December 25, 2015

Sali A. Tagliamonte on Planet ArtSci

Faculty member Sali A. Tagliamonte was recently interviewed for Planet ArtSci, the official podcast of the U of T's Faculty of Arts and Science. The interview touches on Sali's Ontario Dialects Project, Canadian English and French, and sociolinguistics and descriptivism more generally. The podcast can be heard here; there is also a transcript available.

December 21, 2015

Alana Johns in Arts & Science News and the Bulletin

Faculty member Alana Johns has been interviewed for the news page of the U of T Faculty of Arts & Science about the Dictionary of Utkuhiksalingmiut Inuktitut Postbase Suffixes.

Note that the Dictionary itself, completed this past summer, can be purchased via

Update: The article has also appeared in U of T News more generally. Thanks to Jack Chambers for noticing this!

December 17, 2015

Congratulations, Chris!

Christopher Spahr successfully defended his thesis, "Contrastive representations in non-segmental phonology", on Thursday, December 17, 2015. On the committee were Elan Dresher (supervisor), Keren Rice, Peter Jurgec, Yoonjung Kang, Daniel Currie Hall, and external examiner Draga Zec (Cornell University). Congratulations, Dr. Spahr!

December 7, 2015

Research Groups: Friday, December 11

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Phonetics/Phonology Group
Paper discussion led by Radu Craioveanu (Ph.D.): Morley, Rebecca (2015). Deletion or epenthesis? On the falsifiability of linguistic universals. Lingua, 154, 1-26.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Language Variation and Change Group
Derek Denis (Ph.D. 2015, now at the University of Victoria) presenting a workshop on plotting in R using the ggplot package.

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Semantics Group
Tomohiro Yokoyama (Ph.D.): "Evidence as the presupposition of wh-exclamatives in English."

This paper makes a novel proposal regarding wh-exclamatives in English. In the literature, the main contention is whether exclamatives presuppose their propositional content. This paper argues that what is actually presupposed by wh-exclamatives is not their propositional content but rather that the speaker has first-hand evidence for the proposition. For example, the presupposed content of "What a good book John wrote!" is not that John wrote a very good book but that the speaker has read John's book. This analysis explains different behaviors of wh-exclamatives including their inability to be embedded under certain phrases such as "I don't know".

December 6, 2015

Joint talk: Guillaume Thomas and Kang Lee

Semanticist Guillaume Thomas is one of two U of T faculty members invited to a conversational joint talk, "True Lies", being hosted by the Cognitive Science program and University College. The topic is truth and lying; the other faculty member invited is Kang Lee of OISE, whose research focuses on how children learn about lying, learn to lie themselves, and learn to spot lying in others. The discussion will take place at 4:00 PM on Tuesday, December 8, in UC140.

December 5, 2015

Congratulations, Safi!

At an evening ceremony at our Mississauga campus yesterday evening, Ph.D. student Safieh Moghaddam was presented with two awards for teaching at UTM:

Course Instructor Award – Linguistics (academic year 2013-14)
Course Instructor Award – Linguistics (academic year 2014-15)

The awards committee recognised Safi "for extraordinary and outstanding performance as a course instructor".

Congratulations, Safi! Well-deserved.

November 30, 2015

Research Groups: Friday, December 4

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Psycholinguistics Group
Jessica S. Arsenault and Bradley Buchsbaum (U of T Psychology/Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest): "Distributed neural representations of phonological features during speech perception." Presentation based on article of the same title: Journal of Neuroscience, 35(2), 634-642.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax Group
Diane Massam (faculty): "The syntax of agreement variation in English existential constructions."

In this paper I look at variation in the copular verb form in existential sentences in English  ("There is/are three men in the room."). I consider exactly what must be going on in the syntax for the 'is/are' variation to arise. This is a complex undertaking because there are many different approaches to the mechanics of agreement and (at least) six different syntactic treatments of existential constructions in the literature. I review these analyses with the variation in mind. Most syntacticians studying variation within Minimalism posit Vocabulary Insertion analyses within Distributional Morphology but I will argue for a structural ambiguity account for this variation.

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Fieldwork Group
Peter Avery (York University), talking about his fieldwork experiences among speakers of tone languages and some lessons to be taken away from these.

November 29, 2015

Ruth Maddeaux in Ireland

Second-year PhD student Ruth Maddeaux spent the month of August in Ireland, where she conducted an experiment as part of her research for her first Generals Paper. She first spent a week in Dublin attending Sociolinguistics Summer School 6 at Trinity College Dublin. Then, traveled on to the rural village of Carna, in County Galway, where she spent the next two weeks. Carna is part of a Gaeltacht – a predominantly Irish-speaking region, and the perfect place to find native Irish speakers to participate in a phonological experiment! Though monolingual Irish speakers are virtually non-existent these days, Ruth was happy to find that Irish is proudly spoken in this region, by old and young alike. Renting a room from a local Irish language teacher provided a helpful introduction to the community. Her travels also included day trips into Cill Chiaráin, An Cheathrú Rua, and Casla – all similar villages in the Connacht area Gaeltacht – as well as the larger Galway City. Ruth highly recommends this landscape as the backdrop to writing a Generals Paper!

The one day it was warm enough to go without a jacket. Locals
recommended that Ruth wash her face in the Irish Sea as a cold remedy!

November 28, 2015

Sali A. Tagliamonte on CBC's 'Fresh Air' tomorrow

An interview between host Mary Ito and one of our faculty members will be airing on CBC Radio One's 'Fresh Air' tomorrow morning starting at 6 AM. Ito has released the following preview via the 'Fresh Air' Facebook page:

Join me tomorrow on FA for a fascinating discussion on how we speak in this province! Linguist Sali Tagliamonte will talk about Ontario dialects and how language, culture, history and geography all intersect to create differences in the way we speak English.

November 27, 2015

TBB199 poster session

There will be a poster session for Elaine Gold's TBB199 class (Languages of Canada: Identity and Culture) in the department lounge on Thursday, December 3 from 10 AM to 12 PM. Stop by and check out what the students have been researching in terms of language maintenance and revitalization!

November 24, 2015

Congratulations, Iryna!

We're delighted to be able to congratulate fifth-year Ph.D. student Iryna Osadcha and her husband Pavlo Penenko on the arrival of their daughter, Alice Penenko, born on the evening of November 21, 2015 at 7 lbs, 8 oz. Everyone is doing well.

Welcome, Alice, and all our best wishes to the new parents (and their own families)!

Research Groups: Friday, November 27

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Phonetics/Phonology Group
Radu Craioveanu (Ph.D.) on a new phonetic/phonological analysis of recordings from North Saami.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Language Variation and Change Group
Matt Hunt Gardner (Ph.D.) leading a software workshop on an introduction to R as used in variationist sociolinguistics.

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Semantics Group
Naomi Francis (MA 2014, now at MIT): "Positive polarity item modals and scope in negative inversion constructions."

Negative inversion (e.g. "Never have I seen such a majestic giraffe!") involves the preposing of a negative expression and obligatory subject-auxiliary inversion. Collins and Postal (2014) claim that the preposed negative element takes scope over everything else in the clause. I show that, while the negative expression does take scope over quantificational DPs, deontic modals "should" and "must", which have been argued to be positive polarity items (Iatridou and Zeijlstra 2013), are able to outscope it. I argue that a full account of modal scope in these constructions will have to involve a contrast in scope-taking abilities between deontic and epistemic modals, one that is independently needed to explain the behaviour of these modals in other environments.

November 21, 2015

Photos from the Symposium on Graduate Research in Canadian English

Ph.D. student Matt Hunt Gardner is teaching an undergraduate class on Canadian English at Queen's University this semester. On Wednesday the 18th, several other Ph.D. students -  Marisa Brook, Erin Hall, and Ruth Maddeaux - followed Matt to his class and all four presented their own research in the form of a symposium on graduate research on Canadian English.

Thanks to Anastasia Riehl at Queen's for the photos!

Matt introduces the event.

 Marisa talks about restrictive relative clause behaviour inside and outside the city.

Erin describes Canadian Raising in Toronto and Vancouver dialects.

Ruth discusses experimental evidence for divergent perceptions of different uses of like.

Group shot of our travelling band of sociolinguistics students!

Jack Chambers in the Chronicle Herald

Faculty member Jack Chambers was quoted in the Halifax Chronicle Herald this week, providing his opinion on the matter of whether a recording linked to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris might be Canadian.

November 20, 2015

18ième Atelier bilingue en linguistique théorique / 18th Bilingual Workshop in Theoretical Linguistics

The 18th Atelier bilingue en linguistique théorique / 18th Bilingual Workshop in Theoretical Linguistics is taking place today at the University of Western Ontario. Two of our postdocs and one alumnus are presenting:

Darcie Blainey (postdoc):
"Nasal versus nasalized vowels: The case of Louisiana French."

Heather Burnett (postdoc) and Julie Auger (Indiana University):
"Mie versus point in Picard: Semantics, pragmatics, and power."

Michael Iannozzi (BA 2014, now at the University of Western Ontario):
"I SWORE they talked differently."

November 19, 2015

Report from NWAV44

Our department co-hosted NWAV44 with York University from October 22-25. This was a massive undertaking that had seen ongoing effort over several years from seven faculty members on the committee (including our own Aaron Dinkin, Naomi Nagy, and Sali A. Tagliamonte, as well as former U of T French faculty member Anne-José Villeneuve, now at the University of Alberta), plus more than forty student volunteers.

The city of Toronto did its part and helped welcome sociolinguists from all over the world to Hart House with some gorgeous fall weather.

                                (Photo by Sali A. Tagliamonte.)                                                                                   (Photo by Marisa Brook.)

On the Thursday, faculty member Sali A. Tagliamonte hosted a workshop on cross-disciplinarity: four faculty members from very different backgrounds were chosen to analyze the same phenomenon (was/were variation in the city of York, England) and then discuss their findings together. One of the four was faculty member Diane Massam, who gave her account of the variation from a syntactic/Minimalist perspective. Later in the afternoon, once the committee had welcomed the attendees, Ph.D. student Ruth Maddeaux introduced the first 'Crossroads' workshop speaker, David Adger (Queen Mary University of London).

In the morning, plenary speaker Jack Chambers (faculty) took attendees through a history of sociolinguistics as studied in Canada over the years.

(Photo by Sali A. Tagliamonte.)       

Current department members and alumni who presented on the Friday included Emilie LeBlanc (MA 2014, now at York University), Katherine Rehner (faculty), Darcie Blainey (postdoc), and Julien Carrier (Ph.D.). The day's plenary was given by faculty member Elizabeth Johnson from the Mississauga campus, whose research is centered on language acquisition.

Hart House also welcomed a number of Great Hall Birds.

(Photo by Radu Craioveanu.)

The evening poster session included contributions from Heather Burnett (postdoc), Paulina Lyskawa (MA 2015, now at the University of Maryland), Emilia Melara (Ph.D.), Ruth Maddeaux (Ph.D.), Michael Iannozzi (BA 2014, now at the University of Western Ontario), and Shannon Mooney (MA 2012, now at Georgetown University).

Saturday's events included talks that involved Claire Childs (former visiting student, now back at Newcastle University), Alexandra D'Arcy (Ph.D. 2005, now at the University of Victoria), Aaron Dinkin (faculty) and Ruth Maddeaux (Ph.D.). The day concluded with a lively party in the Great Hall.

(Photo by Radu Craioveanu.)

Talks on Sunday included those by Maddie Shellgren (MA 2011, now at Michigan State University), Derek Denis (Ph.D. 2015, now at the University of Victoria), Bridget Jankowski (Ph.D. 2013), Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty), Marisa Brook (Ph.D.), and Emily Blamire (Ph.D.).

The conference concluded with an address/summary by William Labov, introduced by one of his former graduate students, Aaron Dinkin (faculty). Labov, along with all of the other plenary speakers, received a special hand-knitted toque with an NWAV44 patch on it as a thank-you for his contribution to the conference.

(Photo by Marisa Brook.)

The conference will be staying on this side of the border for next year: NWAV45 is being held in downtown Vancouver, co-hosted by the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University.

Wug Life video produced by undergraduates

Wug Life is an initiative aiming to introduce high-school students to the idea of studying linguistics at the postsecondary level - and to consider the University of Toronto in doing so. The idea came from our undergraduate students at the Mississauga and Scarborough campuses - the Linguistics League at UTM and the Linguistics Student Association at UTSC.

Earlier this semester, Wug Life team members interviewed linguistics faculty, postdocs, grad students, and undergrads across all three campuses as part of a video project. The resulting video has now been released and will be used in future visits to high schools on the part of Wug Life participants. Check it out!

Kudos to our undergrads on all their efforts on the video and the entire Wug Life undertaking!

November 18, 2015

Guest speaker: Marcus Maia (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro)

Our department is very pleased to welcome Marcus Maia, who is currently an Associate Professor at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 1994 and has worked on a range of topics and languages, including psycholinguistics, syntax, Spanish, Portuguese, and the indigenous languages of Brazil.

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Department of Linguistics are co-hosting a talk of his on Friday, November 27, at 3:30 PM sharp in SS 560A. It will be followed by a reception in our department lounge.

"The processing of embedded and coordinated PPs in Karaja and in Brazilian Portuguese: Eye-tracking evidence."

As much as there is a vast literature on the processing cost of long distance dependencies between sentences, not much has been written on the on-line processing of locally embedded phrases. In the present work we structured a set of comparative tests between a series of embedded PPs (Prepositional/Postpositional Phrases) and coordinated ones, in Brazilian Portuguese and in the Brazilian indigenous language Karajá (Macro-Jê). Our hypothesis was that, even at short distance, embedded structures would still be more costly computationally than the coordinated ones. We will start by reporting oral/sentence picture matching experiments run with Karaja and Brazilian Portuguese subjects (Maia, França, Lage, Gesualdi, Oliveira, Soto & Gomes, to appear). We will then present a new eye-tracking study with Brazilian Portuguese and Karaja subjects (Maia, to appear) to argue that a basic cognitive efficiency process is at play in the computation of multiply embedded PP constructions, accounting for the experimental results obtained. We conclude that recursion is the result of a syntactic algorithm that is costly to be launched, but once it is established, it undergoes habituation and does not pose any extra significant effort to the system.

November 17, 2015

Guest talk for SLUGS: Regina Jokel (University of Toronto/Baycrest Hospital)

SLUGS is hosting a talk by Dr. Regina Jokel, an Assistant Professor of Speech-Language Pathology at the U of T and a speech-language pathologist at Baycrest Hospital: "Linguistic autopsy: The mystery of Agatha Christie." It will be taking place on Tuesday, November 24, from 3 to 4 PM in OISE 2198.

This talk will present some highlights from a large-scale longitudinal study of written language based on works of three British writers, Iris Murdoch (who died with Alzheimer's), Agatha Christie (who was suspected of it), and P.D. James (who aged healthily). We will discuss some lexical and syntactic changes in language of Alzheimer’s disease based on complete, fully parsed texts and a large number of measures. Presented results support the hypothesis that Agatha Christie may have suffered from Alzheimer’s while writing her last novels, and that Iris Murdoch exhibited a ‘trough’ of relatively impoverished vocabulary and syntax in the years preceding her dementia.

Public lecture: Marcus Maia (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro)

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese, as part of its Complexity and Recursion Project, is sponsoring a public lecture by Marcus Maia. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 1994 and is now an Associate Professor at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. His work has encompassed psycholinguistics, syntax, Portuguese, Spanish, and indigenous languages. The last of these will be the subject of his talk, "Linguistic diversity in Brazil", being held in Victoria College 211 on Thursday, November 26 from 3 to 4 PM.

This talk will provide a broad view of the indigenous peoples of Brazil, starting from the very concept of what it means to be 'indigenous' in Brazil today and showing data on population, lands and languages. Then the focus turns to the main linguistic stocks and families, presenting their classification and briefly analyzing  some experimental linguistic data,  focusing on deixis and argument structure in two languages belonging to the Macro-Jê stock (Karaja, Xavante).

November 16, 2015

Research Groups: Friday, November 20

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Psycholinguistics Group
Angela Nyhout (OISE): "Children's spatial situation models of narrative."

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax Group
Group discussion on incorporation led by Nicholas Welch (postdoc).

Incorporation - the synthesis of non-verbal lexical elements with verb roots - is a phenomenon that has been widely discussed in the literature for over a century, yet both theoretical and empirical debates about it continue today. How do we define incorporation? By what diagnostics can we recognize it? Is it categorially restricted? Is it a lexical, syntactic, or post-syntactic process? How can we analyze it formally? What is its relationship with processes such as voice alternations and grammaticalization?

Since many of us work on languages where incorporation is productive, I hope to have a mutually instructive discussion where we can clarify some of the issues and identify cross-linguistically fruitful areas of future research.

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Fieldwork Group
Ruth Maddeaux on her experience running a psycholinguistic experiment in the field in Ireland over the summer. Plus, a paper discussion: Whalen and McDonough (2015): "Taking the laboratory into the field." Annual Review of Linguistics, 1, 395-415.

November 11, 2015

Guest speaker: Sali A. Tagliamonte (University of Toronto)

Our department has recently welcomed back faculty sociolinguist Sali A. Tagliamonte from a two-year research leave after she was awarded a Killam research fellowship in 2013. Sali has spent her leave writing two books - Making Waves: The Story of Variationist Sociolinguistics, a history of the subfield, and Teen Talk: The Language of Adolescents - on top of giving talks all over the world, keeping up with her other research activities, and supervising half a dozen graduate students.

Sali will be giving a invited talk for our department on her recent research on Friday, November 20, in SS 560A at 3:30 PM sharp: "Roots and branches in the variation of English." A reception will follow in the department lounge.

I analyze corpora of spoken vernaculars in three geographic regions, the UK, Canada and the Caribbean. The communities comprise a range of relic, rural and urban contexts as well as source and off-shoot situations. Taken together they offer multiple tests for probing questions of historical origins, transmission and diffusion, obsolescence and innovation. What can a comparative perspective, variationist sociolinguistic methods and quantitative analyses contribute to probing these questions and offering insights?

I focus on several linguistic features that contrast different types of change. An obsolescing feature, verbal -s as in (1), is found in most places. Longitudinal changes, such as in the stative possessive, as in (2), flourish but with diverse composition of the alternating forms, have/’s/’ve got, has/have and got. Within the relative pronoun system, circumscribed use of the well-known change from above, who, exposes the influence of the standard language and social evaluation.

(1)    The dialects really comes through strong. (PVG/I)
(2)    We always have an advance’s got its advantages. (MPT/n)
(3)    All the farmers who were able, they’d go.  (ALM/005)

While the dialects may differ in their favoured variant in each change and frequency can vary dramatically, the internal linguistic factors that constrain the variability offer decisive insights. When parallel constraints can be traced in the history of the English language, they can be interpreted as persistence. While cross-dialectal differences in frequency expose how the changes are progressing, contrastive internal patterns offer insights into stages in the evolving system and distinguish transmission vs. diffusion Through the lens of contrast and comparison, it is possible to identify exogenous vs. endogenous change and to expose universal patterns vs. local deviations. The findings combine to show that that synchronic data contribute a great deal to understanding the mechanisms that constrain processes of linguistic change. The large scale multi-variety perspective is critical for making sound use of the dialectic between diachronic change and synchronic variation.

November 10, 2015

Photos from APLA

Here are a couple of photos from the 39th meeting of the Atlantic Provinces Linguistic Association.

Faculty members Elizabeth Cowper and Elan Dresher talk music. Is this a touring show for F-Zero?
(Photo by Nicole Rosen [Ph.D. 2007, now at the University of Manitoba].)

Sam Lo (BA) amidst a classic Atlantic streetscape! (Photo by Naomi Nagy [faculty].)

Symposium on Graduate Research in Canadian English

Queen's University is hosting a Symposium on Graduate Research in Canadian English, being held on Wednesday November 18 and sponsored by the Strathy Language Unit and by the Linguistic Research Group of the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. The workshop is being organized by U of T Ph.D. student Matt Hunt Gardner, the instructor for the Canadian English class at Queen's this semester. He and three other Ph.D. students in the department will be presenting:

Matt Hunt Gardner:
"I (have) (got) a story for you: Stative possessives and the Loyalist origins of Cape Breton English."

Marisa Brook:
"Not so co-relative: The past and present of restrictive who and that in Toronto and Belleville, Ontario."

Erin Hall:
"Canadian Raising in Toronto and Vancouver."

Ruth Maddeaux:
"Is like like like? Evaluating the same variant across multiple variants."

Research Groups: Friday, November 13

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Phonetics/Phonology Group
Group discussion led by Ross Godfrey (Ph.D.): Trommer and Zimmerman (2014). Generalised mora affixation and quantity-manipulating morphology. Phonology, 31(3), 463-510.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Language Variation and Change Group
Heather Burnett (postdoc) and Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty): "Using intra-speaker variation to diagnose syntactic structure."

In this talk we argue that cross-linguistic studies of patterns of intra-speaker morphosyntactic variation can help solve longstanding puzzles associated with the syntactic structure of the expressions that are in variation. It has been long observed in the field of language variation and change (since Labov, 1966, see the recent discussion in Bresnan 2007 for syntax) that, in addition to social and general cognitive factors, the grammatical structures of synonymous linguistic expressions in a language at least partially determine the patterns of use of these expressions. This paper shows how we can exploit this connection between syntactic structure and language use to contribute to the theoretical debate concerning the syntactic analysis of negative concord sentences in Canadian French.

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Semantics Group
Frederick Gietz (Ph.D.): "Pragmatics for left-adjoining again."

The left-adjoining use of again adjoins obligatorily to adverbials, and exhibits very rigid behavior with respect to prosody and syntax.  In addition, the left-adjoining use is much more pragmatically restricted than the more common, right-adjoining use.  Synthesizing these facts, I hypothesize that left-adjoining again is bound by pragmatic rules which arise in relation to focus on the adverbial phrase.

Guest speaker: Albert Valdman (Indiana University)

This week, Albert Valdman, the Rudy Professor of French linguistics at Indiana University and the founder/director of the IU Creole Institute, will be giving two talks at the U of T.

St. George:
"The reconstitution of colonial French, the source of North American varieties of French and French-based creoles."
Senior Common Room, Brennan Hall (81 St. Mary Street)
Wednesday, November 11 - 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM, with a reception thereafter.
Hosted by the Department of French.

"Toward a standardization of Haitian Creole."
Room 305, Humanities Wing
Thursday, November 12 - 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Hosted by the Centre for French and Linguistics.

November 9, 2015

Fall Convocation 2015

The fall convocation for the School of Graduate Studies took place earlier today. Congratulations to our new graduate alumni:

Ailís Cournane
Julie Goncharov

T. J. Dunn
Frederick Gietz
Paulina Lyskawa
Daniel McDonald
Yining Nie
Katherine Schmirler
Anna Seltner
Luke West

(Photos courtesy of Ailís Cournane and Luke West.)

Ailís's turn!

Celebrating with supervisor Ana Teresa Pérez-Leroux.

New MA alumni! Luke West (now at UCLA), Yining Nie (now at New York University),
Frederick Gietz (now in our department's own Ph.D. program), Anna Seltner, and T. J. Dunn.

As befits the Halloween season.

Nunavut Arctic College announcement on the Dictionary of Utkuhiksalingmiut Inuktitut Postbase Suffixes

Back in the summer, we congratulated faculty member Alana Johns and her colleagues on the completion of the Dictionary of Utkuhiksalingmiut Inuktitut Postbase Suffixes. Now, Nunavut Arctic College has announced the release of the publication. Nunavut's Minister of Education, the Honourable Paul Quassa, has presented a statement lauding Alana and her colleagues "for their persistence, detail, and dedication to Inuktitut." He closed by urging Canadians from both the north and the south of the country "to continue preserving and promoting Inuit culture through our language and the joys of reading." See the full article for his entire statement and further details.

Congratulations to Alana and the entire dictionary team!

November 8, 2015

NWAV volunteers

Our department co-hosted NWAV 44 with York University from October 22nd to 25th. A full report for the conference is forthcoming. For now, we would like to thank the tremendous efforts of our committee members and volunteers!

Some are pictured below. Left to right: Abigael Candelas (York U., visiting scholar), Marisa Brook (U of T, Ph.D.), Aaron Dinkin (U of T, faculty), Alexah Konnelly (U of T, MA), Matt Hunt Gardner (U of T, Ph.D.), Mary Aksim (U of T, MA), Brianne Süss (U of T, MA), Ruth Maddeaux (U of T, Ph.D.), Shayna Gardiner (U of T, Ph.D.), Maksym Shkvorets (U of T, MA), Medwin Azadi (York U., Ph.D.), Naomi Nagy (U of T, faculty), Beth Houze (U of T, MA), Darcie Blainey (U of T, postdoc), Emilia Melara (U of T, Ph.D.), Lindsay Tiedemann (U of T, Ph.D.), Erin Hall (U of T, Ph.D.), and Gloria Mellesmoen (U of T, MA).

(Photo by Lee Murray.)

November 7, 2015


The 39th meeting of the Atlantic Provinces Linguistic Association is being held in St. John's, Newfoundland on November 6th and 7th, with language-contact as the theme.

The keynote speaker is alumna Nicole Rosen (Ph.D. 2007, now at the University of Manitoba):
"Western alienation: Linguistic patterning on the Prairies."

Other people associated with our department who are presenting at the conference are:

Elizabeth Cowper (faculty):
"Topic have: An applicative account."

Elan Dresher (faculty) and Daniel Currie Hall (Ph.D. 2007):
"The contrastive hierarchy in Russian: Voicing versus continuancy."

Samuel Lo (BA), Junrui Wu (BA), Qianling Wang (BA), Ariel Chan (McGill University), and Naomi Nagy (faculty):
"Toronto Cantonese heritage speakers’ use of classifiers."

Wladyslaw Cichocki (Ph.D. 1986, now at the University of New Brunswick):
"Measuring the rhythm of accentual phrases in Acadian French."

Former visiting student Holman Tse (University of Pittsburgh):
"The role of contact in expanding sound inventories: Evidence from Toronto Heritage Cantonese."

Olga Tararova (Ph.D., Spanish and Portuguese):
"The transfer of negative doubling in the bilingual contact community, Chipilo, Mexico."

Guest speaker: Björn Köhnlein (Ohio State University)

We're pleased to have the chance to welcome Björn Köhnlein, a phonologist from Ohio State University. He earned a Ph.D. from Leiden University in 2011 and has a special interest in interdisciplinary/typological perspectives on segmental and suprasegmental phenomena.

His talk, "Tonal accent and prosodic typology," will be taking place on Friday, November 13, at 3:30 PM sharp in SS 560A. It will be followed by a reception in the department lounge.

In this talk, I argue that traditional approaches to the formal representation of word-level prosodic structure (one of the most intensely-debated fields in phonological typology) fail to account for various prosodically conditioned phonological contrasts. This particularly concerns phonological oppositions in so-called tone accent systems that combine tonal contrasts in stressed syllables with contrasts in vowel quantity/quality, and consonant quality. Commonly, such phenomena are either analyzed as lexical tone plus syllabic stress (tonal approach, Hyman 2006, 2007, 2009 for overview), or as metrical prominence at the mora level (grid-based approach, Van der Hulst 2011, 2012 for overview), both of which can be shown to face empirical problems. On the basis of data from tone accent systems like Franconian and related systems, I demonstrate how a novel, foot-based approach to the phenomena in question (= contrastive foot structure) remedies these shortcomings and thereby significantly improves our understanding of prosodic representations (e.g. Köhnlein 2011, 2013, to appear).

November 4, 2015

Guest speaker: Joseph Paul Stemberger (University of British Columbia)

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese is delighted to welcome Joseph Paul Stemberger (University of British Columbia), who works on acquisition, psycholinguistics, and morphophonology. His talk, "Variability in the phonological development of first languages", will be held in room 108 of Emmanuel College on Thursday, November 12 at 12:00 PM.

Young children take several years to master the phonological characteristics of their first language. Variability is everywhere: across different children, across languages, in the output of one child, and in the adult input. This talk will be based on two projects underway at UBC: a cross-linguistic project (with more than 10 languages) focused on children having difficulties (protracted phonological development) and on typically developing controls; and a project on typically developing children learning Valley Zapotec (an indigenous language of Mexico). The first portion of the talk will address conditioned and unconditioned variability in the adult input in Spanish and several other languages, how children deal with it, and what it tells us from a theoretical perspective. The second half of the talk will be a case-study of one Spanish-learning child.

November 3, 2015

Undergraduate scholarship winners

We have received word that the McNab Scholarship has been awarded to Rachel Miller (BA) and the Henry Rogers Memorial Scholarship to Neil Banerjee (BA). Congratulations to Rachel and Neil! All the best!

Research Groups: Friday, November 6

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Psycholinguistics Group
Sara Pearsell (UTSC), presenting joint work with Aravind Namasivayam and Pascal Van Lieshout of Speech-Language Pathology: "Linguistic-cognitive dual task influence on speech motor stability and automaticity."

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax Group
Dan Milway (Ph.D.): "Specifying why a doctor isn't Mary."

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Fieldwork Group
Jessica Mathie (Ph.D.) on the fieldwork that she did in Australia over the (Northern Hemisphere) summer.

November 2, 2015

Congratulations, Julia and Curtis!

Congratulations to alumna Julia Yu-Ying Su (Ph.D. 2012) and Curtis Raymond Yee, who were married in Toronto on Sunday, October 18, 2015! They have shared these beautiful photos with us. All the best, Julia and Curtis - here's to a wonderful future together!

November 1, 2015

47th Algonquian Conference

The 47th Algonquian Conference was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, from October 22th to 25th - and it featured quite a few of our alumni!

Kyumin Kim (Ph.D. 2011):
"The role of final morphemes in Blackfoot: Marking aspect or sentience?"

Will Oxford (Ph.D. 2014):
"Inverse as Elsewhere."

Katherine Schmirler (MA 2015):
"Algonquian quadrupeds: The origin and productivity of *-osw and its place in Algonquian prehistory."

Nicole Rosen (Ph.D. 2007, now at the University of Manitoba) and Carrie Gillon (MA 1999, now at Arizona State University):
"Michif 'D'."

Nicole Rosen (Ph.D. 2007, now at the University of Manitoba), with colleagues Jesse Stewart and Olivia Sammons:
"Phonetics of the synchronic Michif vowel system."

Will and Nicole were also the co-organizers of the conference. Way to go, everyone!

October 29, 2015

Guest speaker: Helen Buckler (University of Toronto at Mississauga)

Our department is pleased to welcome Helen Buckler, a postdoctoral scholar in the Infant and Child Studies Centre at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. She earned a Ph.D. in 2014 from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands, and is interested in the cross-linguistic acquisition of morphophonological patterning in the midst of variation.

Her talk is entitled "Building phonological representations from connected speech"; it draws on collaborative research conducted with Paula Fikkert (Radboud University Nijmegen), Huiwen Goy (University of Toronto), Elizabeth K. Johnson (University of Toronto), and Julie Kow (University of Toronto). The talk will be in SS 1078 on Friday, November 6, beginning at 3:30 PM sharp.

When acquiring a lexicon, one of the biggest challenges infants face is to establish phonological representations and map word forms to meanings. This is no mean feat, especially when we consider the degree of variation that they are faced with in their linguistic environment. Children are not learning from a single speaker uttering isolated words, but a range of speakers using grammatically complex multi-word utterances. They must contend with acoustic differences between the speakers (e.g. gender or accent), as well phonological variation that arises in connected speech. In this talk I will focus on the latter type of variation, and discuss a selection of cross-linguistic studies that examine how toddlers build phonological representations in contexts where connected speech processes neutralize a phonological contrast.

October 28, 2015

Research Groups: Friday, October 30

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Phonetics/Phonology Group
Mayuki Matsui (National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics): "Phonological symmetry but phonetic asymmetry: Some observations on voicing contrast."

The aim of this talk is to advance our understanding of how voicing contrast in phonology is phonetically implemented in two subclasses of obstruents (i.e., [-sonorant]) — stops and fricatives — in a case study of Russian.

Like English, Russian stops and fricatives have a so-called voicing contrast, and they behave symmetrically in phonological voicing processes, for instance, in regressive assimilation and word-final devoicing. However, because of their aerodynamic conditions, voiced fricatives cause more difficulty in maintaining vocal fold vibrations than voiced stops do (Ohala (1983)). This suggests that voicing in stops and fricatives may be phonetically asymmetric.

In this talk, I examine the phonetic details of voicing contrast in stops and fricatives, and how the contrasts are perceived by native listeners in quiet and noisy conditions. The results in general support the idea that voicing in stops and fricatives is phonetically asymmetric. The results are in line with studies of the other languages (e.g., Kochetov (2014) for Japanese, Davidson (2016) for American English).

In relation to this topic, I will also refer to the phonetic implementation of voicing contrast in word-final position, where the contrast is claimed to be incompletely neutralized.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Language Variation and Change Group
Lee Murray (Monash University): "Stylistic variation in a rural speaker of Australian English." And a discussion about how NWAV 44 went.

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Semantics Group
Angelika Kiss (Ph.D.) will be giving a presentation.

October 27, 2015

October 26, 2015

7th Annual LGCU Welcome Workshop

We're pleased to announce the 7th Annual LGCU Welcome Workshop, which will be taking place this Friday, October 30 in room SS1084. Presentations begin at 3:00 PM and we will go until 7:30 PM. We will have a short break at 5:00 accompanied by some refreshments.

The goal of this annual workshop is to provide an opportunity for students, particularly new ones, to present previous work or ongoing research and to meet students and faculty who are interested in the same topics. This year, the program is comprised of talks from 12 new MA and Ph.D. students. We hope you'll be able to join us this Friday in welcoming them and our other newest student members.

After the workshop, we will be heading to a nearby restaurant for drinks and dinner. Where that will be depends on the the number of people joining us. Everyone is welcome to attend, but please email Emilia Melara if you would like to attend the workshop and/or the dinner so that planning can move forward with accurate numbers.

October 20, 2015

Research Groups: Friday, October 23

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Psycholinguistics Group
Patrick Murphy presenting results from an experiment on the perception of affricates in phonologically licensed (and non-licensed) contexts in Quebecois and European French participants.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax Group
Nicholas Welch: "Looking high and low for the poor overworked copula."

A common and long-standing assumption in syntactic literature (Higginbotham 1985, Moro 1997, Shlonsky 1997) is that copulas are last-resort spellouts of inflectional features, without any further role in predication. The competing view, that they realize a predicative relation, is often tied to a purported division of labour between strict predication, identification, and specification (Higgins 1979, Mikkelen 2011, Heycock 2012, etc.). I present evidence from Tłıcı̨hǫ Yatıì, Ts'úùt'ínà, Mandarin, and Welsh in support of an analysis of copulas as multi-role workhorses, semantically light, which can merge at various clausal projections, either low to realize predication, or higher to realize inflection. I demonstrate that in some languages (e.g., Tłıcı̨hǫ Yatıì, Ts'úùt'ínà) a single copular form can be shown to merge at different points depending upon the category of the predicate, while in others, (e.g., Welsh) the workload of predication and inflection is handled by different copulas. I show in addition, based on the distribution of the copula in Mandarin, that the view of copulas as strictly realizations of inflection is untenable, and that multiple copulas, in languages that have them, generally do not reflect the proposed division between predicational, identificational and specificational.

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Fieldwork Group
Group discussion of a short article about planning semantic elicitation, in some respects extendable to planning an elicitation session in general: "The Problem with No-Nonsense Elicitation Plans (for Semantic Fieldwork)" by Meagan Louie (MA 2008, now at the University of British Columbia) - a chapter in Ryan Bochnak and Lisa Matthewson's recent book Methodologies in Semantic Fieldwork.

October 13, 2015

Erin Hall and Ailís Cournane in Germany

Ph.D. student Erin Hall and recent alumna Ailís Cournane (Ph.D. 2015) have recently returned from a trip to Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, where they attended a collaborative workshop, 'Syntactic and Semantic Complexity in Acquisition', at Goethe-Universität on September 30th. Ailís and faculty member Ana-Teresa Pérez-Leroux presented "Must be tricky: Testing the role of aspect and evidence in modal meaning."

There was just enough time for some local adventuring!

Erin H. and Ailís at the 'Water Castle' (photo by Alex Thiel).

Ana-Teresa was also part of a talk with Erin Pettibone and Gabrielle Klassen (both Ph.D. students in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese): "Bilingual acquisition of recursive nominals."

Joanne Markle LaMontagne (also a Ph.D. student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese), presented "Finding meaning in a renewed model of transfer for child bilingual grammars."

Research Groups: Friday, October 16

Note that in order to accommodate a busy afternoon with several key meetings, each of the research group meetings tomorrow will be shortened by 15 minutes:

9:30 AM - 10:45 AM
Phonetics/Phonology Group
Jessamyn Schertz will be doing a tech demo on some tools she's been using to automate VOT measurements: AutoVOT and Praatalign.

10:45 AM - 12:00 PM
Language Variation and Change Group
Second set of practice talks for NWAV 44:

Shayna Gardiner: "What's mine is yours: Stable variation and language change in Ancient Egyptian possessive constructions."

Ruth Maddeaux and Aaron Dinkin: "Is like like like?: Evaluating the same variant across multiple variables."

12:00 PM - 1:15 PM
Semantics Group
Michela Ippolito: "Attitude and epistemic modal verbs in Italian."

October 12, 2015


Our department is co-hosting NWAV (New Ways of Analyzing Variation) this year with York University! This prestigious conference is the world's largest annual event in variationist sociolinguistics. It is taking place at Hart House from October 22-25. Department members have been planning this for several years, and the list of participants/volunteers is immense (including the entire blog committee). Traditionally, a theme for each year is chosen that reflects something about the subfield and the particular host-city. This year's (originally devised by Ph.D student Matt Hunt Gardner) is 'Intersections'; the conference explores the crossroads between variationist sociolinguistics and overlapping subfields of linguistics, anchored by two plenary speakers and five invited speakers whose work bridges variationist work and other research in linguistics.

On top of making arrangements with Hart House, contacting publishers, inviting speakers, ordering merchandise and freebies, creating a logo/website/schedule, overseeing abstract reception and reviews, sending out countless emails, making the abstract booklet, providing travel information, and more, present and past members of our department are also presenting lots of talks and posters:

Jack Chambers (faculty) is giving the opening plenary talk:
"Ways of analyzing variation (NWAV) in Canada."

Darcie Blainey (postdoc):
"Intersecting words, intersecting languages: Liaison in Cajun French between 1940 and 2010."

Marisa Brook (Ph.D.) and Emily Blamire (Ph.D.):
"Ness-less-ness: Zero-derived adjectival nominals in Internet forum data."

Heather Burnett (postdoc) is presenting a poster:
"Probabilistic minimalist grammars for the analysis of syntactic variation."

Julien Carrier (Ph.D.):
"The High Arctic relocation: A case of new-dialect formation in Inuktitut."

Aaron Dinkin (faculty) with colleagues Nathan Severance (Dartmouth College) and Keelan Evanini (Educational Testing Service):
"Examining the performance of FAVE for automated sociophonetic vowel analyses."

Shayna Gardiner (Ph.D.):
"What's mine is yours: Stable variation and language change in Ancient Egyptian possessive constructions."

Matt Hunt Gardner (Ph.D.):
"I got a story for you: The rapid convergence of stative possessives in Cape Breton English."

Bridget Jankowski (Ph.D 2013) and Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty):
"Nobody knows everyone: Longitudinal change in cross-community perspective."

Yoonjung Kang (faculty) and Tae-Jin Yoon (McMaster University):
"Chain shift and initial syllable prominence in Seoul Korean."

Paulina Lyskawa (MA 2015, now at the University of Maryland), Emilia Melara (Ph.D.), and Ruth Maddeaux (Ph.D.):
"Heritage speakers abide by all the rules: Evidence of language-contact effects in Heritage Polish word-final devoicing."

Ruth Maddeaux (Ph.D.) and Aaron Dinkin (faculty)
"Is like like like?: Evaluating the same variant across multiple variables."

Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty) is hosting a workshop: "Contrast and comparison in linguistic analysis: Cross-disciplinarity in practise", and one of the presenters is Diane Massam (faculty).

Katherine Rehner (faculty) is part of a presentation with Raymond Mougeon (York University):
"Variation sociolinguistique dans le discours des enseignants en salle de classe."

Derek Denis (Ph.D. 2015, now at the University of Victoria):
"Leaders and laggards: the intersection of sex and gregariousness in change."

Michael Iannozzi (BA 2014, now at the University of Western Ontario) is presenting a poster:
"Heritage Faetar's verbs are good to the last (pro-)drop."

Emilie LeBlanc (MA 2014, now at York University):
"Vraiment vraiment intense: The use of intensifiers in Acadian French adolescent speech."

Emilie LeBlanc (MA 2014, now at York University) and Selena Phillips-Boyle (York University):
"A diachronic shift: The status of well and ben in Chiac."

Shannon Mooney (MA 2012, now at Georgetown University) is presenting a poster:
"A corpus study of the influence of input on child acquisition of African American English aspectual markers."

Madeline Shellgren (MA 2011, now at Michigan State University):
"Individual differences in listener perceptions: personality or cognitive processing?"

Alexandra D'Arcy (Ph.D. 2005, now at the University of Victoria) with Rebecca Roeder (postdoc 2007-2009, now at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte) and Sky Onosson (University of Victoria):
"Simultaneous innovation and conservation: Unpacking Victoria’s vowels."

Nicole Rosen (Ph.D. 2007, now at the University of Manitoba), Sky Onosson (University of Victoria) and Lanlan Li (University of Manitoba) are also presenting a poster:
"There's a new ethnolect in town: Vowel patterning of Filipino English in Winnipeg."

Alexandra D'Arcy (Ph.D. 2005, now at the University of Victoria) with Martina Wiltschko (University of British Columbia):
"Deriving variation in function: A case study of Canadian eh and its kin."

Former visiting student Claire Childs:
"Looks like change, dunnit? Negative polarity tags in three varieties of British English."

Former visiting student Holman Tse:
"Is heritage language phonology conservative? Evidence from variation and change in Toronto heritage Cantonese vowels."

Former faculty member Anne-José Villeneuve (now at the University of Alberta), with Julie Auger (Indiana University):
"Looking at contemporary Picard from different angles: The relevance of variationist methods for European language policy."

Former visiting scholar Véronique Lacoste (Universität Freiburg):
"'What do Haitians sound like'? Sociophonetic variation in Haitians' English in Toronto."

The conference is set to be stellar. Kudos to everyone involved on their hard work!


The 46th annual meeting of the North East Linguistics Society is being held at Concordia University between October 16 and 18. Our department is set to provide a strong showing!

Frederick Gietz (Ph.D.), Peter Jurgec (faculty), and Maida Percival (Ph.D.):
"Linguistic shift work: Not so strange after all (shifting in Harmonic Serialism)

Becky Tollan (Ph.D.):
"Unergatives and split ergativity in Samoan."

Daniel Currie Hall (Ph.D. 2007, now at St. Mary's University) and B. Elan Dresher (faculty):
"Trade-offs in the contrastive hierarchy: Voicing versus continuancy in Slavic."

Dan Milway (Ph.D.) is presenting a poster:
"Modifying the syntax of Spatial P in English."

Becky Tollan (Ph.D.) and Daphna Heller (faculty) are presenting a poster:
"Elvis Presley on an island: wh dependency formation inside complex NPs."

Richard Compton (Ph.D. 2012, now at l'Université de Montréal à Québec) is presenting a poster:
"Mutually conditioned mood and object agreement in Inuit."

Isaac Gould (MA 2010, now at MIT) is also presenting a poster:
"Modelling verb placement errors in child Swiss German: The role of ambiguous evidence."

Keir Moulton (MA 2002, now at Simon Fraser University) and colleague Nino Grillo (Universität Stuttgart) are presenting a poster:
"Event kinds and the pseudo-relative."

Michelle Yuan (MA 2013, now at MIT) is presenting a poster:
"Case and morphosyntactic anti-identity in Yimas."

One of the invited talks, "Theme and variations in the expression of modality" is by Valentine Hacquard (University of Maryland), based on joint work she has done with joint work with recent alumna Ailís Cournane (Ph.D. 2015).

Former visiting student Michael Wagner (now at McGill University) is presenting a poster with colleague Daniel Goodhue (also from McGill University):
"Toward a bestiary of English intonational contours."

October 9, 2015

Colloquium on Chinese linguist Chao Yuen Ren

Professor Chen-Pang Yeang of the U of T's Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology will be giving a talk on Wednesday the 14th at 4 PM in Victoria College room 323: "Dialects, speech, and information: Chao Yuen Ren’s route to cybernetics." Refreshments will follow.

A founder of modern Chinese linguistics, Chao Yuen Ren (Zhao Yuenren, 1892-1982) is famous for his extensive surveys of dialects and promotion of a national language. This paper examines a less-familiar part of his later career: his thought and use of cybernetics. When Chao taught at Harvard in 1947, he read Norbert Wiener’s manuscript on the topic, and immediately acknowledged its importance. In 1953, Chao attended the Macy Conference (the major symposium for cybernetics) to give a paper on meaning. In the following decades, he further developed his thought and introduced it to his research on Chinese language. Chao’s cybernetic vision concerned the statistical distinctiveness of morphemes, quantitative measure of redundancy, and varying degrees of meaning in Chinese. Although he attributed languages’ information-theoretic “forms of meaning” as products of long-term negative feedback, he nonetheless stressed their stability and non-plasticity, unlike the contemporary Western cognitive scientists that highlighted feedback’s open-endedness or the later Communist technocrats that championed the power of human actions in controlling feedback systems. I will explore aspects of Chao’s intellectual trajectory that may give rise to this view: his lifelong preoccupation with oral languages in both field and laboratory, his commitment to structuralism, and his attempt to modernize a longstanding humanistic area of study among Chinese literati - phonology - with “scientific methods” that characterized the intellectuals of the May Fourth generation.

Research Groups: Friday, October 9

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Psycholinguistics Group
Emily Blamire (Ph.D.) will report on the results of her Generals paper investigating vocal/cue attractiveness in speech.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax/Semantics Group
Becky Tollan (Ph.D.): "Unergatives and split ergativity in Samoan" (practice talk for NELS).

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Fieldwork Group
Group discussion of summer fieldwork undertaken by members and of topics for the rest of the meetings over the course of the school year.

October 4, 2015

2015 Annual Meeting on Phonology

This year's Annual Meeting on Phonology (AMP) is being co-hosted by the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University and taking place in Vancouver between October 9th and 11th.

Yu-Leng Lin (Ph.D.) is presenting a poster:
"What matters in artificial learning: sonority hierarchy or natural classes?"

Frederick Gietz (Ph.D.), Peter Jurgec (faculty), and Maida Percival (Ph.D.) are also presenting a poster:
"Shift happens! Shifting in Harmonic Serialism."

Avery Ozburn (MA 2014, now at UBC) and Peter Jurgec (faculty) are presenting a poster:
"Blocking in Slovenian sibilant harmony: a perception experiment."

Avery Ozburn (MA 2014, now at UBC) is presenting a second poster solo:
"Partial identity preference in Oromo co-occurrence restrictions."

Manami Hirayama (Ph.D. 2009, now at Ritsumeikan University) and colleague Hyun Kyung Hwang (National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics) are presenting a poster:
"The prosodic effects of VP and embedded CP boundaries in Japanese."

Rachel Walker (MA 1993, now at the University of Southern California) is co-presenting a talk with colleague Sharon Rose (University of California, San Diego):
"Guttural semi-transparency."

Frederick Gietz continues his dramatic career

Earlier this year, we briefly highlighted Frederick Gietz's life as a playwright: this week, he is directing the Victoria College Dramatic Society's production of The Physicists by Friedrich Durrenmatt, translated by James Kirkup.

Written in the shadow of the atom bomb, at a time of unprecedented scientific advance, Durrenmatt's hilariously satirical masterpiece asks the dangerous question, "Is insanity the only refuge for the dangerously intelligent?"

Performances will be this Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening at the Cat's Eye Theatre inside the Goldring Centre on Devonshire Place. Tickets are available through UofTtix.

October 2, 2015

flʌut talk: Guillaume Thomas

Please join us for the first flaut (Friends of Linguistics at the University of Toronto) talk of the 2015-16 year. Professor Guillaume Thomas will be presenting "Documenting Garani oral culture", based on his fieldwork in Brazil. The talk will be taking place from 7 to 9 PM on Wednesday, October 14, in the department lounge. All are welcome!

September 30, 2015

Guest talk at UTM: R. Malatesha Joshi (Texas A & M University)

R. Malatesha Joshi (Texas A & M University) is giving a talk for the Linguistics Speaker Series at our Mississauga campus: "Componential Model of Reading (CMR) applied to different orthographies." It will be taking place on Monday, October 5, at 4:00 PM in room 340 of the Instructional Building.

One of the influential models that is useful in the assessment and intervention of reading problems is the Simple View of Reading (SVR) proposed by Gough and Tunmer (1986) and Hoover and Gough (1990), according to which the two most important elements of reading are decoding and comprehension. The relationship between decoding and comprehension is expressed as RC = D × LC, where RC is reading comprehension, D is decoding, and LC is linguistic comprehension. Various studies have shown that SVR can account for approximately 40–80% of the variance in reading comprehension for readers ranging from 2nd through 10th grade among English speaking children.  In addition to English-speaking children, we have tested SVR model with students from Spanish, Chinese, and Hebrew backgrounds as well as ESL and EFL students.  I shall present results of these studies and also discuss educational implications.

DVD/digital release for Do I Sound Gay?

David Thorpe's documentary Do I Sound Gay?, which includes interview segments with our own professor now-emeritus Ron Smyth, has now completed a two-month theatrical release and received a considerable amount of media attention, including in Time, The New Yorker, and The Daily Beast.

Do I Sound Gay? will be available on DVD, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and Google Play starting on November 3. It will also be released theatrically in the United Kingdom beginning at the end of October, and will be playing at film festivals across Europe over the course of the autumn.

Congratulations, Ron and David and the rest of the team involved with the film!

Public lecture on semiotics and multilingualism in Italy

Simone Casini (a postdoc at the Università per Stranieri di Siena) is giving a talk (sponsored by the Emilio Goggio Chair in Italian Studies) on language-contact and semiotics in Italian cities. It is open to the public and free of charge. The time is 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM on Thursday, October 1, in 406 Carr Hall. Please RSVP by emailing A reception will follow.

“The Neomultilingualism in Italy: the Visibility and Impact in Urban Linguistic Landscapes”

The report examine the semiotics visibility of language contact and outlines the results of a research developed at the Centre of Excellence of the University for Foreigners of Siena on linguistic urban landscapes. The models of survey and the analysis of neomultilingualism are based on the distinction between semiotics and sociolinguistics 'migrant languages' and 'immigrant languages'. The latter term refers to the ability to define semiotically the language space in which they insist, are collected and analyzed on the basis of their visibility and viability in real contexts of communication. 

The streets, squares, markets etc. represented the linguistic urban contexts of communication or rather the context of communication in which are recognized linguistic habits that result in notices on signs, on shop windows, on billboards, on the menus of restaurants, as well as in all other forms of interaction and contact between Italian and other languages.

In this perspective, the language faces of Italian cities appear undergoing evolutionary pressures due to new idiomatic subjects that establish a competitive relationship marking the symbolic space and that are evidence of a renewed national multilingual identity, a real neomultilingualism of Italian linguistic space.

September 28, 2015

Guest speaker: Raj Singh (Carleton University)

We're pleased to welcome Raj Singh, an associate professor of cognitive science at Carleton University, to our department. He is a U of T alumnus (2001, B.Sc. in math and philosophy) and now works primarily on semantics and pragmatics. His talk, "Conjunctive scalar implicatures of disjunctive sentences", will be taking place in SS 560A beginning at 3:10 PM.

It is well-known that disjunctive sentences “A or B” are ambiguous between an inclusive and exclusive disjunction. Recent work has discovered populations in which “A or B” is ambiguous between an inclusive disjunction and a conjunction. These populations include speakers of Warlpiri, American Sign Language (ASL), and English speaking children. So-called `free-choice’ inferences also show that the ambiguity is available in adult speakers of English as well. In all attested cases of this ambiguity, the conjunctive reading is overwhelmingly preferred over the disjunctive reading. This is not true with the more familiar inclusive/exclusive ambiguity.

This talk will review some of these findings, some of which come from our lab. We will argue that the conjunctive reading, when it’s available, is the result of a scalar implicature. However, this implicature differs from other implicatures in many ways: not only is the implicature strongly preferred, it is also acquired in the child earlier, it is faster to process, and it is easier to detect in embedded positions. We will discuss possible sources of this difference: one has to do with the alternatives used in the computation, and the other has to do with the pragmatics of questions and answers.

Research Groups: Friday, October 2

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Phonetics/Phonology Group

Group discussion: Katz, J. (2015). Hip-hop rhymes reiterate phonological typology. Lingua, 160, 54-73.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Language Variation and Change Group

Practice talks for NWAV 44:

Paulina Lyskawa (University of Maryland), Emilia Melara (University of Toronto), and Ruth Maddeaux (University of Toronto): "Heritage speakers abide by all the rules: Evidence of language-contact effects in Heritage Polish word-final devoicing."

Emilie LeBlanc (York University): "Vraiment vraiment intense: The use of intensifiers in Acadian French adolescent speech."

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Semantics Group

Raj Singh (Carleton University): "On the preference for global over local accommodation"

It is commonly assumed that presuppositions typically project out of embedded positions (“global accommodation”). Under restricted conditions, this projection can be blocked, in which case we say that the presupposition has been cancelled (“local accommodation”). To the extent that the generalization is correct, it remains unexplained. However, we will point out ways in which the generalization has been misstated. A further complication is that theories typically invoke several mechanisms to make sense of the data. For example, the satisfaction theory involves at least a projection component, a strengthening component (to deal with the proviso problem), and a cancellation component (local accommodation). Similar concerns can be raised for other approaches.

The goal of this talk is to work toward a more descriptively adequate generalization of the relevant preference principle, and to suggest that the revised generalization hints at a principled explanation and a reduction in the inventory of presupposition-specific mechanisms. The key insight is that pragmatic presuppositions are determined using a set of alternatives derived by taking the projected presuppositions of alternatives to the utterance. Assuming this, default `global accommodation’ amounts to selecting the maximal subset of alternatives (the entire set), and `local’ accommodation amounts to selecting the minimal subset (the empty set). This eliminates the need for a cancellation mechanism, and converts the “global over local” question into one of why “max” is preferred to “min”.

Keren appointed as LSA representative to CoLang

The Linguistic Society of America has appointed department chair Keren Rice as the LSA representative to the Advisory Circle of CoLang, the Institute for Collaborative Language Research. Congratulations to Keren on the new position!

Congratulations, Atiqa!

Congratulations to faculty sociolinguist Atiqa Hachimi (Linguistics/Women's and Gender Studies, UTSC) on receiving tenure! We're delighted.

September 25, 2015

NWAV 44 is coming!

We are less than a month away from NWAV 44, North America's premier sociolinguistics conference, being co-hosted this year by the University of Toronto and York University. 7 plenary speakers, representing many intersections between sociolinguistics and other subfields, are invited; 3 parties are planned; 19 students will receive free crash space; T-shirts and toques are designed, 2 student prizes will be awarded; reps from 6 publishers will attend; Sali will launch 1 new book; 7 workshops are offered; 35 departments, colleges, universities and associations are supporting the event; the Canadian Language Museum will have two exhibits on display; and some 300 participants are registered.

The full program is posted (penultimate draft available here).

Please direct questions to the local organizing committee:

Philipp Sebastian Angermeyer, York University
Aaron Dinkin, University of Toronto
Michol Hoffman, York University
Naomi Nagy, University of Toronto
Sali A. Tagliamonte, University of Toronto
Anne-José Villeneuve, University of Alberta
James Walker, York University

We look forward to seeing many of you at the conference! Registration is open online.

p.s. Tweet about your favourite #torontointersections to help with the buzz!

September 17, 2015

Congratulations, Keren!

We are absolutely delighted to have learned that University Professor and department chair Keren Rice has been selected to receive the 2015 Pierre Chauveau Medal from the Royal Society of Canada! Keren will be formally awarded the medal at a ceremony in Victoria, B.C. in November of this year. For more information, see the University of Toronto news item and the RSC award citations (PDF).

Vivek Goel, the University of Toronto's vice president for research and innovation, describes Keren as "a major figure in the world of linguistics who has made a unique contribution to culture and society in Canada".

Congratulations, Keren; we couldn't agree more!

September 15, 2015

Guest speaker: Andrew Nevins (University College London)

We are very pleased to welcome Andrew Nevins (University College London) to our department. He is a prolific theoretical linguist who has worked on a variety of topics across syntax, morphology, and phonology. The many languages that he has worked on include Basque, Pirahã, and Catalan. For our department, he will be giving a guest talk on Thursday the 24th at 4:10 PM in Earth Sciences Centre B149: "Where can linearity trump hierarchy in syntax?"

As part of the project ‘Coordinated Research in the Experimental Morphosyntax of South Slavic Languages’, we conducted a comparison of preverbal and postverbal subject-verb agreement in an elicited production study carried out with 60 speakers of six different language varieties in the former Yugoslavia, spanning Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, and Slovenian at local universities. These languages have three genders, and we measured the response type and total reaction time for production for the nine possible combinations of two plural noun phrases. Elicited production experiments for the preverbal and postverbal versions were conducted separately, with 54 items and 54 fillers. In the configuration neuter + feminine preverbally, across all six sites, agreement with the linearly closest conjunct outnumbered agreement with the hierarchically highest conjunct. This stands in stark contrast to the results we found with so-called ‘attraction’ configurations (with a relative clause), where agreement with the linearly closest NP did not outnumber hierarchical agreement. Furthermore, our analysis of gender agreement reveals that preverbal versus postverbal positioning make a large difference in the availability with the linearly furthest conjunct: while highest agreement is possible preverbally, lowest-conjunct agreement is essentially unattested postverbally, supporting a hierarchical analysis of conjunction phrases. In sum, while linearly-sensitive agreement can trump hierarchically-based agreement, it is possible specifically in the limited realm of coordination, where the first NP is not the head of the coordination as a whole. In terms of reaction times, we find longest production latencies for the conditions where speakers have the most grammatical options to choose among, suggesting that all three strategies are in principle available, although constrained by syntactic and morphological factors. The consequences of these results will be discussed with respect to three recent theoretical models of conjunct agreement in South Slavic (Boskovic 2009, Puskar & Murphy 2014, Marusic, Nevins & Badecker 2015) and in terms of their prospects for development of a morphosyntactic ‘atlas’ of these closely-related varieties.

Peter Jurgec at SinFonIJA 8

Peter Jurgec (faculty) will be presenting an invited talk, "Agreement-by-Correspondence with spreading", at the 8th Syntax, Phonology and Language Analysis conference (SinFonIJA 8) being held at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, from September 24th to 26th, 2015. In the meantime, he will be practicing the talk at a special meeting of the Phonetic/Phonology group on Friday the 18th.

September 13, 2015

Conference on Gender, Class, and Determination

The University of Ottawa is hosting "Gender, Class, and Determination: A Conference on the Nominal Spine" between September 18 and 20. The conference is aimed at syntacticians and semanticists who are interested in how noun phrases operate across languages, particularly when it comes to how nouns are classified into genders and other categories. One of the goals is to further investigations into the structure of the nominal spine.

Alumna Jila Ghomeshi (Ph.D. 1996) and faculty member Diane Massam are presenting an invited talk: "Types of # across DPs."

The invited student speaker for the conference is Clarissa Forbes (Ph.D.).

Nicholas Welch (postdoc) and alumnus Will Oxford (Ph.D. 2014) are presenting a talk with colleague Bethany Lochbihler (University of Edinburgh): "The person-animacy connection: Evidence from Algonquian and Dene."

Another of the invited speakers is alumna Carrie Gillon (MA 1999, now at Arizona State University).

Alumna Kyumin Kim (Ph.D. 2011, now at Cheongju University) is presenting a poster with colleague Paul Melchin (University of Ottawa): "Plural, classifier, and the role of division in a classifier language."

Former visiting student Elizabeth Ritter (now at Ben Gurion University and the University of Calgary) is co-presenting a paper with Martina Wiltschko (UBC): "On the contribution of animacy to noun classification and referential indexing."

Research Groups: Friday, September 18

Most of the research groups will not be meeting until October this year, but there will be one special early meeting this week:

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Phonetics/Phonology Group
Peter Jurgec: "Agreement-by-Correspondence with spreading" (dry-run for an invited talk in Slovenia).

September 10, 2015

AMLaP 2015

This year's Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing (AMLaP), which focuses on interdisciplinary approaches to language processing, took place at the University of Malta from September 3rd to 5th.

Mercedeh Mohaghegh (Ph.D.) and Craig Chambers (faculty) presented "How do missing phonetic cues and noise affect the process of spoken word comprehension?"

Craig was also part of a presentation with colleagues Mindaugas Mozuraitis (Saarland University) and Meredyth Daneman (UTM, Psychology): "Listeners’ sensitivity to protagonists' knowledge about identity in narrative comprehension."

Daphna Heller (faculty) was also part of a presentation with Mindaugas Mozuraitis (Saarland University): "Effects of privileged knowledge about object category: Evidence from modification."

September 9, 2015

Congratulations, Catherine!

Catherine Macdonald (Ph.D. 2014) has recently begun working at the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario (AFHTO), a non-profit organization which serves as a network, resource and advocate for interprofessional primary health teams in Ontario. In her role as Program Assistant, Improvement Programs, she provides administrative, project-management and communications support to the Quality Improvement Decision Support and the Governance and Leadership teams. The purpose of these programs is to help health teams make evidence-based programming decisions and deliver sustainable, patient-centred care; Catherine is proud and excited to support their work. Congratulations and all our best!

September 8, 2015

Congratulations, Julie!

Julie Goncharov successfully defended her thesis, "In search of reference: The case of the Russian adjectival intensifier samyj", on Tuesday, September 8. The committee was comprised of Diane Massam (co-supervisor), Michela Ippolito (co-supervisor), Elizabeth Cowper, Arsalan Kahnemuyipour, Cristina Cuervo, and external examiner Barbara Citko (University of Washington). Congratulations, Dr. Goncharov!

September 4, 2015

Research Groups: Welcome, 2015-16

Our department hosts six lively research groups; each one meets on Fridays, every two weeks during the academic year. Graduate students are expected to attend meetings of at least one of these groups regularly and contribute when the chances arise. Meeting dates can be found on the calendar on the department homepage, and through the year, a weekly announcement about research-group meetings will appear on this blog.

Fieldwork Group
Fieldwork Group is a project dedicated to the discussion of linguistic fieldwork and field methodology. We have a mixed bag of activities including hearing informal presentations about particular methods, problems, or data; discussing papers on methodology; and holding the occasional workshop on a practical technique. Expect to discuss both theoretical and practical considerations about work in the field and elicitation technique, relative to different subfields and different language situations (i.e. endangered, indigenous, understudied, or none of the above). We welcome different levels of experience and history with fieldwork, as long as you have an interest! Contact Clarissa ( to be added to the mailing list.

Language Variation and Change Group
The LVC Group is centred on research in variationist sociolinguistics and overlapping subfields (e.g. dialectology, historical linguistics, language and society). Meetings typically consist of presentations from members, visiting scholars, and guest speakers; work in progress is encouraged! From time to time we read a major paper, host a software workshop, or talk about a noteworthy line of research. Anyone with an interest in variationist research is welcome at our meetings. If you'd like to be added to the mailing list, email Marisa ( and/or Naomi (

Phonetics/Phonology Group
The Phonetics/Phonology Research Group (or just Phon Group for short) is a place for anyone working on the P-side to present work in progress or do dry runs of upcoming talks. We've had presentations on everything from pure theoretical phonology to descriptive phonetics to experimental work in production and perception. This is a very informal setting, and a great place to get feedback on an upcoming talk, research that's still in a rough state, or data you've been working through. We also try to have a few discussion sessions each year, usually going through a recent phonetics/phonology paper of interest but sometimes a more general conversation about methodology or issues in phonetic and phonological research. If you'd like to be added to the mailing list, please contact Radu at

Psycholinguistics Group
The University of Toronto Psycholinguistics Group is primarily interested in the investigation of how language is acquired, processed and produced. Faculty, post-docs and graduate students from a number of unique disciplines contribute, and their work reflects research topics across all levels of linguistic analysis.  Different investigative approaches and techniques are brought to bear on these issues, including behavioural discrimination experiments, eye tracking, brain imaging and explicit judgment tasks - to name but a few. In addition to members of the Department of Linguistics, the group includes integral tri-campus participation from the Departments of Psychology, Computer Science, Spanish and Portuguese, and Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). For more information, please get in touch with Phil (

Semantics Group
The Semantics Research Group usually features presentations from members and guests on research in semantics and pragmatics. Work in progress is encouraged. Occasionally we read a paper, prepare for a guest speaker, and/or organize practice talks in preparation for conference presentations. Everyone who is interested in semantics or would like to learn more about it is welcome to attend the meetings. To be added to the mailing list, please contact Guillaume (

Syntax Group
The Syntax Project provides linguists from the University of Toronto and beyond with the opportunity to share their work on issues in syntax, morphology, and semantics. During a typical meeting, a participant presents on their ongoing research, but we welcome practice runs for conferences, discussion sessions on new work in the field, and suggestions as well! If you’d like to present or join the mailing list, please contact Emilia Melara at