December 19, 2014

Palatalization Conference

Our department was well-represented at the recent Palatalization Conference (December 4-5, 2014) that took place in Norway at the University of Tromsø.

Faculty member Alexei Kochetov gave an invited talk: "Palatalization and glide strengthening as competing repair strategies: Evidence from Kirundi."

Faculty member Peter Jurgec gave a presentation: "Variable palatalization in Slovenian: Local and long-distance restrictions in a derived environment effect."

Ph.D. student Phil Howson presented a poster: "Palatalization and uvulars: An acoustic examination of Upper Sorbian."

Attached are some photos from Peter Jurgec.

Alexei and Peter, outdoors around noon!

Phil's poster. 

New work by Arsalan Kahnemuyipour and Ana Teresa Pérez-Leroux

Faculty member Arsalan Kahnemuyipour has one article recently published in Lingua and another in Language with colleague Ana Teresa Pérez-Leroux:

Kahnemuiypour, A. 2014. “Revisiting the Persian Ezafe construction: A roll-up movement analysis.” Lingua, 150, 1-24.

Pérez-Leroux, A-T & A. Kahnemuyipour. 2014.“News, somewhat exaggerated: Commentary on Ambridge, Pine, and Lieven.” Language, 90(3), e115-e125. (Invited Response.)

December 18, 2014

Congratulations, LeAnn!

LeAnn Brown defended her doctoral thesis, "Indexical phonetic cues used in gender and sexual orientation perceptions", on Tuesday, December 16, 2014.

The committee was comprised of Naomi Nagy, Alexei Kochetov, Ron Smyth, Laura Colantoni, Philip Monahan, and external examiner James Stanford (Dartmouth College).

Congratulations, Dr. Brown!

LeAnn's defense presentation (photo by Naomi Nagy).

Naomi, Alexei's office name-plate, LeAnn, Ron, Jim, and Phil (photo by Radu Craioveanu).

December 14, 2014

Holiday party 2014

We celebrated the end of the semester with a customary party on the evening of Friday the 5th. An impressive number of musicians - eleven - took part in playing holiday music as the department band, F-ZERO; visiting student Graziela Bohn introduced her infant son to us; and postdoc Nicholas Welch performed his legendary linguist rap that more than deserves its reputation.

Photos to follow!

December 8, 2014

Research Groups: Friday, December 12

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Language Variation and Change Group
Marisa Brook: "Syntactic categories informing variationist analysis: The case of copy-raising."

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax/Semantics Group
Rebecca Woods (University of York): "Embedded inverted interrogatives as embedded speech acts."

Interest in the syntacticization of discourse and perspective has been reignited in recent years (Speas and Tenny 2003, Miyagawa 2012, Sundaresan 2012, Krifka 2014 inter alia). Much of the literature has focused on indexical shifting and other speaker-orientation phenomena. This paper offers a different perspective, examining Embedded Inverted Interrogatives (henceforth EIIs), a form of presenting reported speech common in some English dialects. In proposing a Speech Act projection above the embedded CP in EIIs, predictions about how such structures affect syntactic dependencies will be explored and issues regarding the Question Under Discussion will be touched upon. 

EIIs are present in a number of English dialects, notably Belfast English (Henry 1995), other Irish Englishes (McCloskey 1992, 2006) and African American English (Green 2002). Examples are as below:

1. I asked Jack was she in his (Jack's) class (McCloskey 2006, Irish English)
2. They don't ask you did you sit on the choir (Green 2002, African American English)
3. Do you remember did she(i) say could she(i) come? (Attested, North West English)

They are used to report speech and share certain characteristics with both direct and indirect speech. It is clear to see that EIIs are embedded within matrix sentences in that person and time is anchored to the utterance context rather than the reported context. Semantically they also play similar roles to indirect speech as they often represent speech acts that have not actually occurred – they can 'pre'-present as well as represent speech. However, there are also clear signs that they are in some way "sectioned off" from the matrix clause in a similar way to direct speech, in particular because they form strong islands:

4. a. *[Which book](i) did Dave ask "Should I read [t](i)?"
b. ? [Which book](i) did Dave ask if he should read [t](i)?
c. * [Which book](i) did Dave ask should he read [t](i)?

Furthermore, their use is more similar to direct speech as they are used to convey commitments to propositions and emotions as expressed by the original speaker, but without any commitment by the reporting speaker to convey a full precise quotation; that is, some of the original structure (such as wh- and T-to-C movement) and lexical items (such as epithets) may remain, but not all will.

Following the spirit of Speas and Tenny (2003) and Sundaresan (2012), it is proposed that the embedding verb in EIIs selects a Speech Act Phrase (SAP) which is the highest projection in the embedded clause. The SAP head specifies the illocutionary force of the embedded clause and interacts with the embedded Force head. In the specifier of the SAP is a DP which is minimally specified in terms of its features and is controlled by the matrix addressee, as this is the 'centre of evaluation' for the question contained in the EII. This DP constitutes the perspective being evaluated in the embedded speech act. This structure, for the sentence "Mary asked John did he dance", is in (5) (featural specifications are in < >, underlining marks values determined by Agree, and Control is indicated by {}):

5. [TP [DP Mary] [T° ] [vP ask [DP John] [VP task [SAP [DP [D,{JOHN}]] [SA° ] [ForceP [Force , [IntP did [TP he dance...]]]]]]

The full extended CP below the SAP is licensed by the relationship between the Speech Act head and Force. Note that Force is not underspecified for illocutionary force, as in typical embedded clauses, because its Force feature is valued by the Speech Act head (cf. Coniglio & Zegrean 2012). This relationship between the Speech Act head and Force is important both for conceptualising the difference between an embedded speech act and a typical embedded clause and for mediating the relationship between clause type and certain discourse elements (e.g. discourse particles, as in Hill 2007).

In terms of the syntactic consequences of the SAP, the embedded CP is selected by a functional head permitting adjunction to CP of speech act adverbs and other adjuncts (cf. McCloskey 2006) and leaving C open to permit subject-auxiliary inversion, as it is not specified by the lexical verb (having not been selected by it). Secondly, long-distance wh-extraction is not possible because, if the head of SAP is taken to be the head of the Phase (via transfer of phasehood from C), then material in Spec,CP is always passed to the interfaces with the lower clause. Finally, assuming that the orientation of speech act items such as adverbs like 'frankly' is determined syntactically via control by Spec,SAP, the presence of the SAP explains why adverbs like 'frankly', which are generally considered speaker-oriented, orient to the matrix-internal argument instead when embedded in an SAP.

The blocking nature of the SAP will be then illustrated using data collected in a pilot study of 73 English speaking adults and 5 English speaking children. The data at this stage shows that extraction over embedded questions is possible in child English and, in certain circumstances, adult English also. There are also clear differences between children's comprehension of embedded polar and embedded wh-questions which will be discussed. Finally, predictions for the acquisition path in children acquiring dialects with EIIs will be presented.

Selected references: Coniglio, M. & I. Zegrean (2012). Splitting up Force. In: L. Aelbrecht et al., Main Clause Phenomena. Krifka, M. (2014). Embedding Illocutionary Acts. In: T. Roeper & M. Speas, Recursion. McCloskey, J. (2006). Questions and Questioning in a local English. In: R. Zanuttini et al., Negation, tense and clausal architecture. Configurational Properties of Point of View Roles. In: AM. Di Sciullo, Asymmetry of Grammar. Sundaresan, S. (2012). Context and (Co)reference in the syntax and its interfaces. PhD dissertation, Stuttgart/Tromsø.

Fall Convocation 2014

On November 21, eleven MA students and five PhD students were awarded their degrees at Fall Convocation. Congratulations to:

New MAs:
Kazuya Bamba
Naomi Francis
Richard Gananathan
Emilie LeBlanc
Ruth Maddeaux
Emilia Melara
Danielle Moed
Patrick Murphy
Avery Ozburn
Maida Percival
Michael Schwan

New Ph.D.s:
Suzanne Belanger
Catherine Macdonald
Milica Radisic
Eugenia Suh
Ulyana Savchenko

Faculty members Yves Roberge, Elizabeth Cowper and Diane Massam, with new Ph.D.s (L to R) Catherine Macdonald, Eugenia Suh and Ulyana Savchenko. (Photo courtesy of Diane Massam.)

Eugenia Suh and Ulyana Savchenko. (Photo courtesy of Diane Massam.)

Catherine Macdonald with her supervisor Diane Massam. (Photo courtesy of Diane Massam.)

New MA alumni wugs on parade! (Photo courtesy of Dan Milway.)

Gold medal for Anna Seltner!

Congratulations to MA student Anna Seltner, who is a member of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues women's water polo team. The team recently won the provincial championships!

Spotlight on Postdoctoral Fellow Keffyalew Gebregziabher

Postdoctoral fellow Keffyalew Gebregziabher was introduced on this blog at the beginning of the term. For those who have not yet had the opportunity to meet him or hear about his research, here is a brief profile. Keffy will be teaching the Structure of Amharic in January.

My name is Keffyalew Gebregziabher. I am a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow here at the University of Toronto, Department of Linguistics. I started my fellowship this fall 2014 to work with Elizabeth Cowper. I completed my doctoral degree at the University of Calgary, Department of Linguistics, Languages and Cultures (the then Department of Linguistics), under the supervision of Elizabeth Ritter. My research focuses on the grammar of possession, particularly, how alienable and inalienable possession are portrayed in (Ethio-)Semitic languages and how the meaning of simple nominal possessives (e.g., the teacher’s book/son/leg) are syntactically represented in our grammatical system. I am also interested in the interfaces between morphology and phonology and morphology and syntax mappings and the fine line between prepositions and case markers.

My current projects include the investigation of the relationship between clausal possession (e.g. The teacher has/have a book/three children/two legs) and nominal possession, the study of the role of possessive markers, and determining the syntactic structure of possessive constructions primarily in (Ethio-)Semitic languages.

Over the years, I have taught different linguistics courses that range from introductory to advanced ones at different universities in different languages. In Winter 2015, I will be teaching the course Structure of a Language, here at the University of Toronto, St. George campus, with special emphasis on one of the languages that I work on, Amharic, the second most widely spoken Semitic language.

Please feel free to come and talk to me (my office is room 578 in Sidney Smith Hall) if you have any questions about the languages that I specialize in or the research area(s) that I am interested on or anything in between.

December 7, 2014


The 17th annual Bilingual Workshop in Theoretical Linguistics met concurrently with the Ottawa Conference for Linguistics Undergraduates this year - on the 28th and 29th of November at the University of Ottawa. Several current department members and alumni gave presentations:

Sherry Hucklebridge (BA): "East Sutherland Scottish Gaelic: A model of morphological leveling in dying languages?"

Michael Iannozzi (BA): "Québécois accommodation toward the French: Study of two Québécois directors and how they change their way of speaking when in France."

Kazuya Bamba (MA 2014): "A D-feature analysis of Romance impersonal constructions."

The plenary speaker was Kyumin Kim (Ph.D. 2011): "Variation in the syntax of non-core arguments: PP, ApplP, and pP."

Way to go, all!

December 5, 2014

Congratulations, Ailís!

The editors of Language Acquisition have selected Ph.D. student Ailís Cournane's article "In search of L1 evidence for diachronic reanalysis: Mapping modal verbs" as the best publication by an untenured researcher in the journal for 2014!

Congrats, Ailís!

December 3, 2014

Matt Gardner is cookin'...his way to the top.

We previously congratulated Ph.D. student Matt Hunt Gardner for winning his episode of Pressure Cooker on the W Network, but little did we know that Matt was just getting warmed up. Last night, Matt appeared on the show's Tournament of Champions and came out on top!

Matt says that when he was recruited for the show, he walked into the producers' office and said, "I hope you know that I'm going to win this thing." It turns out that he wasn't kidding.

Way to go, Matt!

December 2, 2014

Research Groups: Friday, December 5

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Psycholinguistics Group
Becky Tollan: "How surprising is it to encounter Bill Clinton? Processing of Filled-Gap effects in complex WH-questions."

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax/Semantics Group
Kyumin Kim (Ph.D. 2011, now at the University of Ottawa): "Dimensions of initiation: A case study of Korean."

Event structure is considered to have two major components: initiation and delimitation (e.g., Voorst 1988, Borer 1996, 2007, Ritter and Rosen 2000, MacDonald 2008, Ramchand 2008). Languages can activate either I-(nitiation) or D-(elimitation) of event structure: I-language vs. D-language (Ritter and Rosen 2000). For example, in I-language, an event can be delimited or terminated only if an initiation projection (FPinit) is present. In this paper, however, I argue that FPinit can minimally emerge as three dimensions: event initiation, control of the process of an event, and delimitation. I provide evidence from Korean that an event can be viewed as having developing stages only if an initiator of FPinit which is in the control of the process of the event is present. In other words, FPinit activates a Point-of-View Phrase (PoVP): only a PoV holder that is an initiator can view an event as having developing stages. Thus, only accomplishments and activities can be marked by imperfective aspect. I show that the other two dimensions of initiation (FPinit) - event initiation and delimitation/termination - can emerge as a coincidence relation between PoV situation and FPinit or between an initiator and terminator respectively. I support this with data from Squamish (Salish) (Wiltschko 2014) and Blackfoot (Algonquian) (Kim to appear, 2014) for each dimension. In essence, the proposed account in this paper suggests that in Korean, viewpoint aspect is participant oriented rather than temporally oriented, unlike in English: an event can  be viewed differently depending on whether a PoV holder is an initiator or not, rather than whether a PoV time is inside or outside of event time. This predicts that other parts of grammar in the language may also be atemporal, which seems to be the case. As preliminary evidence for this prediction, I proposed that that Korean INFL is underspecified for tense (time): INFL in Korean is anaphoric (not deictic). For example, I show that the morpheme -ess, traditionally considered to mark past tense, can indicate present or future time reference depending on an adverbial time phrase that anaphorically binds an event situation.

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Fieldwork Group
Informal discussion with Kyumin Kim (Ph.D. 2011, now at the University of Ottawa) about consultants, data elicitation, and a project with Darin Flynn (Calgary) involving Blackfoot young people.