May 31, 2018

2017-18 Dresher Prize and Cowper Prize winners

The 2017-18 Elizabeth Cowper Syntax Prize for outstanding work in a graduate syntax seminar has been awarded to Andrew Peters for his paper "Mandarin de in the nominal and verbal domains".

The 2017-18 Dresher Phonology Prize for outstanding work in a graduate phonology seminar has been awarded to Fiona Wilson for her paper "Hiatus resolution cross-linguistically:  A harmonic serialism approach".

Congratulations to both of you!

May 22, 2018

The Canadian origins of HAL 9000

This year is the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, featuring the iconic HAL 9000, a computer (specifically an artificial general intelligence) that Gerry Flahive describes as "perhaps the most memorable non-animal character in the history of cinema" in his article on HAL's speech and origins.

If no geographic features stood out to you in HAL's speech, that was the intention. After considering actor Martin Balsam, who has a mild Bronx accent, Kubrick decided on Canadian actor Douglas Rain. Jack Chambers explains in Flahive's article: "you have to have a computer that sounds like he’s from nowhere, or, rather, from no specific place". Raised diphthongs notwithstanding, Canadian English is a good candidate for this, at least in a North American context. Jack:
“Standard Canadian English sounds ‘normal' –the vowels are in the right place, the consonants are in the right place, it covers a large piece of ground. That’s why Canadians are well received in the United States as newscasters, as anchormen and reporters, because the vowels don’t give away the region they come from. It’s entirely wrong to describe Rain’s voice as ‘mid-Atlantic’–the Canadian accent has almost no trace of Britishness.”

May 16, 2018

Catching up with old friends

Saradindu Guha dropped into the department on Tuesday. Saradindu was our administrative assistant from 1990 until 1999, when he retired at 65. Now 85, he was downtown sorting out his visa for a trip to China and Japan. A remarkable man with a remarkable memory, he greeted everyone by name, inquired about spouses and partners by their names, and talked about numerous old colleagues and students. (He asked about the progress of an “affair” between two grad students. No progress— he disappeared, and she married someone else and has a university-age son.) Saradindu has a Ph.D in chemistry, and he continues his 40-year sideline of translating scientific articles from Russian into English.  Mary Hsu took this photo of Saradindu with Keren and Jack.

May 15, 2018

LVC field trip: Oral histories in Parry Sound, Ontario

The first Language Variation and Change CRC-sponsored field trip team have been doing oral histories in Parry Sound, Ontario for the past week. We have talked to 45 people and documented their stories. We are finding many interesting linguistic features in the data! In rare moments like the one portrayed in this picture, they get a chance to wind down in the local scene.

(LtoR): Kinza Mahoon, Lisa Schlegl, Tim Gadanidis, Fiona Wilson, Andrei Munteanu, Jean-François Juneau.

May 14, 2018

41st Generative Linguistics in the Old World (GLOW)

U of T was well represented at GLOW in Budapest in April:

Left to right: Monica Irimia, Ph.D. 2014, now at University of Modena and Reggio Emilia; Elizabeth Cowper, Professor Emeritus; Avery Ozburn, M.A. 2014, now at UBC; Naomi Francis, MA 2014, now at MIT; Julianne Doner, Ph.D. student. Also participating but not pictured: Daniel Currie Hall, Ph.D. 2007, now at Saint Mary's University

May 12, 2018

11th annual Science Rendezvous

On Saturday, May 12, 2018, the Linguistics Department at the University of Toronto will be taking part in the 11th 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, button making, 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, and will take place on and around St George Street between Harbord and College. The Linguistics Booth will be at the Bahen Center for Information Technology Atrium BA1140.

Hope to see you there!

May 2, 2018


The 6th annual Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Hamilton workshop on syntax (MOTH 6) was recently held at McGill. Presenters from UofT:

Virgilio Partida Peñalva (PhD): Multiple PP-remnants in Spanish Pseudostripping: The interaction between NP- and TP-ellipsis

Kinza Mahoon (PhD): Structure of ezafe in Urdu – a compounding approach

Fiona Wilson (PhD): The amn’t gap in Scottish English

Jean-François Juneau (PhD): On the Old and Modern Georgian Suffixaufnahme in Possessive Noun Phrases

Andrew Peters (PhD): Form and Function: Mandarin de in the Nominal and Verbal Domains

Sahar Taghipour (PhD): On Definite Marking in Laki

Nadia Nacif (UofT French): Restrictive and non-restrictive adjectives in Romance languages: Portuguese and Spanish evidence

(LtoR) Back: Virgilio Partida Peñalva, Jean-François Juneau, Koorosh Ariyaee, Sahar Taghipour, Arsalan Kahnemuyipour. Front: Fiona Wilson, Kinza Mahoon, Andrew Peters, Nadia Nacif.

May 1, 2018

48th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (LSRL 48)

The 48th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (LSRL 48) was recently held at York University. Some of the presentations associated with UofT:

Ana Teresa Pérez-Leroux (faculty): A Child’s View of Romance Modification

Gavin Antonio Bembridge (York University) & Andrew Peters (PhD): Who, or where are ‘you’ to me? Formality as distance in Romance and beyond

Suzi Lima (UofT faculty/UFRJ) & Cristiane Oliveira (UFRJ): Value and quantity in the evaluation of bare singulars in Brazilian Portuguese

Sophia Bello (UofT French): Does null mean something to you? Children’s missing objects and what it all means

Jacob Aziz (Western), Vanina Machado (UofT Spanish&Portuguese), Yasaman Rafat (Western), Rajiv Rao (University of Wisconsin, Madison) & Ryan Stevenson (Western): Investigating the sources of nuclear intonation in Argentinian-Canadian heritage speakers of Spanish: Evidence of parental and English influences,

Juliane Doner (PhD) & Çağrı Bilgin (MA 2017): Same Extended Projection Principle, Different Null Subject Language

Hilary Walton (UofT French): The influence of the presence of orthography on the production of a novel vowel contrast by Anglophone learners of French