May 26, 2017

U of T News interview with Ailís Cournane

Ailís Cournane (Ph.D. 2015, now at New York University) was interviewed by U of T News, and puppets are included. Check it out! Title: Linguist Ailís Cournane leads the Child Language Lab at New York University

May 24, 2017

Video interview with Sali Tagliamonte on the Ling Space

Here's a great interview with Sali Tagliamonte (faculty):

Video description on YouTube:

We're really excited to have gotten to interview Sali Tagliamonte at the Linguistic Society of America meeting in January! Dr. Tagliamonte is a full professor at the University of Toronto, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She's written a bunch of books and articles about sociolinguistics, and how languages shift and vary over time. You can find out more about her and her work at

In our interview, we discussed the following topics:
- why it's so important to investigate how teens use language, and what facets of adolescent speech she finds most interesting
- what differences we can find in spoken vs. online language use
- the Toronto English Project, and the changes we see in people's language use over the course of their lives
- how language might look in the future
- how to better inform people about how language variation works
- the role of social media in telling people about linguistics, and in language change

... and more! Thanks again to Dr. Tagliamonte for speaking with us.

May 23, 2017

Talk by Norbert Hornstein (Maryland): June 1st, 2017

Professor Norbert Hornstein of the University of Maryland will give a talk in our dept. on June 1 (10am in SS 2111). The title and abstract are below. Everyone is welcome.

Decomposing Merge: The sources of hierarchical recursion
How’s a Minimalist to understand the notion ‘linguistic universal.’ Not in a Greenbergian sense as an evident surface pattern exemplified in all (or most, or many) of the world’s languages. Not in GB terms as a specification of the structural properties of the Faculty of Language (FL). Rather, ‘UG’ names those characteristics of FL that are proprietary to language. MP’s intellectual conceit is that it is possible to factor the properties of FL into those that are distinctively linguistic and those that are more cognitively and/or computationally generic. The idea is that the set of such specifically linguistic principles (UG) is very small and that in combination with the cogntively and computationally more generic principles it is possible to derive the properties of FL.
One way of implementing the MP research program is to “minimalize” a candidate theory of UG and attempt the decomposition. As I believe that GB was a pretty good broad brush stroke guestimate of what FL might look like, trying to reduce the properties of GB to a more palatable conceptual account is a good way of pursuing the Minimalist Program.
One important feature of GB (indeed of all generative theories since the mid 1950s) is the fact that Gs generate unbounded hierarchically structured syntactic objects, i.e. the fact of hierarchical recursion. One success of MP has been to discover what kind of operation achieves this (Merge) and how we can understand broad properties of Gs as by-products of this system of recursion.
This talk argues that endocentricity is a defining characteristic of syntactic expressions. I understand this to mean that classical X’ theory was roughly correct. In the context of MP, this means that labeling is a key grammatical operation. I want to argue that it is also key to understanding how recursion works in natural language grammars. The approach here contrasts with Chomsky’s recent thinking on the topic in that it treats labels as important for the derivation and not merely important for the mapping of derived structures to the CI interface. For Chomsky, labels titivate hierarchically structured objects generated by Merge. Here, they are instrumental in allowing the derivation of hierarchically structured objects at all.

May 18, 2017

Derek Denis and "eh" on CBC Calgary

Derek Denis (Ph.D. 2015, now at the University of Victoria, soon to be back at UofT) has been interviewed by CBC Calgary: "Origins of 'eh': How 2 little letters came to define Canadians"

Derek Denis, a post-doctorate fellow at the University of Victoria's linguistics department, has been studying the history of "eh" for more than five years. In his research, he has found references to the word going back well before Canadian Confederation 150 years ago.

The earliest use of the word Denis found appeared in an Irish play written in 1773. He believes "eh" travelled to Canada along with the influx in immigration. It jumped the pond and was first documented in the Thomas Chandler Haliburton book, The Clockmaker, written in 1836.

May 11, 2017

WCCFL 35 (2017)

The 35th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics was recently held at the University of Calgary (program here). Three of the four invited speakers have UofT connections:

Neil Banerjee (UofT BA, now at MIT): Trouble with attitudes and the future

Keir Moulton (UofT BA and MA, now at SFU): A Defence of (C-)Command

Elan Dresher (faculty): Contrastive Hierarchy Theory and the Nature of Features

Also from our department, a talk and a poster:

Rebecca Tollan (Ph.D.) & Will Oxford (Ph.D. 2014, now at the University of Manitoba): Voice-less unergatives: Evidence from Algonquian

Julie Goncharov (Ph.D. 2016, now at Hebrew University of Jerusalem) & Monica Irimia (Ph.D 2011, now at University of Modena and Reggio Emilia): Indexical worlds and modal comparatives

Elan Dresher giving his talk (photo by Darin Flynn, University of Calgary: link)

The Canadian Language Museum (photo by Dennis Storoshenko, University of Calgary)

May 10, 2017

Linguistics at UofT Science Rendezvous 2017

Science Rendezvous (an annual all-day nation-wide science festival) is happening on May 13th this year, and our department is participating!

From Inuktitut syllabics to sociolinguistic variables to spectrograms and ultrasounds, our team (Emily Blamire, Vidhya Elango, Ruth Maddeaux, Olivia McManus, and Katharina Pabst, led by faculty member Peter Jurgec) has developed a program to give participants a taste of our field. Check out the website here:

More information from Peter:
On Saturday, May 13, 2017, for the first time ever, the Linguistics Department at the University of Toronto will be taking part in the 10th annual Science Rendezvous.

Science Rendezvous is an educational outreach event that boasts dozens of exciting exhibits and many fun activities for attendees of all ages. The University of Toronto St George campus will be open to the public throughout the day.

At the Linguistics booth, there will be hands-on activities including ultrasound, spectrogram, a mini-sociolinguistic experiment, an Inuktitut morphology puzzle, immersive videos, wug cookies, and much more! We have an enthusiastic team of linguistics students and volunteers who have worked hard to make all this happen.

You can check out the Linguistic Department’s website for the event at
The University of Toronto Science Rendezvous page with the information about exhibits on campus is here:
The Canada-wide site is at

The event runs from 11 to 4.30, and will take place on and around St George Street between Harbord and College. The Linguistics Booth will be on the main floor of Sidney Smith Hall.

May 9, 2017

Inuktitut Language and Linguistics Workshop: May 30-31, 2017

The department is holding the Inuktitut Language and Linguistics Workshop in honour of Alana Johns on May 30th and 31st, 2017. Information (from the website):

The workshop aims is to promote dialogue between linguists and Inuit community based language specialists, with a special focus on promoting language capacity and linguistic insight through collaboration.


• Shanley Allen (University of Kaiserslautern)
• Julien Carrier (University of Toronto)
• Laura Colantoni (University of Toronto)
• Richard Compton (Université du Québec à Montréal)
• Zoe McKenzie (University of Toronto)
• Kumiko Murasugi (Carleton University)
• Signe Rix Berthelin (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)
• Marina Sherkina Lieber (Carleton University)
• Bettina Spreng (University of Saskatchewan)
• Michelle Yuan (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Panel discussions with Inuit community based language specialists

• Michael Cook (Staff, Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit)
• Joan Dicker (Inuktitut educator, Jens Haven Memorial School)
• Christine Nochasak (Inuktitut Program Specialist, Ilisautiliuvik Curriculum Centre)
• Jeela Palluq-Cloutier (Executive Director, Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit )
• Silpa Suarak Silpa Suarak (Language Program Coordinator, Dept. Culture, Recreation and Tourism, Nunatsiavut Government)
• Sarah Townley (former Director of Curriculum Centre, former head of LITP Adult language program)


• Shanley Allen (University of Kaiserslautern)
• Andrea Ceolin (University of Pennsylvania), Guido Cordoni (University of York), Cristina Guardiano (University of Modena and Reggio Emilia), Monica Alexandrina Irimia (University of Modena and Reggio Emilia), Shin-Sook Kim (University of York), Giuseppe Longobardi (University of York), Dimitris Michelioudakis (University of York), Nina Radkevich (University of York).
• Julie Doner (U of Toronto)
• Rosa Mantla (Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Board and University of Victoria), Mary Koyina Richardson(Aurora College), Leslie Saxon (University of Victoria)
• Kumiko Murasugi (Carleton University)
• Ilia Nicoll (University of Toronto)

Workshop on assessing oral proficiency in adult second language learning

• Michael Cook (Staff, Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit)
• Jeela Palluq-Cloutier (Executive Director, Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit)

• Abdel-Khalig Ali (University of Toronto)
• M. Cristina Cuervo (University of Toronto)
• Jeremy Green (Six Nations Polytechnic)

May 7, 2017

Canadian Linguistic Association 2017

This year's meeting of the Canadian Linguistic Association is being held at Ryerson University here in Toronto from May 27th to May 29th. UofT is extremely well represented; searching the schedule for "U Toronto" gives 46 results (!!), and that's not even including alumni.

I'm dividing this into three sections: current UofT linguistics, UofT linguistics alumni, and other departments at UofT.

Current UofT Linguistics

María Cristina Cuervo (faculty): Optional SE under light causative verbs

Maida Percival (Ph.D.): An ultrasound study of the implosive in Eastern Oromo

Çağrı Bilgin (MA): Accounting for dispreferred null subjects in partial null subject languages

Susana Béjar (faculty) & Arsalan Kahnemuyipour (faculty): Number matching under ellipsis: Assumed identity contexts

Alexei Kochetov (faculty): Long-distance assimilatory effects in English sibilants

Patrick Murphy (Ph.D.): I’m done my homework: Complement coercion with aspectual adjectives

Clarissa Forbes (Ph.D.): Extraction, morphosyntax and wh-agreement in Gitksan

Rebecca Tollan (Ph.D.) & Will Oxford (Ph.D. 2014, now at the University of Manitoba): Distinguishing VoiceP subjects and vP subjects in Algonquian

Ryan Decaire (faculty), Alana Johns (faculty) & Ivona Kučerová (McMaster): On optionality in Mohawk noun incorporation

Emily Blamire (U Toronto): A syntactic analysis of because x in English… because linguistics!

María Cristina Cuervo (faculty) & Sophie Harrington (Spanish & Portuguese): Experiencers, negation, and polarity mood

Darcie Blainey (post-doc): Schwa behaviour in four North American French varieties

Ziwen Tracy Tan (BA) & Naomi Nagy (faculty): VOT in heritage and Hong Kong Cantonese

Bronwyn Bjorkman (former post-doc, now at Queen's) & Peter Jurgec (faculty): Indexation to stems and words predicts long-distance morphophonological effects

Aaron Dinkin (faculty): Changing phonology, stable borders: The low back merger in northern New York

Iryna Osadcha (Ph.D.): Influence of Russian on the stress patterns of the East Sloboda dialect of Ukrainian

Kinza Mahoon (MA): Sluicing in Hindi-Urdu: Additional evidence for top copy availability

Fulang Chen (MA): Chinese truck-drivers in Distributed Morphology

Elizabeth Cowper (faculty) & Daniel Currie Hall (Ph.D. 2007, now at Saint Mary's): First-order person features and the contrastive hierarchy

Erin Hall (Ph.D.) & Ana Perez-Leroux (faculty): The problem with with: Children’s comprehension of PP embedding

Emilia Melara (Ph.D.): What the Russian subjunctive marker tells us but doesn’t say

Dan Milway (Ph.D.): ACC-ing clauses and labels

Arsalan Kahnemuyipour (faculty): Negation is low in Persian: Evidence from nominalization

Ana Teresa Pérez-Leroux (faculty), Yves Roberge (French), and Anna Frolova (French): Complexity in syntax: The case of recursive modification in French L1

Kiranpreet Nara (Ph.D.): Acoustic and electroglottographic study of native and heritage Gujarati speakers

Angelika Kiss (Ph.D.): Since when? as a question about the common ground

Julianne Doner (Ph.D.): Predicate-sensitive EPP

Virgilio Partida-Peñalva (Ph.D.): Stripping in Spanish. Focalized PP remnants

UofT Linguistics Alumni

Richard Compton (Ph.D. 2012, now at UQAM): Left-periphery φ-agreement and A-movement in Inuktitut

Julie Goncharov (Ph.D. 2016, now at Hebrew University of Jerusalem) & Monica Irimia (Ph.D 2011, now at University of Modena and Reggio Emilia): Modal comparatives: A cross-linguistic picture

Daniel Currie Hall (Ph.D. 2007, now at St. Mary's University): The contrastive scope of [±tense] in Laurentian French

Avery Ozburn (MA 2013, now at UBC): Asymmetric re-pairing in Hungarian vowel harmony

Solveiga Armoskaite (Rochester), Liisa Duncan (Ph.D. 2015, now at York) & Päivi Koskinen (MA 1992/Ph.D. 1998, now at Kwantlen Polytechnic University): Refining sound interpretation in Finnish ideophones

Will Oxford (Ph.D. 2014, now at University of Manitoba): Proximate DP, obviative KP: Balancing the morphosyntax and pragmatics of obviation

Bettina Spreng (Ph.D. 2012, now at University of Saskatchewan): The absentive: Time, person, and place deixis

Jila Ghomeshi (Ph.D. 1996, now at University of Manitoba): Ad hoc categories and syntactic juxtaposition

Other UofT Departments

Sophie Harrington (Spanish & Portuguese): I don’t believe it! TP- versus CP-ellipsis in negated Spanish epistemic constructions

Olivia Marasco (Spanish & Portuguese): L2 Spanish initial intonation cues in Y/N questions and statements: The link between perception and production

Suyeon Yun (UTSC French & Linguistics): Perceptual similarity in fricative-initial cluster adaptation

Matthew Patience (Spanish & Portuguese): Hierarchy of articulatory difficulty of Spanish sounds for L1 and L2 Spanish speakers

Anabela Rato (Spanish & Portuguese): Production of English vowels by Portuguese learners: Effect of perceptual training

Caitlin Gaffney (French), Lulu Li (French), and Jeffrey Steele (French): The effect of context on L2 speech perception difficulty: Evidence from learners of French

Olga Tararova (Spanish & Portuguese), Malina Radu (Spanish & Portuguese(, Laura Colantoni (Spanish & Portuguese), Alana Johns (faculty), Gaby Klassen (Spanish & Portuguese), and Matthew Patience (Spanish & Portuguese): Task effects in the production of English sentence-types by native Inuktitut speakers

Stephanie Côté (French): The effects of executive WM, phonological WM, and foreign language anxiety on grammatical gender agreement in L2 French

Katherine Hilary Walton (French): A-t-on besoin des études italiennes ? Une étude des distinctions et des similarités des facteurs qui mènent à l’acquisition du paramètre du sujet nul en italien et en espagnol

Olga Tararova (Spanish & Portuguese): Does the task really matter? The elicitation of negative doubling across four tasks in Chipileño Spanish

Aran Oberle (French): Influence translinguistique dans l’attrition du /l/ sombre chez les anglophones apprenants du français L2 : Effet de l’immersion dans un milieu francophone

Michelle Troberg (UTM) & Patricia Wyslobocka (UTM): Jus: A portrait of a verb particle in Medieval French

Meï-Lan Mamode (French): Acquisition de la prosodie en français langue seconde : Stratégies énonciatives chez les anglophones de niveau avancé

Mihaela Pirvulescu (French), Rena Helms-Park (UTSC), & Maria Claudia Petrescu (Ryerson): Trilingual effects at the microstructure and macrostructure levels in children’s narratives

Erin Pettibone (Spanish & Portuguese), Gabrielle Klassen (Spanish & Portuguese), and Malina Radu (Spanish & Portuguese): Interpreting ellipsis in L2 Spanish

Aurélie Takam (French): Connaissances morphologiques et développement lexical chez les enfants d’âge préscolaire en milieu multilingue

May 5, 2017

Linguistics Event #2 for Canada 150 - Photos

The department held its second (of three) linguistics events for Canada 150 on April 28th, 2017: "Toronto Language Tapestry: Exploring Heritage Languages". It was organized by Naomi Nagy, with organizational assistance was provided by: Katharina Pabst, Savannah Meslin, Darcie Blainey, Frederick Gietz, Robert Prazeres, Elaine Gold and Diane Massam.

Here are some pictures (from the event website).

Welcome to all!
Lots to discuss.
Rachel and Phil get started.
Rapt audience.
Rachel grows up bilingual.
Phil grows up monolingual.
Phil and graphs.
Tracy explains VOT.
Joanne shows stats.
Richard and Pélagie listen.
Paulina justifies HLVC method.
Darcie and Paulina listen.
Coffee break! (Brea, Savannah, Robert, Katharina, Shayna, Emily B).
Jeff & Joanne.

May 2, 2017

Leslie Saxon on 40 years of fieldwork

Leslie Saxon (MA 1979, now at the University of Victoria) writes to us reflecting on her fieldwork experiences as a student in our department, which started her on a long and productive career with linguistics and Aboriginal languages in particular.
Today [May 1st, 2017] is the 40th anniversary of my first research trip to the NWT as Keren’s Rice’s research assistant. I am a linguistics prof now because of that time with Keren and colleagues in Yellowknife, Fort Good Hope, Colville Lake, Norman Wells, Delı̨nę (then Fort Franklin), and Behchokǫ̀ (then Rae-Edzo). Thank you to Keren, Elizabeth, Jack, and all of the amazing staff and students of the U of T Linguistics department when I was there, and to all of the many language specialists in the NWT who went out of their way to support my learning of Dene languages and linguistics.
Thanks for this Leslie, and if anyone else has thoughts or memories from the department back in the day, please send them! (utlinguistics [at] gmail [dot] com)