29 September 2014

Research Groups: Friday, October 3

The following departmental research groups will be meeting this Friday in SS 560A;

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Psycholinguistics Group
Jessamyn Schertz: Individual differences in the structure and adaptability of native and non-native phonetic categories.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Language Variation and Change Group
Reprise talks from Methods in Dialectology XV:
Jack Chambers: Global demise of a venerable change-in-progress.
Aaron Dinkin (with Robin Dodsworth): Gradience, allophony, and the Southern shift trigger.

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Syntax/Semantics Squib Section
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Ninth International Conference on the Mental Lexicon

The Ninth International Conference on the Mental Lexicon is meeting from September 30 to October 2 in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

Department members presenting posters are:

Ross Godfrey (Ph.D.)
Morphologically conditioned lengthening: A phonetic window to lexical access?

Mercedeh Mohaghegh (Ph.D.) and Craig Chambers (faculty)
Connected speech processes and lexical access in real-time comprehension.

Craig Chambers is also part of another poster and a presentation:

(with Cara Tsang and Mindaugas Mozuraitis)
The influence of noun classifiers on the lexical processing of compounds: Evidence from real-time spoken word recognition in Cantonese.

(with Mindaugas Mozuraitis and Meredyth Daneman)
Privileged versus shared knowledge effects on phonological competition. Print Page

23 September 2014

Research Groups: Friday, September 26

The following departmental research groups will be meeting this Friday in SS 560A:

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Phonetics/Phonology Group
Alan Yu (University of Chicago): "The peril of sounding manly: A look at vocal characteristics of lawyers before the United States Supreme Court."

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax/Semantics Group
Bronwyn Bjorkman: "Different ways of faking it: Counterfactuals vs. sequence of tense."

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Fieldwork Group
Discussion of summer fieldwork expeditions; logistical planning for the semester. Print Page

22 September 2014

Guest speaker: James Myers (National Chung Cheng University)

We're pleased to be about to welcome James Myers from Taiwan's National Chung Cheng University. He works on phonology, morphology, psycholinguistics, language and memory, and Chinese.

He will be giving a talk entitled Mandarin wordlikeness megastudies on Monday the 29th at 1:00 PM exactly, in Innis College room 204.

Over the past few years my lab has asked around 200 native speakers of Mandarin to judge the acceptability (“Mandarin-likeness”) of around 10,000 different nonlexical forms, yielding around 700,000 wordlikeness judgments. In megastudies like ours, the large and representative sampling makes it possible to factor out partially confounded lexical variables through multiple regression techniques. Moreover, the corpora of responses generated by megastudies, like corpora of language production, can be freely analyzed for a wide variety of purposes. In this talk I review some of the analyses that we’ve conducted so far on our megastudy corpora. In a “sociolinguistic” analysis, we examined the influence of gender and native language (i.e. Mandarin vs. Taiwan Southern Min). In a “psycholinguistic” analysis, we attempted to tease apart the highly confounded variables of neighborhood density and phonotactic probability by looking at their interactions with reaction time, working memory capacity, and handedness. In two “phonological” analyses, we looked at the controversial syllable position of the Mandarin prevocalic glide and, more ambitiously, at the interaction between lexicality typicality and universal markedness. All of the above analyses used just one of our megastudy corpora, involving monosyllabic test items; analyses of our other megastudies have looked at wordlikeness judgments for disyllabic nonwords and two-character nonwords. We invite the audience to play with our data, freely available on the web, to test their own pet hypotheses, and to join us in the development of our contributor-built cross-linguistic platform for collecting and sharing data from wordlikeness judgment experiments.

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19 September 2014

Guest speaker: Alan Yu (University of Chicago)

Alan Yu of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago will be visiting us on Friday, September 26 and giving two talks.

Alan started out working on the morphology-phonology interface, and has gravitated towards studying the actuation problem in sociolinguistics (i.e. where new changes come from in the first place). As part of this line of research, he has been investigating individual differences in speech, especially those resulting from neurodiversity (e.g. speakers on the autistic spectrum). Alan has also worked on a truly eclectic mix of languages over the course of his career!

The first of his two presentations will be at a special meeting of the Phonetics/Phonology research group (9:30 AM to 11:00 AM in SS 560A): The peril of sounding manly: A look at vocal characteristics of lawyers before the United States Supreme Court:

Individuals make use of many aspects of the speech signals to construct personas and to project hidden desires to the external world. Of interest here is whether vocal characteristics and the perceptual evaluation of them exert an influence on listener behavior. With the exception of a few pioneering studies (e.g., Purnell et al. 1999), this question has remained largely unexplored. In the present study, we examine the vocal characteristics of lawyers arguing in front of the Supreme Court of the United States and link this data to the lawyers’ actual win rates in the Court. We show that perceived attributes of voices predict Supreme Court wins, suggesting potential differential labor market treatment of lawyers with certain mutable characteristics such as sounding more or less masculine or confident.

The second talk will be at 3:10 PM, also in SS 560A, and is entited Idiolectal phonology produces the pool of "phonetic" variation:

Theories of sound change hypothesized that mistakes in speech perception and production, if uncorrected, may lead to eventual changes in perceptual and production norms. In this talk, I articulate a theory of sound change where systematic individual variation in speech perception and production takes center stage. To illustrate this theory, I focus on the origins of allophony, which are often attributed to effects of coarticulation. Such contextual effects in speech have been argued to be phonological in nature, given that coarticulation appears to be language-specific and planned. In this talk, I argue further for the phonological nature of coarticulation, using findings from recent behavioral and neurophysiological studies. In particular, I argue that the systematic variability across individuals in how coarticulated speech is produced and perceived suggests that individuals acquire different phonological grammars of coarticulation. Such differences, which are anchored to specific individuals, serve as the pool of systematic variation that members of a speech community may draw from to construct local identities. Print Page

18 September 2014

Guest speaker: Andrea Wilhelm (University of Victoria)

We are pleased to have Andrea Wilhelm of UVic visiting our department next week. Andrea's research is focused on typology on the semantic and syntactic levels; she has a special interest in the Athapaskan languages, and in language endangerment and documentation in general.

She will be giving a talk on Tuesday, September 23 in ES B142, starting at 2 PM: Semantics and syntax of Dënesųłiné nouns:

In this talk I explore a well-known trait of Dënesųłiné and other Dene (Athabaskan) languages, the fact that nouns show almost no grammatical markings while intricate grammatical and other expression of noun-related concepts (such as shape or number an event participant) occurs on verbs. I propose that this pattern is a logical consequence of Dënesųłiné nouns being inherently of type , entities. While better-known languages use grammatical elements in the nominal domain, such as number marking or determiners, to turn nouns into type , I argue that in the absence of these elements, Dënesųłiné nouns start out and remain as type throughout the syntactic-semantic derivation. Once this idea is accepted, syntactic properties seemingly unrelated to noun semantics fall out as well: the finiteness of all clauses, the fact that most adjectival concepts are expressed by verbs, the obligatoriness of copulas, the reluctance to use PPs to modify nouns, and the fact that so-called relative clauses are nominalized full clauses without gap. I use basic model-theoretic semantics to give a precise account of these properties, relying strongly on the Carlsonian idea that nouns are names of kinds (Carlson 1977, Chierchia 1998).
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11 September 2014

Catherine's defence dinner



Here is a picture of Catherine Macdonald (on the right) celebrating her successful thesis defence recently along with, from left to right: Yuko Otsuka from University of Hawai'i at Manoa (external examiner), La'aina Mo'ungaloa Kavouras (Tongan language consultant), and Diane Massam, (thesis advisor). Print Page

10 September 2014

Congratulations, Ulyana!

Ulyana Savchenko defended her doctoral thesis, "Second Language Acquisition of Russian Applicative Experiencers", on Tuesday, August 26.

On the committee were Yves Roberge, Alexei Kochetov, Ron Smyth, Diane Massam, Keren Rice and external examiner Joyce Bruhn de Garavito (University of Western Ontario).

Congratulations, Dr. Savchenko! Print Page

New Semantics CLTA

Our department would like to welcome Walter Pedersen, who is serving as a semantics professor in a limited-contract position for 2014-15. Walter has recently completed his Ph.D. at McGill University. He specializes in natural language semantics and its relationship to syntax, and he is especially interested in gradable adjectives and adverbs. At the U of T, he will be teaching LIN200 and at least two courses in semantics. Welcome to Toronto, Walter! Print Page

Thesis defense announcement rainbow

(Photo by Radu Craioveanu.)

Two weeks ago our department saw three successful thesis defenses on three consecutive days! Congratulations to the new alumni (and extra kudos to any of the faculty members who were on more than one of these committees). Print Page