October 31, 2014

Keren Rice talk at UTM

Faculty member Keren Rice will be giving a talk as part of the Department of Language Studies Speaker Series at our Mississauga campus:

"Fieldwork, community, variation, and change."
Wednesday, November 12, 2014, 1 PM - 3 PM
North Building 262 (Dean’s Lounge)

During my career, I have been interested in addressing and trying to understand the tension that exists between universality and variability in language; I have also been interested in examining ways of working with people in fieldwork where the role that the people that linguists work with are taken into account, with a focus on people as well as on language. In this talk, I examine variation from two very different perspectives, a general approach to research and specific research that I have been doing. The general approach to research that I address concerns the definition of collaborative or community-based models of research, and how those both enhance and restrict research.

The linguistic approach (the focus of this talk) concerns the reported absence of types of phonological variation at a time in the history of the Dene (Slavey) language that has important ramifications for the history of how communities were settled, a topic of interest in the communities. The ethnographic record speaks to the emergence of two varieties of the language in the early 20th century. This does not fit well with people’s sense of their history. Work with a dictionary compiled in the late 19th century reveals that the linguistic varieties were in fact distinct at that time, suggesting that the linguistic record supports the community interpretation of its history.

These topics both address variation, albeit of very different types, but these represent the kinds of variation that are often found in doing fieldwork today.

October 29, 2014

Guest talk at UTSC: Tali Bitan (University of Haifa)

The Centre for French and Linguistics at UTSC presents a lecture by Tali Bitan of the University of Haifa in Israel, who is currently serving as a visiting professor of speech-language pathology here at the U of T and a visiting scientist at the Rotman Institute at Baycrest Hospital:

"Many ways to read your vowels: fMRI studies of reading in English and in Hebrew."
Monday, November 3, 2014, 12-1 PM (with a subsequent Q & A session), MW130

Findings from the last decade demonstrating the enormous malleability of the nervous system throughout life are in consonance with reading theories suggesting that the neurocognitive mechanisms involved in reading depend on the properties of the specific language and the readers’ experience with its orthography. In this talk I will review three sets of experiments in which we examined the neurocognitive mechanisms involved in reading single words, using fMRI: In Hebrew, in English and in an artificial orthography.

Two unique aspects of Hebrew are its complex morphological structure and the two versions of its orthography (with and without diacritic marks). In the first set of experiments we examined the effects of orthographic transparency and morphological complexity on the brain in skilled and Dyslexic adult readers, as well as children. Our results point to the overriding effect of experience on processing, beyond orthographic transparency, and to the compensatory potential of morphological decomposition.

In the second set of studies we examined how English reading children process the conflicting orthographic and phonological information typical of the opaque English orthography. Our brain connectivity results show developmental increase in top-down processing, and sex differences in the connectivity between hemispheres. In the third set of studies we examined the effect of reading instruction method on the brains of adults learning to read in an artificial script. Our results suggest that different learning mechanisms are involved in explicit and implicit reading instruction, and that only explicit instruction on the smallest units of mappingwould result in stable representations and a generalizable reading procedure.

Feel free to bring along your lunch!

October 28, 2014


This year’s meeting of the North East Linguistics Society is taking place at MIT from October 31 to November 2. Four of the papers accepted this year for presentation at the highly selective conference are coming from U of T people:

Ph.D. student Tomohiro Yokoyama is presenting "Features wearing two hats: Derivation of object-marked verbs in Kinyarwanda."

Former visiting professor Tyler Peterson (now at the University of Arizona) and current faculty members Ana-Teresa Pérez-Leroux, Susana Béjar, and Diane Massam, plus colleague Anny Castilla-Earls (SUNY Fredonia), are teaming up to present "Structural complexity and the acquisition of recursive locative PPs."

Will Oxford (Ph.D. 2014, now at the University of Manitoba) is presenting "Probe competition as a source of ergative person splits."

Keir Moulton (MA 2002, now at Simon Fraser University) and Nino Grillo (CLUNL/Stuttgart) are presenting "Pseudo-relatives: Big but transparent."

New blog for Canadian Language Museum

The Canadian Language Museum has a new blog, written by Michael Iannozzi, a work-study student in our department. The English blog is at http://langmusecad.wordpress.com/category/english/, and the French version at http://langmusecad.wordpress.com/category/francais/. The most recent
posting is an interview with U of T alumna Nicole Rosen, and the posting before describes Naomi's Heritage Language Variation and Change project.

October 27, 2014

Research Groups: Friday, October 31

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Language Variation and Change Group
Silvia Dal Negro (Free University of Bozen): "Dealing with multilingual data: The making of a corpus in South Tyrol."

After a short introduction to the sociolinguistic situation of South Tyrol (North-East of Italy), the aims, methodology and results of a research project on bilingual speech will be dealt with. In the presentation I will focus in particular on patterns of language distribution in a spoken corpus encompassing Tyrolean (German) dialect, Italian and Trentino dialect.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Phonology Research Group
Alexei Kochetov: "Phonetics of Dravidian retroflexes: Insights into phonological patterning and the linguistic prehistory of South Asia."

Dravidian retroflexes are peculiar in being phonetically more 'extreme' (retracted) and historically more archaic than in other languages of South Asia. Phonologically, retroflexes exhibit particular edge effects (positional restrictions and assimilatory directionality) unusual for other coronal consonants. This talk examines dynamic and spatial aspects of retroflex production in Kannada (South Dravidian) exploring phonetic sources and the development of the common phonological patterns. Articulography and ultrasound imaging data collected from 10 speakers of the language reveal that retroflex gestures are complex and asymmetric, being more distinct at their onset than the offset, and thus strikingly parallel to the phonological edge effects. Phonetic types and phonological patterns of retroflexion are further discussed in light of recent findings of molecular genetic studies of South Asian populations.

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Syntax/Semantics Squib Section
Round-table discussion led by Nick Welch of issues relating to the structure of the left periphery, particularly questions that arise in diagnosing the position functional heads in head-final languages. Everyone welcome, regardless of background!

flʌut talk: Nicholas Welch

Friends of Linguistics At the University of Toronto (flʌut) presents a lecture by Nicholas Welch (postdoctoral fellow, University of Toronto):

Revitalizing Languages: Challenges and Successes

Thursday, November 6, 2014, 7-9 PM.
Linguistics Department Lounge - Sidney Smith Hall, Fourth Floor

Linguistic diversity, like biological diversity, is in crisis worldwide. Children are growing up speaking an ever-shrinking number of languages. The death of a language is often accompanied by the disappearance of a culture, an oral literature, and a way of life. Throughout North America and the world, efforts to revitalize threatened languages are underway. Language revitalization is a very difficult undertaking, however, and requires resources that are usually already strained. It is therefore vitally important to understand which strategies have been most successful and why. Dr. Welch will discuss what we can learn from the few success stories and how this information can be applied to other languages. In particular he will draw on his experiences with the Tlicho Yatii, Tsuut'ina and Navajo languages.

Informal discussion and reception to follow. Open to all students, alumni, faculty, and friends!

October 24, 2014

PsychologyHenge 2014

Twice a year, the setting sun aligns exactly with the Department of Psychology's windows at the far end of our hall. This eagerly anticipated event is PsychologyHenge.

Diane and Niuean Language Week

October 12-19 was Niuean Language Week in New Zealand and last week Diane Massam was featured on the University of Canterbury (UC) Linguistic Department's blog in a post by Dr. Heidi Quinn (UC) about Niuean Language research at UC over the past few years.


October 23, 2014

Language revitalization efforts featured in U of T News

Earlier this month, U of T News published a story featuring work by Alana Johns and undergraduate students in our department that contributed to the launch of a new website (previously reported on here) dedicated to revitalization of the Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) language.


October 20, 2014

Research Groups: Friday, October 24

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Psycholinguistics Group

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax/Semantics Group

Keffyalew Gebregziabher: "Neither fish nor fowl: The role of nay in Tigrinya."

In Tigrinya (Semitic, Ethiopia & Eritrea; SOV), there is an element, nay, that serves (among other things) to distinguish between two, both semantically and syntactically different, possessives: (i) Nay-marked possessives; (ii) Bare (non-nay-marked) possessives. The former type is used for alienable possession while the latter one is used for inalienable possession. Two hypotheses have been proposed for a similar element, yə-, in Amharic, a very closely related language: (a) yə- is a genitive Case-marker (Ouhalla 2004); (b) yə- is a linker (den Dikken 2007). In this talk, I show that neither hypothesis (a) nor hypothesis (b) is adequate to account for all the facts of Tigrinya nay. Instead, I propose that nay is a nominal copula and its role is to introduce a grammatical relation between two dependents (e.g., a nay-marked possessor and its possessee).

Tomohiro Yokoyama: "Features wearing two hats: Derivation of object-marked verbs in Kinyarwanda."

In this paper, I propose that while feature valuation motivates internal/external Merge, as has previously been claimed, checking of uninterpretable features is a distinct operation which triggers head movement. The proposed feature system leads to incorporation of clitics  (object markers) at the phase edge (i.e. v* or Voice) after all the clitics have been merged in their respective argument positions. Consequently, the surface order of object markers can be derived by head movement without having to strengthen the Morphological Component or implement PF rules.

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Fieldwork Group
Discussion of a short article by Sonya Bird on phonetic fieldwork and experimental design in the Pacific Northwest.

October 17, 2014


New Ways of Analyzing Variation 43 is being held in Chicago this year from October 23 to 26, with two campuses of the University of Illinois co-hosting the conference. As usual, the University of Toronto is sending a whole pile of its sociolinguists to share their research. In alphabetical order by first author, these are:

Marisa Brook (Ph.D.)
A peripheral view of a change from above: Prestige forms over time in a medium-sized community

LeAnn Brown (Ph.D.)
Phonetic cues, indexical fields, and the perception of gender and sexual orientation

Claire Childs (former visiting graduate student, now back at Newcastle University), Christopher Harvey (Ph.D.), Karen Corrigan (Newcastle University) and Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty)
Comparative sociolinguistic insights in the evolution of negation

Derek Denis (Ph.D.) and alumna Alexandra D'Arcy (Ph.D. 2005, now at the University of Victoria):
Homogeneity, convergence, mega-trends, and stuff like that

Shayna Gardiner (Ph.D.)
Taking possession of the Constant Rate Hypothesis

Naomi Nagy (faculty) and Michael Iannozzi (BA)
Older speakers use more null subjects, but the variable is stable: Accounting for contrasting reports of contact effects in Italian and Faetar

Katherine Rehner (faculty) and Raymond Mougeon (York University):
Socio-stylistic dimensions of the (non-)use of negative particle ne in French Canadian high schools

Anne-José Villeneuve (faculty) and Philip Comeau (Université du Québec à Montréal)
Contrasting constraints in future temporal reference

Other alumni presenting are:

Emilie LeBlanc (MA 2014, now at York University)
Clustering variants in Acadian French

Shannon Mooney (MA 2012, now at Georgetown University) along with Grace Sullivan (Georgetown University):
Investigating an acoustic measure of perceived isochrony

Nicole Rosen (Ph.D. 2007, now at the University of Manitoba) with Melissa Heinrichs (University of Manitoba)
Canadian Shift in time - or is it in space?

Maddie Shellgren (MA 2011, now at Michigan State University) is giving a talk as part of a panel:
Measuring real-time judgments in sociolinguistics and beyond

Two faculty members are also presenting workshops:

Naomi Nagy
Coding in ELAN

Sali A. Tagliamonte (with Ph.D. students Derek Denis and Matt Hunt Gardner)
Quantitative methods: new trends and perspectives

Several other graduate students and faculty members will be in attendance. And next year's NWAV conference will be in Toronto!

October 15, 2014

Research Groups: Friday, October 17

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Language Variation and Change Group
Practice talks for NWAV 43 in Chicago: Naomi Nagy and Michael Iannozzi; Emilie LeBlanc; Shayna Gardiner; Derek Denis.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Phonetics/Phonology Group
Paper discussion: Bale, Papillon, and Reiss (2014). Targeting underspecified segments: A formal analysis of feature-changing and feature-filling rules. Lingua, 148, 240-253.

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Syntax/Semantics Squib Section

October 10, 2014

LGCU Welcome Workshop 6

The sixth annual LGCU Welcome Workshop will be held on Friday the 17th in SS 560A, starting at 2:10 PM. Sponsored by the Linguistics Graduate Course Union, the workshop provides a venue for new students (and a few returning ones) to present research that they've been working on. This serves as a way for the rest of the department to get to know the newcomers and their research interests.

This year's schedule features the following talks:

Emilia Melara (Ph.D.): "Tense and deixis: Revisiting sequence of tense in English."

Daniel McDonald (MA): "ECMs in Latin and Ancient Greek."

Patrick Murphy (Ph.D.): "Split accusativity in Finnish."

Frederick Gietz (MA): "A semantic treatment for dual-transitive verbs."

Ruth Maddeaux (Ph.D.): "Me, myself, and I: The role of the untriggered reflexive in the English pronominal system."

Erin Hall (Ph.D.): "Style and substance in the Canadian Shift: New evidence from Toronto."

Emily Blamire (Ph.D.): Gay speech in North American television."

Paulina Lyskawa (MA): "An ultrasound study of /ɹ/ production among native and non-native English speakers."

Luke West (MA): "Interaction of intonation and lexical tone in Sgaw Karen."

Yining Nie (MA): "Derived environment phonology in Distributed Morphology."

Thanks to Julie Doner, Ruth Maddeaux, Dan Milway, and the LGCU in general for all of their work in organizing the workshop!

October 6, 2014

Research Groups: Friday, October 10

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

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Psycholinguistics Group
Emily Blamire: "The effect of consonants on vocal attractiveness."

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax/Semantics Group
Paper discussion: Chomsky (2013). Problems of projection. Lingua, 130(1), 33-449.

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Fieldwork Group
Nick Welch reporting on summer fieldwork, conferences, and teaching Field Methods.

October 3, 2014

Spotlight on undergraduate research

Undergraduate students in our department are doing noteworthy research alongside faculty. Here are testimonies from three of the undergrads who worked with Naomi Nagy over the past year.

Michael Iannozzi (Independent Study, Summer 2014)
My research project centred on an analysis of pro-drop among heritage speakers of Faetar. This analysis was done in order to compare and contrast the results with those of homeland Faetar speakers and heritage Italian speakers, as part of the Heritage Language Variation and Change project. It was an amazing opportunity to be involved in every part of an academic study. I was able to code for the dependent and independent variables, convert those tokens into analyzable data, run the data using multi-variate analysis software, and put the results together in an academic paper. Also, through participating in CILLDI, I learned valuable language documentation skills which I am using to help support Faetar through web resources like a dictionary and vocabulary-building flashcards. I was able to gain valuable skills learning how to use many software programs that are essential to doing sociolinguistic work, as well as organizing my thoughts in an academic way. The culmination will be presenting it at NWAV in Chicago this fall. This experience will be extremely valuable as I continue with my studies to the graduate level.

*Mariana Kouzela (Research Assistant, The Heritage Language Variation and Change Project http://projects.chass.utoronto.ca/ngn/HLVC)
Working on the HLVC project has been a very rewarding and interesting experience for me. I feel that while I am contributing to the project as a research assistant for the Ukrainian language portion of it, I am also gaining a tremendous amount of insight and knowledge about the Ukrainian language in return by working on it. It is really quite intriguing and valuable to me, as a second-generation speaker myself, to see how the language changes among the generations. The HLVC project has enabled me to understand and notice the differences that exist in my heritage language, and to appreciate it more than ever before. After being a part of such a research project, I believe it is truly vital to continue such research as a means of further developing an understanding of how languages change from generation to generation, and perhaps serving as a teaching tool on how to preserve heritage languages among successive generations.
*Mariana’s research was funded by the Shevchenko Foundation

Minyi Zhu (Research Opportunity Program)
It was a great experience for me working with professors and other students in the department of Linguistics, under the Research  Opportunity Program. My research topic, The Variation in Vowels between Cantonese and English in the Greater Toronto Area, interested me a lot. Not only because I am was a bilingual student but also I was given the chance of using various kinds of software (ELAN, Praat,   Forced-Aligner, Ploknik) to analyze data and observe interesting results. Professor Naomi is a very well-organized and approachable instructor. Although I am not a Linguistic student and found some materials too abstract, I benefited from her thoughtful explanations and discussions with other team members.

October 2, 2014

Guest speaker: Luiz Amaral (UMass Amherst)

We are pleased to be about to welcome Luiz Amaral from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He works on multilingualism, L2, applied linguistics, and the indigenous languages of Brazil.

His talk will be on Friday October 10, in SS 560A, beginning at 3:15 PM: Recursion in acquisition: Theoretical questions and experimental design based on Wapichana, English, and Portuguese data.

In the last decade, the debate about the role of recursion in human languages (e.g., Hauser et al., 2002; Everett, 2005) also inspired research on the acquisition of recursive constructions (Roeper and Snyder, 2004; Hollebrandse et al., 2008; Limbach and Adone, 2010; Perez-Leroux et al., 2012). Although the controversy on whether recursion is a universal operation present in all human languages was inspired by data from a native Brazilian language (Pirahã), there is currently a big void in acquisition studies focusing on recursion in indigenous languages of Brazil.

In this presentation I will show some data from three different comprehension experiments in Wapichana, an Arawak language spoken in Brazil and Guyana. Wapichana is an SVO language with some head final constructions, which allows for relative clauses such as in (1) and (2).  

(1)  Py=aida   un=at  daunaiur tyka-pa       uraz  zyn kaiwada-pa  uraz  kuwam.
     2ps-show  1ps-to boy         look-PROG REL  girl  wear-PROG REL hat. 

    ‘Show me the boy that is seeing the girl that is wearing a hat.’
(2)  Py=aida   un=at  waru-nau  kanawa dia’a uraz ky’ba paawa’a uraz.
      2ps-show 1ps-to  parrot-PL canoe    in      REL rock  on           REL. 

    ‘Show me the parrots that are in the canoe that is on the rock.’
I will present an analysis of the internal structure of multiple embedded relative clauses and genitive constructions in Wapichana, and I will provide data that shows the preferred interpretation patterns by adult speakers and bilingual children who speak Wapichana/English and Wapichana/Portuguese. I will also present the preliminary results of an interpretation experiment for English embedded relatives and show how they compare to the Wapichana data. During the talk I will discuss possible theoretical ideas about the acquisition of recursion both as a syntactic operation and as a general property of the grammar that is linked to specific rules.