December 30, 2013

Congratulations, Keren!

Congratulations to Keren Rice, who has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada by Governor-General David Johnston! She has been recognised "[f]or her contributions as a linguist and scholar whose research on Canada’s North has notably helped to preserve the Athapaskan languages."

More information and the full list of recipients can be found here.

December 20, 2013

Happy Holidays

Some scenes from the end-of-term party a few weeks ago:

 Singers and F-zero


 Green tea ice cream cake

Nick Welch stealing the show. The picture does not hint at the true magnitude of this moment.

Things we missed in 2013

WHITL failed to report a couple of special news items this term. Quick, before the calendar year changes:

Belated congratulations to Clarissa Forbes, the winner of this year's Elan Dresher Phonology Prize! This was originally announced in September, at the start-of-term party, where this picture was taken.

 Clarissa with Yoonjung and Elan

And here are some beautiful pictures of Sali in Banff in November, where she was officially inducted into the Royal Society of Canada.

Photo: Dr. Sali Tagliamonte (FRSC) (my significant other and then some) is inducted as a member of the Royal Society of Canada in Banff on the weekend.

Photo: Sali being honoured by the Royal Canadian Society in Banff.

Sali in the National Post

Sali is interviewed in the National Post this week, on the decline of the Mackenzie brothers. The story is also picked up on the U of T website.

December 17, 2013

Matt Hunt Gardner and Becky Roeder in San Francisco

Ph.D. student Matt Hunt Gardner and former Post-Doc Becky Roeder (now an assistant professor at UNC Charlotte) were in San Francisco this past week for the Acoustical Society of America's annual conference. Their poster entitled "Phonetics as a compliment to phonology in the Canadian Shift" went over really well. 

The poster can be found here: 

Diane in Zurich

Diane Massam has just returned from giving an invited talk at the Workshop 'Mass and count in Romance and Germanic languages', coordinated by the University of Zurich's Research Center (UFSP) 'Language and Space' - University of Zurich, 16th and 17th of December 2013.

This workshop was a discussion forum for research on the semantics and morphosyntactic encoding of the mass-count distinction, mainly, but not exclusively, in Romance and Germanic languages and varieties (cf. e.g. the survey in Massam, Diane (ed.) (2012), Count and Mass Across Languages, Oxford: Oxford University Press).  It addressed questions concerning all kinds of semantic and morphosyntactic phenomena (absence of determiners, partitive determiners, indefinite articles with mass nominals, gender and its interplay with a mass vs. count reading of nominals etc.).

Congratulations, Julia!

Julia Yu-ying Su (Phd, 2012) is starting a new position at the Centre for Immigrant and Community Services here in Toronto. The job will include designing, developing, and promoting educational, social, and recreational activities for multicultural immigrant/low income youths and families. Congratulations and best of luck on this interesting new career path, Julia!

December 10, 2013

LIN458 (Revitalizing Languages), Fall 2013

This semester, students of LIN458 (Revitalizing Languages) taught by postdoc Nick Welch have created teaching materials to contribute to revitalization efforts for Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì, a Dene language of the Northwest Territories, in consultation with Tammy Steinwand and Lucy Lafferty of the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency and the Tłı̨chǫ Government.

Judy Chau, Shay Hucklebridge, Chris Valdivia, Luke West, and Shelby Zhang designed an interactive learning DVD, with an animated story told by a CGI narrator, and an associated computer game in which the player must answer questions in Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì in order to reach goals.

Magali Boizot-Roche, Nastassia Guarda, Brian Lang, Kirsten McCann, and Angie Rajani designed a themed lesson set, “Flying through the Seasons” [Sı̨ı̨ gogee k’ets’et’ah], which includes an illustrated storybook, the script of a classroom play, a worksheet set and a DVD.

Erin Braithwaite, Dylan Fotiadis, Paul Horbatiuk, Jonathan Mastrogiacomo, and Ravi Wood created a website hosting lessons, activities and essays on Tłı̨chǫ language and culture; this site will also serve as the host for the materials created by the other groups.

Eunji Choi, Nadine Cormier, Vanessa Cortese, Julia Grasso and Jeongyoon Mok created an interactive DVD with stories, slide shows, and listening-comprehension activities to teach seasonal vocabulary, animals and kinship terms.

All of these materials will be given to the Teaching and Learning Centre of the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency in Behchokǫ̀, Northwest Territories, in the hope that they will be useful.

December 6, 2013

LVC Group (Dec 6)

This week, Derek Denis presented a project he and Sali Tagliamonte will be presenting at the LSA meeting this year in Minneapolis; and then Janet Fu reported on research she's done on language use in multicultural societies.

Phonetics and Phonology Group (Dec 6)

This Friday (12-2) is the last Phon Group of 2013. 

On the agenda this week, there are two dry runs for OCP (Old-World Conference in Phonology). Christopher Spahr will be presenting "Prosodic epenthesis and floating vowels in Estonian quantity", and Radu Craioveanu will be presenting "Spread glottis and [spread glottis]."

Next semester, the first official meeting will be January 17th, but there may be an extra meeting (with special guest) on the afternoon of the 10th as well. More info to come once this is confirmed.

November 28, 2013

Alexei and Majed in Edinburgh

Alexei Kochetov and Majed Al-Solami attended Ultrafest VI in Edinburgh, Scotland (November 6-8), a conference on ultrasound-based vocal tract imaging. Alexei gave a talk 'An ultrasound study of retroflex and alveolar laterals in Kannada', co-authored with his collaborators at the All-India Institute of Speech And Hearing. Majed gave a talk 'Ultrasound and acoustic study of gutturals and emphatics in three Arabic dialects' based on his ongoing generals paper research. The program also featured Natalia Lapinskaya's poster 'An exploratory ultrasound investigation of emphatic articulation in Cairene Arabic' based on her undergraduate independent research project.

Congratulations, Dr. Ali!

Congratulations to Abdel-Khalig Ali, who on Nov. 22 defended his dissertation "Syllabification and phrasing in three dialects of Sudanese Arabic." Abdel-Khalig was supervised by Elan Dresher. The committee included Keren Rice, Peter Avery, Yoonjung Kang, Arsalan Kahnemuyipour and external examiner Stuart Davis (Indiana University). There was a joyful and memorable celebration afterwards, which reunited many past members of the department for the first time in a long while, including Juli Cebrian, Chiara Frigeni, David Bennett, Trisha Causley and Naomi Cull.

Guest Speaker: Elizabeth Allen Smith (Nov 29)

We are having a guest speaker event this week (November 29th) in Sid Smith 560A at 3pm (=3:10 U of T time). A reception in the department lounge will follow.

Elizabeth Allyn Smith (Université du Québec à Montréal)works on the semantic-pragmatic interface cross-linguistically and how it is influenced by a range of other factors, from syntactic to psycholinguistic to socio-phonetic. Her talk is entitled:

"Cross-linguistic differences in direct refutation and what they say about the interaction of grammar and context"

Most sentences contain multiple kinds of meanings: the main point of the assertion, things you presuppose, things you imply, various secondary points or ‘asides’, the source of your information, your commitment to it, how you feel about it, etc. Participants in a conversation can take issue with any of these meanings, but not always in the same way. For example, most researchers believe, following, e.g. von Fintel 2004 and Simons et al. 2011, that a contrast exists between (1b), which refutes the assertion in (1a), and (1c), which refutes its presupposition.

(1) a. Person 1: John is at the zoo again.
      b. Person 2: No, that’s not true, he’s home sick.
      c. Person 2: #No, that’s not true, he’s never been to the zoo until now.

 This talk attempts to answer the questions (i) what kinds of meanings can really be directly refuted (and whether it differs cross-linguistically), and (ii) what properties determine whether something can be directly refuted. I review previous proposals before presenting experimental results from English, Spanish and Catalan showing more heterogeneity than expected in the literature. I then present necessary revisions to theories of structured contexts to accommodate these results, explaining how syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic properties are all at play.

Psycholinguistics Group (Nov 29)

The psycholinguistics group is meeting on Friday, Nov 29th. Elizabeth Allyn Smith will be visiting from UQAM and will present her work entitled "Examining the perceptual persistence of presuppositions with and without controlling prior discourse context". The meeting with take place in the usual time (10:15) in the usual place (Sid Smith 560A).
 E. Allyn Smith works on the semantic-pragmatic interface cross-linguistically, and how it is influenced by a range of other factors, from syntactic to psycholinguistic to socio-phonetic. You can read more about her work here:

Syntax Project (Nov 29)

Syntax project will take place Friday, November 19th, from 12-2 pm in SS560A. Diane Massam will be presenting "Two is or not two is?" (short abstract below).

Abstract: I will discuss the syntax of intrusive 'be' constructions such as "The thing is is that I like you." and "I realized when he said that is he just doesn't care."  I will summarize the literature on these constructions, propose a new unified analysis for them, and then explore some of the issues raised, involving topics such as equative/predicative sentence types, agreement , and argument sharing.

November 23, 2013

Fall Convocation 2013

Eight department members received degrees on Friday, November 15: Sarah Clarke (Ph.D.), Bridget Jankowski (Ph.D.), Clarissa Forbes (MA), Jada Fung (MA), Phil Howson (MA), Dan Milway (MA), Becky Tollan (MA), and Michelle Yuan (MA).

Dan Milway, Clarissa Forbes, Becky Tollan, Elizabeth Cowper, Jada Fung, Alana Johns, and Michelle Yuan. (Photo credit: Radu Craioveanu.)

Sarah Clarke (Ph.D.) and Becky Tollan (MA). (Photo credit: Radu Craioveanu.)

Jada Fung (MA), Michelle Yuan (MA), and Becky Tollan (MA). (Photo credit: Radu Craioveanu.)

Congratulations to all of our new alumni!

November 20, 2013

LVC Group meeting (Nov 22)

The LVC Group will be meeting this week, Friday 10am-12pm, in SS560A. Marisa Brook will be speaking about relativizers in the town of Belleville. Darcie Blainey will be talking about Louisiana French.

Phonology group meeting (Nov 22)

The phonology group is meeting this week, 12-2 in SS560A. The group will be discussing a recent paper by Sara Mackenzie (PhD 2009) in Phonology"Laryngeal co-occurrence restrictions in Aymara: contrastive representations and constraint interaction."

Upcoming talks by department members

On Thursday Nov. 21 SLUGS is hosting a talk by Matt Hunt Gardner, Derek Denis, Marisa Brook and Sali Tagliamonte: "The new global flow of linguistic influence: Be like at the saturation point." This will take place at 4pm in SS 2120.

On Thursday Nov. 28, Arsalan Kahnemuyipour and Susana Bejar will be presenting an invited talk at York University: "Non-canonical agreement in copular contexts." This will take place from 5:15-6:15 in Ross S 562.

Nicole Rosen and Elizabeth Johnson awarded Canada Research Chairs

Nicole Rosen (PhD 2007)

Alumna Nicole Rosen (PhD 2007)  has been awarded a prestigious (SSHRC) Canada Research Chair in Language Interactions at the University of Manitoba. Nicole will be leaving the University of Lethbridge to take up this position in January 2014. Congratulations, Nicole!

Graduate faculty member Elizabeth Johnson (UTM, Psychology) has been awarded an (NSERC) Canada Research Chair in Spoken Language Acquisition at U of T. Congratulations, Elizabeth!

November 14, 2013

1st Undergraduate Linguistics Conference at the Centre for French and Linguistics (UTSC)

The Centre for French and Linguistics at UTSC is hosting its 1st Undergraduate Linguistics Conference on November 15. This all-day event runs from 10am-5pm, in IC 318 (UTSC), with a continental breakfast provided at 9:45am.

Phil Monahan will deliver the keynote lecture: "Identifying linguistic pieces in the brain: how the brain can inform us about the language and what language tells us about the brain."

The complete program is available here

November 11, 2013

Talks at GALA and the Little v Workshop

 Ailis and Becky in Leiden

Becky Tollen and Ailis Cournane have recently returned from Europe. Becky gave a talk at the Little v Workshop in Leiden (Oct 25-26) entitled  "Case marking and sensitivity of little v: evidence from dialectal". Ailis, who also attended the workshop, was in Oldenburg Germany earlier in the fall (Sept 5-7) for GALA (Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition) where she gave a talk, "Acquiring changes: The (re)mapping of modal verbs into diachronic innovations"

 Ailis at Gala (Photo courtesy of alumna Lyn Tieu (MA 2008))

Features Workshop in Tromsø

Elan Dresher and Elizabeth Cowper returned last week from a workshop on features in Tromsø, Norway: Features in Phonology, Morphology, Syntax and Semantics: What are they?.

Elan gave an invited talk: The arch not the stones: Universal feature theory without universal features.

Elizabeth co-presented a talk with alumnus Daniel Hall (PhD 2007): Reductio ad discrimen: Where features come from

Also, recent alumna Sarah Clarke (PhD 2013) presented a poster: Features across domains: The nominal-aspectual parallel.

Elizabeth and Elan with Betsy Ritter
Sarah with Wendy Sandler

November 8, 2013

Congratulations to Richard Compton!

Congratulations to Richard (PhD 2012), who has won a teaching award from the Department of Language Studies at UTM. Above is a picture of him at the ceremony on October 25.

Catching up on recent talks by faculty and students

People in the department were busy over the past month giving talks. Here is a round-up of some of the news we missed in October (and there's more to come):

At NELS 44 (U Conn, Oct 18-20), Will Oxford (PhD) gave a talk entitled "The Activity Condition as a Microparameter." And Avery Ozburn (PhD) presented a poster with Alexei Kochetov entitled "Non-local laryngeal alternations in Lezgian: An Agreement by Correspondence analysis."

Ana Teresa Pérez-Leroux gave two invited talks in Europe. On October 8 she presented "What RCs tell us about the syntax and semantics of complex structures in children," at the Goethe University Frankfur. On October 18 she presented a seminar "Continuity, structure and recursion: DP internal PP attachment in English-speaking children", at the Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona, in Barcelona. Also, from August 12-16, Ana was a guest lecturer  at the 2013 Graduate Institute, Universidade Federal de Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she lectured on the Acquisition of Bilingual Syntax.

Michela Ippolito has just returned from a workshop on conditionals at the University of Konstanz that brought together linguists and philosophers working on conditionals in North America and Europe.

Yoonjung Kang gave an invited talk titled "A corpus-based study of positional variation in Seoul Korean vowels<>" at Japanese/Korean Linguistics 23 <>, held at MIT, October 11-13. Also in attendance was our recent graduate, Kyumin Kim (PhD, 2011) who gave a talk titled "Idioms in Korean and Japanese: phase-based account". <> The conference was also a chance to catch up with Isaac Gould (MA, 2010) and Michelle Yuan (MA, 2013) currently studying at MIT, who send their greetings!

LGCU Welcome Workshop 5

Today is the fifth LCGU Welcome Workshop. This annual event gives our new MA and Ph.D. students an opportunity to introduce the rest of the department to research they've done over the course of past studies. The workshop will take place from 2pm to 7pm in SS560A. The schedule is posted on the door of the lounge. Seven of our new MA students and five Ph.D. students are taking part this year:

Michael Schwan
Gitksan 'ejectives'

Jessica Mathie
Antipassives and transitivity in Australian languages

Julianne Doner
How regular stress became lexical: Changes in stress from Latin to Spanish

Kazuya Bamba
The 'selflessness' of grammar: A diachronic study of Romance reflexives

Danielle Moed
Against the NP-Movement Hypothesis in English middle constructions

Emilie LeBlanc
A phonetic and phonological study of Chiac as spoken by Moncton adolescents

Maida Percival
The perception of Hul'q'umi'num' ejectives by native speakers of English

Richard Gananathan
An OT account of Ojibwe syncope in the Ottawa dialect

Tomohiro Yokoyama
Japanese honorifics and their structures

Naomi Francis
The marking of future uncertainty in Nata

Daniel Milway
Pro-drop in English and German: Evidence from particle verbs

The workshop was followed by a catered dinner in the department lounge. Thanks to Radu Craioveanu and the LGCU more generally for organising and funding the afternoon!

LVC Group Meeting (Nov 8)

This week the LVC Group has a visiting speaker: Véronique Lacoste (University of Freiburg) reporting on a project investigating the English of the Toronto Haitian community. They'll be meeting in SS560A as usual, from 10-12.

November 1, 2013

Massam 2014: Lasting Insights and Questions

Congratulations to Diane, whose 2000 paper "VSO and VOS: Aspects of Niuean Word Order" is excerpted in the newly published Wiley-Blackwell volume An Annotated Syntax Reader: Lasting Insights and Questions (edited by Richard Kayne, Thomas Leu and Raffaella Zanuttini). The volume compiles excerpts from classic syntax papers, dating back to 1966.

Guest Speaker: Morgan Sonderegger (Nov 1)

Morgan Sonderegger is visiting from McGill (, and will talk about "The dynamics of sounds on reality television" -- see abstract below.

The talk will take place in Sid Smith 560A (basement of Sid Smith), starting at 3:10pm. A reception in the department lounge will follow.

"The dynamics of sounds on reality television"

To what extent does an individual’s phonetics and phonology change during adulthood? Previous work has addressed this question on two timescales. In short-term laboratory settings, aspects of one's speech shift in response to the speech of others (e.g. Nielsen, 2008; Babel, 2009). It has been hypothesized that the accumulation of such shifts is an important source of accent change in individuals and sound change in communities (Delvaux & Soquet, 2007). However, studies of phonetic or phonological variables in individuals at times years apart have found huge variability: there is often no evidence for change for a majority of individuals, while a minority change significantly (e.g. Evans & Iverson, 2007; Sankoff & Blondeau, 2007). What is the link between the different patterns seen in short-term convergence and long-term dynamics? And more generally, what do phonetic and phonological dynamics in individuals look like at time scales in between?

We address these questions by investigating ‘medium-term’ trajectories of phonetic and phonological variation in a British reality television show, where speakers live in an isolated house for three months. We examine five variables in spontaneous speech from 12 contestants: voice onset time, coronal stop deletion, and formant frequencies for three vowels. As a preliminary step, we build a model of synchronic variation for each variable; these models yield interesting and surprising findings with respect to previous work. We then analyze the trajectory of each variable within individual speakers, controlling for linguistic factors. Variability is the norm: speakers and variables show several qualitatively different types of dynamics, with a significant minority showing stability. There is some evidence that particular speakers (across variables) and variables (across speakers) have characteristic dynamics. Long-term time trends do sometimes occur, which could be due to accumulation of short-term shifts. By contrast, day-by-day variation is very common. Our results suggest a tentative account of the relationship between short-term and long-term dynamics, and directions for future work.

Syntax/Semantics Project (Nov 1)

Syntax project will be held Friday, November 1st, in SS560A from 12-2 pm. Kenji Oda will be presenting, "On Apparent Adjective Fronting in Irish."

Psycholinguistics Group Meeting (Nov 1)

The Psycholinguistic Group is meeting Friday, November 1st in Sid Smith 560A and will start at 10:15. Morgan Sonderegger ( is visiting from McGill that day and will give a talk entitled "Voice onset time: automatic measurement and corpus studies"

"Voice onset time: automatic measurement and corpus studies"
 Large corpora of speech from laboratory and naturalistic settings are becoming increasingly available and easy to construct, and promise to change the questions researchers can ask about human speech production. However, this promise depends on the development of accurate algorithms to quicken or replace manual measurement, which becomes infeasible for large corpora. With some important exceptions (e.g. vowel formants), such algorithms do not currently exist for most quantities which are widely measured in phonetic research. The first part of this talk describes an automatic measurement algorithm for perhaps the most widely measured consonantal variable, voice onset time (VOT), which has been extensively studied since the 1960s (Lisker & Abramson, 1964). Our approach combines knowledge about the cues human annotators use to measure VOT with machine learning techniques for predicting structured output, to tailor an algorithm which learns to measure VOT nearly as accurately as humans (evaluated on several corpora), by training on a small number (50-200) of hand-labeled examples.

The second part of the talk will describe a corpus study of variability in VOT in British reality television speech enabled by our automatic measurement algorithm, which quantifies the relative importance of different factors affecting VOT in conversational speech (e.g. speaking rate, place of articulation, speaker gender). There have been very few previous studies of VOT in conversational speech (Yao, 2009); in addition to replicating many findings of laboratory studies, we find a number of novel and surprising effects, including inter-speaker differences in the strength of conditioning factors. Time permitting, we will also describe a a collaborative project applying the algorithm to studying real-time change in VOT in a speech community.

October 23, 2013

Phonetics/Phonology Group meeting (Oct 25)

The Phonetics/Phonology Group is meeting Friday at 12pm in SS560A, as usual. On the agenda:

1) A dry run by Elan, for his talk at the Tromsø Feature Workshop

Invited talk by Alexei at York this Thursday

Alexei Kochetov is giving a talk at York University (Keele campus) this Thursday, Oct 24, 5:15-6:15.

The talk will take place in Ross S 562 and will be followed by a reception in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics.

 Title: Tracking and Imaging the Tongue: New insights into language-particular phonetic variability

"Early articulatory phonetic research using static palatography and x-ray imaging was crucial to the development of phonetic and phonological theories, and provided important foundations for phonetic typology. For many decades, however, articulatory research has been limited to a small number of research labs, as it required costly equipment, extensive training, and labour-intensive data analysis. While this is still true to some extent, new methods of articulatory data collection and analysis are becoming increasingly available and gradually more affordable. This, together with the increased collaboration among researchers/labs and the discipline-wide growing interest in experimentation, is likely to provide a new impetus to the applied and theoretic phonetics/phonology research. In this talk I will present results from two studies that are part of a larger collaborative effort to develop a cross-language corpus of articulatory data with the goal to explore the data’s implications for applied and theoretical research. The first study employs electropalatography to examine the degree of linguopalatal contact for Japanese voiced, voiceless singleton, and voiceless geminate stops. These contrasts are traditionally analyzed as involving voicing and length features. The results of the study show that the three classes of consonants differ in the relative tightness of the constriction (e.g. /t:/ > /t/ > /d/). This suggests that the primary distinction may involve the feature ‘tense’, thus making the Japanese stop contrasts parallel to those of Korean. The second study (in collaboration with the All-India Institute of Speech and Hearing) uses ultrasound to image the tongue during the production of retroflex and dental consonants in Kannada (Dravidian). Retroflexes in Dravidian languages have been observed to involve substantial curling of the tongue tip towards the palate. Much less is known about the overall shape of the tongue and its dynamics during the retroflex production. The results of the study provide some insight into the process, potentially explaining facts of the retroflex patterning in phonology and acquisition."

New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) 42 in Pittsburgh

NWAV 42 took place last weekend in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. U of T was extremely well-represented this time around. The talks and posters by current members of the department were (alphabetically by first author):

 • André Arsenault: "Sociolinguistic variation in Mari Old Babylonian."

• Marisa Brook: "Comparative complementizers in Canadian English: Insights from early fiction."

• Aaron Dinkin: "Linguistic and non-linguistic regions in perceptual dialectology."

• Chris Harvey: "Any and no negation in Southern Ontario English."

• Matt Hunt Gardner, Derek Denis, Marisa Brook, and Sali Tagliamonte: "The new global flow of linguistic influence: be like at the saturation point."

• Naomi Nagy and Derek Denis: "An amplification role for lexical frequency in syntactic variation? Testing with heritage Italian."

Sali co-presented a paper with alumna Alexandra D'Arcy (University of Victoria) and colleague Celeste Rodriguez Louro (University of Western Australia) on the spread of be like throughout the English-speaking world.

Alex also presented a solo paper: "Does one change have ramifications for the other?",  introducing her corpus of Victoria English.

Alumna Nicole Rosen (University of Lethbridge) was a part of two talks: "Rhythmic variation in southern Alberta Englishes," with three colleagues, and "Religion as a factor in Southern Alberta English variation."

Former student Greg Madan presented "Enregisterment and disaccomodation: The rise of rhotic speech in rural New Hampshire."

Naomi Nagy also co-led a software workshop: "Extending ELAN into variationist sociolinguistics."

Other sociolinguists from U of T in attendance were Jim Smith (PhD), Ruth Maddeaux (MA), Emilie LeBlanc (MA), Martin Sneath (undergraduate), and French professor Anne-José Villeneuve. Alumni who put in appearances were Bridget Jankowski (recent PhD), Maddie Shellgren (MA, now at Michigan State University), and Shannon Mooney (MA, now at Georgetown University). Thanks to everyone for contributing to a fantastic conference!

October 17, 2013

Syntax-Semantics Project Meeting, Friday, Oct 18

There will be a syntax project this Friday, October 18th, from 12-2, in room SS 560A. Rebecca Tollan will be giving a dry run entitled, "Case marking and sensitivity of little v: evidence from dialectal variation in Basque (and beyond)," and Elizabeth Cowper will be presenting "Reductio ad discrimen: Where features come from" (co-authored with Daniel Currie Hall).

(Post courtesy of Julie Doner)

Psycholinguistics Group Meeting Friday, Oct 18

This is a reminder that the Psycholinguistics Group is meeting on Friday, Oct 18, from 10-12. Danielle Moed (MA student, LIN) will present research she did as an undergrad at McMaster, entitled "A psycholinguistic analysis of NP-movement in English".

The  next meeting is Nov 1. Morgan Sonderegger ( will be vising that day from McGill, and will give a presentation to the group. Details to follow.

(Post courtesy of Daphna Heller)

October 10, 2013

Phonetics/Phonology Group meeting Friday, Oct. 11

The phonetics/phonology group will be meeting on Friday, Oct. 11 at 12pm. There are two scheduled talks:

Clarissa Forbes will be presenting her paper "Gitksan stress and the development of lexical accent." This is the paper that won Clarissa the 2013 Elan Dresher Student Phonology Prize!

Avery Ozburn will be doing a dry run of her NELS poster, "Non-local laryngeal alternations in Lezgian: an Agreement by Correspondence analysis".

October 9, 2013

LVC Group Meeting, Friday Oct 11

The LVC Group meets this Friday starting at 10 AM. Presenters will be giving dry-runs for NWAV.  Matt, Derek, Sali, and Marisa will present on their study of quotatives. Derek and Naomi will present on heritage Italian. Marisa will also be presenting aspects of her MA research.

S4 Meeting on Friday, Oct 11

The newly formed 'syntax semantics squib section' (S4) will meet Friday 12-1 in SS2127. There will be two short tutorials – Plurality (by Youri Zabbal) and Types of Copular Constructions (by Susana Bejar) – plus discussion.

The S4 meeting is a newly formed 1-hour slot for informal discussion of sytax-semantics. It will meet every two weeks, alternating with the Syntax-Semantics group.

'Canadian English, Eh?' at Gerstein

The Canadian Language Museum's exhibit 'Canadian English, Eh?' is currently on display at U of T's Gerstein Library (Gerstein Science Information Centre) at 9 King's College Circle. It will be up until October 18. It's very prominently displayed on the main floor, so it is attracting many readers!

The Museum's other exhibit 'Speaking the Inuit Way' was displayed at the Foundation for Endangered Languages conference at Carleton last week, and will be at the Université de Moncton for the Atlantic Provinces Linguistic Association meeting at the beginning of November. Work is underway on the next exhibit about Canadian French, which will open in March 2014.

(Post courtesy of Elaine Gold)

September 30, 2013

Psycholinguistics Group this Friday

(Courtesy of Daphna Heller)

There will be a psycholinguistics group meeting this Friday (Oct 4). Phil Monahan (LIN, UTSC) will present his work entitled "Using behavior and brain to probe speech categories: Dialects, underspecification and bias".

Psycholinguistics group meets in Sid Smith 560A. The talk will start at 10:15.

Syntax-Semantics Project meets twice this week

(Courtesy of Julie Doner)

There will be two meetings of syntax-semantics project this week, as follows. Please take note of the special time for the first meeting.

"Kaqchikel Agent Focus as anti-locality"
Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine, MIT
Thursday, October 3rd 4:30-6:30 pm in BL 114

Abstract: Many Mayan languages show a syntactically ergative extraction asymmetry whereby the A-bar extraction of subjects of transitives requires special verbal morphology, known as Agent Focus. In this talk I discuss the syntax of Agent Focus in Kaqchikel, a Mayan language spoken in Guatemala. I argue that Agent Focus does not simply occur whenever an ergative subject is A-bar extracted---as predicted by previous approaches---but is instead a strategy to avoid a movement step which is *too short*. Support for this claim comes from new data on the distribution of Agent Focus in Kaqchikel which shows this locality-sensitivity. Time permitting, I will discuss the notion of "last-resort" and motivate the use of a system of ranked, violable constraints to model the full pattern of Agent Focus and verbal agreement observed in the language.

"Deducing clause structure from the right periphery in T??ch? Yat?ì"
Nick Welch, U of T
Friday, October 4th 12-2 pm in SS 560A.

Abstract: T??ch? Yat?ì, a Dene language of the Northwest Territories, Canada, has a number of post-verbal auxiliaries and particles indicating categories such as futurity, mode, negation, information structure and evidentiality. The interaction of these elements reveals that they occur in a strict order, which in turn illuminates the structure of the clause in this language, with positions for future, mode, negation, and focus as functional categories at the right edge.

September 27, 2013

Guest speaker: Matthew Dryer

We have a guest speaker event today, Friday, Sept 27th, at 3pm (it will start at 3:10pm, U of T time).

Matthew S. Dryer (University at Buffalo) is presenting his work entitled "On the Order of Demonstrative, Numeral, Adjective and Noun" (see abstract below).

The talk will take place in Sid smith 560A, and a reception will follow in the Linguistics lounge.

On the Order of Demonstrative, Numeral, Adjective and Noun
This paper reports on a typological study of the order of demonstrative, numeral, adjective, and noun, based on a sample of 442 languages. I propose a set of five surface principles which interact to predict the relative frequency of the different orders of these four elements. I compare my approach to a generative account of the same phenomenon by Cinque (2005). I argue that my approach accounts for the relative frequency of the different orders better than Cinque’s and that his account suffers in three respects: (1) my sample contains instances of four orders that Cinque’s account predicts should not exist; (2) two orders are considerably more common than his account predicts; and (3) two orders are considerably less common than his account predicts. I also argue that the principles underlying the different orders of these four elements must be interpreted in terms of semantic categories and that any attempt to account for them syntactically cannot work.

September 26, 2013

Bronwyn Bjorkman wins Banting postdoctoral fellowship

The department is pleased to be able to announce that Bronwyn Bjorkman is staying on for two more years, now as a Banting Fellow. Though you have already seen Bronwyn around this term, the Banting results were only publicly announced on Monday

Her project for this postdoctoral fellowship is to investigate the cross-linguistic and language-internal relationships between expressions of anteriority, especially past tense and perfect and perfective aspects, and to develop featureal representations of these oppositions. She will continue to work with Elizabeth, on this and other topics. 

Congratulations, Bronwyn!

September 25, 2013

Canadian Language Museum exhibit at Gerstein next month

The Canadian Language Museum's Canadian English exhibit will be at Gerstein Library, on the U of T campus, from October 7-18. You can hear a CD of Canadian Dialects and admire the exhibit created by Elaine Gold and a team of students a couple of years ago. Thanks, Elaine!

September 20, 2013

2013-2014 Research group meetings start today

The 2013-2014 calendar of research group meetings begins today.

The Psycholinguistics group is meeting at 10:15am in Sid Smith 560A. Mindaugas Mozuraitis (PhD student, psychology, UTM) will present his work entitled "Appearance-reality distinction in real-time referential processing.".

At 12:00 the Syntax-Semantic project will meet  in SS560A. Dan Milway (PhD student) will present a part of his MA research: "Asymmetries and implicit arguments in English particle verb constructions."

September 16, 2013

Congratulations, Michela!

Congratulations to Michela Ippolito on the publication of her 2013 LI monograph "Subjunctive Conditionals: A Linguistic Analysis." Here is a link to the publisher's page:

September 6, 2013

Sali Tagliamonte elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada

Congratulations to Sali! She has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. See the following for the description of her accomplishments, plus information about the others from the University of Toronto who have been selected as fellows or won Royal Society awards. 

Special meeting of the Phonology Group today: Manami Hirayama

There will be a special meeting of the phonology group next today (September 6th) at 10 am in SS560A. Manami Hirayama (Ritsumeikan University) will be presenting her research on high vowel devoicing in Japanese; all are welcome to attend. The title and abstract follow below.

Testing the visibility of morphology in postlexical phonology: Evidence from vowel devoicing in Japanese

It has been argued in the literature of high vowel devoicing in standard Tokyo Japanese (HVD) that HVD makes reference to morphological boundaries. For example, McCawley (1968) observes that accent shifting in verb and adjective alternations triggered by HVD has the stem as the domain. Vance (1992), looking at nominal compounds with two potential undergoers of HVD in two successive syllables, argues that the presence of the boundary prohibits HVD: those adjacent to the boundary fail to undergo the process. Yoshida (2004) argues that what he calls “compound boundaries” blocks the occurrence of HVD more frequently than “morpheme boundaries” do.

The visibility of word-internal structure in HVD is a challenge to phonological theories. For example, in the theory of Lexical Phonology (e.g., Kiparsky 1982, Mohanan 1986), processes in the postlexical domain do not refer to word-internal structure (only phonological information is available in that domain), while HVD, being non-structure-preserving and non-categorical, occurs postlexically. The reference to the word-internal information is also not expected in the prosody-morphology/syntax interface hypothesis, where phonological/phonetic rules refer only to prosodic structure, not directly to morphological/syntactic structure.

In this talk, I explore the effects of morphological boundaries in HVD through two studies I have conducted. One is preliminary results from a production experiment with ten speakers. The other is a dictionary study on the lexical accent variation related to HVD (Hirayama & Giriko 2012). I argue that it is not the morphological boundary but likely the phonological boundary that HVD refers to. This supports the view of Lexical Phonology and the prosody-morphology/syntax interface hypothesis discussed above.

September 3, 2013

Richard Compton begins new post-doc

Recent alumnus Richard Compton (PhD 2012) begins a post-doctoral fellowship this month at McGill University under the supervision of Professor Jessica Coon. During the post-doc he will be continuing his research into polysynthetic word formation, word-internal modifiers, linearization, and lexical categories in Inuktitut. He also hopes to explore theoretical connections between these topics and phenomena in Mi'gmaq and other Algonquian languages. Richard will also be participating in the Mi'gmaq Research Project and organizing a reading group on a topic pertaining to Algonquian. In the winter semester he will be teaching Field Methods at McGill. Congratulations, Richard!

August 29, 2013

Congratulations, Dr. Clarke!

Congratulations to Sarah Clarke, who recently defended her thesis entitled "Aspectual Scope and Contrast in English and Japanese"! Sarah was supervised by Elizabeth Cowper, and her committee consisted of Susana Béjar, Robert Binnick, Daniel Currie-Hall, Alana Johns, Diane Massam, and external examiner Michiya Kawai (UWO). Celebrations included a party hosted by Elizabeth, with music provided by F-Zero.

Congratulations, Sarah!

L to R: Elizabeth Cowper, Sarah Clarke, and Michiya Kawai

A toast to the new doctor

Sarah with a subset of her committee
(Photos courtesy of Eugenia Suh)

Summer Workshops 2013

Following tradition, we held two informal (phonetics/phonology and syntax) summer workshops which both took place on Aug. 15 this year. The CRC-Sponsored Summer Phonetics/Phonology Workshop was organized by Yoonjung Kang, Alexei Kochetov, and Keren Rice, and included many interesting talks by members of our faculty, graduate students, and alumni. The program included the following talks:

  • Avery Ozburn & Alexei Kochetov: Long-distance and positional constraints in Lezgian laryngeal harmony
  • Peter Jurgec & Tina Razboršek: Opaque interactions in Šmartno Slovenian
  • Christopher Spahr: Confronting the European Portuguese low vowel distinction
  • Phil Howson: An EMA examination of the Czech trill-fricative
  • George Nagy & Naomi Nagy: What R we hearing?
  • Marisa Brook: Intersecting phonotactic restrictions and their perceptual effects
  • Yu-Leng Lin: Nasal harmony with opaque segments
  • Vincent DeCaen: Coffee tomorrow?: A Generative-Masoretic approach to Tiberian gutturals and sonority
  • Joanna Chociej: The role of sonority in Polish vowel‐zero alternations
The talks were held in BA 1220, and lunch was served in the lounge.

(Photo credit: Eugenia Suh)

Break time
(Photo credit: Emily Clare)

The second workshop was Two BE (or not two BE), a follow-up to the Practical BE-Keeping (BE-lated) workshop which took place in March. This workshop followed the same structure as the first one, where attendees came up with questions, broke off into groups to discuss the questions that interested them the most, and then came back together to present a review of what was discussed.

(Photos courtesy of Kenji Oda)

Thank you to all of the organizers and attendees for making both workshops a success!

July 19, 2013

Photos from CLA 2013

Here are some snapshots from CLA 2013, courtesy of Becky Tollan.

July 8, 2013

Congratulations, Bridget!

On July 3, 2013, Bridget Jankowski defended her dissertation, "A Variationist Approach to Cross-Register Language Variation and Change", with dignity and aplomb.

We were pleased to have Prof. Terttu Nevalainen, University of Helsinki, join us as External Examiner.

We were also favoured with a brief appearance by alum Cathleen Waters (now at U Leicester. Congrats to her on her new job!).

Celebrations included a Pennsylvania specialty: Strawberry Pretzel Salad (recipe by popular demand) and Derek's Brie-en-croûte à la canadienne.

(Post courtesy of Naomi Nagy)

Bridget with Sali and Cathleen
(Photo courtesy of Sali Tagliamonte)

Bridget with Terttu Nevalainen 
(Photo courtesy of Eugenia Suh)

(Photo courtesy of Eugenia Suh)

Craig manning the grill
(Photo courtesy of Eugenia Suh)

Liisa Duncan, Derek Denis, Sarah Clarke, Eugenia Suh
(Photo courtesy of Sali Tagliamonte)

Congratulations, Bridget!

July 2, 2013

Must be nice to be a professor...

... and have all that free time all summer, plus sabbaticals every seven years.  We've all heard these comments. In case you've ever wondered what profs do during sabbaticals, here's a glimpse inside Naomi's first sabbatical at U of T.

June 24, 2013

Congratulations, Marina!

Alumnus Marina Sherkina-Lieber (PhD 2011) has received a SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship which she will hold at Carleton University, with Kumiko Murasugi, for two years. Her project, which began on May 1, 2013, is entitled "Heritage receptive bilinguals knowledge of noun incorporation in Inuktitut."  Marina says she is continuing her work on the morphosyntactic knowledge of those who "understand but don't speak" Inuktitut. This time she will work with the Ottawa Inuit community. Congratulations, Marina!

Congratulations, Will!

PhD student Will Oxford is leaving us shortly for the University of Manitoba, where he has accepted  a tenure-stream position specializing in Algonquian linguistics in the Department of Linguistics, commencing July 1. Will is currently completing his dissertation "Microparameters of agreement: The development of the Algonquian Independent inflection." Congratulations, Will!

Alana in Nunatsiavut

Alana Johns is just back from a few weeks of fieldwork in Nunatsiavut. Here are some photos: 

A shot from the plane, for people who might appreciate flying experiences that are less common in modern times, e.g. open cockpit.
Ice breaking up

Moravian church in Nain

June 9, 2013

21st International Congress of Acoustics and Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics

Alexei Kochetov (faculty), Phil Howson (MA student), and Chris Neufeld (former BA student, currently MSc Speech-Language Pathology) have presented posters at the 21st International Congress of Acoustics held at the Palais des congrès in Montréal, QC (June 2-7, 2013). The papers have been published in the latest issue of the Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics:
(Post courtesy of Alexei Kochetov)

June 7, 2013

Research Groups: Psycholinguistics (June 7/2013)

Post courtesy of Daphna Heller

There is a psycholinguistics meeting today (Friday, June 7th). Ana Teresa Pérez-Leroux (Spanish & LIN) will present her work entitled "Do children avoid recursive embedding? PP attachment in elicited referential descriptions". We gather at 10, the presentation starts at 10:15 in our regular Sid Smith 560A.

June 6, 2013

Photos from June Convocation 2013

 Yesterday, Sandrine Tailleur received her diploma at the June Convocation. Alumna Jessica Taylor (MA 2004) also received her diploma from the Department of Anthropology. Congratulations again!

(Photos courtesy of Yves Roberge)

Alumna Jessica Taylor (MA 2004) and Sandrine Tailleur

Yves Roberge and Sandrine Tailleur

More Good News from the Jackman Humanities Institute

Congratulations to Cristina Cuervo, Susana Béjar, and Ana Pérez-Leroux, whose proposal entitled "Beyond babble: Meanings in the minds of speakers" was approved for funding. This four-lecture series will take place in the coming academic year (exact dates TBA). The theme for this year's Jackman Humanities Institute Program for the Arts is: Translation and the Multiplicity of Languages; a full list of the events taking place is available here.

May 31, 2013

New Sociolinguistics Professor

(Post courtesy of Keren Rice)

I am very pleased to announce that we have hired Aaron Dinkin to a two year Assistant Professor, replacing Sali while she holds her Killam Fellowship.

Aaron completed his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, working on dialect boundaries and phonological change in upstate New York. He is interested in the interaction of phonological structure with the direction of phonetic and phonological change. He will teach courses in sociolinguistics and historical linguistics, as well as other courses. You can find some additional information at

Aaron's position officially begins July 1, and we look forward to seeing him here sometime soon after that date.

We look forward to welcoming Aaron to the department.

May 30, 2013

CLA 2013

Several members of our department are in, or on their way to, BC for the CLA, which takes place this weekend (June 1-3) at the University of Victoria.

The following will be giving talks:
  • Susana Béjar & Arsalan Kahnemuyipour: Agreement in copular clauses embedded in modal contexts
  • Marisa Brook: Intersecting phonotactic restrictions and their perceptual effects
  • Laura Colantoni, Olivia Marasco, Jeffrey Steele & Simona Sunara: Temporal and spectral parameters in the L2 acquisition of prosodic prominence
  • Elizabeth Cowper & Daniel Currie Hall (Saint Mary’s): English modals: Evidence for a neoparametric theory of phrase structure
  • Derek Denis: The social meaning of Eh in Canadian English
  • Julianne Doner: The acquisition of first-Order CP and DP recursion: A longitudinal case study
  • B. Elan Dresher: Contrastive vowel features in West Germanic
  • Clarissa Forbes: Number in the Gitksan nominal domain: Plural [plural] projections
  • Ross Godfrey: Inner and outer causatives in a type-driven semantics
  • Julie Goncharov: Self-superlatives
  • Alana Johns: Ergativity lives: Eastern Canadian Inuktitut and *clitic doubling
  • Diane Massam: Double and single ‘be’ Constructions in spoken English
  • Safieh Moghaddam: On split ergativity – Evidence from Davani
  • Rebecca Tollan: Deriving morphological ergativity in Basque
  • Tomohiro Yokoyama: Licensing of the question marker ka in Japanese
  • Michelle Yuan: A-bar fronting in Dinka: Evidence for a left-peripheral domain below CP
There will also be a number of poster presentations given by members of our department:
  • Bronwyn Bjorkman & Elizabeth Cowper: Inflectional shells and the syntax of causative have
  • Radu Craioveanu: The rise and fall of aspirated fricatives
  • B. Elan Dresher, Christopher Harvey & Will Oxford: Feature hierarchies and phonological change
  • Mercedeh Mohaghegh: An acoustic analysis of Persian word-final consonants within clusters
  • Alexandra Motut: A semantics for object-oriented depictives and their connection to partitives
Several alumni will also be in attendance to present talks and posters:
  • Monica Irimia: Non-canonical, but structural
  • Kenji Oda: On Apparent Adjective fronting in Irish
  • Kyumin Kim (Calgary): PERSON all the way in Blackfoot: Evidence from psych-predicates
  • Richard Compton (Queen’s): Incorporation and ellipsis as evidence for phrasal words in Inuit
  • Nelleke Strik (Dalhousie): The acquisition of long distance wh-questions in L2 French
  • Keir Moulton, Mathieu Dovan & Meghan Jeffrey (Simon Fraser): Why are weak crossover effects so weak? An experimental investigation
  • Jila Ghomeshi (Manitoba): The syntax of pragmaticalization
  • Meagan Louie (UBC): Constraints on licensing if-clauses in Blackfoot
  • Andrei Anghelescu & Michael Schwan (UBC): Nuclear consonants in Gitksan
As well, several graduate students from the French Department and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese will be giving talks and poster presentations:
  • Tanya Battersby: Semantic change in the Spanish copula system: Evidential innovation with estar in the Buenos Aires variety
  • Sophia Bello: L’omission des clitiques objets indirects: Arguments du VP ou tête fonctionnelle?
  • Anna Frolova: Acquisition des structures transitives en russe langue maternelle
  • Olivia Marasco: Intonation patterns of yes-no questions in L2 Spanish speakers
  • Joanne Markle Lamontagne: Child heritage language acquisition of the Spanish present perfect in Quebec
  • Elena Voskovskaia: Composés N-N et N-de-N dans la littérature française du 17e au 20e siècle: productivité morphologique
The full schedule is available here.

Updated: Photos from the event are available here.

Congratulations, Martin!

Congratulations to undergraduate student Martin Sneath, who is one of the winners of the highly competitive Jackman Humanities Institute Fellowships for 2013-2014!

This honour was awarded to only six undergraduate students this year, and provides Martin with the opportunity to conduct research on "Translation and Change in the Languages of Contact in Eastern Canada" under the supervision of Jackman Humanities Institute Faculty Research Fellow Professor Paul Cohen.