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