February 8, 2016

Research Groups: Friday, February 12

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Phonetics/Phonology Group
Paper discussion: Durvasula and Kahng (2016). Illusory vowels in perceptual epenthesis: The role of phonological alternations. Phonology, 32, 1-32.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Language Variation and Change Group
Group 'discovery day' devoted to exchanging research questions and pressing issues.

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Semantics Group
Giuseppe Ricciardi (MA): "Italian future non-future: Its contexts of use."

It is a well-known fact that in many languages future morphology can be optionally used to convey an epistemic reading, without any reference to a future time. In this talk, I focus on Italian where the epistemic use of the future is quite productive. I will attempt to define clearly the utterance contexts where it is appropriate to employ the epistemic future and, at the same time, I will try to explore its relation to other, more 'conventional' epistemic expressions.

February 7, 2016

Workshop on Intonation: February 11-12

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese is hosting a Workshop on Intonation on Friday the 11th and Saturday the 12th.

The goal of this workshop is to broadcast the research on intonation at the U of T and to establish a dialogue with experts around the world. There will be short presentations by faculty members, alumni, graduate students, and three invited speakers - Carlos Gussenhoven (Radboud University Nijmegen), Ineke Mennen (University of Graz), and José Ignacio Hualde (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign).

Past and present members of the Department of Linguistics who will be involved include faculty members Ana-Teresa Pérez-Leroux, Alana Johns, and Laura Colantoni; and alumna Manami Hirayama (Ph.D. 2009, now at Ritsumeikan University).

For more information, including the program and how to register, see this page on the Department of Spanish and Portuguese site.

February 5, 2016

A conversation with Elaine Gold

[Interview by Sali A. Tagliamonte.]

Elaine Gold is retiring at the end of 2015-2016, marking the end of a long journey at the University of Toronto from undergraduate student to Ph.D. candidate to teacher, researcher, undergraduate coordinator and active outreach organizer. Although Elaine is retiring from the Department of Linguistics, she is actually just changing jobs. Her plan is to devote herself full time to being the Director of the Canadian Language Museum at its new home at Glendon College of York University. I spoke to Elaine on February 1st about this important milestone in her life.

How did you become a linguist?

I always loved languages but I knew nothing about linguistics. I did not do linguistics as an undergraduate. I started at U of T in math, physics and chemistry, and ended up with an undergraduate and a master's degree in art history. For many years I worked with museums and arts administration and eventually with the Ontario Arts Council. I started thinking about going back to school and by then I had heard about linguistics, so I thought, "Why don't I try it?" I was 39 when I took first-year linguistics and I really liked it. I eventually applied to the grad program. The graduate coordinator at the time was Elan Dresher. He called me into his office and said, "We can't accept you into the Master's program." (Side note: the University of Toronto does not allow a student to do more than one master's degree.) I was on the verge of deep disappointment when Elan continued, "But we can accept you into the Ph.D. program." So, in 1991, I started my Ph.D. with little more than second-year linguistics under my belt and four kids on the home-front.

What was the Department of Linguistics like then?

Everyone was so welcoming. There was such a lovely atmosphere in the department! Ed Burstynsky was teaching the Intro to Linguistics at the time. He would throw questions out to the big class and encourage everyone to come and see him. So, I went to see him.  Eventually, I modeled my own teaching of the intro class on Ed's methods.

I got involved in the Syntax Research Group. We were all working on different things and we were all very excited about what we were working on and we would get to together and talk about it. It was so much fun.

Looking back at your career, what were the pivotal moments? 

An important moment was when Queen's University invited me to teach Canadian English. That changed the direction of my research. I thought if I was going to teach Canadian English I should do some research on Canadian English. I started working on Canadian 'eh'. I discovered that it was not that easy to do research on 'eh'. So, I did a survey. I discovered that the same results as what had been reported 20 years earlier, so despite the fact that people think Canadian 'eh' is gone, it's not. And also, I discovered that there are so many different ways of using 'eh'.

I had done my Ph.D. dissertation on aspect and language contact in Yiddish. So, I decided I would pull together that research topic into my research on Canadian English. I examined Yiddish words that have come into English, like 'schlep' and 'schmooze'. Interestingly, while  'schlep' is used in English just like it is used in Yiddish, 'schmooze' has taken on a more negative meaning that it doesn't have in Yiddish. In Yiddish it just means 'small talk', 'have a little conversation'. But in English it also means 'sucking up to someone', perhaps being influenced by negative words like 'ooze', or its associations with the entertainment industry.

Another thing that came out of teaching Canadian English was my work on the variety called Bungi. Bungi was a Scottish-English dialect spoken in Manitoba by First Nations people in the late 1800s. If you listen to tapes, the people have a Scottish lilt, just as though they were born in Scotland.

During my time in the Department of Linguistics, I've done many administrative jobs, including Undergraduate Coordinator, member of the Curriculum Committee, Arts and Science Council representative, and many others. I'm sitting on the Council even now. I've enjoyed that larger view of the university I gained in these positions. 

Looking back at your career, what gives you the most satisfaction?

I've had an enormous amount of satisfaction from teaching and exciting students about the field of linguistics, but I think the most important thing I've done in my career is to establish the Canadian Language Museum. I got the idea from Linguist List. Somebody had posted that they wanted to create a language museum and were looking for input. And I thought, "What an interesting idea!" I had worked in museums before, so the idea had a lot of intrinsic interest to me.  I hired a Work Study student to research language museums around the world and I found out everything I could about language museums. The idea is to bring information about the languages of Canada to the Canadian public. Nowadays, people write to me from all over the world to ask my advice about creating a language museum!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

One thing I think is really important is the outreach aspects of the Department. I've run the FLɅUT lectures, which are presentations for people who did linguistics as undergraduates, and although they did not continue in the field, they still want to hear about research and developments. I've also done Fall Campus Days and outreach to high-school students in programs such as the Linguistics Olympiad. I hope that kind of outreach will continue. It's important that linguistics does not get cut off from the wider public.

What will you miss the most?

I will miss my colleagues and the students. However, it's time for me to transition to the Canadian Language Museum because I'm the person to build it up so that it can thrive. I'm not thinking of this transition as retirement. I've got a really big project ahead of me.

February 3, 2016

Guest speaker: Keir Moulton (Simon Fraser University)

We are very pleased to welcome back alumnus Keir Moulton (Simon Fraser University) for a guest talk. Keir received his MA from our department in 2002, and then earned a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2009. He has since been a postdoc at SSHRC and a faculty member at UCLA, the University of Vienna, and SFU. He is primarily interested in syntax, semantics, and their interface, particularly when it comes to subordination.

Keir's talk will be at 3 PM on Friday the 5th in SS 560A: "Ingredients of embedding: Complementizers, clausal determiners, and mediated AGREE." A reception will follow in the departmental lounge (SS 4065).

In both traditional and generative syntax, a long-standing question is what role complementizers play in allowing clauses to serve as arguments of predicates. Building on ideas about parallelism between clauses and noun phrases (Szabolcsi 1987, Abney 1987), one view treats complementizers in Romance and Germanic as analogous to the determiners of noun phrases (Roberts and Roussou 2003, Manzini and Savoia 2003, 2011). On this approach, both C and D are there to give a phrase argument status. In this talk, I argue against such parallelism. Instead, I argue that all CPs are predicates — even complement CPs (Kratzer 2006, Moulton 2009, Moulton 2015, Arsenijevic 2009). I begin by presenting distributional evidence about CP complementation and the theory of Moulton (2015). I then turn to an interesting case study of an understudied type of CP in Romance — the Pseudo-Relative (PR) (Radford 1977, Kayne 1975, Cinque 1992), illustrated by the bracketed string in (1) in Italian. These constructions speak against DP-CP parallelism because, as I argue in joint work with Nino Grillo (Humboldt), they show that Ds and Cs co-occur in this construction, both bearing distinct morpho-syntactic and semantic signatures.

(1) [Io che fumo per strada] è uno spettacolo che non raccomando a nussuno.
[I.NOM that smokes in street] is a sight that not recommend.I to anyone.
'Me smoking in the street is a sight I don't recommend to anyone.' (Cinque 1992 (66))

We argue that PRs contain a predicate CP that is converted to an argument by a null determiner heading the CP. We further show how this null determiner facilities an AGREE relation between the matrix clause and the PR-internal subject (e.g. Io above), in a fashion similar to suggestions in Preminger (2009) and Bjorkman and Zeijlstra (2015) for Long-Distance Agreement in Basque and Tsez. The results add to a growing body of literature arguing for determiners on clauses (Davies and Dubinsky (2002, 2010), Hartman (2012) and others).

Raigelee Alorut in the Star

Raigelee Alorut, one of faculty member Alana Johns's local Inuktitut-speaking colleagues was on the front page of yesterday's Toronto Star talking about the role of post-secondary education in the lives of First Nations people.

February 1, 2016

Research Groups: Friday, February 5

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Psycholinguistics Group
Presentation by faculty member Amy Finn of the Department of Psychology.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Language Variation and Change Group
James Walker (York University): "The sociolinguistic consequences of ethnolinguistic diversity for English in Toronto."

Recent patterns of immigration to Canada have altered the ethnolinguistic landscape of Toronto, transforming a predominantly monolingual city into one of the most diverse cities in the world. Language shift to English by immigrant groups has been mitigated by the city’s  'ethnic enclaves', which are said to promote heritage-language maintenance and to the development of 'ethnolects', ethnically marked ways of speaking. In this presentation, I report on an ongoing research project examining the sociolinguistic consequences of ethnolinguistic diversity for the English spoken in Toronto. Comparing speakers of different ethnic backgrounds across generations and by their responses to an ethnic orientation questionnaire, we analyze the quantitative patterning of a number of phonetic and grammatical features. Our results suggest that ethnolects do not reflect the effects of language transfer, which do not persist beyond the first generation, but that second-/third-generation speakers may use features at different rates to express their ethnic identity. Since the linguistic conditioning of features is largely parallel across all younger speakers, regardless of ethnic background and degree of ethnic orientation, we suggest that they all share the same linguistic system.

January 29, 2016

Ana-Teresa Pérez-Leroux at UTism 2016

The 2016 University of Toronto Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Mind (UTism) is occurring over the first weekend in February at the Earth Sciences Building. This year's theme is 'Work in progress: The cognitive science of development'. Our department is one of the secondary sponsors; faculty member Ana-Teresa Pérez-Leroux is one of the speakers (and, later on, panellists). Her talk is entitled 'The mystery of developmental timing', and is at 10 AM on the Saturday. See the website for more details.

The onset and development of language is temporally robust in human children. Principal milestones such as onset of speech, emergence of productive syntax, and development of complex structures roughly occur at the same ages across cultures and languages, despite the wide range of variation in the formal properties of the various linguistic systems and in styles of maternal interaction. Beyond this gross characterization we observe individual differences across children, and variation in the acquisition of various linguistic properties. Within given languages timing and ordering in the emergence of grammatical forms or constructions seems generally robust. Timing is thought to depend on frequency and distributional characteristics of the input, and on perceptual and formal complexity. Yet, for each reasonable characterization of a factor that determines timing of acquisition, important counterexamples emerge. In this presentation I review some of the known observations about timing in language acquisition, including some data on agreement, clitics, and construal. This will serve as a background for discussing preschoolers’ mastery of a great grammatical challenge, the acquisition of nominal recursion, i.e., the ability to nest noun phrases within phrases of the same kind.

January 28, 2016

BLS 42

The 42nd meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society is taking place in Berkeley, California from February 5th to 7th.

Ph.D. student Dan Milway is presenting "Specifying why a doctor isn’t Mary", based on Generals Paper research.

Alumnus Maayan Abenina-Adar (BA 2012, now at UCLA) with UCLA colleague Nikos Angelopoulos: "On root modality and grammatical relations in Tagalog."

Best of luck to both, and to everyone involved in the conference!

January 26, 2016

Guest speaker: Bronwyn Bjorkman (Queen's University)

We're delighted to welcome back former postdoctoral fellow Bronwyn Bjorkman to our department for a guest talk. Bronwyn earned her Ph.D. from MIT in 2011, and taught at Northeastern University before joining the University of Toronto as a SSHRC postdoc in 2012-13, then Banting postdoc between 2013 and 2015. In the summer of 2015, she began a tenure-track position at Queen's University. Her research interests are centered around syntax and also include morphology, semantics, inflection, and morphophonology.

Her talk, "Grammaticalizing case: Some inherent problems", will take place in SS 560A at 3 PM. A reception will follow in the department lounge.

Grammaticalization is a common source of language change. Though most often applied to changes in which lexical items become functional items (e.g. Old English verb willan to Modern English modal will), it also applies to changes among functional items (e.g. perfect to evidential), and to changes that don't involve a change in meaning so much as broadening in the context for a single item. Despite a large literature from typological and functional perspectives (Heine 1993; Hopper and Traugott 1993; Bybee et al. 1994; among others), relatively little work from formal generative perspectives has focused on grammaticalization. But because grammaticalization highlights relationships between categories, it gives us a window into otherwise-abstract representations. 

This talk highlights the potential advantages of using grammaticalization to inform syntactic and semantic analysis, focusing on two domains where what grammaticalizes is not necessarily a word or morpheme, but potentially a case pattern. These are possessive modality (the use of possessive morphosyntax to express modal necessity), and correlations between viewpoint aspect and oblique case marking, manifested both by oblique subjects in perfect and perfective clauses, and oblique objects in imperfective clauses.

These are of particular interest because oblique case has been tied, in both traditional and generative analyses, to the semantic interpretation of arguments, i.e. so-called inherent case. But modality and viewpoint aspect involve relations not between individuals, but between sets of worlds or between times. The DPs that surface with oblique case are thus not semantic arguments of the functional head that determines their case — in apparent contradiction of standard views of inherent case as linked tightly to the semantic relation of an argument to the case-assigning head (Chomsky 1981, 1986; Woolford 2001). 

This motivates a reconsideration of the mechanisms underlying inherent case, accounting for cases where it is dissociated from thematic interpretation. On the basis of the grammaticalization facts, I argue that inherent case is indeed assigned by functional heads to arguments in their specifiers — but that this should be encoded in terms of a mechanism of feature transfer, and extended to DPs in derived positions. The analysis of grammaticalization thus offers new perspectives on the morphosyntax of case, with implications for continuing debates on the division between structural and inherent case.

January 25, 2016

Research Groups: Friday, January 29

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Phonetics/Phonology Group
Ruth Maddeaux (Ph.D.) on the results of her first Generals paper: an experiment on Irish consonant perception.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax Group
Paper discussion led by Ross Godfrey (Ph.D.): Nino Grillo and Keir Moulton (MA 2002), "Sorting out pseudo-relatives: Clausal determiners and mediated Agree."

1:30 PM - 2:45 PM
Semantics Group
Presentation by Dan Milway (Ph.D.) as a practice talk for the Berkeley Linguistics Society: "Specifying why a doctor isn’t Mary."

This talk addresses a long-standing puzzle with respect to specificational copular clauses. Namely, it addresses the fact that simple indefinites cannot be specificational subjects but more complex indefinites can. Starting from the observation by Mikkelsen (2004) that specificational subjects are obligatorily topics, I argue that the restriction on indefinite specificational subjects is due to a requirement that specificational subject DPs contain but not wholly be constituents marked as contrastive topic (in the sense of Buring 2003). I further propose that this requirement comes from a general constraint on contrastive topic marking in sentences, requiring novel and presupposed content.

January 20, 2016


Our department and departmental alumni put in a good showing at the annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America and its smaller 'sister societies', this year held from Thursday, January 7 to Sunday, January 10 at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C.

Several of us were involved right from the beginning of the conference. Naomi Nagy (faculty) and Paulina Lyskawa (MA 2015, now at the University of Maryland) gave a presentation at Thursday's workshop on the preparation of corpora for archival storage.

Later on Thursday afternoon, the LSA symposium 'Documenting variation in endangered languages' featured faculty sociolinguists Sali A. Tagliamonte and Naomi Nagy each giving a presentation. Over at the symposium 'Communication and identity construction in a multilingual context: A linguistic approach beyond cultural boundaries', alumna Nicole Rosen (Ph.D. 2007, now at the University of Manitoba) gave a presentation on language revitalization among the Métis of southern Manitoba. The LSA sessions featured alumna Michelle Yuan (MA 2013, now at MIT) and two colleagues presenting work on mood- and agreement-related allomorphy in Inuktitut. At the meeting of the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA), Michael Barrie (Ph.D. 2006, now at Sogang University) gave a talk on Onondaga interrogatives.

Sali and Michael celebrate a very successful beginning of the conference(s)!
(Photo courtesy of Sali A. Tagliamonte.)

Naomi (centre) with two of her first students from the University of New
Hampshire to have gone on to do Ph.D.s in linguistics: Jim Wood (now at
Yale University), and Tricia Irwin (now at the University of Pennsylvania).
(Photo courtesy of Naomi Nagy.)

On the Friday morning in the LSA sessions, Ph.D. student Matt Hunt Gardner and former postdoc Rebecca Roeder (2007-09, now at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte) presented a new model of the dialectological Canadian Shift affecting the vowel system. Over at the American Dialect Society (ADS) meeting, Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty) and Ruth Maddeaux (Ph.D.) presented work on three rather novel sociolinguistic variables as found across Northern Ontario. They were immediately followed by alumna Cathleen Waters (Ph.D. 2011, now at the University of Leicester), who has been digging into corpora of historical speech in the British Parliament in order to shed light on linguistic change.

Over at the symposium 'Scientific practice and progress in forensic linguistics', alumnus William J. Idsardi (BA 1988, now at the University of Maryland) showed some work on neurolinguistic ways of determining the dialect and/or individual speaker of a piece of linguistic evidence.

As part of the symposium 'Language contact in the mind and in the community: Insights from bilingual phonetics and phonology', former visiting student Colleen Balukas (now at Ball State University) presented work on phonetic production on the part of Spanish-English bilinguals. This symposium concluded with a poster session, which included two alumni: Nicole Rosen  (Ph.D. 2007, now at the University of Manitoba) with two colleagues on language-contact and its effects on the vowel system of Michif, and former visiting student Holman Tse (now back at the University of Pittsburgh) presenting work he undertook here under Naomi Nagy's supervision, on phonetic/phonological issues among different generations of heritage Cantonese speakers in the Toronto area.

At SSILA, Patricia A. Shaw (Ph.D. 1976, now at the University of British Columbia) presented work on the phonology of Kwak’wala". And Ph.D. student Emilia Melara single-handedly ensured that our department was represented at the meeting of the Society for Pidgin and Creole Linguistics, reporting on work she has done on null-subjects in Mauritian Creole.

Paulina and Emilia find a minute to take in the local sights together!
(Photo courtesy of Emilia Melara.)

Saturday found two alumni and a colleague presenting at ADS: Nicole Rosen (Ph.D. 2007, now at the University of Manitoba) and Alexandra D'Arcy (Ph.D. 2005, now at the University of Victoria), along with collaborator Jillian Ankutowicz (University of Lethbridge) presented on their investigations into variable (ing) and its somewhat slippery third variant, 'een'.

Carrie Gillon (MA 1999, now at Arizona State University), with colleague Peter Jacobs (University of Victoria) gave a talk to the SSILA on evidentiality in Skwxwú7mesh.

Sali spent two hours running between two simultaneous poster sessions. At the ADS-related one, she and Katharina Pabst (University of Buffalo) in conjunction with the other students from Sali's class at the LSA Summer Institute 2015 presented a poster on variation and change among adjectives that mean 'very good' (awesome, cool, excellent, etc.); at the LSA poster session, she and Ph.D. student Marisa Brook presented a poster on restrictive relative clause markers across the Northern Ontario English Corpus that Sali and her students have been assembling.

Elsewhere in the room, alumnus Michael Barrie (Ph.D. 2006, now at Sogang University) was also presenting an LSA poster, this one on syntactic features of Iroquoian.

Marisa shows the poster with Sali to dialectologist Kirk Hazen of West
Virginia University. (Photo courtesy of Sali A. Tagliamonte.)

In the afternoon, there were two LSA talks from alumni. Kenji Oda (Ph.D. 2012, now at Syracuse University) presented work on Irish copulas, and Michelle Yuan (MA 2013, now at MIT) looked at subordinate clause syntax in Gikuyu.

A number of people with links to our department could be found at the symposium 'Perspective on language and linguistics: Community-based research (CBR). Faculty member and chair Keren Rice gave a presentation on interacting with the community amidst linguistic documentation. Ewa Czaykowska-Higgins (MA 1984, now at the University of Victoria) along with members of the UVic Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) provided an overview of community consultation and different types of outcomes. Andrew Carnie (BA 1991, now at the University of Arizona) with eight University of Arizona colleagues, reported on fieldwork and experimentation among speakers of Scottish Gaelic on the Isle of Skye.

It was a busy Sunday morning for everyone, but probably more so for Ph.D. Matt Hunt Gardner than for most of us. First, he and Derek Denis (Ph.D. 2015, now at the University of Victoria), Marisa Brook (Ph.D.), and Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty) presented an LSA talk on the history of the be like quotative in Toronto and around the world. Less than an hour later, Matt ran over to the ADS session, where he, Rebecca Roeder (postdoc 2007-09, now at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte) and colleague Becky Childs (Coastal Carolina University) presented an analysis of the Canadian Shift across four locations. Meanwhile, Ph.D. student Tomohiro Yokoyama (Ph.D.) gave an LSA presentation on his recent Generals paper about wh-exclamatives in English.

Derek, Marisa, and Matt present their joint work on be like with Sali.
(Photo courtesy of Sali A. Tagliamonte.)

 Well done, everyone! See you next year for LSA and the rest in Austin, Texas.

January 19, 2016

Research Groups: Friday, January 22

Note that only one of the research groups is meeting this week:

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax Group
Discussion led by Julianne Doner (Ph.D.) of a new paper by former postdoc Bronwyn Bjorkman: "Go get, come see: Motion verbs, morphological restrictions, and syncretism." Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 34, 53-91.

January 18, 2016

Guest talk: Susana Béjar (University of Toronto)

Faculty member (and triple alumna) Susana Béjar will be giving an invited talk for our department on Friday, January 22. Susana earned her Ph.D. from our department in 2003, and has since been a postdoc at McGill and an assistant professor at both our Scarborough and St. George campuses. Her research interests are centered on syntax, particularly the relationship between structures and features. She has worked on agreement, concord, Case-licensing, phi-features, and more, and is also interested in typology, allomorphy, and language acquisition. Her talk, "Copular agreement is nominal inflection: Evidence from unrestricted persons in specificational clauses", will begin at 3 PM on Friday and be followed by a reception in the department lounge.

Specificational sentences present a puzzle for the literature on person agreement restrictions. They are widely agreed to be inverted structures, where the 'notional' subject (italicized you in (1)) surfaces low in the clause, in a non-canonical inner subject position (Moro 1997, den Dikken 2007, inter alia).

(1) [[The person I want to see] is you]

Herein lies the puzzle: cross-linguistically, inverted structures generally share a striking feature: the low subject position is a restricted one; 1st and 2nd person pronouns are often excluded from appearing there and to the extent that they can appear, they are famously only able to control number agreement, not person agreement. Prominent accounts of these patterns relate the restrictions to a generalized pattern of licensing failure that arises when an agreement domain must be shared by more than one DP (Anagnostopoulou 2003, Bejar and Rezac 2003). Specificational clauses would seem to fit the bill, as they are non-transitive clauses that introduce two DPs in the agreement domain of T. Yet, across languages, 1st and 2nd person pronouns appear to be uniformly available in the inner subject position; in many languages, they also control person agreement on the copula. With special attention to Georgian, I argue that this striking departure from what are otherwise robust generalizations signals a fundamental difference between the syntax of copular inflection and that of verbal inflection; specifically, I propose that the proper locus of copular agreement is not a φ-probe on T but rather a φ-probe on the head/label (D) of a complex DP (below T) that introduces both the notional subject and the (inverted) copular complement. Cyclic Agree (Bejar & Rezac 2009) determines that the probe on D invariably agrees with the notional subject in specificational structures, due to the special syntax of the complement DP which, for independent reasons, must be a (sometimes reduced) free relative clause (cf. Higgins 1973, Heycock and Kroch 1996). The complement, inverted, moves to Spec, TP; valued D cliticizes to T, giving the appearance of T-agreement with the inner subject. Support for the analysis comes from various domains, including a challenging Georgian agreement pattern, generalized connectivity effects in specificational sentences, nominalization patterns and the cross-linguistically common paradigmatic correspondence between forms that realize copular agreement and those that realize possessive morphology (den Dikken 1998, 1999 Bernstein & Tortora 2005, Oxford 2014). The analysis opens up new possibilities for explaining other recalcitrant puzzles in the syntax of copular agreement systems.

January 12, 2016

Guest speaker: Laura Kalin (University of Connecticut)

We are pleased to welcome Laura Kalin to our department. She earned her Ph.D. from UCLA in 2014 and is now a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Connecticut working under the supervision of Jonathan Bobaljik. Her research interests include syntax, morphology, syntactic variation, case and agreement, aspect, Aramaic, Malagasy, Hixkaryana, and Indo-Iranian languages.

She will be giving a talk on Friday, January 15, at 3 PM in SS 560A: "Phi-features as derivational time bombs: A new model of nominal licensing." A reception will follow in the department lounge.

The prevailing model of nominal licensing since Chomsky 2000, 2001 involves uninterpretable/unvalued phi-features entering into Agree with the closest c-commended nominal that has uninterpretable/unvalued Case. In this talk, I turn (most of) this paradigm on its head. Based on novel observations about parallels between the Person Case Constraint, (i), and Differential Object Marking, (ii), I propose that nominal licensing is driven by the needs of (certain) interpretable phi-features, rather than by abstract Case.

(i) The Person Case Constraint (PCC; canonical strong version, Bonet 1991): In a combination of a weak direct object and a weak indirect object, the direct object has to be third person.

(ii) Differential Object Marking (DOM; Combie 1979, Bossong 1991, Aissen 2003, inter alia): Objects high in definiteness/animacy are more likely to be overtly marked via case or agreement than objects low in definiteness/animacy.

The relative crosslinguistic stability of the PCC tells us that the interpretable feature [PARTICIPANT] is universally a derivational time bomb (in the sense of Preminger 2011), requiring licensing (via Agree). The crosslinguistic variability of DOM tells us that the choice of which other nominal features need licensing is a language-specific choice. In addition to derivational time bombs on nominal features, the proposed system is driven by a distinction between obligatory and secondary licensing loci (Levin and Massam 1985, Bobalijk 1993, Rezac 2001, inter alia), which secondary licensers activated only when a feature that is a derivational time bomb would otherwise go unlicensed.

This proposal has a number of benefits. First, two licensing phenomena that are typically considered to be non-canonical - but are in fact extremely common crosslinguistically - are reanalyzed as core instantiations of licensing. Second, while the PCC and DOM are unified under a consistent analysis, the system also correctly predicts where PCC effects will emerge as compared to DOM effects. Third, this account allows us to generalize over all nominals, without attributing special properties/features to subjects and indirect objects in opposition to direct objects, a weak spot in most previous accounts of the PCC and DOM. Finally, the proposal captures definiteness and animacy hierarchies without requiring such hierarchies to be primitives of the grammar. To conclude the talk, I speculate about why it should be that interpretable phi-features need licensing, and suggest that this reflects the need for certain phi-features to be anchored to the speech act (in the spirit of Ritter and Wiltschko 2014) in order to be correctly contextually interpreted.

Maksym Shkvorets in 'Into the Woods'

MA student Maksym Shkvorets has a partial background in theatre, and will be revisiting it this month as he plays Milkywhite the cow in Hart House Theatre's production of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods. The show will be running from January 15th to 30th; tickets can be ordered from UofTtix and picked up at the door. Way to go, Maksym!

Research Groups: Friday, January 15

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax Group
Group discussion of a paper by faculty member/alumna Susana Béjar (Ph.D. 2003/MA 1998) and alumnus Milan Rezac (Ph.D. 2004/MA 1999): "Cyclic Agree." Linguistic Inquiry, 40(1), 35–73.

1:30 PM - 2:45 PM
Semantics Group
Guillaume Thomas (faculty): "Modal economy and the temporal orientation of circumstantial modals." 

Condoravdi (2002) observed that the perfect aspect cannot take scope below metaphysical modals and argued that this restriction is due to a constraint on the use of modal operators that she called the Diversity Condition. More recently, Abusch (2012) challenged Condoravdi’s analysis by identifying instances of circumstantial modals that are subject to the same scope restriction but that cannot be analysed as metaphysical modals. Abusch argued from this observation that Condoravdi’s analysis of this scope restriction using the Diversity Condition was incorrect. In this paper, I argue that Abusch’s examples can actually be analyzed with the Diversity Condition, and I explain why not all circumstantial modals are subject to this constraint. I also argue that the Diversity Condition must be reduced to an economy condition that prohibits trivial uses of modal operators.

January 5, 2016


The thirteenth Old World Conference in Phonology (OCP) is taking place in Budapest, Hungary, from January 13th to 16th.

Bronwyn Bjorkman (postdoc 2012-15, now at Queen's University) and Peter Jurgec (faculty): "Regularizing effects of indexation to complex constituents."

Heather Yawney (Ph.D.) is presenting a poster: "The yes/no question suffix in Turkish: Its syntactic distribution and its irregular stress within the verbal domain."

Glyne Piggott (Ph.D. 1968, now at McGill University) with Lisa Travis (McGill University) and Heather Newell (Université du Québec à Montréal): "The phonology of possession."

Yining Nie (MA 2015, now at New York University) is also presenting a poster: "Prosodic conditioning in Finnish assibilation and vowel raising."

Ewan Dunbar (MA 2008, now at CNRS) and collaborator Emmanuel Dupoux (CNRS): "Evidence for two different kinds of feature economy effects on natural inventories."

January 3, 2016

Research Groups: Friday, January 8

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax Group
Paper discussion led by Keffyalew Gebregziabher: Kalin, Laura, and Coppe van Urk (2015). Aspect splits without ergativity: Agreement asymmetries in Neo-Aramaic. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 33, 659–702.

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Fieldwork Group
Group discussion of linguistic fieldwork in Canada and different models of fieldwork used in the country. Focus on a paper by alumna Ewa Czaykowska-Higgins (MA 1984, now at the University of Victoria): (2009). Research models, community engagement, and linguistic fieldwork: Reflections on working within Canadian indigenous communities. Language Documentation and Conservation, 3(1), 15-50.

January 2, 2016

LSA, etc. 2016

The 90th annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America will be taking place in Washington, D.C. from January 7th to 10th. Alongside it, the smaller 'sister societies' will also be convening. Our department will be represented at the meetings of LSA and three other societies:

Linguistic Society of America

Matt Hunt Gardner (Ph.D.), Derek Denis (Ph.D. 2015, now at the University of Victoria), Marisa Brook (Ph.D.), and Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty): "From the bottom to the top of the S-curve: Be like and the Constant Rate Effect."

Matt Hunt Gardner (Ph.D.) and Rebecca V. Roeder (postdoc 2007-09, now at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte): "A phonological model of the Canadian Shift."

Tomohiro Yokoyama (Ph.D.): "Evidence as the presupposition of wh-exclamatives."

Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty) and Marisa Brook (Ph.D.) are presenting a poster: "Adaptive change in sociolinguistic typology: The case of relative who."

Michael Barrie (Ph.D. 2006, now at Sogang University): "Phi-syntax in Northern Iroquoian."

Kenji Oda (Ph.D. 2012, now at Syracuse University): "Without specifier: The modern Irish copula revisited."

Michelle Yuan (MA 2013, now at MIT): "Subordinate clause types and the left periphery in Gikuyu."

Michelle is also presenting a joint talk with colleagues Ruth Brillman (MIT) and Zuzanna Fuchs (Harvard University): "Inuktitut mood-agreement interactions as contextual allomorphy."

LSA Symposiums

Naomi Nagy (faculty): "Studying more and less endangered heritage varieties."

Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty): "A sociolinguistic perspective on linguistic documentation."

Keren Rice (faculty): "Documentary linguistics and community relations."

Naomi Nagy (faculty) and Paulina Lyskawa (MA 2015, now at the University of Maryland): "Moving forward with multilingual transcription."

Nicole Rosen (Ph.D. 2007, now at the University of Manitoba): "Multilingual language revitalization: The case of the Red River Métis."

Nicole Rosen  (Ph.D. 2007, now at the University of Manitoba) with colleagues Jesse Stewart (University of Saskatchewan) and Olivia Sammons (University of Alberta): "Diachronic effects of language contact in the synchronic Michif vowel system."

Ewa Czaykowska-Higgins (MA 1984, now at the University of Victoria) along with members of the UVic Community-University Research Alliance: "Meaningful consultation and intangible results in CBLR."

Andrew Carnie (BA 1991, now at the University of Arizona) with University of Arizona colleagues Joshua Meyers, Nicholas Kloehn, Muriel Fisher, Michael Hammond, Natasha Warner, Diana Archangeli, and Adam Ussishkin: "The field is not the lab, and the lab is not the field: experimental and community-based linguistics with Gaelic speakers on Skye."

William J. Idsardi (BA 1988, now at the University of Maryland): "Neurophysiological measures of speaker and dialect identification."

American Dialect Society

Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty) and Ruth Maddeaux (Ph.D.): "Stability, obsolescence and innovation: North American dialects in the 21st century."

Matt Hunt Gardner (Ph.D.), Rebecca V. Roeder (postdoc 2007-09, now at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte) and colleague Becky Childs (Coastal Carolina University): "Social moderation of a structural sound change? The Canadian Shift in four communities."

Cathleen Waters (Ph.D. 2011, now at the University of Leicester): "Stability amidst the change: Degree modification in a historical context."

Nicole Rosen (Ph.D. 2007, now at the University of Manitoba), Alexandra D'Arcy (Ph.D. 2005, now at the University of Victoria), and colleague Jillian Ankutowicz (University of Lethbridge): "Think-een about (ING)."

Sali also has a poster in conjunction with her students from the LSA Summer Institute 2015: "An awesome talk: Variation and change in adjectives of positive evaluation."

Society for Pidgin and Creole Linguistics

Emilia Melara (Ph.D.): "Arbitrary null subjects in Mauritian Creole."

Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas

Michael Barrie (Ph.D. 2006, now at Sogang University): "The syntax and prosody of Onondaga interrogatives."

Carrie Gillon (MA 1999, now at Arizona State University), with colleague Peter Jacobs (University of Victoria): "The semantics and pragmatics of Skwxwú7mesh evidentials."

Patricia A. Shaw (Ph.D. 1976, now at the University of British Columbia): "Laryngeal architecture in Kwak’wala."

January 1, 2016

Congratulations, Ailís!

Ailís Cournane (Ph.D. 2015) will shortly be departing for the University of Mannheim in Germany, where she will be taking up a six-month position as a junior professor in language acquisition.

Congratulations, Ailís, and best of luck on your European adventure!