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.