31 October 2014

Keren Rice talk at UTM

Faculty member Keren Rice will be giving a talk as part of the Department of Language Studies Speaker Series at our Mississauga campus:

"Fieldwork, community, variation, and change."
Wednesday, November 12, 2014, 1 PM - 3 PM
North Building 262 (Dean’s Lounge)

During my career, I have been interested in addressing and trying to understand the tension that exists between universality and variability in language; I have also been interested in examining ways of working with people in fieldwork where the role that the people that linguists work with are taken into account, with a focus on people as well as on language. In this talk, I examine variation from two very different perspectives, a general approach to research and specific research that I have been doing. The general approach to research that I address concerns the definition of collaborative or community-based models of research, and how those both enhance and restrict research.

The linguistic approach (the focus of this talk) concerns the reported absence of types of phonological variation at a time in the history of the Dene (Slavey) language that has important ramifications for the history of how communities were settled, a topic of interest in the communities. The ethnographic record speaks to the emergence of two varieties of the language in the early 20th century. This does not fit well with people’s sense of their history. Work with a dictionary compiled in the late 19th century reveals that the linguistic varieties were in fact distinct at that time, suggesting that the linguistic record supports the community interpretation of its history.

These topics both address variation, albeit of very different types, but these represent the kinds of variation that are often found in doing fieldwork today. Print Page

29 October 2014

Guest talk at UTSC: Tali Bitan (University of Haifa)

The Centre for French and Linguistics at UTSC presents a lecture by Tali Bitan of the University of Haifa in Israel, who is currently serving as a visiting professor of speech-language pathology here at the U of T and a visiting scientist at the Rotman Institute at Baycrest Hospital:

"Many ways to read your vowels: fMRI studies of reading in English and in Hebrew."
Monday, November 3, 2014, 12-1 PM (with a subsequent Q & A session), MW130

Findings from the last decade demonstrating the enormous malleability of the nervous system throughout life are in consonance with reading theories suggesting that the neurocognitive mechanisms involved in reading depend on the properties of the specific language and the readers’ experience with its orthography. In this talk I will review three sets of experiments in which we examined the neurocognitive mechanisms involved in reading single words, using fMRI: In Hebrew, in English and in an artificial orthography.

Two unique aspects of Hebrew are its complex morphological structure and the two versions of its orthography (with and without diacritic marks). In the first set of experiments we examined the effects of orthographic transparency and morphological complexity on the brain in skilled and Dyslexic adult readers, as well as children. Our results point to the overriding effect of experience on processing, beyond orthographic transparency, and to the compensatory potential of morphological decomposition.

In the second set of studies we examined how English reading children process the conflicting orthographic and phonological information typical of the opaque English orthography. Our brain connectivity results show developmental increase in top-down processing, and sex differences in the connectivity between hemispheres. In the third set of studies we examined the effect of reading instruction method on the brains of adults learning to read in an artificial script. Our results suggest that different learning mechanisms are involved in explicit and implicit reading instruction, and that only explicit instruction on the smallest units of mappingwould result in stable representations and a generalizable reading procedure.

Feel free to bring along your lunch! Print Page

28 October 2014


This year’s meeting of the North East Linguistics Society is taking place at MIT from October 31 to November 2. Four of the papers accepted this year for presentation at the highly selective conference are coming from U of T people:

Ph.D. student Tomohiro Yokoyama is presenting "Features wearing two hats: Derivation of object-marked verbs in Kinyarwanda."

Former visiting professor Tyler Peterson (now at the University of Arizona) and current faculty members Ana-Teresa Pérez-Leroux, Susana Béjar, and Diane Massam, plus colleague Anny Castilla-Earls (SUNY Fredonia), are teaming up to present "Structural complexity and the acquisition of recursive locative PPs."

Will Oxford (Ph.D. 2014, now at the University of Manitoba) is presenting "Probe competition as a source of ergative person splits."

Keir Moulton (MA 2002, now at Simon Fraser University) and Nino Grillo (CLUNL/Stuttgart) are presenting "Pseudo-relatives: Big but transparent."
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New blog for Canadian Language Museum

The Canadian Language Museum has a new blog, written by Michael Iannozzi, a work-study student in our department. The English blog is at http://langmusecad.wordpress.com/category/english/, and the French version at http://langmusecad.wordpress.com/category/francais/. The most recent
posting is an interview with U of T alumna Nicole Rosen, and the posting before describes Naomi's Heritage Language Variation and Change project. Print Page

27 October 2014

Research Groups: Friday, October 31

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Language Variation and Change Group
Silvia Dal Negro (Free University of Bozen): "Dealing with multilingual data: The making of a corpus in South Tyrol."

After a short introduction to the sociolinguistic situation of South Tyrol (North-East of Italy), the aims, methodology and results of a research project on bilingual speech will be dealt with. In the presentation I will focus in particular on patterns of language distribution in a spoken corpus encompassing Tyrolean (German) dialect, Italian and Trentino dialect.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Phonology Research Group
Alexei Kochetov: "Phonetics of Dravidian retroflexes: Insights into phonological patterning and the linguistic prehistory of South Asia."

Dravidian retroflexes are peculiar in being phonetically more 'extreme' (retracted) and historically more archaic than in other languages of South Asia. Phonologically, retroflexes exhibit particular edge effects (positional restrictions and assimilatory directionality) unusual for other coronal consonants. This talk examines dynamic and spatial aspects of retroflex production in Kannada (South Dravidian) exploring phonetic sources and the development of the common phonological patterns. Articulography and ultrasound imaging data collected from 10 speakers of the language reveal that retroflex gestures are complex and asymmetric, being more distinct at their onset than the offset, and thus strikingly parallel to the phonological edge effects. Phonetic types and phonological patterns of retroflexion are further discussed in light of recent findings of molecular genetic studies of South Asian populations.

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Syntax/Semantics Squib Section
Round-table discussion led by Nick Welch of issues relating to the structure of the left periphery, particularly questions that arise in diagnosing the position functional heads in head-final languages. Everyone welcome, regardless of background! Print Page

flʌut talk: Nicholas Welch

Friends of Linguistics At the University of Toronto (flʌut) presents a lecture by Nicholas Welch (postdoctoral fellow, University of Toronto):

Revitalizing Languages: Challenges and Successes

Thursday, November 6, 2014, 7-9 PM.
Linguistics Department Lounge - Sidney Smith Hall, Fourth Floor

Linguistic diversity, like biological diversity, is in crisis worldwide. Children are growing up speaking an ever-shrinking number of languages. The death of a language is often accompanied by the disappearance of a culture, an oral literature, and a way of life. Throughout North America and the world, efforts to revitalize threatened languages are underway. Language revitalization is a very difficult undertaking, however, and requires resources that are usually already strained. It is therefore vitally important to understand which strategies have been most successful and why. Dr. Welch will discuss what we can learn from the few success stories and how this information can be applied to other languages. In particular he will draw on his experiences with the Tlicho Yatii, Tsuut'ina and Navajo languages.

Informal discussion and reception to follow. Open to all students, alumni, faculty, and friends! Print Page

24 October 2014

PsychologyHenge 2014

Twice a year, the setting sun aligns exactly with the Department of Psychology's windows at the far end of our hall. This eagerly anticipated event is PsychologyHenge. Print Page

Diane and Niuean Language Week

October 12-19 was Niuean Language Week in New Zealand and last week Diane Massam was featured on the University of Canterbury (UC) Linguistic Department's blog in a post by Dr. Heidi Quinn (UC) about Niuean Language research at UC over the past few years.

http://uclinguistics.wordpress.com/2014/10/19/fakaalofa-lahi-atu-heidi-quinn-blogs-about-niuean-in-niuean-language-week/ Print Page

23 October 2014

Language revitalization efforts featured in U of T News

Earlier this month, U of T News published a story featuring work by Alana Johns and undergraduate students in our department that contributed to the launch of a new website (previously reported on here) dedicated to revitalization of the Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) language.

http://news.utoronto.ca/linguistics-students-help-create-website-share-ojibwe-stories Print Page

20 October 2014

Research Groups: Friday, October 24

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Psycholinguistics Group

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax/Semantics Group

Keffyalew Gebregziabher: "Neither fish nor fowl: The role of nay in Tigrinya."

In Tigrinya (Semitic, Ethiopia & Eritrea; SOV), there is an element, nay, that serves (among other things) to distinguish between two, both semantically and syntactically different, possessives: (i) Nay-marked possessives; (ii) Bare (non-nay-marked) possessives. The former type is used for alienable possession while the latter one is used for inalienable possession. Two hypotheses have been proposed for a similar element, yə-, in Amharic, a very closely related language: (a) yə- is a genitive Case-marker (Ouhalla 2004); (b) yə- is a linker (den Dikken 2007). In this talk, I show that neither hypothesis (a) nor hypothesis (b) is adequate to account for all the facts of Tigrinya nay. Instead, I propose that nay is a nominal copula and its role is to introduce a grammatical relation between two dependents (e.g., a nay-marked possessor and its possessee).

Tomohiro Yokoyama: "Features wearing two hats: Derivation of object-marked verbs in Kinyarwanda."

In this paper, I propose that while feature valuation motivates internal/external Merge, as has previously been claimed, checking of uninterpretable features is a distinct operation which triggers head movement. The proposed feature system leads to incorporation of clitics  (object markers) at the phase edge (i.e. v* or Voice) after all the clitics have been merged in their respective argument positions. Consequently, the surface order of object markers can be derived by head movement without having to strengthen the Morphological Component or implement PF rules.

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Fieldwork Group
Discussion of a short article by Sonya Bird on phonetic fieldwork and experimental design in the Pacific Northwest.
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