of the change. The results suggest that increasingly complex contact situations will continue to expand the possible outcomes of diffusion.
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10 April 2014

Fieldwork group (April 11)

The fieldwork group will meet April 11 at the regular time of 1pm, in SS 560A. The discussion topic will be: preparing for elicitation. What kinds of plans do you have ready before working with a speaker? How do you gauge how much time your plans will take? How easy/difficult is it to think up additional questions on the spot? Obviously this varies a lot with both the kind of material you're eliciting (phonetic, syntactic, semantic, narrative) and the kind of situation you are in (a long meeting in the field vs. a regular weekly session), so a variety of perspectives will be useful.

(Post courtesy of Clarissa Forbes)

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Syntax/Semantics Project (April 11)

There will be syntax-semantics project this Friday, April 11th, from 11-12:30 in SS560A. Will Oxford will be giving a preview of his upcoming CLA talk, "The rise and fall of split-ergative agreement in Algonquian"

Abstract: The Algonquian verb displays what can be described as a split-ergative 3rd-person agreement pattern in some languages (e.g. Ojibwe, Passamaquoddy) but not others (e.g. Cree, Meskwaki). A further set of languages (e.g. Delaware, Massachusett) has a double system consisting of both Ojibwe-type forms and Cree-type forms. This presentation will describe and analyze the 3rd-person agreement pattern in each type of system and consider how the three systems are diachronically related.
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TOM 7 to be hosted by the department on April 11

The Department of Linguistics at the University of Toronto is pleased to host the seventh Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal semantics workshop - TOM 7!

When: Saturday, April 12, 2014

Where: SS 2111

The program and more information about the workshop can be found on our website:
We are looking forward to seeing you all!

TOM7 organizing committee
(Post courtesy of Julie Goncharov) Print Page

06 April 2014

Recognition for the WIT program

The WIT (Writing Instruction for TAs) program, which Linguistics has been involved in for the past five years, was awarded the Northrop Frye Award (departmental/divisional award) at the 2014 Awards of Excellence Ceremony held in the Isabel Bader Theatre on the evening of April 1.

Vice-Dean Sandy Welsh accepted the award on behalf of WIT, and thanked all those who have been involved in the program, including departmental WIT contacts, chairs and instructors, Lead Writing TAs and course TAs.

WIT attendees at the ceremony included Margaret Proctor, coordinator of WIT in its early years (now retired); Andrea Williams, current WIT coordinator; several members of the Faculty of Arts & Science writing committee; and Lead Writing TAs (LWTAs) from several departments involved in WIT. Alex Motut attended as the current Department of Linguistics Lead Writing TA (held from 2010 to the present).

Linguistics has been a part of WIT since 2009. During that time, there have been two departmental WIT contacts, Elaine Gold and Alexei Kochetov, two departmental Lead Writing TAs (Catherine MacDonald and Alex Motut), and many, many course TAs and instructors who have worked as part of this program, to incorporate discipline-specific writing and writing instruction into Linguistics courses, and train TAs in writing evaluation and instruction.

The program has promoted collaboration around writing instruction across the department, and between departments, and has led to the development of many linguistics-specific, writing-related resources. It has also helped create and foster a continuing conversation about teaching in the department, between faculty, graduate students and TAs, introduced helpful instructional practices such as moderated marking (benchmarking) sessions to many courses, and provided TAs with more in-depth writing-related training.

At the same award ceremony, Elizabeth Cowper was awarded (in absentia since she's at GLOW) her Vivek Goel Faculty Citizen Award.

(Post courtesy of Alex Motut.) Print Page

05 April 2014

Congrats, Jess!

We're delighted to be able to announce that first-year Ph.D. student Jessica Mathie has been awarded a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. This program was created to attract and retain world-class doctoral students and to establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning.

This comes at a particularly wonderful time in that it will allow Jess to do the fieldwork that she wants to pursue in Australia.

Congratulations, Jess!

[Post courtesy of Keren Rice.] Print Page

04 April 2014


Bronwyn Bjorkman and Elizabeth Cowper presented in the Semantics Workshop at GLOW 37 (Brussels) this week: "Possession and necessity: from individuals to worlds".

Also at GLOW were a number of alumni. In the main colloquium:

Richard Compton (McGill University) had a poster:
An argument for genuine object phi-agreement in Inuit: Evidence from mood variance

Niina Ning Zhang (National Chung Cheng University) had a poster:
Degree Words: Modifiers or Functional Head Elements?

Ewan Dunbar (Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique ENS / EHESS / CNRS) gave a talk:
Cyclic opacity facilitates phonological interpretation

And in the Phonology Workshop:

Daniel Currie Hall (Saint Mary’s University) gave a talk:
Substance use in moderation: Contrast and content in phonological features

You can visit the conference website here:

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Congratulations, Milica!

Milica Radisic defended her doctoral dissertation "An Ultrasound and Acoustic Study of Turkish Rounded/Unrounded Vowel Pairs" on Friday, March 28.

On the committee were Keren Rice (Supervisor), Yoonjung Kang, Alexei Kochetov, Peter Avery, Peter Jurgec and Ian Wilson (External Examiner, University of Aizu).

Congratulations, Milica! Print Page

Guest Speaker Event: Aaron Dinkin (April 4)

We are having our final talk of the year:
Who:  Aaron Dinkin (U of T)
What: "Gradience, allophony and chain shifts" -- see abstract below.
When: Friday, April 4th at 2:30pm sharp (<-- 1073="" be="" by="" end="" followed="" font="" in="" location="" lounge.="" note="" of="" party="" sid="" smith="" talk="" that="" the="" time="" unusual="" where:="" will="" year="">

Gradience, allophony and chain shifts / Aaron Dinkin
A modular feedforward architecture of phonology (Bermúdez-Otero 2007)
implies that the entities that undergo chain shifting are not phonemes per
se, but the intermediate representations that are the outputs of discrete
phonological rules. I test the predictions made by this model by examining
the role of gradiency in the Northern Cities Shift and the Southern Shift.
In Upstate New York (Dinkin 2009), the Hudson Valley and Inland North
regions have distinct systems of /æ/ allophony, whereby the Hudson Valley
possesses two phonologically distinct allophones of /æ/ (prenasal and
non-prenasal), while the Inland North has prenasal and non-prenasal /æ/ as
part of a single gradient distribution. I argue that this phonological
difference explains the Hudson Valley's failure to acquire the raising of
(non-prenasal) /æ/, while it acquires other Northern Cities Shift vowel
features. Meanwhile, in the Southern Shift, the modular feedforward
architecture suggests that the monophthongization of /ay/ must have been a
gradient process which pre-voiced and pre-voiceless /ay/ were both
participating in from the initiation of the shift. Analysis of Southern
speakers from Labov et al. (2006) suggests that this is the case, and that
discrete allophonic differences in monophthongization between pre-voiced
and pre-voiceless /ay/ are a secondary development (for those speakers for
whom they exist).
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Phonetics-Phonology Group (April 4)

The last regular meeting of Phon Group takes place April 4, 11:00-12:30, in 560A. Yoonjung Kang will be talking about "Dialectal variation in Korean vowel harmony." Special summer group meetings will continue into April.

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