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!