December 16, 2011

Season's greetings from India

Alexei Kochetov is sending his season's greetings from Mysore, India, where he is currently a visiting scholar at the All-India Institute ofSpeech and Hearing (AIISH). He recently went on a trip to Nilgiri Hills, Tamilnadu, a remote mountainous area which is home to several indigenous tribes speaking distinct Dravidian languages. These pictures are from a village of the Toda, whose language is known for a typologically unique series of consonant place contrasts (as studied by Peter Ladefoged some 20 years ago). More pictures are available at Alexei's website.

December 13, 2011

50th anniversary of Linguistics at MIT

Cristina, Yoonjung and Diane went to MIT50 (Dec 9-11 2011), the 50th anniversary of Linguistics at MIT.

November 13, 2011

2011 Convocation

November 11th saw a wonderful SGS convocation, with a record number of linguistics MA and PhD graduates. Not everyone could attend but here are some photos of those who did: Elise, Holly, James, Maddie, Marisa, and Radu (MA), and Jaehee, Maria, and Marina (PhD), with faculty members Elizabeth, Alana, Ana Teresa, and Diane. Here are some of the great photos of the happy graduates.

October 25, 2011

Brittani's Bermudian research gets attention back home

[photo credit: bermuda‑vacations.jpg]
Britanni Fubler wants anyone interested in how Islanders speak to attend ‘How You Hanlin’ Me? A Presentation on the Lexical, Phonological and Phonetic Properties of the Bermudian Dialect’ at Bermuda College’s North Hall Lecture Theatre on November 3 at 6.30pm.
The University of Toronto graduate is advertising the session with a flyer which asks: “Have you or your friends ever thought that the Bermudian dialect was uneducated? Sounded ignorant? Was inappropriate in public settings?
“Or are you of the persuasion that it is beautiful and unique and should be a celebrated part of our culture?” [excerpt from the linked article in The Royal Gazette Online, Oct. 25, 2011]

[Chart from Brittani Fubler's U of T manuscript, "Acoustic analysis of Bermudian English", Mar. 16, 2011]

And you can see more news and pix at Sticking to our roots | Bermuda Island Life.

October 12, 2011

October 11, 2011

Toronto Babel In the Star!

Our very own Beth MacLeod has been organising Toronto Babel, a language exchange night at the Rivoli on Queen St., for almost two years now.  Today, the Toronto Star ran a story about it: 
See pix from our previous post.

September 29, 2011

Research up North

Sali was in the Toronto Star describing some outcomes of her latest research project. Thanks to Chandan for sending this in.

September 24, 2011

Clearing the mind

Last weekend, I managed to work out my plan of attack for a SSHRC grant while hiking in a beautiful park with an unlikely name: Mono Cliffs. It boasts over 400 kinds of plants and, while I didn't stop to count them, all, I believe it. Plus, great scenery. Here's me going into a tunnel of trees. I came out the other side with a 1-page summary ready to go. Then I watched reflections in this lake and more and more became clear.
It's the best place I've hiked near Toronto, and if you want to try it, I posted a map.

What did you do on the weekend?

September 19, 2011

Visiting scholar: Maria Parascandolo

We have a visitor from Italy for Fall 2011. She writes:
"I'm Maria Parascandolo, a PhD student from Italy.
I graduated in 2009 in Modern Literature at University of Naples "Federico II". My thesis concerned Computational Linguistics, specifically I compared three syntactic annotation tagsets developed for the Italian language (TUT: Turin University Treebank, AN.ANA.S.: Annotazione e analisi sintattica and TreSSI: Treebank sintattico-semantica dell'italiano) and then I chose a solution to combine them into a unique approach.
Now I'm taking my PhD in Linguistics at the University of Salerno and my supervisor is prof. Miriam Voghera. My research project concerns linguistic attrition in the Italian community of Toronto. During my time in Canada I am both going to take advantage of the data in the HLVC corpus and to collect more samples aimed at studying this specific phenomenon. I am particularly interested in the loss of verbal morphology and I plan to structure my interviews in such a way that different verbal tenses can be elicited. From my experience at University of Toronto I hope to gain more insight into language attrition and also to gain experience with work "in the field" by means of interviews."

Maria has been exploring the area and learning about local inhabitants:

August 7, 2011

Methods in Dialectology Conference

Many U of T linguists (Ailis, Cathleen, Joanna, Jack, Keren, Naomi, Sali & Sandrine) and alumni (Laura Baxter, Alex D'Arcy, Carrie Dyck, David Heap, Nicole Rosen, Jacqueline Peters, Jeff Tennant) presented at Methods XIV the first week of August, 2011. We dined well (Budapest in London), caught up on our reading at The Pinery, and, yes, even presented some research findings.

Thanks to Anita Szakay and Evan Hazenberg for the photos.

June 23, 2011

Bill Samarin sighting

Jack C. ran into Bill Samarin at noon on the Clarke Institute walkway. He is healthy and well at 86, walking unencumbered with a stick that he says is mainly ornamental. He was returning from dim sum lunch on Dundas St. He spends some time in his office finishing an article, already accepted, on the origins of Sango (20k words) that will correct some of the claims that are out there. Last year he traveled to Bangui in Central Africa as part of a forensic mission to help with linguistic claims of the Bangis in the aftermath of a conflict. At the end of the year he will attend the Creole and Pidgin sessions at the LSA meetings in Portland, Ore.

Bill was on our faculty from 1967 until he retired in (I think [says Jack]) 1991. He is a world expert on African languages, especially Niger-Congo, and he is nonpareil on Gbeya and pidgin Sango.

June 10, 2011

CLA Presentation Prizes!

This year's winners of the Canadian Linguistic Association's annual student competition were announced yesterday, and Beth Macleod of our department won the paper presentation award for her talk "Perceptual salience and cross-dialectal phonetic convergence in Spanish." Additionally, Joanne Markle LaMontagne, a PhD student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese who has taken several linguistics courses, won the poster award for her poster "Acquisition of the Spanish Present Perfect by Spanish-English Bilinguals."

(You can see their abstracts here.)

May 26, 2011

Niuean syntax and coconuts

On May 26, Professor Diane Massam gave an entertaining and informative lecture, 'Small Island, Big Language: The Story of Niue,' as part of the Flaut lecture series. She described some of her research on Niuean, an Oceanic language spoken in Niue, an isolated rocky island in the South Pacific. Niue Island is both the world's smallest independent self-governed nation and the world¹s largest upraised coral atoll. She also told us about its geography, history, and culture. Niuean challenges universal claims such as All languages have nouns and verbs and All sentences have a subject and a predicate. She also showed us some beautiful photos, which I hope she'll post a sampling of here.

Alana also promises a video of an anonymous linguist illustrating proper cocounut-opening technique. As a bystander quipped, "Linguists don't just crack the code of languages. They know how to crack coconuts, too." All part of linguistic fieldwork!

Linguists in Japan and BC

Naomi recently returned from an excellent 2 week linguistic adventure, making her first trips to Japan, Victoria, and Vancouver. All wonderful places. In Japan, she participated in the First International Symposium of Tokyo Academic Forum on Immigrant Languages, along with James Walker from York U, and practiced her best Japanese sentence: "Sumi-masen, watasi-wa sakana-o sifood-o tabe-masen." She really liked the "spirit" pun in this signpost on the way to the Meiji shrine: ""The Meiji period was an enlightened period during which a policy of 'Japanese spirit and Western Knowledge' was adopted..."

On her way home, she stopped off in Victoria for a week, where, conveniently enough, the 5th Change and Variation in Canada (CVC V) linguistics conference was going on. Marisa Brook (MA) gave an excellent talk: " Looks like there’s something interesting going on here."

April 29, 2011

Chomsky lecture at UTSC

On April 6th, 2011 the Office of the Dean and Vice-Principal Academic University of Toronto Scarborough presented Noam Chomsky speaking on Academic Freedom and the Corporatization of Universities. To view the lecture, please click on the link above (from, April 29, 2011).

This photo is provided courtesy of Ken Jones, UTSC photographer and features Diane Massam, Elan Dresher, Elizabeth Cowper and Michael Szamosi greeting the speaker.

April 19, 2011

Keren wins Killam

The Department of Linguistics congratulates Keren Rice on winning the 2011 Killam Prize for outstanding career achievements in Humanities!
There is a nice picture in the Globe & Mail at

April 17, 2011

Spring in D.C.

Last week, Naomi headed south to make sure that Spring still exists somewhere. She found it in Washington, D.C., where she met with a number of Georgetown students conducting research on heritage languages and gave a talk about the Heritage Language Variation and Change in Toronto project. Here she is with two Ph.D. students who shared some of their research interests, and some lovely Spring blooms, with her.

February 24, 2011

TULCon 2011

TULCon 2011 (the Toronto Undergraduate Linguistics Conference) is an event organized by the UofT SLUGS (Society of Linguistics Undergraduate Students). It took place Friday, March 4, 2011 to Sunday, March 6, 2011.

SLUGS looks for housing volunteers for TULCon 2011: since a number of attendees will be coming from out of town, anyone who has extra sleeping space (couch space, guest rooms, extra beds, etc.) that is willing to host one or more out-of-town attendee on the nights of March 4th or 5th (preferably both) should get in touch with the TULCon planners either by e-mail (tulcon2011 -at- gmail -dot- com) or by filling out the TULCon hosting form.

You do not have to live close to campus, but you should be TTC-accessible.

For more information on TULCon, visit the SLUGS official site.

All other inquiries should be directed at tulcon2011 -at- gmail -dot- com.

February 16, 2011

UofT Linguistics on Facebook

If you have a Facebook account, be sure to follow our departmental fan page and get blog updates on your news feed right when they happen!

February 14, 2011


NWAV (New Ways of Analyzing Variation) 39 was held in San Antonio, Texas from November 4th to the 6th this year. UofT was well represented with presentations by the following (listed in alphabetical order of first author):

LeAnn Brown
Gender and Sociophonetics: What Performative Readings Suggest

Derek Denis
The trajectory of General Extenders from a transatlantic perspective: Innovation and innovators

Matt Hunt Gardner
The In-Crowd and the “Oat-casts”: Diphthongs and Identity in a Cape Breton High School

Naomi Nagy, Nina Aghdasi, Derek Denis, Alex Motut, Dylan Uscher
Pro-drop in Heritage Languages: A Cross-Linguistic Study of Contact-Induced Change

Sali Tagliamonte & Bridget Jankowski
The Genitive in Today’s World or the Genitive in the World of Today

Cathleen Waters & Sali Tagliamonte
Innovators Across Innovations: Exploring Co-Variables in Linguistic Change

February 9, 2011

Manami's new job

Manami Hirayama sends the happy news that she will take up a position in Kyoto as tenured associate professor at Ritsumeikan University. She is wrapping up her appointment at the National Language Institute in Tokyo with some perception experiments. She says that Kyoto is a beautiful city, the cultural centre of Kansai region with the Imperial Palace and great theatres, two-and-a-half hours south of Tokyo on the fast train. Manami moves in April.

January 24, 2011

I need me an audience!

Don't miss this interesting talk on Thursday evening!

Friends of Linguistics At the University of Toronto [flaut]
The Society of Linguistics Undergraduate Students (SLUGS)
present a lecture by

PHD Student, University of Toronto

I need me an audience!

Southern United States English (SUSE) has an interesting reflexive
construction which behaves quite unlike Standard English reflexive
constructions. In Standard English one can say the sentences in (1) but not
those in (2). All the sentences are grammatical in SUSE.

1) a. I wrote myself a letter
b. I bought myself a car (*for my son)
2) a. I wrote me a letter to the president
b. I bought me a car (for my son)

The bolded pronoun in (2) is called a Personal Dative (PD). In this talk
Ms. Cournane will discuss the development of the Personal Dative from
reflexive constructions in Old English. She will also show how the SUSE
reflexive constructions are similar to double object constructions found in
a wide variety of languages. Multimedia clips from football players, folk
songs, politicians, and popular culture will be used to illustrate this
interesting, and widespread, linguistic phenomenon.


Thursday JANUARY 27, 2011
7 ­ 9 p.m.

4th floor

Hope to see you there!

January 23, 2011

Jack Chambers, in his jazz hat, on the radio

Jack was on CBC's Sunday Edition this morning to talk about word jazz, the child of bebop jazz and beat poetry, according to, on the occasion of word jazz artist Ken Nordine's 90th b-day.

Read the broadcast at:

January 20, 2011

Toronto Babel

A year ago, Beth Macleod started TorontoBabel, "an international language exchange group that brings together native and non-native speakers of many different languages from various countries around the world."

Here's a link to a clip from an interview with Beth on Metro Morning. Metro Morning also provided the quote above and the photo.

January 5, 2011

Our New Cactus Collection!

Hello all,

As the Chair of the Cactus Caucus, a prestigious sub-committee of the Plant and Beautification Committee, I would like to provide an important report:

The cactus collection that was housed in the lounge in September was my personal collection. After I removed it, there was quite an uproar -- with many feelings and expressions of sadness and discontent. As such, the Cactus Caucus has put together a new, *permanent* collection in the lounge for our enjoyment.

So next time you have a moment, please stop by the lounge and take a look at our new prickly friends!

Many thanks to Elaine Gold and the LGCU for funding this project.

-Michelle St-Amour
Cactus Caucus, Chair