26 January 2015

Research groups: Friday, January 30

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Language Variation and Change Research Group

Matt Hunt Gardner presenting a reprise of his American Dialect Society talk with Sali A. Tagliamonte: "The bike, the back, and the boyfriend: Confronting the “definite article conspiracy” in Canadian and British English.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Phonetics/Phonology Research Group

Jessamyn Schertz: "Learning different things from the same input: How initial category structure shapes phonetic adaptation."

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM in BL 112 (note irregular time and place)
Syntax/Semantics Squib Section

Paper discussion: Burnett, Heather (2014). A Delineation solution to the puzzles of absolute adjectives. Linguistics and Philosophy, 37, 1-39. Print Page

Several people in the CJL

The work of four department members can be found in the latest issue of the Canadian Journal of Linguistics - November 2014, 59(3).

Diane Massam (faculty) and Erin Grant (BA) are co-authors of a squib: "Given two bes, how do they Agree?"

There are also book reviews by Becky Tollan (Ph.D.) and Nicholas Welch (postdoc).

Congratulations to all! Print Page

21 January 2015


Two of our alumni are presenting at the 20th Workshop on Structure and Constituency in the Languages of the Americas, being held at the University of Arizona from the 23rd to the 25th.

Richard Compton (Ph.D. 2012) is presenting "On the universality of adjectives: Evidence from verb-like adjectives in Inuit."

Nicholas Rolle (MA 2010, now at the University of California, Berkeley) is presenting a paper with colleague Marine Vuillermet (Centre national de la recherche scientifique de la France): "Morphologically assigned verbal accent in Ese'eja."

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Report from LSA/ADS/etc.

The 89th annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America was held in Portland, Oregon, from the 8th to the 12th of January. Alongside it were the 'sister societies', including the American Dialect Society (ADS) and the North American Association for the History of the Language Sciences (NAAHoLS).

Current departmental people involved in the conference(s) were faculty members Keren Rice and Sali A. Tagliamonte; postdocs Bronwyn Bjorkman and Nicholas Welch; Ph.D. students Marisa Brook, Ailís Cournane, Matt Hunt Gardner, Yu-Leng Lin, and Ruth Maddeaux; and undergraduates Lyndsey Leask and Kinza Mahoon. MA student Paulina Lyskawa was also in attendance, and six alumni and three former visiting students presented talks or posters.

Lyndsey and Kinza (along with Dennis Preston of Oklahoma State University) and their poster with Sali for ADS on the dialect of the Madawaska Valley (photo by Sali A. Tagliamonte).

Marisa's talk for LSA (photo by Giedrius Subačius).

Sali's talk for NAAHoLS on the history of variationist sociolinguistics (photo by Giedrius Subačius).

 Marisa, Paulina, and Ruth at Ailís's LSA talk (photo by Sali A. Tagliamonte).

In case navigating Portland is proving to be a challenge (photo by Marisa Brook).
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Research groups: Friday, January 23

Note multiple irregularities for this week: there is no psycholinguistics meeting and no fieldwork group meeting, and the syntax/semantics group is meeting at an atypical time.

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

Paper discussion: Bogal-Allbritten, E. (2014), "The decomposition of belief and desire in Navajo". Manuscript, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Print Page

20 January 2015

Guest speaker: Ryan Bochnak (University of California, Berkeley)

Ryan Bochnak is a postdoctoral researcher and Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He completed his dissertation at the University of Chicago in 2013. Ryan is a semanticist keenly interested in cross-linguistic variation and documentation of understudied languages; he has worked on gradability, comparison, Washo (isolate/Hokam), and Luganda (Bantu, spoken in Uganda).

On Friday he will be giving a talk at 3 PM in SS 560A: "Variation in degree semantics in comparatives and beyond." A reception in the department lounge will follow.

The standard degree analysis of gradability in English holds that the function of degree morphology, such as the comparative, measure phrases, and degree adverbs, is to bind a degree variable located in the lexical semantics of gradable predicates. In the first part of this talk, I discuss the landscape of gradation structures in Washo (isolate/Hokan), and argue that this language systematically lacks degree morphology of this sort. I propose that this gap in the functional inventory of Washo stems from variation in whether languages introduce degree variables into the semantic representation that can be bound by such operators. This analysis predicts both the systematic absence of degree morphology, as well as the norm-related interpretation of gradable adjectives in conjoined comparisons.

This type of variation raises an interesting question regarding areas of grammar beyond comparison. Specifically, does the variation in gradable predicates extend to other categories as well? In the second part of the talk, I investigate one such area of grammar where degree semantics has been argued to play a crucial role, namely in aspectual composition. I argue that while so-called degree achievement verbs in English and their counterparts in Washo share certain interpretational similarities, such as allowing both telic and atelic readings, we nevertheless find important differences, which can be linked to the availability versus absence of degrees.

This analysis thus has important consequences not only for theories of gradability in natural language, but also the nature of cross-linguistic variation in the semantic component of grammar, specifically the division of labor between variation in functional categories and the lexicon. It furthermore informs us on what possible human languages can look like, and how much a language can do without while still allowing its speakers to communicate effectively.
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14 January 2015

A playwright in our midst!

MA student Frederick Gietz has written and directed a play entitled "Chase Williams and the Case of the Missing Fixture" for the U of T Drama Festival. It is a crime drama comedy that will be performed by the Victoria College Drama Society on the evening of February the 12th. Student tickets are $10 for the whole evening. More information can be found here. Print Page

13 January 2015

Congratulations, Derek!

Derek Denis defended his doctoral dissertation, "The development of pragmatic markers in Canadian English", on Tuesday, January 13, 2015.

On the committee were Sali A. Tagliamonte, Elizabeth Cowper, Jack Chambers, Naomi Nagy, Aaron Dinkin, and external examiner Jenny Cheshire (Queen Mary University of London).

Congratulations, Dr. Denis!

Alex and Derek celebrate!

Naomi, Jack, Sali, Derek, Jenny, Aaron, and Elizabeth
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Guest speaker: Guillaume Thomas (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro)

Guillaume Thomas is a postdoctoral researcher at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. He received his Ph.D. from MIT in 2012 under the supervision of Irene Heim and his research centres around semantics, pragmatics, morphosyntax, and the Tupi languages of South America. He will be giving a talk in SS 560A on Friday the 16th, starting at 3:00 PM: Tense as a nominal category: Evidence from Mbyá. Afterwards, there will be a reception in the department lounge.

This talk will explore the grammar of nominal tense in the Mbyá dialect of Guarani, a Tupi language spoken in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay (see Thomas 2014). As in other Guarani languages, nouns in Mbyá can be suffixed with the morphemes -kue and -rã, that shift their predication time in the past or in the future of the time of evaluation of the DP. This is illustrated in (1) and (2).

(1) A-echa mburuvicha-kue.
A1.SG-see leader-KUE
‘I saw the ex-leader.’

(2) Kuee, a-jogua che-ro-rã.
Yesterday, A1.SG-buy B1.SG-house-RA
‘Yesterday, I bought my future house.’

According to Tonhauser’s (2007) prominent analysis, these morphemes are not tenses but quasi-aspectual temporal markers. A central piece of Tonhauser’s argument is that the use of -kue and -rã triggers inferences that are not commonly associated with tense across languages. Focusing on the past tense marker, I will show to the contrary that the additional inferences triggered by –kue can be analyzed as a combination of implicatures and presuppositions, that are also attested with the English past tense under the guise of lifetime effects.

I will argue that once these pragmatic effects have been factored out, -kue can be analyzed as a simple relative past tense. I will then explore the hypothesis that the functional category of tense is exclusively nominal in Mbyá. Support for this claim will come from the fact that although there is no tense inflection on verbs, -kue is attested on nominalized propositions, in which case it is interpreted as bona fide relative past tense, which locates the reference time of the proposition in the past of a local temporal anchor, as illustrated in (3) and (4).

(3) Juan o-icha’ã Maria o-mba’eapo-a-gue
Juan A3-think MariaA3-work-NLZ-KUE
‘Juan thought that Maria was working.’

(4) Juan o-ipytyvõ ava re Maria i-jayvu va’e-kue pe
Juan A3-help man OBL Maria B3-talk VAE-KUE OBJ
‘Juan helped the man that Maria talked about.’

This analysis has important consequences for the typological relevance of the grammar of tense in Guarani languages, as it has been argued that Paraguayan Guarani is a tenseless language (Tonhauser 2011). If I am correct, the relevant point of variation here is not the presence or absence of tense in the inventory of functional categories of the language, but rather the identification of tense as a verbal or as a nominal functional category. I will defend this view against arguments that tense is an inherently verbal category. Print Page

Research Groups: Friday, January 16

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
LVC Research Group

Reports from LSA/ADS in Portland; discussion of semester presentation schedule; planning for NWAV 44 in October.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Phonetics/Phonology Group

Yoonjung Kang: "Laryngeal classification of Korean fricatives: evidence from sound change and dialect variation."

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM in Bissell 112 (note irregular time and place)
Syntax/Semantics Squib Section

Paper discussion: Bochnak, M. Ryan (forthcoming). The Degree Semantics Parameter and cross-linguistic variation. To be published in Semantics and Pragmatics. Print Page