May 20, 2019

REP course in Brazil

Octavia Andrade-Dixon (BA), Greg Antono (BA), Guilherme Teruya (BA), Rildo Dias (faculty, Universidade Estadual de Roraima), Suzi Lima (faculty), Carlos Borges (faculty, Universidade Estadual de Roraima), and Isabella Coutinho (faculty, Universidade Estadual de Roraima)

Suzi Lima (faculty) is currently leading a REP (Research Excursion Program) course, 'Brazilian Indigenous Languages: Documentation, Language Maintenance, and Revitalization', in Boa Vista, Roraima, Brazil. The enrolled undergraduate students are receiving hands-on training in language documentation (working on indigenous languages of Roraima) and collaborative research under the direction of Suzi and colleagues at the Universidade Estadual de Roraima (UERR). Check out their blog to learn more about their adventures!

May 19, 2019

27th Manchester Phonology Meeting

The 27th Manchester Phonology Meeting is taking place at the University of Manchester, England, from May 23 through 25. Current department members and alumni presenting are:

Elan Dresher (faculty) and Iryna Osadcha (Ph.D. 2018):
"Mobile lexical parentheses in metrical grids."

Aleksei Nazarov (faculty):
"Formalizing the connection between opaque and exceptionful generalizations."

Heather Yawney (Ph.D.):
"Derived environment effect of the velar and uvular voicing restriction in Kazakh."

Nicholas Rolle (MA 2010, now at Princeton University):
"The scope of dominant grammatical tone in Izon."

Shay Hucklebridge (MA 2016, now at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst):
"Slave coalescence as gradual coda reduction."

There is also an associated pedagogy workshop, 'Teaching Phonology: The State of the Art', taking place on the 22nd. Christina Bjorndahl (MA 2008, now at Carnegie Mellon University) and colleague Mark Gibson (Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona) are presenting "Laboratory phonology in the classroom."

May 18, 2019

Congratulations, Barend!

Congratulations to Barend Beekhuizen (faculty), who is the recipient of a Connaught New Researcher Award for 2019-2020 from the U of T's Connaught Fund!

May 17, 2019


The tenth annual Southern California Undergraduate Linguistics Conference (SCULC 10) is taking place at the University of California, Los Angeles, on May 18. Several of our undergraduates will be presenting!

Kristen Wing Yan Wong (BA):
"Sound symbolism of gender in Cantonese first names."

Andrea Michelle Leung (BA):
"The effect of visual integration of pitch contour in Mandarin tone perception."

Stephanie Deschamps (BA) and Shanthos Thirunavukkarasu (BA):
"Cross-modal noise compensation in audiovisual words."

May 16, 2019

Parameters Workshop in Honour of Lisa Travis

The Department of Linguistics at McGill University is holding a workshop on May 17 and 18 on the theme of syntactic parameters in order to celebrate faculty member Lisa Travis, who is retiring at the end of this academic year.

Julianne Doner (Ph.D.) is presenting:
"How to organize parameters: Accounting for alternations in EPP type

Yining Nie (MA 2015, now at New York University) is also presenting:
"Applicatives and the parameters of promotion."

May 15, 2019

Chicago Linguistic Society 2019

The 55th annual meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society is meeting at the University of Chicago from May 16 through 18.

Aleksei Nazarov (faculty) and Shay Hucklebridge (MA 2016, now at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst) are both part of a large group project with their University of Massachusetts, Amherst colleagues Brandon Prickett, Kaden Holladay, Rajesh Bhatt, Gaja Jarosz, Kyle Johnson, and Joe Pater: "Learning syntactic parameters gradually and without triggers."

May 14, 2019

Research Groups: Week of May 13-17

Wednesday, May 15, 11:00 AM-1:00 PM in SS 560A
Syntax Group
1. Julianne Doner (Ph.D.): "How to organize parameters: Accounting for alternations in EPP type."
2. Arsalan Kahnemuyipour (faculty) and Sahar Taghipour (Ph.D.): "Hybrid alignment in Laki agreement."

May 10, 2019


The 50th meeting of the Associação Brasileira de Linguística (ABRALIN 50) took place from May 2 through 9 in Maceió, Brazil. Suzi Lima (faculty) gave a talk: "Oficinas de linguística em comunidades indígenas e pesquisa colaborativa" at the special session 'Languages and peoples threatened: Political impacts of linguistic work' organized by Bruna Franchetto (UFRJ/Museu Nacional). She also co-organized the session 'Complex structures in Brazilian languages' along with Tonjes Veenstra (ZAS). (Photos, video, and captions courtesy of Suzi.)

Participants in the symposium 'Complex structures in Brazilian languages'.

Participants in the symposium 'Languages and peoples threatened: Political impacts of linguistic work'.

Brazilian languages specialists: Kris Stenzel (UFRJ), Ana Vilacy Galucio (Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi), Suzi Lima (faculty), Mara Santos (UNIFAP), Bruna Franchetto (UFRJ/Museu Nacional), Denny Moore (Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi), and Luciana Storto (USP).

Suzi celebrated her birthday with her colleagues in Brazil and reports that she had a fabulous time!

May 9, 2019


The 24th Workshop on the Structure and Constituency of the Languages of the Americas is taking place from May 9 through 11 at the University of Maryland. We are represented by presentations by one faculty member and a number of alumni, all on different indigenous languages of North and South America.

Guillaume Thomas (faculty):
"Switch-reference and discourse anaphora."

Will Oxford (Ph.D. 2014, now at the University of Manitoba)
"The Algonquian inverse: What’s voice got to do with it?"

Michael Barrie (Ph.D. 2006, now at Sogang University)
"Cayuga and Contiguity Theory: The role of default agreement."

Shay Hucklebridge (MA 2016, now at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst):
"Associative plural in two Northern Dene languages."

Michelle Yuan (MA 2013, now at the University of Chicago):
"The morphosyntax of participle-incorporating existentials in Inuktitut."

May 8, 2019

U of T Science Rendezvous 2019

We're very happy to be returning to the annual U of T Science Rendezvous, which this year is taking place on Saturday, May 11 on St. George Street between Harbord and College. Celebrated in dozens of places across the country at once, Science Rendezvous is an all-day science festival for people of all ages, aimed at generating enthusiasm for science and promoting university enrollment in related subjects. We will once again have a booth: come check out what your mouth is doing when you're speaking, learn words from dozens of languages spoken in Canada, and maybe even take home a personalized souvenir!

May 7, 2019


Generative Linguistics in the Old World (GLOW) 42 is taking place from May 7 through 11 at the University of Oslo in Norway. Several current and previous graduate students are presenting posters:

Jessica Denniss (Ph.D.):
"Ngarinyman resultatives."

Paulina Lyskawa (MA 2015, now at the University of Maryland) and colleague Rodrigo Ranero (University of Maryland):
"A Mayan diagnostic for the unergative vs. unaccusative distinction."

Monica Irimia (Ph.D. 2011, now at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia):
"Varieties of structural objects and multiple licensing."

Monica and colleague Patricia Schneider-Zioga (CSU Fullerton):
"Partitive case and abstract licensing: Sociative causation in Kinande."

May 6, 2019

Research Groups: Week of May 6-10

Wednesday, May 8, 11:00 AM-1:00 PM in SS 560A
Syntax Group
Sahar Taghipour (Ph.D.): "Definiteness in Laki: Its contributions to DP structure."

May 5, 2019

Guest speaker: Dan Jurafsky (Stanford University)

The Vector Institute Machine Learning Advances and Applications Seminar series is pleased to welcome Dan Jurafsky (Stanford University), who works on language processing, computational linguistics, and language in specific contexts. His talk, "'Does this vehicle belong to you?': Computational extraction of social meaning from language", will be taking place on Thursday, May 9, from 12 PM to 2 PM, in room 1160 of the Bahen Centre.

Police body-worn cameras have the potential to play an important role in understanding and improving police-community relations. In this talk I describe a series of studies conducted by our large interdisciplinary team at Stanford that use speech and natural language processing on body-camera recordings to model the interactions between police officers and community members in traffic stops. We draw on linguistic models of dialogue structure and of interpersonal relations like respect to automatically quantify aspects of the interaction from the text and audio. I describe the differences we find in the language directed toward black versus white community members, and offer suggestions for how these findings can be used to help improve the relations between police officers and the communities they serve. I'll also cover a number of our results on using computational methods to uncover historical societal biases, and detect framing, agenda-setting and political polarization in the media. Together, these studies highlight how natural language processing can help us interpret latent social content behind the words we use.

May 4, 2019

New paper: Denis, Gardner, Brook, and Tagliamonte (2019)

Derek Denis (faculty), Matt Hunt Gardner (Ph.D. 2017, now at St. Mary's University), Marisa Brook (faculty), and Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty) have a new paper out in Language Variation and Change, 31(1): "Peaks and arrowheads of vernacular reorganization."

A key component of Labov's (2001:411) socially motivated projection model of language change is the hypothesis that adolescents and preadolescents undergo a process of vernacular reorganization, which leads to a "seamless" progression of changes in progress. Between the ages of approximately five and 17, children and adolescents increase the "frequency, extent, scope, or specificity" of changes in progress along the community trajectory (Labov 2007:346). Evidence of advancement via vernacular reorganization during this life stage has come from peaks in the apparent-time trajectory of a change around the age of 17 (e.g., Labov 2001, Tagliamonte and D'Arcy 2009). However, such peaks do not rule out the alternative explanations of retrograde change or age-grading. This paper presents both apparent time and real-time evidence for vernacular reorganization. We observe the arrowhead formation – a counterpart of the adolescent peak – for quotative be like in a trend study of adolescents and young adults in Toronto, Canada. Our results rule out the alternative explanations for previously observed adolescent peaks.

May 3, 2019

Congratulations, Naomi!

Congratulations to Naomi Nagy (faculty), who has been promoted to Full Professor! Well-deserved after a decade of enthusiastic teaching/mentorship and high-powered research into heritage languages of Toronto and more!

May 2, 2019

Guest speaker: Jenny Saffran (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

The Department of Psychology at the Mississauga campus is pleased to welcome Jenny Saffran (University of Wisconsin, Madison), who is renowned for her extensive work on L1 acquisition, as  well as the broader relationships between language, cognition, and music. Her talk, "Acquiring and predicting structure via statistical learning," will be taking place on Monday, May 6, from 12 PM to 2 PM in DV 3130.

May 1, 2019

Congratulations, Elaine!

Congratulations to Elaine Gold (faculty), who has been selected as this year's recipient of the National Achievement Award from the Canadian Linguistic Association! The award will be presented to Elaine on Sunday, June 2, at this year's CLA meeting in Vancouver, B.C. Elaine will also be giving a plenary talk about her work. CLA President Wladyslaw Cichocki describes Elaine's accomplishments as follows:

Dr. Elaine Gold has demonstrated exceptional effectiveness in communication and knowledge transfer about language and linguistics. Her work with the Canadian Language Museum has reached communities across Canada, both within and beyond the university context. Dr. Gold holds an MA in the History of Art and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Toronto. Until her retirement in 2017, she held teaching positions at Queen’s University and at the University of Toronto, where she served as Undergraduate Coordinator and Lecturer in Linguistics. Her teaching covered a wide range of topics, and her scholarly output has contributed a distinctly Canadian focus in areas such as sociolinguistics, aspect and loanwords in Yiddish, Indigenous Englishes, and Canadian English. She has made notable contributions to the now-flourishing research area of Canadian 'eh' and to the study of aspect in Bungi, a Scots English/Cree creole that arose during the fur trade. Dr. Gold’s most important contribution to linguistics in the public realm has been as founder, in 2011, and executive director of the Canadian Language Museum (CLM) ( This unique institution has achieved a great deal for the outreach of linguistics into communities across Canada. In her work, Dr. Gold has been able to identify areas of research on languages in Canada that are of relevance to the wider public, to select researchers active in these areas, to oversee the development of itinerant museum exhibits on the relevant topics, and to manage their circulation across the country. Dr. Gold routinely recruits and mentors students from the University of Toronto’s Master of Museum Studies program, who create and curate each exhibit as part of their graduating-year Exhibitions course. The CLM’s exhibits showcase and celebrate the diversity of Canadian English, of French in Canada as well as the many Indigenous and heritage languages spoken in Canada. The latest exhibit, Beyond Words: Dictionaries and Indigenous Languages, is occasioned by the United Nations’ proclamation of 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. The CLM travelling exhibits have had extensive geographic coverage, criss-crossing the country from Victoria to St. John’s. These exhibits have been displayed on nearly 100 occasions to date in diverse venues, including universities, schools, public libraries, community centres, government buildings, museums, historic sites, even hospitals. Museum exhibits have been featured at academic conferences and at large international events, for instance as part of the Aboriginal Pavilion at the 2015 Pan American Games and at the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education (Toronto, 2017). In 2016, Dr. Gold’s vision and advocacy resulted in the establishment of a permanent home and exhibit space for the Museum at the Glendon Gallery (Glendon Campus of York University, Toronto). Beyond this permanent location, the CLM continues to function as a virtual museum with a substantive social media presence. In 2018, it launched its first digital (web-based) exhibit, Échos de la mosaïque/Messages from the Mosaic, and produced an original documentary, Two Row Wampum: Preserving Indigenous Languages in Toronto, that can be viewed on the CLM website. In summary, Dr. Gold has set a stellar example of what it means to be a 'public scholar' in our discipline. Her work on the CLM has reached non-academic audiences, and it has engaged the general public around issues of language and linguistics in a manner that is accessible and informative. The Canadian Linguistic Association is delighted to recognize this great service by awarding Dr. Gold our National Achievement Award for 2019.

April 30, 2019

New paper: Steele, Colantoni, and Kochetov (2019)

Jeffrey Steele (faculty, Department of French), Laura Colantoni (faculty, Department of Spanish and Portuguese), and Alexei Kochetov (faculty) have a paper out in the Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 49(1): "Gradient assimilation in French cross-word /n/+velar stop sequences."

Articulatory studies have revealed cross-linguistic variation in the realization of cross-word nasal+stop sequences. Whereas languages such as Italian and Spanish show largely categorical regressive place assimilation (Kochetov and Colantoni 2011, Celata et al. 2013), English and German alveolar nasals are often characterized by gradient assimilation, modulated by the degree of overlap with the following gesture (Barry 1991, Ellis and Hardcastle 2002, Jaeger and Hoole 2011). The lack of comparable instrumental studies for French may be due to the common assumption that the language lacks nasal place assimilation in general. We investigate here the production of French /n/+/k ɡ/ sequences via electropalatography. Four female speakers of European and Quebecois French wearing custom 62-electrode acrylic palates read the sentences C'est une bonne casquette ‘That's a good cap’ and C'est une bonne galette ‘That's a good tart/cookie’ alongside comparable control sentences involving /n/+/t d/ sequences. For each sequence, assimilation type was determined both qualitatively via visual inspection of the linguopalatal profiles and quantitatively using two contact indices. None of the /n/-tokens exhibited either categorical assimilation (i.e. [ŋk]) or lack of assimilation (i.e. [n(ə)k]). Rather, an intermediate pattern was attested with the nasal involving overlapped coronal and velar gestures ([nn͡ŋ]) and continuous retraction of the constriction. The degree of overlap varied among speakers, extending up to half of the nasal interval. Overall, these French patterns are strikingly different from the categorical processes reported for other Romance languages, yet similar to the gradient assimilation attested in Germanic languages. We conclude by discussing possible sources of these differences.

April 29, 2019

Research Groups: Week of April 29-May 3

Tuesday, April 30, 3:00 PM-4:30 PM in SS 1078
Phonology Research Group
Sara Mackenzie (Ph.D. 2009, now at Memorial University of Newfoundland): "Restricted structure preservation in Stratal Optimality Theory."
This talk investigates the role of structure preservation within the framework of Stratal Optimality Theory (e.g. Kiparsky 2000) through an analysis of German dorsal fricative assimilation. The principle of structure preservation (e.g. Kiparsky 1985) prohibits the creation of allophones during the course of operations in the lexical phonology. Although structure preservation has largely been rejected within Optimality Theory, previous work has shown that processes which are both neutralizing and non-structure-preserving result in a ranking paradox in a single, parallel OT evaluation (e.g. Krämer 2006). This has been presented as an argument that such processes must apply at the word or phrase level in a Stratal model of OT (Bermúdez-Otero 2007, Mackenzie 2016). The lexical phonology literature, however, includes numerous cases of purely allophonic processes that appear to apply early in the lexical phonology (e.g. Harris 1990). This talk considers German dorsal fricative assimilation as one such case. In German, [x] and [ç] are in complementary distribution with [x] occurring after back vowels and [ç] occurring elsewhere. The back variant of the fricative does not occur when a morpheme boundary intervenes between the fricative and a preceding back vowel, resulting in well-known surface contrasts such as [kuxən] 'cake', [ku-çən] 'little cow'. These data have been argued to provide a counterexample to structure preservation as they require the allophonic process to occur early in the lexical phonology (e.g. Hall 1989). If assimilation is motivated by constraints which penalize marked feature sequences, a ranking paradox similar to that demonstrated in analyses of neutralizing and non-structure-preserving processes arises. Instead, this talk argues that purely allophonic processes occurring at the earliest lexical level are motivated by constraints which require rich output specifications. This approach is integrated with a model of contrastive specifications in which a hierarchy of featural faithfulness constraints maps the rich base to contrastively specified outputs (e.g. Dresher 2009).

April 28, 2019

Sali in the Trinity College Alumni Magazine

The Trinity Alumni Magazine has a new feature on Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty) and her 2016 book Teen Talk: The Language of Adolescents. Check it out here!

April 27, 2019

MOTH 2019

The 2019 Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Hamilton Syntax Workshop is taking place at Carleton University on April 27 and 28. We have a lot of graduate students presenting!

Jean-François Juneau (Ph.D.) and Kinza Mahoon (Ph.D.):
"A case of upward Agree: A new analysis of Georgian NP ellipsis and suffix-stacking."

Alec Kienzle (Ph.D.):
"Voice and implicit arguments in Hebrew deverbal nominalizations."

Kinza Mahoon (Ph.D.):
"Participle modification and pluractionality in Hindi-Urdu: An argument for more structure."

Xiaochuan Qin (MA):
"Paths and place: Spatial adpositions in Mandarin Chinese."

Lisa Schlegl (Ph.D.):
"Problematizing the categorization of deverbal nominals: Evidence from Malay."

Sahar Taghipour (Ph.D.):
"Laki definite and number marking: A feature-based account."

April 26, 2019

Congratulations, Amos!

A very fond farewell to Amos Key (faculty), who has accepted the new role of Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement at Brock University. This position is aimed at fostering ties between the university and Indigenous groups and individuals, and promoting engagement and awareness of Indigenous viewpoints, Indigenous rights, Indigenous languages, and ongoing settler-Indigenous relations on the Brock campus and beyond. We're absolutely delighted for you, Professor Key, and for Brock as well. All the best from all of us with your new position!

April 25, 2019

Congratulations, Dan!

Dan Milway successfully defended his doctoral dissertation, "Explaining the resultative parameter," on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. On the committee were Elizabeth Cowper (supervisor), Michela Ippolito, Diane Massam, Susana Béjar, Nick LaCara, and external examiner Norbert Hornstein (University of Maryland). Congratulations, Dr. Milway!

Susana, Nick, Michela, Elizabeth, Dan, Diane, and Norbert. (Photo by Jennifer McCallum.)

April 24, 2019

Research Groups: Week of April 22-26

Wednesday, April 24, 2:00 PM-4:00 PM in SS1078
Syntax Group
Dry-runs for MOTH in Ottawa this weekend.

Friday, April 26, 10:00 AM-11:30 AM, in SS 4043
Psycholinguistics Group
Zhanao Fu (visiting scholar): Practice talk for ASA: "Shift of pitch's short-term memory."

Friday, April 26, 10:00 AM-11:30 AM
Language Variation and Change Research Group
Group discussion of distinctive regionalisms in Canadian English vocabulary.

April 23, 2019

Second Experimental Portuguese Linguistics Workshop

Our department and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese are hosting the Second Experimental Portuguese Linguistics Workshop at Victoria College on Friday, April 26. The event brings together researchers from Portugal, Brazil, the United States, Canada, and more. U of T folks presenting are from a variety of departments, including ours:

Gitanna Brito Bezerra (postdoc):
"The influence of referentiality, definiteness, and 'preposition+determiner' contraction relative clause processing."

Anabela Rato (faculty, Department of Spanish and Portuguese) Owen Ward (Ph.D., Department of Spanish and Portuguese):
"Predicting difficulty in the perception of non-native consonants: The role of cross-linguistic perceptual similarity."

Natalia Rinaldi (Ph.D., Department of French):
"Weak or strong necessity: On deontic modals in Brazilian and European Portuguese."

April 22, 2019

Nathan in the Innis Herald

Nathan Sanders (faculty) is in the Innis Herald discussing how he came to linguistics, how our field straddles the creative/humanistic and the scientific/logical, and why the gap between these is something of an illusion.

April 17, 2019

Congratulations, Na-Young!

Congratulations to Na-Young Ryu (Ph.D.), who has accepted a teaching-stream position as an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Asian Studies at Pennsylvania State University! Na-Young, we are absolutely delighted; you've more than earned it. We'll miss you around here, but we're also so happy to know that Penn State gets to benefit from your many strengths.

April 16, 2019

Guest speaker: Terry Regier (University of California, Berkeley)

The Computational Linguistics group of the Department of Computer Science is pleased to welcome Terry Regier, a Professor of Linguistics and Cognitive Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He works on language and cognition, particularly with respect to meaning and categorization. His talk, "Semantic typology and the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis in computational perspective", will be taking place from 1:30 PM to 3:00 PM in PT266 (i.e. the ordinary time and place for the Computational Linguistics Group).

Why do languages have the semantic categories they do, and what do those categories reveal about cognition and communication? Word meanings vary widely across languages, but this variation is constrained. I will argue that this pattern reflects a range of language-specific solutions to a universal functional challenge: that of efficient communication – that is, communicating precisely while using minimal cognitive resources. I will present a general computational framework that instantiates this idea, and will show how that framework accounts for cross-language variation in several semantic domains. I will then address the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis - the claim that such language-specific categories in turn shape cognition. I will argue that viewing this hypothesis through the lens of probabilistic inference has the potential to resolve two sources of controversy: the challenge this hypothesis apparently poses to the widespread assumption of a universal groundwork for cognition, and the fact that some findings supporting the hypothesis do not always replicate reliably.

April 15, 2019

Guest speaker: Dagmar Jung

The Fieldwork Group is pleased to welcome Dagmar Jung, a senior researcher at the University of Zurich. She has been working on the documentation of endangered languages in North America, particularly of the Dené sub-family, for more than two decades. Her talk, "Integrating first language acquisition into language documentation in the field", will be taking place on Wednesday, April 17, at 10:00 AM, in SS 1078.

April 14, 2019

Research Groups: Week of April 15-19

Note that there are no group meetings this Friday because of the long weekend.

Tuesday, April 16, 1:30 PM - 3:30 PM, PT266
Computational Linguistics Group, Department of Computer Science
Bai Li (M.Sc., Department of Computer Science): "Automatic detection of dementia in Mandarin Chinese."
Machine learning methods have recently shown promising results for detecting Alzheimer's disease through speech. In this talk, I will describe my master's research in detecting dementia in multiple languages. This task is challenging because of the scarcity of datasets, thus transfer learning and domain adaptation is crucial to make best use of limited data. I will talk about the challenges of applying transfer learning methods across different languages, and present a novel method of transfer learning by leveraging a large multilingual corpus of movie subtitles.

April 13, 2019


The Second North American Conference in Iranian Linguistics (NACIL 2) is being held at the University of Arizona from April 19th through 21st. As we are developing a specialty for Iranian linguistics, we are well-represented on the program. (Note: since the United States currently does not permit those with only Iranian citizenship to enter the country, several of our departmental members will be presenting their work via Skype.)

Arsalan Kahnemuyipour (faculty) is giving one of the keynote speeches:
"The CP-vP parallelism: Evidence from (some) Iranian languages."

Sahar Taghipour (Ph.D.):
"Laki definiteness and demonstratives: Anaphoric versus deictic."

Koorosh Ariyaee (Ph.D.):
"Exceptions of pre-nasal vowel raising in spoken Persian: An indexed constraint approach."

Breanna Pratley (BA):
"The importance of methodological choices in the typology of uncommon phenomena: A Gilaki case study."

Jila Ghomeshi (Ph.D. 1996, now at the University of Manitoba):
"Relative temporal clauses."

Also worth noting is that Andrew Carnie (BA 1991, now at the University of Arizona), as a local Dean of the Graduate College, will be assisting with the welcome.

April 12, 2019

Exhibit at OISE on the linguistic landscapes of Toronto

The Department of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning at OISE, in conjunction with the U of T School of Cities, is hosting an exhibit: 'Linguascaping Toronto', about the linguistic landscapes of the city. This will be taking place on Monday, April 15, from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM, in the Nexus Lounge on the 12th floor of the OISE building.

April 11, 2019


Two of our students are presenting talks at this year's Great Lakes Expo for Experimental and Formal Undergraduate Linguistics (GLEEFUL), held annually at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. Way to go, both of you!

Gregory Antono (BA): "Más allá del supermercado: Language attitudes of Chinese-Argentine youth."

Lena Donald (BA): "Attitudes on multilingualism in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)."

April 10, 2019

Research Groups: Friday, April 12

Note that there is no meeting of the Syntax Group this week.

10:00 AM-11:30 AM, SS 4043
Psycholinguistics Research Group
Guest speaker: Lindsay Hracs (visiting scholar, Department of Computer Science) "The acquisition of 'only' from the perspective of naturalistic and laboratory stimuli."
Acquiring focus sensitive particles such as only is a learning problem that spans multiple linguistic interfaces. In order to fully interpret sentences such as 'Only Patrick eats sushi', children must draw on aspects of phonology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Laboratory studies (Crain et al. 1994, Paterson et al. 2003, Paterson et al. 2006, Notley et al. 2009, Kim 2011, among others) show that children have difficulty with such sentences until rather late in development, i.e. 8 years. However, explanatory factors vary considerably from study to study. I argue that modelling methodologies are appropriate for studying this learning problem because they allow for manipulation of cues from different linguistic interfaces in a way that laboratory studies do not. Finally, I present data from a corpus study of child-directed and child-produced speech that show children and caregivers both exhibit similar behavioural changes across development, and that co-occurrences in the corpus suggest children are not exposed to the sentences used as stimuli in the laboratory studies as frequently as previously thought.

1:00 PM - 2:30 PM, SS 560A
Semantics Research Group
Michela Ippolito (faculty) on joint work with Donka Farkas (University of California, Santa Cruz): "Epistemic stance without epistemic modals: The case of the presumptive future."
I will discuss sentences with occurrences of the future tense that are not interpreted temporally but signal a weakened commitment to the prejacent proposition. The talk will focus on Italian but the presumptive future is present in most Romance languages, as well as many languages outside this language family (e.g. Dutch, Greek, etc.). The particular goal of this work is to provide an appropriate semantics for sentences containing this kind of future. To do so, we will compare the presumptive/epistemic future to standard epistemic modals in the language and we will discuss the presumptive future in declarative as well as in interrogative sentences. The more general goal is to contribute to our understanding of the many ways in which natural language can express ‘modulated’ commitment, and the different kinds of ‘epistemic softeners’ a language can employ.

April 9, 2019

Jack's final linguistics lecture

We have reached the end of an era: Emeritus Professor Jack Chambers has decided to retire from teaching his beloved fourth-year undergraduate sociolinguistics seminar (LIN451: Urban Dialectology). Now eighty, Jack has been a part of our department for nearly fifty years; he joined us in 1970, and has often served as de facto department historian for much of the time since. (Photos by Sali and Naomi.)

His final lecture for our department took place on Thursday, April 4. Surprise guests were fellow faculty members Sali A. Tagliamonte, Suzi Lima, Yoonjung Kang, Naomi Nagy (with partner Craig), and Keren Rice (Ph.D. 1976, supervised by Jack himself).

At the end of class, to a standing ovation, undergraduate Huberta and the other students gave Jack a beautiful bouquet (though they had to wait until Carlo had finished asking a critical question!).

Jack has hinted, tantalizingly, that he may well do some additional teaching at the U of T in the future, albeit not in our department. Stay tuned to find out what he's up to next!

April 8, 2019

Lunch for graduating seniors

On Wednesday, April 3, we held a catered lunch in the lounge to celebrate our undergraduate students completing either a specialist or a major in our department. This semester, we are about to proudly launch 114 new alumni out into the world: 15 specializing, 65 majoring, and 34 minoring in linguistics. (Photos by Naomi Nagy and Deem Waham.) Thanks to Deem, to the faculty who helped celebrate, and to everyone who joined us!

Undergraduate Coordinator Naomi Nagy (faculty) congratulates the attendees.


Faculty, very ready to celebrate the students!


Intense discussion with the Department Chair.

Linguistics is funny!

One of the cakes even came with a tiny diploma...just for you.

All our best to all our graduates!

April 7, 2019

Ngarinyman to English Dictionary

The Ngarinyman to English Dictionary is to be released in July 2019 by Aboriginal Studies Press. This project has been a major collaborative endeavour; it has involved Ngarinyman people from several different communities, linguists, an anthropologist, and an ethnobiologist.

Ngarinyman is an Aboriginal language of the northern Victoria River District in the Northern Territory (Australia). Many Ngarinyman people live in Yarralin, Bulla Camp, Amanbidji (Kildurk) and around Timber Creek. The Ngarinyman to English Dictionary contains Ngarinyman words with English translations, illustrations and detailed encyclopaedic information about plants, animals and cultural practices. Also included is a guide to Ngarinyman grammar and an English index. This volume is ideal for both beginners and advanced speakers of Ngarinyman, for translators and interpreters, and for anyone interested in learning more about Ngarinyman language and culture. The Ngarinyman to English Dictionary is a part of the AIATSIS Indigenous Language Preservation: Dictionaries Project. This project is a response to the alarming rates of language loss in Australia, and aims to support the publication of Indigenous languages dictionaries. A dictionary contributes to language maintenance, supporting written texts of all genres including important literacy development resources. Dictionaries are a valuable addition to the tool kit of language learners, educators, interpreters and translators. The Dictionaries Project will produce a number of much-needed, high-quality dictionaries of Indigenous languages, which will contribute to community efforts to revitalise and strengthen their languages.

Among the four compilers was our own Jessica Denniss (Ph.D.). In conjunction with the work, Jessica also recently gave the keynote lecture at TULCON: "The mutual value of linguistic work with Indigenous communities: A perspective from Ngarinyman (Australia)." Congratulations to Jessica and to everyone else involved with this milestone!

April 6, 2019

New paper: Rupp and Tagliamonte (2019)

Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty) and recent visiting scholar Laura Rupp (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) have a paper out in English Language & Linguistics, 23(1): "This here town: evidence for the development of the English determiner system from a vernacular demonstrative construction in York English."

The English variety spoken in York provides a unique opportunity to study the evolution of the English determiner system as proposed in the Definiteness Cycle (Lyons 1999). York English has three vernacular determiners that appear to represent different stages in the cycle: the zero article, reduced determiners and complex demonstratives of the type this here NP (Rupp 2007; Tagliamonte & Roeder 2009). Here, we probe the emergence and function of demonstratives in the cycle from the joint perspective of language variation and change, historical linguistics and discourse-pragmatics. We will argue that initially, the demonstrative reduced in meaning (Millar 2000) and also in form, resulting in Demonstrative Reduction (DR) (previously known as Definite Article Reduction (DAR)). This caused it to become reinforced. Data from the York English Corpus (Tagliamonte 1996–8) and historical corpora suggest that the use of complex demonstratives was subsequently extended from conveying ‘regular’ deictic meanings to a new meaning of ‘psychological deixis’ (Johannessen 2006). We conclude that survival of transitory stages in the cycle by several historical demonstrative forms, each in a range of functions, has given rise to a particular sense of ‘layering’ (Hopper 1991). Our analysis corroborates the idea that grammaticalization trajectories can be influenced by discourse-pragmatic factors (Epstein 1995; Traugott's 1995subjectification).

April 5, 2019

New paper: Nodari, Celata, and Nagy (2019)

Naomi Nagy (faculty) and colleagues Rosalba Nodari (Schuola Normale Superiore) and Chiara Celata (Schuola Normale Superiore) have a paper out in the Journal of Phonetics, 73: "Socio-indexical phonetic features in the heritage language context: Voiceless stop aspiration in the Calabrian community in Toronto."

This study examines cross-generational transmission of a sociophonetic variable in a heritage language context. Voiceless stop aspiration is a sociophonetic variable in Calabrian Italian, indexing socio-cultural values about the speaker’s social and geographical origin. We investigate the production of voiceless stops by three generations of Calabrian Italians (immigrants and the next two generations) in Toronto, via acoustic and auditory analysis of nearly 5000 tokens from conversational speech in Calabrian Italian. Both Italian and English use long-lag VOT, but they differ in its phonological distribution: long-lag VOT is preferentially associated with pre-tonic, word-initial stops in English and with post-tonic, post-sonorant or geminate stops in Calabrian Italian. We show that, in heritage Calabrian Italian in Toronto, both phonetic implementation (cued by VOT duration) and phonological distribution of aspiration (as cued by perceived aspiration rate across phonological contexts) change cross-generationally, but some changes are non-linear, as third generation speakers appear to reproduce some patterns attested in the speech of first generation speakers. External variables such as the sex of the speakers modulate the cross-generational effects, with males producing more aspirated stops and exhibiting a more conservative behavior in certain phonetic contexts.

April 4, 2019

Yiddish Spring at the Canadian Language Museum

The Canadian Language Museum is opening its latest exhibit, 'Yiddish Spring', on Thursday, April 4, from 7 PM to 9 PM, at its headquarters (the Glendon Gallery). There will be live music, refreshments, and special guests. Berlin-based composer Paul Brody has created a sound installation for the CLM based on the voice-melodies of eight Toronto Yiddish speakers. Well-known European and Canadian klezmer musicians are contributing responses to the piece. On the walls will be the exhibit 'Komets-Alef-O! Back to School at the Yiddish Kheyder' (the Yiddish classroom): an introduction to the Yiddish language, created by Toronto Yiddishist Miriam Borden. The exhibit will be on display from April 5 through June 27, and there will be a number of special events held in conjunction with it.

April 3, 2019

Congratulations, Michelle!

We are delighted to have learned that Michelle Yuan (BA 2012, MA 2013) has accepted a tenure-track position in syntax at the University of California, San Diego. Michelle has been producing top-notch work on the syntax of Inuktitut since she was an undergraduate here. After finishing her MA, she went on to do a Ph.D. in syntax at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2018), followed by one year as a postdoc at the University of Chicago. We are so thrilled for you, Michelle – and for UCSD!

April 2, 2019

Research Groups: April 1-5

Tuesday, April 2, 1:30 PM - 3:30 PM, PT266
Computational Linguistics Group, Department of Computer Science
Jenny Xie (BA): "Text-based inference of moral sentiment change."

Friday, April 5, 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM, SS4043
Psycholinguistics Group
Cassandra Jacobs (postdoc, Department of Psychology): "A unifying account of holistic and compositional phrase representations."
Comprehenders and speakers find producing familiar combinations of words easier than producing similar, less familiar combinations (Arnon and Snider 2010; Arnon and Cohen Priva 2014; Bannard and Matthews 2008; Siyanova-Chanturia, Conklin, and Van Heuven 2011), which has led to the proposal that phrases are retrieved as chunks from memory (Janssen and Barber 2012), running counter to many words-and-rules accounts of phrases (Halle and Marantz, 1994). I present evidence from free recall experiments (Jacobs, Dell, and Bannard 2017) that the production of literal phrases (e.g. 'alcoholic beverages') is in fact quite incremental (Ferreira and Swets 2002), suggesting that retrieval of phrases is not all-or-none. Then I present a simple connectionist model that shows that phrase frequency effects can arise without needing to posit the existence of phrase categories in memory.

Friday, April 5, 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM, SS560A
Language Variation and Change Research Group
Guest speaker: Ai Taniguchi (Carleton University): "Non-redundancy, social meaning, and role language."

Friday, April 5, 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM, SS560A
Phonology Research Group
Presentation by Koorosh Ariyaee (Ph.D.).

Friday, April 5, 1:00 PM-2:30 PM, SS560A
Semantics Research Group
Angelika Kiss (Ph.D.): "The prosodic realisation of affective and epistemic stance in Hungarian rise-fall interrogatives."
Rising declaratives are realized in Hungarian as rise-fall interrogatives (RFIs) exhibiting a rise-fall pitch contour on each Accentual Phrase of the utterance. RFIs can be used in contexts where the speaker is somewhat uncertain about the truth of p, the proposition conveyed by the utterance, this is called a confirmative use (Poschmann 2008). However they are also felicitous in contexts where the speaker is certain about (i.e. fully committed to) p but uses the RFI to convey affective stance, i.e. a positive or negative attitude towards p. This is called the echoic use, following Poschmann (2008). The goal of the present paper is to investigate the prosodic realisation of RFIs to test for the effects of epistemic and affective stance. To achieve this, string-identical RFIs were examined in different contexts. The contexts favoured either a confirmative question reading or an echoic reading, the latter being embedded in contexts that made the speakers convey positive or negative affect. Our results show that both epistemic and affective stance has an effect on the prosody of RFIs. For epistemic stance, the position of the maximum f0 on verbs is realised later in neutral contexts than in non-neutral (positive or negative) ones. Affective stance correlates with the scaling of the APs: While there is a downward drift of mean f0 values of the accents of post-verbal constituents under all three conditions, positive affect is distinguished by a significantly greater downstep of the accented syllables of the post-verbal APs in relation to the accented syllable of the verb, while negative affect is not significantly different in this respect from neutral affect.

April 1, 2019

Guest speakers: Enam Al-Wer (University of Essex) and Maria Fanis (Ohio University)

Enam Al-Wer (University of Essex) and Maria Fanis (Ohio University) are giving a talk co-hosted by the Language, Mobility and Social Justice Working Group at the Scarborough campus and the Interactions Seminar Series of the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies. This will be taking place on Thursday, April 4, from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM, in HW 525 at UTSC: "The commercialisation of linguistic expertise in the asylum vetting process."

One procedure that has been followed in several countries around the world since the 1990s is that of vetting origins of, mostly, undocumented asylum seekers by commissioning a linguistic analysis of the applicant’s speech. The linguistic analysis, which may be commissioned directly through a state agency or through a private entity franchised by the state, is usually based on empirical data obtained through an interview in the language of the asylum seeker. The purpose of the interview is twofold: to obtain a sample of the applicant’s speech, which is akin to the procedures followed in sociolinguistic research, and to vet the applicant’s general knowledge of the locality in which they were socialised. The recorded interview is then analysed by a linguist who is normally an expert in the dialects of the region or country that the applicant alleges to be their origin. This expert linguist is asked to write a linguistic report and to assess, on the basis of the analysis of the recorded interview, how likely it is that the applicant was socialised in the country they claim as their origin. The linguistic report is usually used by the border agencies as part of the evidence for the vetting of the application. In this talk, we examine the effects of commercialisation on the process of asylum vetting in general. With a focus on a specific asylum appeals case in the UK, we illustrate how the privatisation of the linguistic forensic services in this process has a negative effect on the use of language for the determination of the asylum seekers’ place of origin. Using the epistemic communities as a theoretical framework, it is argued that the commercialisation of the expert knowledge of the linguists involved in asylum vetting has detrimental consequences on the use of expert knowledge for the public good.

March 31, 2019


The U of T is the host of the 33rd Annual Symposium on Arabic Linguistics; it will be held April 5-7, 2019 at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE 2214). Check out the program here! The conference has been jointly organized by Atiqa Hachimi (faculty) and Abdel-Khalig Ali (Ph.D. 2013, now a faculty member in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations). This marks the first time that ASAL has been held in Canada. Most of the conference attendees are coming from all over the world, but we are sending one from as near as Sidney Smith Hall: our Ph.D. student Robert Prazeres is presenting "Variability of nominal genitives in Casablanca Moroccon Arabic."

March 30, 2019

New paper: Kahnemuyipour (2019)

Arsalan Kahnemuyipour (faculty) has a squib out in the Canadian Journal of Linguistics, 64(1): "Word-internal modification: The case of the Persian comparative marker."

March 29, 2019

TOM 12

The twelfth Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal Semantics Workshop is taking place in Montreal on Saturday, March 30, co-hosted by Concordia University and McGill University. Several department members are in attendance, and we have two Ph.D. students who are presenting their work.

Heather Stephens (Ph.D.) is giving a talk:
"English polarity particles yep and nope."

Andrew Peters (Ph.D.) has a poster:
"Macro-events and Mongolian converbs."

March 28, 2019

Congratulations, Becky!

Congratulations to Becky Tollan (Ph.D.), who has accepted a tenure-track position in syntax at the Department of Linguistics and Cognitive Science at the University of Delaware that will begin this autumn! We'll miss you, Becky, but we're absolutely thrilled for you on this thoroughly well-deserved opportunity!

March 27, 2019


The 32nd Annual CUNY Conference on Human Sentence Processing is being hosted by the University of Colorado, Boulder, from March 29 through 31. Several faculty members, current students, and alumni are represented on the program.

Raheleh Saryazdi (Ph.D., Department of Psychology) and Craig Chambers (faculty) are presenting a talk:
"Reference and perspective taking across the adult lifespan."

Several current departmental members and alumni are presenting posters:

Kelly-Ann Blake (Ph.D.), Frederick Gietz (Ph.D.), and Meg Grant (former faculty, now at Humboldt University of Berlin):
"Syntactic prediction without lexical activation: Evidence from both (of the)…and."

Becky Tollan (Ph.D.) and Daphna Heller (faculty):
"Pronoun resolution in an ergative language: Effects of case and transitivity."

Raheleh Saryazdi (Ph.D., Department of Psychology), Tamara Mostarac (BA), and Craig Chambers (faculty):
"Speech rate and language processing in older adults: Is slow speech better?"

Daphna Heller (faculty) and Suzanne Stevenson (faculty, Department of Computer Science), along with Xiaobei Zheng (Shenzhen University) and Richard Breheny (University College London):
"How interaction affects (un)certainty about the partners' perspectives."

Megan Parker (MA 2018) and Daphna Heller (faculty):
"Overspecifying state information in the production of referring expressions."

Naomi Francis (MA 2014, now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) with coauthors Leo Rosenstein (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Martin Hackl (Massachusetts Institute of Technology):
"L1 acquisition of polarity sensitivity: The case of either and too."

March 26, 2019

Research Groups: March 25-29

Please note that this week's meetings of the Psycholinguistics Group and the Fieldwork Group are cancelled.

Tuesday, March 26, 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM in PT 266
Computational Linguistics Group, Department of Computer Science
Julia Watson (BA 2018): "Identifying the evolutionary progression of colour from cross-linguistic data."
We present a novel statistical analysis of the semantics of colour using a standard method from semantic typology. Our analysis suggests that the semantic space of colour categories has latent dimensions whose order of relative importance matches the evolutionary ordering of emergence of those distinctions. Moreover, we show that the importance ordering of these dimensions holds even when languages are at an evolutionary stage that further partitions the colour space beyond the given distinction. Additionally, we find that the extreme points of the latent colour dimensions correspond well to a small set of 'universal' focal colours shown to occur across languages. Thus our method derives both a consistent match to the evolutionary stages and to the universal focal areas.

Tuesday, March 26, 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM in Innis College 313
Morphology Reading Group
Alec Kienzle (Ph.D.): "Agents, paths, and states in the Hebrew middle templates."

Friday, March 29, 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM
Syntax Group
Dan Milway (Ph.D.): "Towards a novel theory of adjuncts."
I review the two competing minimalist theories of adjuncts – Late Adjunction and Pair Merge – and discuss their theoretical flaws. Based on this discussion and the respective strengths of the theories, I sketch a hypothesis which states that host-adjunct structures are, in fact, the result of two parallel derivations which are collapsed at the syntax-phonology interface. I close by discussing the prospects of such a theory.

March 25, 2019

MOT 2019

We are co-hosting this year's Montréal-Ottawa-Toronto Workshop in Phonology/Phonetics, taking place from March 29th through 31st, co-organized by York faculty member Emily Elfner and our faculty members Peter Jurgec, Yoonjung Kang, Keren Rice, and Jessamyn Schertz. The Friday sessions will be held at York University, with the Saturday and Sunday sessions at the U of T.

Department members and alumni presenting are:

Andrei Munteanu (Ph.D.) and Kinza Mahoon (Ph.D.):
"Dialect accommodation in Canadian English."

Katharina Pabst (Ph.D.):
"The role of word frequency in sound change: [n(j)u] evidence from yod dropping Toronto English."

Pocholo Umbal (Ph.D.):
"/u/-fronting in second-generation Filipinos in Toronto: Evidence of cross-language influence."

Koorosh Ariyaee (Ph.D.):
"Loanword adaption in Persian: A Core-Periphery model approach."

Paulina Łyskawa (MA 2015, now at the University of Maryland) and Naomi Nagy (faculty):
"Language contact and convergence in Polish devoicing: Phonological versus phonetic perspectives."

Jessica Yeung (Ph.D.):
"The role of phonetic and typological naturalness in learning sound patterns."

Connie Ting (Ph.D.)and Yoonjung Kang (faculty):
"The effect of habitual speech rate on speaker-specific processing in English stop voicing perception."

Na-Young Ryu (Ph.D.):
"The role of web-based identification training in the perception of Korean vowels and codas by Mandarin learners of Korean."

Iryna Osadcha (Ph.D. 2019):
"Lexical stress patterns: Ukrainian vocative case."

Radu Craioveanu (Ph.D.):
"Asymmetries in aspiration."

Yoonjung Kang (faculty), Na-Young Ryu (Ph.D.), and colleague Suyeon Yun (Ewha Womans University):
"Contrastive hyperarticulation of vowels in two dialects of Korean."

Alessandro Jaker (postdoc):
"The full ~ reduced vowel contrast in Tetsǫ́t'ıné: Evidence for an eight-vowel system."

Heather Yawney (Ph.D.):
"Asymmetry of Kazakh velar and uvular consonants."

Photini Coutsougera (faculty):
"High front vowel deletion, palatalization, and fortition in Arcadian Greek."

Kristen Wong (BA) and Yoonjung Kang (faculty):
"Sound symbolism of gender in Cantonese names."

Kaz Bamba (Ph.D.):
"Consonant-vowel sequences and their gradient interactions."

Aleksei Nazarov (faculty):
"Formalizing the link between opacity and exceptionality."

Vincent DeCaen (former postdoc, now at DeCaen and Associates) and Elan Dresher (faculty):
"The vowel system of Tiberian Hebrew."

March 24, 2019

Canadian Linguistics Annual Undergraduate Symposium 2019

Two of our undergraduate students presented at this year's Canadian Linguistics Annual Undergraduate Symposium (CLAUSE̥), which took place on Saturday, March 16, in Montréal, cohosted by McGill University and Concordia University. Dania A. (BA) presented joint work with Ibrahim El-Rayes (BA) and Silvia Nguyen (BA): "Sorry not sorry: Politeness discourse markers sorry, thank you, and please in Canadian and British English". Gregory Antono (BA) presented "Más allá del supermercado: Language attitudes of Chinese-Argentine youth." (Thanks to Dania for the photos!)

Dania and Greg.

Dania's talk.

March 23, 2019

Guest speaker: Danielle Thomas (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

OISE and the UTM Department of Language Studies are co-hosting a talk by Danielle Thomas, an alumna of their Ph.D. program who is now a Lecturer at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is interested in L2 learning, Spanish, and morphosyntactic phenomena in bi- and multilingualism, especially inter-speaker variation. Her talk, "Internal and external induced variability in bilingualism: Evidence from the sounds and structure of Spanish", will be taking place in OISE 11-164, Tuesday March 26, at 10:00 AM.

The observation and empirical study of the language behaviour of bilinguals has led to a variety of models aiming to explain why bilinguals often exhibit variable patterns of knowledge and use for certain linguistic domains as compared to monolinguals. These models propose a variety of internal and external factors associated with language learning and use at different ages to explain this variability. This talk will present the results from two empirical studies comparing the patterns of phonetic and morphosyntactic behaviour among different groups of Spanish and English speakers, including monolinguals, early (heritage) bilinguals, and late (L2) bilinguals. The goal of these studies was to examine the type of variability exhibited by bilingual speakers (if any) compared to monolinguals as a way to test models that have proposed to explain bilingual variability as the result of internal and external-induced effects (e.g. contact-induced effects, age-related effects). The results of these studies are discussed in terms of a typological approach to language behaviour in bilingualism where bilingual variability is indicative of systematic linguistic and/or cognitive differences between bilinguals and monolinguals, or it is indicative of a bilingual’s systematic understanding of how to vary language in ways that are both appropriate to the language-specific system and to a dynamic communicative reality.

March 22, 2019

New paper: Béjar, Denniss, Kahnemuyipour, and Yokoyama (2019)

Susana Béjar (faculty), Jessica Denniss (Ph.D.), Arsalan Kahnemuyipour (faculty), and Tomohiro Yokoyama (Ph.D.) have a paper, "Number matching in binomial small clauses," to appear in an edited volume, The Grammar of Copulas Across Languages, edited by Maria J. Arche, Antonio Fabregas, and Rafael Marin (Oxford University Press, 2019).

This paper examines covariation in number specification in small clauses with two nominals, as exemplified by copular clauses with a nominal predicate (DP1 BE DP2). We show that number matching between DP1 and DP2 is obligatory in some such structures, but not others. Two questions arising from this are addressed: (a) By what formal mechanism should number matching between the DP1 and DP2 be enforced? (b) What determines whether matching is required or not? Regarding (a), we argue that Agree is not well-suited to modeling this feature-sharing relation and we propose instead that number matching arises as a reflex of feature-valuation at Merge when DP2 has an unvalued number feature [_#]. Regarding (b), we propose that the availability of valuation as a reflex of Merge is sensitive to the feature structure of DP2 and is blocked when, for independent reasons, DP2 does not introduce an accessible [_#]. We examine three such cases. In one case DP2 is referentially complete and has valued [#] rather than unvalued [_#]. In another case, DP2 is a predicate nominal with reduced functional structure (Persian). In the third case DP2 involves a concealed proposition.

March 21, 2019

SESDEF Colloquium 2019

The Société des études supérieures du Départment d'Études Françaises (SESDEF) (French Department Society for Graduate Studies) is holding its annual colloquium on Friday, March 22. "Acquisition de la parole: Perspectives théoriques et expérimentales" (Language acquisition: Theoretical and experimental perspectives).

March 20, 2019

Visiting scholar: Heike Pichler (Newcastle University)

Our department is delighted to welcome Heike Pichler, a Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University, who is visiting us throughout this week. She is a variationist sociolinguist who is a pioneer in the field of discourse-pragmatic variation and change. Heike is the Founding Chair of the Discourse-Pragmatic Variation and Change (DiPVaC) research network and was central to the launch of its highly successful ongoing conference series beginning in 2012; she also spearheaded and edited the 2016 volume Discourse-Pragmatic Variation and Change in English (Cambridge University Press), which included two chapters from department members: one by Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty) and one by Sali and Derek Denis (faculty). This week, Heike will be giving a presentation to the Language Variation and Change group on gender and discourse-pragmatic features, and working with Marisa Brook (faculty) on discourse-pragmatic features and grammaticalization in computer-mediated communication.

March 19, 2019

Guest speaker: William Bennett (University of Calgary/Rhodes University)

We are very pleased to welcome William Bennett, an Assistant Professor at the University of Calgary and a Senior Research Associate at Rhodes University. He works on phonology, phonetics, typology, language documentation, and more, with a special interest in languages of sub-Saharan Africa. His talk, "Markedness and implicational universals in click typology," will be taking place at 3:00 PM on Friday, March 22, in SS 560A. It will be followed by a reception in the department lounge.

A survey of click consonants in a wide array of languages finds a surprising implicational universal: whenever and wherever a language permits clicks, it permits nasal clicks (Bennett 2008, 2017/in press). Thus, there are languages that have nasal clicks but not oral ones, but not vice versa. There are also languages where clicks are predictably nasal in certain conditions, but no known patterns where nasal clicks are subject to restrictions not shared by oral clicks. This talk claims that representing nasal clicks simply as clicks which bear the feature [+nasal] is inadequate: it fails to derive the !→n! implicational relationship. The proposed alternative is that nasality in clicks is due to continuation of pulmonic airflow, which must be vented nasally in clicks due to the oral occlusions needed to produce the suction required for a lingual (or velaric) airstream. Representing nasal clicks as [+pulmonic] rather than [+nasal] leads to a theory that successfully captures the implicational relationship between nasal and oral clicks in the typology. Finally, we consider how this implicational universal in the typology interacts with another markedness scale, a second implicational hierarchy among click types.

March 18, 2019

Research Groups: Week of March 18-22

Note that there is no meeting of the Semantics Research Group this week.

Tuesday, March 19, 1:30 PM - 3:30 PM, PT266
Computational Linguistics Group, Department of Computer Science
Kawin Ethayarajh (Ph.D., Department of Computer Science): "Towards understanding linear word analogies."
A surprising property of word vectors is that vector algebra can often be used to solve word analogies (e.g., king - man + woman = queen). However, it is unclear why - and when - linear operators correspond to non-linear embedding models such as skip-gram with negative sampling (SGNS). We provide a rigorous explanation of this phenomenon without making the strong assumptions that past theories have made about the vector space and word distribution. Our theory has several implications. Past work has conjectured that linear structures exist in vector spaces because relations can be represented as ratios; we prove that this holds for SGNS. We provide novel justification for the addition of SGNS word vectors by showing that it automatically down-weights the more frequent word, as weighting schemes do ad hoc. Lastly, we offer an information theoretic interpretation of Euclidean distance in vector spaces, justifying its use in capturing word dissimilarity.

Friday, March 22, 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM, SS560A
Language Variation and Change Research Group
Guest speaker: Heike Pichler (Newcastle University): "'This is what happened, right?': Sex differences in narrative tagging."

Friday, March 22, 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM, SS560A
Phonology Research Group

March 17, 2019

Guest speaker: Begoña Arechabaleta-Regulez (University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign)

OISE and the UTM Department of Language Studies are co-hosting a talk by Begoña Arechabaleta-Regulez, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. She works on L2 learning, especially when it comes to Spanish. Her talk, "The production, comprehension, and processing of Spanish Differential Object Marking by bilingual speakers", will be taking place in Victoria College room 304 at 10:00 AM on Tuesday, March 19.

The purpose of this study was to analyze the production, comprehension and processing of Spanish Differential Object Marking (DOM) by bilingual speakers living in the U.S. Previous studies have reported that heritage speakers and L2 learners show DOM retraction with animate objects, as in (1 (Montrul and Bowles 2009; Montrul and Sánchez-Walker 2013). Transfer from their dominant language, English, seems to be the main factor causing the retraction of DOM. However, no previous study has compared these two groups to each other, and while previous studies have examined production, comprehension and processing of DOM in isolation, few, if any, have compared all three of these aspects with the same group of speakers. Therefore, more research is needed to better understand whether DOM retraction is characteristic of all types of bilingual speakers living in the US, visible in their processing, comprehension and processing, or whether DOM omission depends on the type of speaker and type of task. If DOM retraction happens to be the norm, this study would suggest that it is a new feature of Spanish in the U.S.

(1) Standard Spanish:
Juan saludó a María
‘Juan said hi DOM Maria’

Spanish in the U.S.:
Juan saludó María
‘Juan said hi Maria’

Results revealed that both heritage speakers and adult L2 learners showed less DOM retraction than expected. Moreover, DOM retraction depended on the type of task but not on the type of bilingual: heritage speakers and adult L2 learners both showed more DOM retraction in their oral production than in their comprehension or processing. Heritage speakers and adult L2 learners showed sensitivity to the omission of DOM with animate objects and judged sentences with DOM omission as ungrammatical. However, they omitted DOM in their production. These results suggest that first, there is an asymmetry between bilinguals’ comprehension/processing and production, as DOM retraction is mostly represented in production but not in comprehension or processing; and second, DOM retraction is less prevalent than previously thought in the Spanish of the U.S.

March 16, 2019

Elizabeth Johnson in U of T News

Cross-appointed faculty member Elizabeth Johnson (Department of Psychology, UTM) is featured in the U of T Bulletin describing her recent research on young children's perception of accents in the Toronto area.

March 15, 2019

Bulletin-board overhaul

Our bulletin-board for job-postings has received a makeover, just in time for spring! (Photo by Naomi Nagy.)

March 14, 2019

2nd Annual Buffalo-Toronto Workshop on Variation Within and Across Languages

We are hosting the second annual Buffalo-Toronto Workshop on Variation Within and Across Languages on Saturday, March 16. The workshops probe linguistic variation in every sense (sociolinguistic, typological) using all sorts of methods (variationist, computational, experimental, etc.) and encourage a bit of cross-border mingling!

Lauren Bigelow (MA), Timothy Gadanidis (Ph.D.), Lisa Schlegl (Ph.D.), Pocholo Umbal (Ph.D.), and Derek Denis (faculty):
"[dat’s] loud bro: A report on TH-stopping in Multicultural Toronto English."

Julia Watson (BA alumna), Barend Beekhuizen (faculty), and Suzanne Stevenson (faculty, Department of Computer Science):
"Identifying the evolutionary progression of colour from crosslinguistic data."

Timothy Gadanidis (Ph.D.), Naomi Nagy (faculty), and Joyce Woo (BA):
"Co-variation in Heritage Cantonese in Toronto."

Alana Johns (faculty):
"Brick walls in language: Dialect solutions."

Barend Beekhuizen (faculty):
"Computational tools for doing semantic typology: Parallel corpora and predictive models."

Fiona Wilson (Ph.D.):
"Negation in Cree: Variation in the Muskeg dialect."

Katharina Pabst (Ph.D.):
"The role of word frequency in yod dropping: [n(j)u] insights into an old change."

Pocholo Umbal (Ph.D.):
"/u/-fronting and cross-language influence: Evidence from Filipinos in Toronto."

Patrick Murphy (Ph.D.):
"Online experiments for research in linguistics."

Anissa Baird (BA) and Rachel Keir (BA):
"Word-final vowel deletion: Italian’s influence on Faetar?"

Julien Carrier (Ph.D.):
"Variation and morphosyntactic alignment changes in Inuktitut."

Julianne Doner (Ph.D.):
"Non-nominal subjects and topic prominence."

Angelika Kiss (Ph.D.):
"Word order variation in Mbyá."

March 13, 2019

Guest speaker: Richard Kayne (New York University)

We are very pleased to welcome esteemed syntactician Richard Kayne (New York University) to our department for a guest talk, "The syntax of suppletion," taking place on Monday, March 18, from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, in room 523 of Wilson Hall over at New College.

March 12, 2019

Research Groups: Week of March 11-15

Note the irregular meeting time of the Syntax Group this week.

Tuesday, March 12, 2:00 PM-4:00 PM, Innis College 313
Morphology Reading Group
Presentation by Ross Godfrey (Ph.D.): "Syntactic arrangements and phonological processes: A hybrid theory of morphological realization."
Hockett (1954) distinguished between two models of morphological description: the “item-and-arrangement” (IA) model, where complex forms are generated through the combination of morphemes, and the “item-and-process” (IP) model, where derived forms are generated through the application of processes to roots. Many current morphological theories can be considered to belong to the first type of model, particularly those theories which posit a close relation between syntax and morphology. If, as is often argued, sentences consist of “syntactic hierarchical structure all the way down” (SAWD; Halle and Marantz 1994), including within the word, and if complex syntactic structures are built by combination of smaller constituents, then the adoption of an IA model of morphology seems unavoidable. However, simultaneous adoption of a “realizational” approach to morphology, in which a morpheme’s morphosyntactic feature content is separated from its phonological exponent, makes available certain additional options. I review current attempts to handle the existence of apparently “nonconcatenative” morphology within a purely IA approach, and show that they generate undesirable patterns. I then sketch an alternative way of treating nonconcatenative morphology under the SAWD assumption, capitalizing on the opportunities afforded by realizational morphology: morphemes do not spell out as morphs, but instead trigger the application of processes. The proposal differs from previous IP approaches (e.g., Anderson 1992) in recognizing the existence of abstract morphological constituent structure. In this sense, the proposal belongs both to the IA and IP traditions. Using the terminology of Distributed Morphology, one can say that the proposal recognizes readjustment rules while eschewing Vocabulary Insertion (VI). Many objections to readjustment rules lose their force once VI is eliminated; some objections that remain can be handled by reconsidering the relationship between morphology and phonology; and the residual objections hold even of theories that avoid readjustment rules altogether. These matters will be discussed in greater detail in the talk.

Friday, March 15, 10:00 AM-11:30 AM, SS 4043
Psycholinguistics Research Group
Special guest speaker: Ev Fedorenko, a faculty member cross-appointed to the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is a neurolinguist interested in linking precise neurological regions to specific language-related processes, mapping the neurological interactions of language and other cognitive functions, and gaining greater awareness of the extent of interspeaker differences in the neurology of language.
Human language surpasses all other animal communication systems in its complexity and generative power. I use a combination of behavioral, brain imaging, and computational approaches to illuminate the functional architecture of language, with the ultimate goal of deciphering the representations and computations that enable us to understand and produce language. I will discuss three discoveries I have made over the last decade. First, I will show that the language network is selected for language processing over a wide range of non-linguistic processes that have been argued to share computational demands with language, including arithmetic, executive functions, music, and action/gesture observation. Next, I will consider the distinction between the lexicon (word meanings) and syntax (the rules for how individual words can combine to create phrases and sentences). Much prior theorizing and empirical work has focused on syntax, and most current proposals of the neural architecture of language argues that syntax is cognitively and neurally dissociable from meaning. I will challenge this view. In particular, I will how that syntactic processing is not localized to a particular region within the language network, and that every brain region that responds to syntactic processing is at least as sensitive to word meanings, including when probed with a high-spatial/high-temporal-resolution method (ECoG). Further, many brain regions show stronger responses to word meanings than to syntactic manipulations, with no regions showing the opposite preference. Finally, I will provide evidence that stimuli that are not syntactically well-formed but allow for meaning composition (operationalized within an information-theoretic framework) elicit as strong as response as intact sentences, suggesting that semantic composition may be the core driver of the response in the language-selective brain regions. Taken together, these results argue against an abstract and domain-general syntactic processing mechnanism, and support strong integration between the lexicon and syntax. They further suggest that the language network is more concerns with meaning than structure, in line with the primary function of language – to share meanings across minds.

Friday, March 15, 10:30 AM-12:00 PM, SS 560A
Syntax Group

Friday, March 15, 1:00 PM-2:30 PM, SS 560A
Fieldwork Group
Alessandro Jaker (postdoc): "The full ~ reduced vowel contrast in Tetsǫ́t’ıné: Evidence for an 8-vowel system."
Many Dene (Athapaskan) languages, including the reconstructed Proto-Dene language (Krauss 1964), are known to exhibit a contrast between a set of full vowels, which are long, tense, and peripheral, and a set of reduced vowels, which are short, lax, and centralized. In this presentation, I will present evidence that a contrast between full and reduced vowels also exists in Tetsǫ́t’ıné Yatıé, a dialect of Dëne Sųłıné spoken in the Northwest Territories, Canada. In this presentation, I will report the results of a pilot experiment, which show that this dialect has a total of 8 vowels in morphologically non-derived stems: five full vowels a [ɑː], e [ɛː], ı [iː], o [oː], u [ʉː], and three reduced vowels ä [ɐ], ë, [ɘ], and ü [ɵ]. Reduced vowels are both shorter in duration and more centralized than their full counterparts. I will then discuss some of the difficulties that have resulted from trying to write the Tetsǫ́t’ıné dialect using an orthography which is based on a different dialect, which has only 6 vowels, and how much of this confusion can be cleared up by adopting an orthography which is more appropriate to Tetsǫ́t’ıné, and which recognizes 8 vowels.

March 11, 2019

Guest speaker: Avery Ozburn (University of British Columbia)

Our department is delighted to welcome back Avery Ozburn (MA 2014), currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia. She is a phonologist whose work straddles theoretical and experimental approaches and is centered on harmony of vowels or of consonants. Her talk, "Why low vowels are special: Contrastive neutral vowels in Mayak ATR harmony," will be taking place in SS 560A at 3:00 PM on Friday, March 15. A reception will follow in the department lounge.

In the literature on vowel harmony, there is a long-standing tradition of equating neutral vowels, which do not undergo harmony, with vowels that are non-contrastive for the harmonic feature. Theoretical approaches to neutrality, then, often depend crucially on constraints against the harmonic counterpart of the neutral vowel. However, this generalization is based on a small number of widely studied languages; in fact, in the broader typology, a range of behaviours is attested: a vowel may or may not be neutral, regardless of whether it has a counterpart for the harmonic feature. In this talk, I examine a situation that is particularly problematic for many theoretical frameworks: in Mayak (Nilotic; Andersen 1999), low vowels are contrastively paired for ATR/RTR (advanced/retracted tongue root), yet generally neutral to ATR harmony. In Mayak, non-low RTR vowels alternate in the presence of an ATR vowel (e.g. [kɔc] 'take-PRES' vs. [koj-u] 'take-PAST'), while the low RTR vowel [a] does not (e.g. [ʔam] 'eat-PRES' vs. [ʔam-u] 'eat-PAST'), even though there is a contrastive low ATR vowel [ʌ] that is possible in the contexts in which [a] fails to undergo harmony. This case has been described in the literature but not analyzed, yet it is crucial to our theoretical understanding. Specifically, while it is common for low vowels to be neutral to ATR harmony, Mayak shows that this tendency is at least partially independent of harmonic pairing. I argue that this case is illustrative of a broader special status of low vowels in ATR harmony systems, and that this unique behaviour is phonetically motivated. The analysis I propose allows for ATR harmony to be relativized to non-low vowels, and this approach can capture the range of typologically attested neutrality behaviour in ATR harmony systems.

March 10, 2019

Guest speaker: Ted Gibson (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

The Cognitive Science Program at University College is hosting a talk by Ted Gibson, a faculty member from the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He works on language processing, cognitive perspectives on the links between language and culture, and typological patterning from the standpoint of information structure. His talk, "Information processing and cross-linguistic universals", will be taking place on Thursday, March 14, at 4:30 PM, in UC 140.

Finding explanations for the observed variation in human languages is the primary goal of linguistics, and promises to shed light on the nature of human cognition. One particularly attractive set of explanations is functional in nature, holding that language universals are grounded in the known properties of human information processing. The idea is that lexicons and grammars of languages have evolved so that language users can communicate using words an sentences that are relatively easy to produce and comprehend. In this talk, I summarize results from explorations in two linguistic domains, from an information-processing point of view. First, I show that word lengths are optimized on average according to predictability in context, as would be expected under an information theoretic analysis. Second, I show that all the world's languages that we can currently analyze minimize syntactic dependency lengths to some degree, as would be expected under information processing considerations. Finally, we apply a simply information theory analysis to the language for color. The number of color terms varies drastically across languages. yet despite these differences, certain terms (e.g., red) are prevalent, which has been attributed to perceptual salience. Our work provides evidence for an alternative hypothesis: The use of color terms depends on communicative needs. Across languages, from the hunter-gatherer Tsimane' people of the Amazon to students in Boston, warm colors are communicated more efficiently than cool colors. This cross-linguistic pattern reflects the color statistics of the world: objects (what we talk about) are typically warm-colored, and background are cool-colored. Communicative needs also explain why the number of color terms varies across languages: cultures vary in how useful color is. Industrialization, which creates objects distinguishable solely based on color, increases color usefulness.