May 13, 2021

CASCA 2021

This year's annual meeting of the Canadian Anthropology Society/Société canadienne d'anthropologie (CASCA) is taking place online from May 12 through 15, hosted by the University of Guelph. Several of our departmental members are involved:

  • Vidhya Elango (MA) and Derek Denis (faculty) have a presentation: "Social media and the enregisterment of Multicultural Toronto English."
  • Alejandro Paz (faculty) is a discussant on a panel entitled "(Re)contextualizing linguistic difference: Negotiating identity in new communicative settings."

May 12, 2021

GLAC 2021

The 27th Germanic Linguistics Annual Conference (GLAC 27) is taking place online from May 12 through 14, hosted by the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

  • Bettina Spreng (Ph.D. 2012, now at the University of Saskatchewan) is presenting: "Am-progressives in Swabian."

May 11, 2021

Congratulations, Alexei and Paul and coauthors!

Congratulations to Alexei Kochetov (faculty), Paul Arsenault (Ph.D. 2012, now at Tyndale University College), and coauthors Jan Heegård Petersen (Københavns Universitet), Sikandar Kalas (Central Film School, London), and Taj Khan Kalash (Kalasha Heritage Conservation Initiative). As part of the Illustrations of the IPA series in the Journal of the International Phonetic Association, this team has a forthcoming profile of the phonetics of Kalasha (Bumburet variety), and it has just been awarded the journal's first Most Illustrative Illustration Prize. Wonderful news!

May 10, 2021

New paper: Franco and Tagliamonte (2021)

Karlien Franco (former postdoc, now at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) and Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty) have a paper out in American Speech, 96(2): "Interesting fellow or tough old bird?: Third-person male referents in Ontario."

English has many words to refer to an adult man (e.g., man, guy, dude), and these are undergoing change in the Ontario dialects. This article analyzes the distribution of these and related forms using data collected in Ontario, Canada. In total, 6,788 tokens for 17 communities were extracted and analyzed with a comparative sociolinguistics methodology for social and geographic factors. The results demonstrate a substantive language change in progress with two striking patterns. First, male speakers in Ontario were the leaders of this change in the past. However, as guy gained prominence across the twentieth century, women started using it as frequently as men. Second, these developments are complicated by the complexity of the sociolinguistic landscape. There is a clear urban versus peripheral division across Ontario communities that also involves both population size and distance from the large urban center, Toronto. Further, social network type and other local influences are also important. In sum, variation in third-person singular male referents in Ontario dialects provides new insight into the co-occurrence and evolution of sociolinguistic factors in the process of language change.

May 9, 2021

New book: Fábregas, Acedo-Matellán, Armstrong, Cuervo, and Payet (eds.) (2021)

Congratulations to Cristina Cuervo (faculty) and her co-editors Antonio Fábregas (University of Tromsø/Arctic University of Norway), Víctor Acedo-Matellán (University of Oxford), Grant Armstrong (University of Wisconsin, Madison), and Isabel Pujol Payet (Universitat de Girona) on the publication of the Routledge Handbook of Spanish Morphology! In spite of recent extenuating circumstances, this landmark effort consisting of 42 chapters has reached publication on schedule. Well done, all!

May 8, 2021


The ninth biennial Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition – North America (GALANA) is taking place online from May 7 through 9, with the Institute of Linguistics at the University of Iceland hosting.

  • Ailís Cournane (Ph.D. 2015, now at New York University), Anouk Dieuleveut (University of Maryland), Chiara Repetti-Ludlow (New York University), and Valentine Hacquard (University of Maryland) have a presentation: "Testing modal force acquisition beyond the epistemic paradigm."
  • Lyn Tieu (MA 2013, now at Western Sydney University) is part of a poster presentation with Cory Bill (Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft), Elena Pagliarini (Università degli Studi di Padova), Jacopo Romoli (University of Bergen), and Stephen Crain (Macquarie University): "Children's interpretations of every...some sentences."

May 7, 2021


Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 31 is taking place online from May 7 through 9, hosted by Brown University; two alumni are presenting:

  • Julie Goncharov (Ph.D. 2015, now at the University of Tromsø) and Lavi Wolf (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev): "Deriving polarity from granularity."
  • Filipe Hisao Kobayashi (MA graduate, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Vincent Rouillard (Massachusetts Institute of Technology): "Which singular wh-interrogatives admit plural answers in Brazilian Portuguese?"

May 6, 2021

Chicago Linguistic Society 2021

The 56th annual meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society is meeting online, hosted by the University of Chicago, from May 6 through 8. We have two alumni on the program:

  • Julie Goncharov (Ph.D. 2015, now at the University of Tromsø) and Lavi Wolf (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev): "Granularity in the polarity system."
  • Fulang Cater Chen (MA 2017, now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology): "Three anti-long-distance dependency effects in Mandarin BEI-constructions."

May 5, 2021

Research Groups: Friday, May 7

10:00 AM - 11:30 AM: Cognitive Science of Language Group
Yang Xu
(faculty, Department of Computer Science): "Chaining and the growth of word meaning."

Natural language relies on a finite lexicon to express a potentially infinite range of meanings. This tension creates a funnel effect where meanings are compressed through a limited set of words. Prior work suggests that word meanings are structured for efficient compression. I describe recent development that extends this work to investigate the cognitive mechanisms in the dynamic growth of word meaning through time. I first present work that synthesizes cognitive linguistic theories of chaining with classic models of categorization to predict the historical extension of numeral classifiers for emerging referents. I then present evidence that similar models of chaining predict children’s spatial word generalization. Our findings suggest that an exemplar-based model of chaining may underlie the general mechanisms in word meaning growth. I discuss applications of this work to natural language processing and implications for research in lexicon evolution.

May 4, 2021

Huberta in the U of T Magazine

In the latest issue of the U of T magazine, Huberta Chan (BA 2019) talks about a pivotal moment in her undergraduate education, which had been made possible by the U of T (Hong Kong) Foundation.

Huberta Chan (BA 2019 UC) received a foundation scholarship to study linguistics. She recalls that on the first day of her sociolinguistics class, the professor asked each student to introduce themselves with their name and the languages they spoke. 'The moment I demonstrated how to say hello in Cantonese was the very first time I was aware of feeling proud to be a native Cantonese speaker from Hong Kong," says Chan. "I had never appreciated the fact that I was bilingual."

She says her classmates spoke with similar pride about their own languages and cultures, and she grew interested in learning more about them. "My professor taught us that every language is special because behind each one are the culture and stories unique to the people who speak it," she says. "This is an idea I treasure to this day."

May 1, 2021

New paper: Schlegl and Tagliamonte (2021)

Lisa Schlegl (Ph.D.) and Sali A. Tagliamonte (faculty) have a new paper in the Canadian Journal of Linguistics, 66(1): "'How do you get to Tim Hortons?' Direction-giving in Ontario dialects."

In this study, we target the speech act of direction-giving using variationist sociolinguistic methods within a corpus of vernacular speech from six Ontario communities. Not only do we find social and geographical correlates to linguistic choices in direction-giving, but we also establish the influence of the physical layout of the community/place in question. Direction-giving in the urban center of Toronto (Southern Ontario) contrasts with five Northern Ontario communities. Northerners use more relative directions, while Torontonians use more cardinal directions, landmarks, and proper street names – for example, Go east on Bloor to the Manulife Centre. We also find that specific lexical choices (e.g., Take a right versus Make a right) distinguish direction-givers in Northern Ontario from those in Toronto. These differences identify direction-giving as an ideal site for sociolinguistic and dialectological investigation and corroborate previous findings documenting regional variation in Canadian English.

April 26, 2021

New paper: Pérez, Monahan, and Lambon Ralph (2021)

Alejandro Pérez (former postdoc, now at Cambridge University), Philip J. Monahan (faculty), and colleague Matthew A. Lambon Ralph (Cambridge University) have a new paper in MethodsX, 8: "Joint recording of EEG and audio signals in hyperscanning and pseudo-hyperscanning experiments."

Hyperscanning is an emerging technique that allows for the study of brain similarities between interacting individuals. This methodology has powerful implications for understanding the neural basis of joint actions, such as conversation; however, it also demands precise time-locking between the different brain recordings and sensory stimulation. Such precise timing, nevertheless, is often difficult to achieve. Recording auditory stimuli jointly with the ongoing high temporal resolution neurophysiological signal presents an effective way to control timing asynchronies offline between the digital trigger sent by the stimulation program and the actual onset of the auditory stimulus delivered to participants via speakers/headphones. This configuration is particularly challenging in hyperscanning setups due to the general increased complexity of the methodology. In other designs using the related technique of pseudo-hyperscanning, combined brain-auditory recordings are also a highly desirable feature, since reliable offline synchronization can be performed by using the shared audio signal. Here, we describe two hardware configurations wherein the real-time delivered auditory stimulus is recorded jointly with ongoing electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings. Specifically, we describe and provide customized implementations for joint EEG-audio recording in hyperscanning and pseudo-hyperscanning paradigms using hardware and software from Brain Products GmbH.

April 25, 2021

New paper: Paquette-Smith, Cooper, and Johnson (2020)

Melissa Paquette-Smith (Ph.D. 2018, Department of Psychology, now at the University of California, Los Angeles), Angela Cooper (former postdoc, Department of Psychology, now at BEworks) and Elizabeth Johnson (faculty) have a paper out in the Journal of Child Language, 48(2): "Targeted adaptation in infants following live exposure to an accented talker."

Infants struggle to understand familiar words spoken in unfamiliar accents. Here, we examine whether accent exposure facilitates accent-specific adaptation. Two types of pre-exposure were examined: video-based (i.e., listening to pre-recorded stories; Experiment 1) and live interaction (reading books with an experimenter; Experiments 2 and 3). After video-based exposure, Canadian English-learning 15- to 18-month-olds failed to recognize familiar words spoken in an unfamiliar accent. However, after face-to-face interaction with a Mandarin-accented talker, infants showed enhanced recognition for words produced in Mandarin English compared to Australian English. Infants with live exposure to an Australian talker were not similarly facilitated, perhaps due to the lower vocabulary scores of the infants assigned to the Australian exposure condition. Thus, live exposure can facilitate accent adaptation, but this ability is fragile in young infants and is likely influenced by vocabulary size and the specific mapping between the speaker and the listener's phonological system.

April 17, 2021

New staff members

As Deem Waham (staff) has recently gone on parental leave and Jennifer McCallum (staff) will be spending the next year working with the Department of Psychology, we have two newcomers in our (currently virtual) department office. Hello to Sara Taghinia (staff), who will be Acting Undergraduate Secretary while Deem is on leave, and to Christopher Lee (staff), who will be serving as Graduate Officer. Welcome!

April 16, 2021

Research Groups: Friday, April 16

10:00 AM - 11:30 AM: Language Variation and Change Group
Michael Friesner
(faculty, Department of French) and Laura Kastronic (faculty, Department of French): "Developing sociolinguistic competence in French through the flipped classroom model."

​The flipped classroom approach (cf. Bergmann and Sams 2012), in which class time is largely devoted to collaborative activities, has recently been extended to the second-language classroom. Nonetheless, despite incorporating communicative methods, predominant pedagogical practices, focusing on prescriptive norms and traditional textbook explanations of linguistic phenomena (Mougeon et al. 2010), impart minimal sociolinguistic competence, leaving most second language learners ill-equipped to replicate native-like patterns of variation (cf. Dewaele 2004). Learners therefore overuse hyperstandard, hyperformal, or register-inappropriate forms. We believe that the flipped classroom model is well suited to addressing these challenges for FSL teaching. We therefore draw on variationist sociolinguistic research to foster a deeper understanding of three well-studied phenomena (cf. Mougeon et al. 2010) - negation, expression of future time, and first-person plural address - for which traditional pedagogical explanations diverge considerably from L1 community behaviour. We argue that time outside of the classroom is well spent building sociolinguistic awareness through evidence-driven description, corpus-based realia, and analytical commentary on sociolinguistic implications of variant choice, providing scaffolding for communicative in-class comprehension and production exercises. Additionally, we address questions of the appropriate point of intervention based on perceptions of casual or nonstandard linguistic behaviour by L1 speakers of varying geographic origins. 

1:00 PM - 2:30 PM: Fieldwork Group
Shabri Kapoor
(Ph.D.): "The mass/count distinction in Cusco Quechua."

The mass/count distinction is often described as the difference between nouns that represent countable entities (dog/dogs), and uncountable entities such as substances or 'stuff' (water/*waters). Languages that have this distinction often show differences in the features that distinguish count from mass nouns. One such feature is the use of a container classifier when combining numerals with mass nouns (three cups of water). My research explores how the mass/count distinction applies to the Cusco variety of Quechua, and specifically, how container classifiers that combine numerals with mass nouns in Cusco Quechua differ morphologically, depending on classifier type.

April 15, 2021

50 ans de linguistique à l'UQAM

The Department of Linguistics at l'Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and to mark the occasion, is holding a workshop comparing perspectives on linguistic issues from April 22 through 24.

  • Juvenal Ndayiragije (faculty): "Être d'accord ou pas."
  • Michael Friesner (faculty, Department of French) and Laura Kastronic (faculty, Department of French): "Le contact communautaire et la réalisation de la voyelle /æ/ dans les emprunts en français montréalais."
  • Anna Frolova (faculty, Department of French): "Développement de la transitivité verbale en russe L1."
  • Former faculty member Anne-José Villeneuve (University of Alberta) and colleague Davy Bigot (Concordia University): "Ça prend plus qu’un changement de contexte: L’expression de la conséquence en français québécois soutenu."

April 14, 2021


The 44th Generative Linguistics in the Old World conference is taking place online from April 15 through 17, hosted by the international team making up the GLOW board. We have two alumni on the program:

  • Julie Goncharov (Ph.D. 2015, now at the University of Tromsø) and Lavi Wolf (Ben Gurion University of the Negev): "Polarity and granularity properties of 'some' polarity items and minimizers."
  • Neil Banerjee (BA 2016, now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology): "Indivisible portmanteaux and the timing of ellipsis."

April 13, 2021

MOTH 2021

This year's Montréal-Ottawa-Toronto-Hamilton (MOTH) Syntax Workshop is being held online from April 19 through 21, hosted by McMaster University. We have a number of graduate students giving presentations:

  • Crystal Chen (MA): "To truck drive or to not truck drive: an analysis of English verbal compounds."
  • Christina Duong (MA): "Cantonese ge: The bleached classifier."
  • Sophie Harrington (Ph.D., Department of Spanish and Portuguese): "'More than a mood': Uniting structure and interpretation through pronominalized complements."
  • Justin Leung (MA): "The structure of directional motion events in Cantonese."
  • Virgilio Partida-Peñalva (Ph.D.): "Reanalyzing the stative-inchoative alternation in Mazahua."

April 11, 2021

Third Experimental Portuguese Workshop

With the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, we are co-hosting the Third Experimental Portuguese Linguistics Workshop on April 23 and 24. Unlike the previous one in 2019, the workshop will be online; however, it will still bring together researchers from all over the world. See the website for registration details.

April 7, 2021

WCCFL 39 and SAIL 2021

The 39th meeting of the West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, along with this year's Symposium on American Indian Languages, is taking place from April 9 through 11, online, hosted by the University of Arizona.

  • Keren Rice (faculty) is giving one of the invited plenary talks: "Can formal linguistics help language reclamation?"
  • Samuel Jambrović (Ph.D., Department of Spanish and Portuguese) is presenting a poster: "When roots become names: An issue of locality."
  • Gloria Mellesmoen (MA 2016, now at the University of British Columbia) is presenting a poster: "Reduplicative morphemes and their non-reduplicative allomorphs in Stratal OT: Stem-level and word-level reduplication in Hul’q’umi’num’."
  • Michelle Yuan (MA 2013, now at the University of California, San Diego) is part of a talk with Gabriela Caballero (University of California, San Diego) and Claudia Juárez Chávez (University of California, San Diego): "The representation of tone in San Juan Piñas Mixtec: Phonological and orthographic implications."
  • Neil Banerjee (BA 2016, now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology): "Indivisible portmanteaux and the timing of ellipsis."
  • Spanish and Portuguese MA graduate Filipe H. Kobayashi (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Sherry Yong Chen (Massachusetts Institute of Technology): "Tracking down (c)overt movement with adverbial distributive numerals in Mandarin Chinese."