December 2, 2012

Field Methods 2012

Last week we had a reception in our Linguistic Field Methods Class. Here are some of the students from the class with Don Jabokwoam who has helped them learn some linguistics and a lot more about Ojibwe this Fall.

Left to right: Dan, Becky, Julien, Don, TJ, Julia, and Garth.

Post courtesy of Alana Johns

November 30, 2012

Congratulations, Sandrine!

There is a new doctor in the house! Just this morning, Sandrine Tailleur defended her thesis entitled "The French Wh- Interrogative System: Est-ce que, Clefting?". Sandrine was supervised by Yves Roberge, and Diane Massam, Ileana Paul (UWO), Elizabeth Cowper, Alana Johns, and Mireille Tremblay (external examiner from UQAM) comprised the rest of her committee.
Sandrine has been working at Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC) for the past few months teaching Historical Linguistics and Generative Grammar, and in January, she will be teaching Syntax and a course on Orthography and Morphology.


Sandrine with her committee

November 28, 2012

Historical Linguistics Poster Session

The semester is quickly coming to a close! The third-year historical linguistics class (taught by Elaine Gold) presented their final projects in the lounge today. Thank you to Elaine and the members of the class for the interesting presentations and the snacks!

November 20, 2012

Photos from Fall Convocation 2012 Part 2

Here are some more photos from convocation, taken by our official blog photographer for the year: Radu Craioveanu.

November 19, 2012

Photos from Fall Convocation 2012

Last Friday we celebrated the convocation of our new MA and PhD graduates! 
Here are a few snapshots of the celebrations.
MA graduates
L to R: Tomohiro Yokoyama, Erin Hall, Erin Brassel, and Julie Doner (Photo courtesy of Alex Motut)
Hooded Tomo
(Photo courtesy of Alex Motut)
(Photo courtesy of Maria Kyriakaki)
(Photo courtesy of Jackson Wu)
(Photo courtesy of Jackson Wu)
Happy PhD graduates with their supervisors
L to R: Kenji Oda, Paul Arsenault, Julia Su, Richard Compton, Beth MacLeod, Yoonjung Kang, Elizabeth Cowper, Alana Johns, Keren Rice, and Diane Massam
(Photo courtesy of Diane Massam)
First moments outside of Convocation Hall
(Photo courtesy of Jackson Wu)

November 16, 2012

Black Monday

Left to Right: Professors Sali Tagliamonte, Yoonjung Kang, Diane Massam, Michela Ippolito

Snapshot from a particularly well-coordinated faculty meeting earlier this week....

November 9, 2012

Upcoming FLAUT Talk: Gerard Van Herk, Nov. 15

Students, alumni, faculty and friends, please take note: next week in the department there will be a talk hosted by Friends of Linguistics At the University of Toronto (FLAUT) and the Society of Linguistic Undergraduate Students (SLUGS):

Prof. Gerard Van Herk 
Memorial University of Newfoundland 

Myth can mean "a story that a society tells to explain the world" or "thing that's not true". This talk looks at two widespread language myths in Newfoundland: that the local variety of English is dying, and that it is unique. Recordings from urbanizing villages and usage surveys across generations show that the dialect is changing, but change isn't death; historical and comparative work shows that Newfoundland English is not an only child ­ it has sisters in the Caribbean and the US south.

Gerard Van Herk is the Canada Research Chair in Regional Language and Oral Text at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and director of the Memorial University Sociolinguistics Laboratory (

Thursday November 15, 2012 7-9 p.m. 

November 6, 2012

Photos from NWAV 41

Sali Tagliamonte giving her plenary talk at NWAV 41
(Photo credit: Robert Baxter)
As mentioned in a previous blog post, several linguists from U of T attended NWAV 41. PhD students Derek Denis, Matt Hunt Gardner and new LGCU co-president Alex Motut, MA alumnus Shannon Mooney, and upper-year undergraduate students Ruth Maddeaux and Martin Sneath drove down together in a van to Bloomington, Indiana, where they met up with Professor Sali Tagliamonte, visiting scholar Bing Cai, and PhD student Jim Smith.
Sali gave an excellent, thought-provoking plenary talk, and the other talks were quite good as well. The U of T linguists also enjoyed a mini-reunion with PhD alumnus Alex D'Arcy, MA alumnus Maddie Shellgren, and former postdoctoral fellow Becky Roeder.

Alex Motut shares these pictures from the conference :

Fall in Bloomington
The campus (Indiana University)
Ruth Maddeaux (undergraduate student) and PhD students Matt Hunt Gardner and Derek Denis 
PhD student Jim Smith and Shannon Mooney (MA 2012)
Jim Smith, Matt Hunt Gardner, Ruth Maddeaux, Derek Denis, Sali Tagliamonte, Bing Cai (visiting scholar), and Shannon Mooney (missing: Alex Motut and undergraduate student Martin Sneath)

November 4, 2012

The Road Less Travelled

The view from Victoria College
Last weekend, we hosted The Road Less Travelled: An international conference on heritage languages and heritage language acquisition at Victoria College. This interdisciplinary conference was collaboratively organized by members of our department (Ana Pérez-Leroux and Keren Rice) the Department of Slavic Languages and Literature (Christina Kramer), and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese (Olivia Marasco, Joanne Markle LaMontagne, and Stephen Rupp). Several members of these, and other, departments also served as moderators or general volunteers during the conference.

Researchers from McGill discuss the language situation in Montreal
This conference was unique in using the pecha kucha format for presentations, where presenters showed twenty slides, speaking about each for twenty seconds, for a total of six minutes and forty seconds. It was amazing to see just how much information could be conveyed in this condensed format! Presenters used their twenty-second slides effectively to present their research quite creatively to the audience of anthropologists, language educators, psycholinguists, sociolinguistics, theoretical linguists, undergraduate students, and others.
In addition to the pecha kucha sessions, on the first day of the conference, several undergraduate students from our university shared their personal stories of heritage language acquisition and maintenance and the complexities of their identities as heritage language speakers.

Poster presentations in the Alumni Hall of Victoria College
Poster presentations took place over lunch on the second day of the conference, and throughout the conference, there were  a number of excellent plenary talks. In line with the interdisciplinary nature of the conference, the invited speakers shared their different perspectives at looking at heritage languages and the importance of further refining and developing the investigation of heritage languages.

Thank you to the organizers, volunteers, and attendees for helping make this conference a success!

Attendees enjoying the catered lunch

Photo credits: Eugenia Suh

November 2, 2012

Algonquian Conference

Doctoral candidate Will Oxford is just back from the 44th Annual Algonquian Conference in Chicago where he presented a paper entitled "Theoretical implications of Proto-Algonquian verb inflection." Also presenting at the same conference was recent alumnus Tanya Slavin, presenting on "The semantics of verb stem composition in Ojicree."

November 1, 2012

Visit from an Old Friend

Photo credit: Nadia Molinari
We were happily surprised on October 25th by a visit to the department from Saradindu Guha (Office Administrator, Dept. of Linguistics 1991-1999). He was on campus to attend a speech by Stephen Lewis on The Power of Community at the closing event of New College’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. This picture, with Diane Massam, was taken at the reception for this talk.
(Thanks to Diane Massam for this posting.)

October 26, 2012

Research Report

This week, Alana Johns is in Washington, D.C. presenting at the 18th Inuit Studies Conference. The title of her talk is 'Anaphoric Agreement in Eastern Inuttitut.' Next week Alana will be a keynote speaker at the 36th Annual Meeting of the Atlantic Provinces Linguistic Association (APLA 36). The talk she will deliver there is entitled 'Ergativity through different lenses.'

Several other department members (past and present) will also be presenting at APLA 36. Elizabeth Cowper is presenting a talk entitled 'The rise of featural modality in English.' Alumnus Daniel Currie Hall (Saint Mary's University) is presenting 'Contrast, features, and acquisition in the Parallel Structures Model.' Alumnus Sara Mackenzie (Memorial University) is presenting joint work entitled 'Allophonic variation in production and perception: English light and dark /l/' with Erin Olson (McGill University), Meghan Clayards (McGill University) and Michael Wagner (McGill University). And Alumnus Wladyslaw Cichocki (University of New Brunswick) presents joint work with Louise Beaulieu (Université de Moncton) 'A study of three subordinating conjunctions in Acadian French: confirming some apparent-time findings.'

October 21, 2012

LGCU Welcome Workshop IV

On October 12th we held our fourth annual LGCU Welcome Workshop! This workshop was started in order to provide a forum for our new graduate students to introduce their research interests to each other and to other members of the department, while also providing the new students with an opportunity to learn about some of the current research being undertaken by other members of our department as well.

This year, several of our new MA and PhD students, a few of our 2nd year PhD students, and one alumnus participated, giving talks on a wide range of topics based on previous work undertaken as undergraduate students, generals papers in progress, and current side projects.

The workshop was well attended; many faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and alumni came to listen to the talks. Many interesting questions were posed, and it was quite interesting to see where research interests overlapped between various members of the department.

The workshop concluded with a catered dinner in the lounge.

Alumnus Kenji Oda discussing the complexities of Irish 
New LGCU co-president Christopher Spahr presenting syllable length in Estonian
New MA students Matt Pankhurst, Jada Fung, Michelle Yuan, new PhD student Shayna Gardiner, and PhD student Iryna Osadcha enjoying a coffee break in between presentations
New PhD student Julien Carrier and PhD student Élodie Thomas
New MA students Emily Blamire and Phil Howson, and new PhD student Julie Doner
A list of the talks presented is given below:

Julie Doner:           "An exception to pro-drop in Italian and its implications for the EPP''
Clarissa Forbes:     "Gitxsan relative clauses: A diagnostic for adjectives''
Shayna Gardiner:   "Some morphosyntactic properties of Middle Egyptian''
Ross Godfrey:        "Inner and outer causatives in Amharic and Hindi-Urdu''
Phil Howson:         "Czech trills revisited: Ultrasound, EGG and acoustic study''
Kenji Oda:             "Adjective fronting in nominal predicates in Modern Irish''
Matt Pankhurst:     "Breaking the syllable structure: Over-rhotacization and nasality in
                                Northeastern Mandarin Chinese''
Christopher Spahr: "The role of floating features in the (morpho)phonology of Estonian
                                quantity: An overlong story short''
Élodie Thomas:      "Le parler-jeune de Courcouronnes: Some notes on the vernacular spoken                                 in the suburbs of Paris''
Becky Tollan:         "On the relationship between inflectional morphology and verb raising:                                 What can be concluded from changes in the history of English?''
Michelle Yuan:        "Left-peripheral movement in Twic East''

Thank you to the organizers and to all who attended for making this workshop a success!

Photo credits: Alex Motut

October 19, 2012

U of T Linguists at Large

This weekend, Elan Dresher, Christopher Harvey & Will Oxford will be presenting a paper at NELS 43 in New York (CUNY). The title of their talk is "Contrast shift as a kind of diachronic change".

Next week, Marisa Brook and Naomi Nagy are presenting a Pecha Kucha talk at the "Road Less Travelled" Heritage Language conference ( at Victoria College in October. The title is "Speech rate across generations in two Toronto heritage languages". This stems from a project Marisa undertook in LIN 1256 with Naomi last Fall.
Alumnus Marina Sherkina-Lieber will also be presenting a Pecha Kucha talk, and former postdoctoral fellow Nelleke Strik will be presenting a poster at the same conference. Marina will be presenting "Probing for productive capacity in receptive bilinguals: Elicited imitation in Labrador Inuttitut", and Nelleke will be presenting "Interrogative inversion in Spanish-English bilinguals: Instances of bidirectional transfer" (joint work with Alejandro Cuza, a U of T alumnus from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese).

Naomi will also be an invited speaker at the Heritage Language conference, with the title "Sociolinguistics of Heritage Languages". Earlier this month, Naomi participated in an international workshop in Wuppertal, Germany, "Heritage languages: language contact-change-maintenance and loss in the wave of new migration landscapes". The title of her talk was "Looking for contact-induced change in heritage languages".

Also next week,  NWAV 41 will be taking place in Bloomington, Indiana ( , with several talks by U of T linguists. Sali Tagliamonte is a plenary speaker with: "The elephant and the pendulum: Variationist perspectives". She will also be giving a joint talk with U of T alumnus Alexandra D'Arcy (Univ. of Victoria):  "Vernacular repercussions of adaptive change".

Two graduate students will also be presenting their work at NWAV. James Smith is giving a talk entitled: "It's a bik deal: Sociophonetic Variation of Word-Final Stop Voicing in Toronto English". Matt Hunt Gardner is presenting joint work with Rebecca Roeder (Univ. of North Carolina-Charlotte): "The Phonology of the Canadian Shift Revisited: Thunder Bay and Cape Breton". Rebecca is a former U of T postdoctoral fellow.

Also at NWAV was sociolinguist Anne-José Villeneuve, assistant professor in the French Department.

September 28, 2012

Jack Chambers in the BBC News online

Jack Chambers was featured yesterday on the BBC News online, in a sidebar to the article "Britishisms and the Britishisation of American English".

The article was the #1 shared piece yesterday, and is still #3 today!

September 21, 2012

New Graduate Students in 2012-2013

Relaxing after the welcome tour
(L to R: Phil Howson, Emily Clare, Becky Tollan, Michelle Yuan, Dan Milway, and Clarissa Forbes)

A belated welcome to our incoming graduate classes! Here is a little bit of information about each of our new MA and PhD students.

New MA Students

Emily Blamire has a BA in Linguistics from UBC, and has a broad range of interests, including language variation (sexuality, gender, taboo words, and slang), fieldwork, and psycholinguistic experimentation.

Clarissa Forbes is originally from Seattle, but has spent the last few years in Vancouver at UBC, getting a BA in linguistics. Language documentation and the languages of the Pacific Northwest are her two greatest linguistic interests. So far she has worked on Gitksan (Tsimshianic) and Blackfoot (Algonquian). Other research interests include syntax, morphology, and historical linguistics. Her undergraduate thesis was on Gitksan noun modification, arguing in favor of a class of adjectives.

Jada Fung completed her undergraduate studies a couple years ago here at U of T and is happy to be returning to this department as a graduate student. Her research interests include syntax, semantics, language change/variation and the Chinese language.

Phil Howson is from Vancouver and is primarily interested in phonetics and speech production. He is interested in Slavic languages, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean and Germanic languages. He also has an interest in syntactic theory, scrambling, and phonology, and phonetics.

Dan Milway did his undergraduate studies here at U of T. After a brief foray into chemistry, he earned his degree in German and Linguistics in 2009. For his MA, he will be focusing on morphosyntax; specifically he is interested in morphological case and Germanic particle verbs.

Rebecca Tollan is from North Yorkshire in the UK, and completed her undergrad at the University of York. Her main research interests involve theoretical and historical syntax, first language acquisition and processing of island constraints/A-bar movement. She is also interested in evolutionary linguistics, in particular the emergence of the human capacity for recursive grammar, and comparative-historical work.  

Michelle Yuan completed her undergraduate degree at U of T in Linguistics and German. Her research interests generally fall at the interface of syntax and semantics. She is especially interested in the left-periphery of the clause and the behaviour and functions of syntactic operators. Languages of interest include Inuktitut, Twic East (Dinka), and Mandarin.

New PhD Students

Majed Al-Solami  [maʒɪd] is from The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His research interests are in phonetics and phonology in general. Specifically he is interested in the study of emphatics and post-velar sounds in Arabic.

Julien Carrier has a BA from UQAM and completed his MA there last year. He has worked on two varieties of Inuktitut: Tarramiut and Itivimiut, and plans to continue working on the morphosyntax of Itivimiut.

Emily Clare did a BA in Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MA in Phonological Development in Childhood at the University of York in the UK.  She is interested in acoustic phonetics, particularly human and machine speech recognition.  She hopes to research how speakers and listeners adjust in adverse listening conditions.

Julianne Doner just finished an MA in Linguistics here at U of T, after doing an undergraduate degree, also in Linguistics, at York University. She is interested in syntax, particularly the syntax of the inflectional domain. Her MA forum paper was entitled "A Typology of EPP-Checking Mechanisms," and considered how the EPP is checked in languages such as English, Niuean, Italian, Irish, and Arabic.

Shayna Gardiner did an undergraduate degree in linguistics and psychology at Queen's University, and wrote an honours thesis on Ottawa Valley English syntax.  She has an MA in linguistics from the University of Ottawa where she mainly focused on historical morphology and syntax. She did RA work on Old and Middle English and her major research paper was about Middle Egyptian lexical categories.  Her current interests and research are in the areas of morphology, syntax, historical linguistics, and Middle Egyptian.

Matt Pankhurst has an MA in linguistics from Western University and a BA in English Literature and Rhetoric. He has also holds diplomas in Chinese Language and East Asian Studies from the University of Waterloo, and a Chinese language certificate from Nanjing University. For his MA he did fieldwork on Spoken Manchu in Qiqihar.  His MA paper addressed a number of vowel-related processes in Spoken Manchu and the relevance of a diachronic approach to Spoken Manchu vowel harmony. He is interested in the phonology of languages in Northeast China, particularly rhotacization and prosody.

Kyle Weishaar is a first year PhD student. He has a BA from McMaster University in Cognitive Science of Language and an MA in Linguistics from the University of Toronto. His research follows two distinct paths. His primary interest is in the syntax-morphology interface in Romance languages. Specifically, he is interested in pronominal systems and agreement patterns in the Ibero-Romance languages in both Europe and in the Americas. His other area of interest is in the similarity between timing, or time keeping, in music and speech. 

September 20, 2012

Ringing in the New (Academic) Year

Last Friday we had our welcome reception for the 2012-2013 academic year, welcoming the newest members of our department. We also recognized several achievements by members of the department, including new appointments of tenure (Cristina Cuervo, Michela Ippolito, and Alexei Kochetov) and the successful completion of the MA program by last year's cohort (Erin Brassell, Julie Doner, Erin Hall, Shannon Mooney, Kyle Weishaar, and Tomohiro Yokoyama). We also announced that Ross Godfrey was the winner of the first Elan Dresher Award, which is to be awarded annually to the graduate student who writes the best phonology course paper.

Elizabeth's official welcome
Jack's annual toast
Midway through the party, we noticed that many of the attending linguists were unintentionally colour-coordinated!

September 14, 2012

Élodie Thomas in the news—in Paris!

Élodie Thomas went home to Courcouronnes this summer, the Paris suburb where she grew up, to interview teenagers of Arabic origin. The local newspaper turned the tables and interviewed her for a full-column “Portrait.” “In France,” she told them, “urban sociolinguistics is studied in sociology and is not entirely a scientific discipline.” She chose Toronto, she said, as “the best place for studying sociolinguistics.” In her research, she hopes to show how Arabic elements are being integrated to form a distinctive Courcouronnes French variety. The reporter concluded, “Élodie is a bit of an ambassador for Courcouronnes.” Also, we could add, for our sociolinguistics program. Élodie’s interviews will form the core of her first Generals paper this fall. And probably more to come.

Post courtesy of Jack Chambers 

Homeland and Heritage Cantonese trip

The second NWAV-Asia Pacific conference was held in Tokyo this August, providing a venue for sociolinguists working on Asian and Pacific languages to share their work. Jack Chambers was an invited speaker with a fascinating lecture about Takesi Sibata, a Japanese linguist who foreshadowed much that was "discovered" later in western sociolinguistics. Jack is pictured here with three of the conference organizers, Yoshiyuki Asahi, Shobha Satyanath, and Miriam Meyerhoff, at the ceremonial breaking of the sake cask to open the conference banquet.
NWAV-AP 2 conference organizers with Jack
Naomi Nagy presented a synthesis of recent work on Heritage Cantonese that was conducted by Nina Aghdasi, Tiffany Chung, Derek Denis, Alex Motut, Mario So Gao, and Josephine Tong at NWAV-AP. Naomi then went on to her first visit to Hong Kong where she met many linguists interested in the current work on Toronto Heritage Cantonese. She's pictured below with U of T student Josephine Tong, and with her host Katherine Chen of Hong Kong University. 
Naomi & Josephine on Victoria Peak
Naomi & Katherine in the middle of the huge subway system