March 31, 2015

Easter egg hunt!

Happy Easter, linguists! There are 96 eggs hidden around the department. You can find them in the lounge, the library, and the downstairs grad-space. Whether you're an undergrad, grad student, postdoc, faculty member, instructor, or alumnus, feel free to join the hunt!

If you don't want to keep your egg once you've enjoyed your treat, please put them in the box labelled 'eggs' in the department lounge so that they can be used again. Thanks!

(Photos by Keren Rice.)

March 27, 2015

Report from the Canadian Language Museum's Cree exhibit opening

On Wednesday evening in the Wilson Hall lounge at New College, the fourth in a series of exhibits launched by the Canadian Language Museum was opened to the public. Spearheaded by departmental faculty member Elaine Gold and curated by students of the MA in Museum Studies here at the U of T, the CLM produces annual travelling exhibits pertaining to languages and dialects spoken in Canada. This new exhibit for 2015 is on Cree and its dialects. (Photos by Marisa Brook.)

Elaine welcomes everyone to the exhibit.

 A few words from Kevin Brousseau, the Cree Language Coordinator for the Cree Nation Government and one of the main contributors to the content of the exhibit.

Brenda Wastasecoot, a Swampy Cree author from Churchill, Manitoba, reads from her picture book, Granny's Giant Bannock.

Congratulations to Elaine, Kevin, the Museum Studies students, and everyone else involved in the creation of the Cree exhibit.

(For those unaware, the Canadian Language Museum maintains an excellent blog of its own, frequently featuring extensive interviews with language scholars in Canada.)

LIN362 poster session this Monday

Aaron Dinkin's Historical Linguistics class will be holding its traditional poster session in the department lounge on Monday evening from 6 PM to 8 PM. Come join us and check out what the students have been researching!

March 25, 2015

Research Groups: Friday, March 27

Note that both the syntax/semantics group and fieldwork group are cancelled this week.

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Psycholinguistics Group
Craig Chambers and Meg Grant will review the 28th CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing, held last weekend at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Then there will be a group discussion on the challenges of being based in Canada and trying to employ crowdsourcing and other web-based research resources from Canada.

March 23, 2015

Guest speaker for discussion: Kevin Brousseau (Cree Nation Government)

Alongside the Canadian Language Museum exhibit on Cree opening next week, there will be an evening discussion on Tuesday the 24th featuring Kevin Brousseau, who is the Cree Language Coordinator with the Department of Cree Culture and Language of the Cree Nation Government.

Tuesday March 24th, 5-7 PM, Turtle Lounge, Centre for Aboriginal Initiatives
Second Floor, North Borden Building, 563 Spadina Circle

Everyone is welcome!

March 17, 2015

Research Groups: Friday, March 20

Note that both the Phonetics/Phonology Group and the Syntax/Semantics Squib Section are cancelled this week.

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Language Variation and Change Group
Group discussion led by Bridget Jankowski: Nevalainen, Raumolin-Brunberg, and Mannila (2011). The diffusion of language change in real time: Progressive and conservative individuals and the time depth of change. Language Variation and Change, 23(1), 1-43.

March 16, 2015

Canadian Language Museum exhibit on Cree

The Canadian Language Museum, spearheaded by faculty member Elaine Gold, will be launching its newest travelling exhibit next week. The opening reception for "Cree: The People's Language," will be taking place on Wednesday March 25th from 5 to 7 PM at the Wilson Hall lounge in New College:

MOTH 2015

The annual Montréal-Ottawa-Toronto-Hamilton Syntax Workshop is being held at the University of Ottawa this year on the 28th and 29th. Four current graduate students and one alumnus will be presenting their research:

Julie Doner (Ph.D.): "The 'optional' EPP in Finnish as clausal truncation."

Dan Milway (Ph.D.): "Directionalized locatives: Evidence for a small-clause structure."

Safieh Moghaddam (Ph.D.): "On split ergativity."

Becky Tollan (Ph.D.): "Investigating wh-dependency formation in complex NP objects."

Kazuya Bamba (MA 2014): "Null subjects and impersonality: Counter-evidence from French."

March 13, 2015

LVC mini-conference at Queen's

Three of our variationist sociolinguists went up to Kingston yesterday to share some of their recent research with undergrads at Queen's University. Ph.D. students Marisa Brook and Matt Hunt Gardner and recent Ph.D. alumnus Derek Denis presented the mini-conference to Anastasia Riehl's Canadian English class.

Marisa presented "Relatively distinct: Localized loss of prestige on the periphery of Canadian English," about her first Generals paper from 2013-14.

(Photo by Anastasia Riehl.)

Matt's presentation was "Where does Canadian English end? Cape Breton as a speech island," on his dissertation research.

(Photo by Marisa Brook.)

Derek presented "Homogeneity, convergence, mega-trends, and stuff like that" - a look at his ongoing project with another alumna, Alexandra D'Arcy (Ph.D. 2005, now at the University of Victoria).

(Photo by Marisa Brook.)

March 11, 2015

Research Groups: Friday, March 13

Note that the fieldwork group meeting tomorrow is cancelled.

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Psycholinguistics Group
Ailís Cournane: "Michelle must be swimming: A developmental study on the role of aspect in modal meanings."

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax/Semantics Group
Keffyalew Gebregziabher: "Contrasting (double) clitics and agreement markers: A view from Amharic and Tigrinya."

Both Amharic and Tigrinya (Semitic, Ethiopia; SOV) employ different pronominal affixes to co-reference the phi-features of possessors (1a) and droppable full subject and object arguments (1b). While subject pronominal affixes attach to the hosting head showing significant variation across different syntactic heads, possessor and object pronominal affixes attach to the hosting head almost invariably. In this work in progress, I discuss the nature of both possessor and object pronominal affixes (in comparison to subject pronominal affixes) in nominal (1a) and clausal possession (1c), and determine whether they are (doubled) clitics or agreement markers or neither.

In the Ethio-Semitic literature, there is a long debate whether such pronominal affixes in Amharic are clitics (cf. Mullen 1986) or agreement markers (cf. Yimam 2004) (see also Kramer 2014 and references cited therein for re-opening of the debate). While subject pronominal affixes are treated consistently as agreement markers, object pronominal affixes are still a matter of debate. Particularly, two hypotheses have been put forward to account for object pronominal affixes in Amharic: (a) object pronominal affixes are agreement markers (see Amberber 1996, Yimam 2004, among others) and (b) object pronominal affixes are doubled clitics (see Mullen 1986, Halefom 1994, among others). Using several (morpho-syntactic) diagnostics (Zwicky & Pullum 1983), I argue that neither the (doubled) clitic nor the agreement marker properties fully characterize the behavior of both Amharic and Tigrinya possessor and object pronominal affixes.

(1) a. məs’haf-wa (Amharic)
məs’ħaf-a (Tigrinya)
'her book'

b. lɨdʒ-ot∫t∫-u marta-n səddəb-u-wwat (Amharic)
child-PL-DEF Martha-ACC insult.PF-3MSG.SUBJ-3FSG.OBJ
Ɂɨt-om k’olʢu nɨ-marta s’ərif-omm-a (Tigrinya)
DET-MPL child.PLACC-Martha insult.PF-3MSG.SUBJ-3FSG.OBJ
'The children insulted Martha.'

c. aster sost məs'ħaf-ot∫t∫ ʡəll-u-wwat (Amharic)
Esther three book-PL COP-3MPL.SUBJ-3FSG.OBJ
aster sələstə məs'ħafti ʡəlləw-u-wwa (Tigrinya)
Esther three book.PL COP-3MPL.SUBJ-3FSG.OBJ
'Esther has three books.'


This year's Western Interdisciplinary Student Symposium on Language Research will be taking place at the University of Western Ontario over the weekend of Friday the 20th to Sunday the 22nd. There will be a strong showing by our undergraduates in particular:

Yaruna Cooblal (BA), Sneha George (BA), and Rachel Soo (BA): "VOT as a cue for voicing contrast in word-initial voiced and voiceless stops of native and heritage Tagalog speakers."

Michael Iannozzi (BA): "Pro-drop in Faetar in contact with English and Italian: A study of potential contact-induced change."

Also, French Ph.D. student Stephanie Côté will be presenting "The expression of future tense by intermediate L2 French speakers."

Penn Linguistics Conference 39

The 39th annual Penn Linguistics Conference, hosted by the University of Pennsylvania, will be occurring from the 20th to the 22nd of March.

Faculty member Aaron Dinkin is presenting "The like conspiracy: Avoiding accountability."

Alumna Monica Irimia (Ph.D. 2011, now at the University of York) is presenting a paper along with colleagues Giuseppe Longobardi, Dimitris Michelioudakis, and Nina Radkevich (all from the University of York as well): "Case, PRO-features, and nominal linkers: Evidence from Romanian genitives."

March 10, 2015

Guest speaker: Christine Shea (University of Iowa)

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese is hosting a talk by Christine Shea of the University of Iowa: "L1 and L2 dialect variability effects in lexical processing." This talk will be held on Friday the 13th at 3:00 PM, in Victoria College room 211.

How language learners deal with the variability present in the speech stream is one of the most intriguing issues for the acquisition of a first and second language sound system. In this talk I discuss how one type of variability, dialect variability,  affects lexical processing by L2 learners. In the first study, I discuss data from native speakers of English at the beginning and end of a three-month study-abroad program in Buenos Aires, Argentina and address how these learners process a dialect feature typical of River Plate Spanish. In study two, I present data from speakers of two different dialects of Colombian Spanish and their processing of English lexical items.

March 6, 2015

Department of Linguistics statement regarding the CUPE 3902 strike

This statement was adapted from the statement written by the Department of Geography and Program in Planning.

In light of the strike by members of CUPE 3902 Unit 1, members of the Department of Linguistics came together this week to discuss how the possible labor action would affect our department as a whole. We are committed in Linguistics to creating a supportive and democratic culture. We want to make a collective statement for department members to sign that acknowledges the different roles we all occupy in the university as well as the challenges we face. Our statement is a commitment to supporting each other, improving the lives of people in our department, and keeping dialogue open in what has become a contentious and divisive labor action.

We write as scholars who value the space of scholarly inquiry, pedagogical engagement, and collaboration that we have cultivated in our department. We are employed in different positions and take on different roles in the university but we share a common commitment to supporting and enhancing academic integrity and scientific inquiry. We are teachers, students and staff who strive to foster a collaborative working and learning environment. We recognize that the mission of the university cannot be met without the work that all of us do on a daily basis.

Because of this, we maintain that the working conditions of Teaching Assistants, Course Instructors, and Sessional Instructors are vital to the scholarly integrity of the university. We recognize that Teaching Assistants and many Course Instructors are also graduate students whose work and working conditions are crucial to the university and for the future of intellectual work. Many are also international students who pay higher tuition; many are responsible for dependents; and those who are outside the funded cohort rely on paid teaching work to complete their degrees.

During the strike, we continue to sustain the open and inclusive departmental space (both material and virtual) and culture we have built. We are committed to maintaining open communication and working together to address the complex issues facing the university community.

Susana Béjar, faculty
Marisa Brook
Jack Chambers, faculty
Joanna Chociej
Emily Clare
Ailís Cournane
Radu Craioveanu
María Cristina Cuervo, faculty
Derek Denis
Aaron Dinkin, faculty
Julianne Doner
Terence Dunn
Clarissa Forbes
Shayna Gardiner
Matt Hunt Gardner
Keffyalew Gebregziabher, post-doc
Ross Godfrey
Elaine Gold, faculty
Julie Goncharov
Meg Grant, faculty
Erin Hall
Michela Ippolito, faculty
Peter Jurgec, faculty
Arsalan Kahnemuyipour, faculty
Yoonjung Kang, faculty
Alexei Kochetov, faculty
Yu-Leng Lin
Paulina Lyskawa
Ruth Maddeaux
Diane Massam, faculty
Jessica Mathie
Emilia Melara
Dan Milway
Mercedeh Mohaghegh
Philip Monahan, faculty
Alexandra Motut
Naomi Nagy, faculty
Yining Nie
Iryna Osadcha
Ana Perez-Leroux, faculty
Keren Rice, faculty
James Smith
Christopher Spahr
Sali Tagliamonte, faculty
Rebecca Tollan
Nicholas Welch, post-doc

MOLT 2015

This year's annual Montréal-Ottawa-Laval-Toronto Workshop in Phonology will be hosted by our department over the weekend of the 13th to the 15th. The organizing committee is comprised of York University faculty member Peter Avery (Ph.D. 1996) and U of T faculty members Peter Jurgec, Yoonjung Kang, Alexei Kochetov, and Keren Rice.

Preregistration is available via this Google form. The cost of registration will be $30 for students and $40 for non-students, or $50/$65 including the dinner on Saturday night. Payment will be on-site, and we accept cash or cheques. You may register at the conference venue from 1:30 p.m. onwards on Friday or from 9:00 a.m. onwards on Saturday.

Current department members presenting at this conference are:

Clarissa Forbes (Ph.D.): "Morphological opacity in a morphological stress system: The case of Gitksan."

Keffyalew Gebregziabher (postdoc) and Jessamyn Schertz (postdoc): "Phonological and phonetic variation in velar plain and ejective obstruents in Tigrinya."

Frederick Gietz (MA): "Tonal Wop in Kikuyu motivates a Shift operation."

Erin Hall (Ph.D.): "Japanese verb suffixation: Allomorph selection, not onset deletion."

Phil Howson (Ph.D.): "An acoustic analysis of Sorbian: a reexamination of the feature specification for uvulars."

Yoonjung Kang (faculty), Na-Young Ryu (Ph.D.), and colleague Hyoung Seok Kwon: "Dialectal variation in Korean vowel harmony and the emergent locality effect."

Yining Nie (MA): "Morphological truncation in Harmonic Serialism."

Keren Rice (faculty) and Elan Dresher (professor emeritus): "Phonological typology with contrastive hierarchies."

Christopher Spahr (Ph.D.): "On tonal features and tonal accent."

Luke West (MA): "Neutral tone in Sgaw Karen: An acoustic study of minor syllables and tonal targets."

Yoonjung is also part of a presentation with McGill colleagues Hye-Young Bang, Morgan Sonderegger, and Meghan Clayards: "A lexical and contextual path of tonogenesis: Evidence from Seoul Korean."

Three alumni are also presenting:

Kazuya Bamba (MA 2014): "Two types of 'bidirectional' harmony."

Christina Bjorndahl (MA 2008, now at Cornell University): "Triggers and targets in voicing assimilation: The inevitability of Russian /v/."

Maida Percival (MA 2014): "Evidence from Halkomelem for shift in Harmonic Serialism."

We hope you will join us!

March 4, 2015


The eighth annual Toronto Undergraduate Linguistics Conference (TULCON) will be taking place over the weekend of March 13th to 15th in Bissel 205, hosted by SLUGS. The schedule for the conference is now available.

The following undergraduates from our department will be presenting:

Emma Amato and Jessica Ortins: "We R who we are: A study of phonetic variation of /r/ within Toronto's heritage language speakers."

Vidya David: "Modelling age of acquisition in a self-organizing map model of the bilingual lexicon."

Sneha George, Rachel Soo, and Yaruna Cooblal: "VOT as a cue for voicing contrast in word-initial voiced and voiceless stops of native and heritage Tagalog speakers."

Michael Iannozzi: "Pro-drop in a heritage language in Toronto: A study of heritage Faetar."

Kinza Mahoon: "Long-distance agreement, low focus and dependency effects in Hindi-Urdu."

Zoë McKenzie: "Transitivity effects in Inuktitut: Implications for noun incorporation."

Maksym Shkvorets: "Losing one's language, or creating one's own dialect? The loss of reflexive possessive pronouns in heritage Ukrainian."

Connie Ting: "Variation in L2 learners' VOT durations."

Other presenters are coming from McMaster University, the University of Manitoba, New York University, and the University of Georgia.

The two keynote speakers will be faculty members Diane Massam ("Two is or not two is: Extra be constructions in English"), Walter Pedersen ("Inchoative verbs and adverbial ambiguities"), and Ana-Teresa Pérez-Leroux.

March 3, 2015

Research Groups: Friday, March 6

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Language Variation and Change Group
Aaron Dinkin will be presenting a practise version of his talk for the Penn Linguistics Colloquium: "The like conspiracy: Avoiding accountability". He will also report on the results of an experiment on like that he and Ruth Maddeaux have been conducting. After that, there will be an update on planning for NWAV 44 in October.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Phonetics/Phonology Group
Open-ended group discussion about computational methods in phonology.

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Syntax/Semantics Squib Section
Nicholas Welch will be presenting his recent work on light verbs in Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì. A general discussion of light verbs will probably follow.

March 2, 2015

Naomi Nagy in New Zealand

Faculty member Naomi Nagy has just returned from New Zealand, where she took part in the Methods 'n' Models workshop at Victoria University of Wellington. Sociolinguists brainstormed with an evolutionary biologist, a physicist specializing in medical stats, a phylogeneticist, and a mathematician to explore innovative approaches to modeling variable linguistic data with complex models from other fields.

Naomi also paid tribute to the source – as in the founding location  of the statistical programming language R:

...and to the study of indigenous languages of New Zealand, in Auckland:

She then spent a few days backpacking above the clouds on the South Island: