July 17, 2019

2019 Cowper Syntax Prize and Dresher Phonology Prize

We are delighted to announce the winners of our annual graduate student term-paper awards: the Elizabeth Cowper Syntax Prize and the B. Elan Dresher Phonology Prize. These are awarded to the authors of outstanding papers in the graduate syntax and phonology courses offered over the past academic year.

Cowper Syntax Prize: Alec Kienzle (Ph.D.): "Agents, paths, and states in the Hebrew middle templates."

Dresher Phonology Prize: Lisa Sullivan (Ph.D.): "Allomorphy and morphophonology: Where do we draw the line?" and "An OT analysis of –(i)an demonym allomorph selection."

Congratulations to Alec and Lisa for their excellent work!

July 10, 2019

New paper: Nagy and Lo (2019)

Naomi Nagy (faculty) and Samuel Lo (BA) have a paper out in Asia-Pacific Language Variation, 5(1): "Classifier use in Heritage and Hong Kong Cantonese."

Heritage language speakers have frequently been reported to have language skills weaker than homeland (monolingual) speakers. For example, Wei and Lee (2001:359), a study of British-born Chinese-English bilingual children’s morphosyntactic patterns (including classifier use), report “evidence of delayed and stagnated L1 development.” However, many studies compare heritage speaker performance to a prescriptive standard rather than to spontaneous speech from homeland speakers. We compare spontaneous speech data from two generations of Heritage Cantonese speakers in Toronto, Canada, and from Homeland Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong. Both groups are similar in a strong preference for general and mass classifiers, and classifier choice being primarily governed by the noun’s number. We observe specialization of go3 to singular nouns, a grammaticalization process increasing with each generation. The similarity between homeland and heritage patterns replicates previous studies utilizing the same corpus.

July 2, 2019

Suzi Lima's REP course in Arts & Science News

Back in May, Suzi Lima (faculty) led a Research Opportunity Program course to Brazil with students Octavia Andrade-Dixon (BA), Greg Antono (BA), and Guilherme Teruya (BA). This week, their adventures are chronicled in the Arts & Science News.

July 1, 2019

2019 Dene Languages Conference

This year's Dene Languages Conference is taking place at the University of California, Davis, on July 6 and 7.

Keren Rice (faculty) is presenting "Phonological effects of contact between related languages: Tsiigehtshic Gwich'in and Fort Good Hope Dene."

Alessandro Jaker (postdoc) is presenting "A verb grammar of Tetsǫ́t’ıné Yatıé."

June 30, 2019

Research Groups: Week of July 1-5

Wednesday, July 3, 11:00 AM-1:00 PM in SS 560A
Syntax Group
Michael Barrie (Ph.D. 2006, now at Sogang University): "Reduced nominals: Syntax and prosody."
I explore the well-known idea that phases and prosodic domains coincide. Specifically, I look at noun incorporation and pseudo noun incorporation and show that the phonological word does not correspond to a syntactic head but to nP (in the sense of Match Theory). The notion that the phonological word corresponds to a head rests by and large on the fact that nP and vP are often evacuated leaving the n+N complex head the only element in nP. This gives rise to the appearance of the complex n+N head being the phonological word.

June 29, 2019

Sali in the U of T Alumni Magazine

Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty) has been interviewed for the U of T Alumni Magazine about the task of adding more Canadian words to the Oxford English Dictionary.

June 28, 2019

Arsalan on View to the U

Arsalan Kahnemuyipour (faculty) has been interviewed on UTM's View to the U podcast this week about his research and the place of language in multiculturalism, both in Canada and around the world.

June 26, 2019

Sociolinguists in Marmora

Faculty member Sali A. Tagliamonte's Ontario Dialects Project has spent the past 17 years documenting and analysing the dialects of English found in this province. Nearly every summer, Sali takes a team of students (graduate and/or undergraduate) out to a select location to conduct a large number of sociolinguistic interviews with the locals. This year's expedition, in late May, was to the town of Marmora, located northeast of Peterborough and northwest of Belleville. Sali, along with graduate students Ilia Nicoll (Ph.D.) and Lauren Bigelow (MA), spent a week interviewing residents, going on local adventures, and singing Bob Dylan songs with quite a crowd! (Photos courtesy of Sali.)

Lauren and Ilia in Marmora.

Ilia discovers some local educational materials!

Playing music and singing with the locals!

June 25, 2019

Congratulations, Tomohiro!

Tomohiro Yokoyama defended his doctoral dissertation, "The person case constraint: Unconditional interfaces and faultless derivations," on Tuesday, June 25. The committee consisted of Susana Béjar (supervisor), Elizabeth Cowper, Guillaume Thomas, Arsalan Kahnemuyipour, Nicholas LaCara, and external examiner Omer Preminger (University of Maryland). Congratulations, Dr. Yokoyama!

June 24, 2019

Research Groups: Week of June 24-28

Wednesday, June 12, 11:00 AM-1:00 PM in SS 560A
Syntax Group
Clarissa Forbes (Ph.D. 2018, now at the University of Arizona): "The synchrony and diachrony of person-sensitive patterns in Tsimshianic."
The Tsimshianic languages of northern British Columbia share a number of syntactic properties, including verb-initial order and a complex ergative agreement pattern. In this paper, I illustrate that the languages of this small family exhibit alternations based on the person features of clausal arguments in two distinct ways: VSO/VOS word order alternations, and alternations in verbal agreement. I demonstrate that across the family these alternations occur independently, and argue that this motivates an account in which they are derived in different ways: either syntactically or post-syntactically. I present an analysis of restrictions on local persons in each branch, assuming a common clause structure, and demonstrate how distinct synchronic models generate the patterns of each branch. Finally I compare the two branches in a diachronic light, considering their Proto-Tsimshianic origin and possible paths of grammaticalization to the two subtly different patterns attested today.

June 21, 2019

Workshop on ELAN

Clarissa Forbes (Ph.D. 2018, now at the University of Arizona) will be holding a workshop on interlinear glossing in ELAN (5.3 or above), on Monday, June 24, 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM, in SS560A. This will be aimed at people who already use ELAN to annotate recordings, but everyone is welcome! Please bring a laptop with ELAN 5.3 or above installed on it, and ideally a sound file that has one to two lines of transcription.

June 20, 2019

New paper: Jankowski and Tagliamonte (2019)

Bridget L. Jankowski (Ph.D. 2013; staff) and Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty) have a new paper in English World-Wide, 40(2): "Supper or dinner? Sociolinguistic variation in the meals of the day."

The English words for daily meals constitute a complex lexical variable conditioned by social and linguistic factors. Comparative sociolinguistic analysis of 884 speakers from more than a dozen locations in Ontario, Canada reveals a synchronic system with social correlates that are reflexes of the British and American founder populations of the province. Toronto and Loyalist settlements in southern Ontario use the highest rates of dinner while northerners with European and Scots-Irish roots use supper. Dinner is taking over as the dominant form among younger speakers, exposing a cascade pattern (Trudgill 1972; Labov 2007) that is consistent with sociolinguistic typology (Trudgill 2011).

June 19, 2019

Congratulations, Alex!

We are thrilled to have learned that Alexandra Motut (Ph.D.) has been offered and accepted the role of Executive Director of the Rotman Commerce Centre for Professional Skills (CPS) Alex has held multiple leadership positions for the WIT (Writing Instruction for TAs) program over many years. More recently, as a Project Manager for CPS with an emphasis on Curriculum and Educational Development, her initiatives have been thoroughly successful and very justifiably celebrated.

Congratulations, Alex, on this wonderful and entirely well-earned new position. Rotman is fortunate indeed!

June 18, 2019

Congratulations, Julianne!

Alana, Diane, Julianne, Cristina, Susana, and Elizabeth. (Photo courtesy of Diane.)

Julianne Doner successfully defended her doctoral dissertation, "The EPP across languages," on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. The committee was made up of Diane Massam (supervisor), Susana Béjar, Cristina Cuervo, Elizabeth Cowper, Alana Johns, and external examiner Theresa Biberauer (University of Cambridge). Congratulations, Dr. Doner!

June 17, 2019

Elaine receiving the National Achievement Award from the CLA

Back at the beginning of May, Elaine Gold (faculty) was named the recipient of the 2019 National Achievement Award from the Canadian Linguistic Association. On June 2, she was given the award at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the CLA in Vancouver, British Columbia. This comes eight years after the 2011 Annual Meeting of the CLA in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where Elaine first proposed the idea of a language museum for Canada, and then went on to spearhead - with unbridled enthusiasm and resourcefulness - the effort to bring the Canadian Language Museum into being. Congratulations, Elaine, on this well-earned honour!

Elaine with past CLA president Wladyslaw Cichocki (Ph.D. 1986, now at the University of New Brunswick) and current CLA president Diane Massam (faculty). Photo by Päivi Koskinen (Ph.D. 1998, now at Kwantlen Polytechnic University).

June 16, 2019

RelNomComp Workshop

We are hosting a Relativ-/Nominal-/Complementation Workshop (RelNomComp) on June 19 and 20, co-organized with McGill University. It will be taking place from 9 AM through 5 PM each day in SS 3130, plus evening events. Among the stellar line-up of invited speakers from all over the world are a few of our own:

Keir Moulton (faculty) and Leslie Saxon (MA 1979, now at the University of Victoria), with colleagues Elizabeth Bogal-Allbritten (University of Gothenburg) and Rosa Mantla (University of Victoria):
"Dene internally-headed relatives."

Keir Moulton (faculty), with colleagues Elizabeth Bogal-Allbritten (University of Gothenburg) and Junko Shimoyama (McGill University):
"Nominalized attitude complements."

The workshop will also feature a short 'data dives' section examining some new results from recent work related to the workshop theme, including:

Marisa Brook (faculty) and Keir Moulton (faculty):
"Non-locative where-relatives."

Julien Carrier (Ph.D.):
"Nominalization in Inuktitut."

Lisa Schlegl (Ph.D.):
"Nominalization in Malay."

Note that while there is no registration fee for the conference, if you would like to attend, please fill out the RSVP form on the website.

June 15, 2019

Denis (2013) on Jeopardy!

Some of the work of Derek Denis (faculty) was featured in a Jeopardy! clue earlier this week.

(Photo provided by Thomas St. Pierre and Katharina Pabst.)

We acknowledge that there has been speculation in the past related an improbable number of connections between Jeopardy and the sociolinguists in our department. Note, however, that we continue to have no official comment on the matter.

June 14, 2019

Congratulations, Becky!

Elsi, Keir, Susana, Daphna, Becky, Diane, Lauren, and Craig. (Photo courtesy of Becky.)

Becky Tollan successfully defended her doctoral dissertation, "Cross-linguistic effects of subjecthood, case, and transitivity in syntax and sentence processing," on Thursday, June 13. The committee consisted of Daphna Heller (supervisor), Diane Massam, Craig Chambers, Lauren Clemens (State University of New York at Albany), Susana Béjar, Keir Moulton, and external examiner Elsi Kaiser (University of Southern California). Congratulations, Dr. Tollan!

Becky is stepping straight into a tenure-track job in syntax and psycholinguistics at the University of Delaware. They are very fortunate indeed! All the best, Dr. Tollan, and do keep in touch!

June 12, 2019

CVC 11

Change and Variation in Canada 11 is taking place at Memorial University of Newfoundland on June 14 and 15. A number of sociolinguists among current departmental members and alumni are presenting:

Emily Blamire (Ph.D.), Marisa Brook (faculty), and Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty):
"Very surprising: A real time analysis of Toronto intensifiers from 2016 through 2019."

Lauren Bigelow (MA) and Derek Denis (faculty):
"Country GOAT, City GOAT."

Karlien Franco (postdoc) and Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty):
"Interesting fellow or tough old bird? Third person singular male pronouns in Ontario."

Timothy Gadanidis (Ph.D.):
"The social meanings of um and uh."

Nicole Rosen (Ph.D. 2007, now at the University of Manitoba), with colleagues Jesse Stewart (University of Saskatchewan), Michele Pesch-Johnson (University of Manitoba), and Olivia Sammons (Carleton University):
"Michif VOT."

June 11, 2019

New paper: Tollan, Massam, and Heller (2019)

Becky Tollan (Ph.D.), Diane Massam (faculty), and Daphna Heller (faculty) have a new paper in Cognitive Science, 43(6): "Effects of case and transitivity on processing dependencies: Evidence from Niuean."

We investigate the processing of wh questions in Niuean, a VSO ergative-absolutive Polynesian language. We use visual‐world eye tracking to examine how preference for subject or object dependencies is affected (a) by case marking of the subject (ergative vs. absolutive) and object (absolutive vs. oblique), and (b) by the transitivity of the verb (whether the object is obligatory). We find that Niuean exhibits (a) an effect of case, whereby dependencies of arguments with absolutive case (whether subjects or objects) are preferred over dependencies of arguments with ergative or oblique case, and (b) an effect of transitivity, whereby dependencies of obligatory objects (i.e., of transitive verbs) are preferred over dependencies of optional objects (i.e., of intransitive verbs). These results constitute evidence against theories that appeal to a universal subject advantage, or to the linear distance between filler and gap. Instead, the effect of case is consistent with a frequency‐based account: Because absolutive case has a wider syntactic distribution than ergative or oblique, absolutive dependencies are easier to process. The effect of transitivity reflects sensitivity of the parser to whether or not an argument is obligatory. We propose that these two strategies could be unified if the parser prefers dependencies with arguments that are more likely to materialize.