March 16, 2023

Is Nathan Sanders actually using games to teach linguistics?

Who here took LIN228/229 with Nathan Sanders (Faculty) and LOVED the games he created to help students learn? Who here has no clue what we are talking about but wants to hear more? 

If you said yes, you're in luck as Sanders will be giving an online talk to the Linguistics and Language Development Student Association at San José State University on this very topic! This will be taking place March 20th at 6:00pm EST. Please register to get the Zoom link.

Read over his abstract to understand why this will be such an exciting talk! 🤩

"Using Learning Games for Phonetics and Phonology"

Research shows that students perform better in courses when they take part in active learning, which involves activities or discussions in class that engage them in the process of learning, rather than traditional lectures that require them to passively listen (Hake 1998, Freeman et al. 2014, Michael 2006). However, many instructors may still be reluctant to introduce active learning into their courses for various reasons (Henderson and Dancy 2007, Deslauriers et al. 2019). Educational games have long been known to be useful ways to reap the benefits of active learning, by increasing student engagement, participation, and ultimately, performance (Cruickshank and Telfer 1980, Lepper and Cordova 1992, Sugar and Takacs 1999, Massey et al. 2005, Ritzo and Robinson 2006). Furthermore, games can be easy to implement in the classroom, sometimes requiring little more than pencil and paper or minimal adaptation of existing games, alleviating some of the difficulties instructors have with introducing active learning. Phonetics and phonology are particularly well-suited for adaptation to games, especially matching games, because they involve multidimensional structures allowing for many different ways of dividing up important concepts into meaningful groups of matching elements (the IPA, phonological features, etc.). In this talk, I present a few examples of educational games I have used in my courses for phonetics and phonology content, with discussion of the design principles that underlie the games to help other instructors understand how best to design and adapt their own games.

This talk is based on some of his work done with Danielle Daidone (University of North Carolina Wilmington).  Be sure to check out the full paper as well!

March 2, 2023


In case you have not heard, SLUGS is hosting TULCON16 this upcoming weekend!! With an incredible line up of keynote speakers, including Noam Chomsky himself), this will be a jam packed weekend of wonderful linguistic work! 

Presentations cover a range of topics from speech disorders to the use of A.I. to theoretical syntax and everything in between! Below you can see the list of all UofT speakers presenting at the conference.Visit the TULCON16 website to get the extensive schedule with abstracts

UofT Presentations: 

- Dr. Regina Jokel (Faculty)  "Language as a diagnostic tool"

- Ewan Dunbar (Department of French)  "Are the Robots as smart as babies now?

- Siyi Fan (Undergrad)  & Shiyang Sun (Undergrad) "A variationist study of first-person-singular subject ellipsis in epistemic verb phrases of Heritage Cantonese" 

- Tony (Juntao) Hu (Undergrad) "Secondary thematic role encoding in require vs. allow verbs"

- Patrick Kinshular (Undergrad) "Semantic constraints in Kirundi phonology"

- Mechelle Wu  (Undergrad) "The citizens of everywhere and nowhere: A pilot study examining the linguistic behaviours of Third-Culture Kids (TCKs)" 

- Naim Lim  (Undergrad) "Acoustic study of word-initial liquids in Korean loanwords for English produced by Korean speakers"

- Hafza Nuh  (Undergrad) "An analysis of English stop consonant perception and production in L1 Somali speakers and comparison with L1 English speakers: A study of /p/ and /b/

- Laura Escobar (Undergrad) "The intonation of statements in the casual spontaneous speech of Tokyo Japanese" 

If you are interesting in attending, please register in advance.  For those who would like to get involved with TULCON, SLUGS is accepting volunteers to help with organization matters throughout the day.

We are SO excited for TULCON and hope you all can make it! 

January 23, 2023

Podcast Alert: Naomi Nagy on A Little More Conversation with Ben O'Hara-Bryne!!

After a viral accent slip on a US news channel, people have been asking many questions about regional dialects. Naomi Nagy (Faculty) was the perfect person to discuss this topic on the podcast A Little More Conversation with Ben O'Hara-Byrne

Nagy talks about the differences in accents and the way they change here in Canada and the US. So if you are looking to answer the question "why do people slip in and out of their accents" this is the episode for you! 

You can listen to the podcast episode on Spotify and Apple Music! Nagy's interview starts at 14:40. 

December 23, 2022

Keren Rice's Final Day of Teaching!

The Fall semester has officially come to an end, leaving us all excited for the Winter Break! This year is especially bittersweet as it marks the final semester with Faculty member Keren Rice before she settles into retirement! 

Following her final lecture (unsurprisingly, an upper-year phonology course) she was surprised by students and faculty members with a mini-celebration to commemorate all her hard work throughout her career! 

Rice made major contributions to the fields of Indigenous language studies, phonology and morphology, as well as having left long-lasting marks on many of her students! As excited as we are for her to begin her next chapter, she will be greatly missed in the classroom! 

Rice with her students!

Faculty members who joined the party! 


December 8, 2022

First-ever winners of the Dean's Research Excellence Awards!

This year, the Faculty of Arts and Science established the Dean's Research Excellence Awards to recognize faculty members whose research achievements have been cited as especially noteworthy!

Given that brief description, it is no surprise to see that Naomi Nagy (Faculty) is one of the five recipients! As this award is aimed to help researches compete successfully in national award competitions, winners will receive $10, 000 to further their professional development. 

The five recipients of this year's Dean's Research Excellence Award: (clockwise from top left) Wil Cunningham (Psychology), Megan Frederickson (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Randall Hansen (Political Science, Munk School) Naomi Nagy (Linguistics) and Kaley Walker (Physics) 

Nagy’s Heritage Language Variation and Change Project positions her at the front and centre of her generation of scholars. With students and colleagues in several countries, she has been documenting studies of variation in 10 heritage languages spoken in Toronto. Nagy has also been engaged in a longitudinal study of an endangered, unwritten, Franco-Provençal language called Faetar.

Huge congratulations goes out to Naomi Nagy! We are excited to see more of her amazing work! 

November 3, 2022

Activism in the Department!

Faculty member Arsalan Kahnemuyipour took part in a rally on Parliament Hill which marked the 1000th day of the downing of Flight PS752. Flight PS752 was taken down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ missiles, killing 176 passengers including 55 Canadians. Families of the victims continue to fight to learn the true circumstances surrounding this tragic event. 

Faculty life in our department is not just about academics and we applaud our faculty members and students who use their voices to fight against injustices across the world!

October 13, 2022

Floral beauty outside Sid Smith

On our street today

September 25, 2022

The Espresso Machine is back in Action

espresso machine 

 The espresso machine (the one with a portafilter, not pods) needed a little TLC after being neglected while we were operating remotely. It's been cleaned and adjusted and is making good coffee again!

August 14, 2022

Katharina defends PhD - In person!

We are delighted to be back to in-person dissertation defenses and Katharina Pabst did us proud (on 26 July 2022) with her presentation and lively Q&A about sociolinguistic description and documentation:

Putting “the Other Maine” on the Map: 

Language Variation, Local Affiliation, and Co-occurrence in Aroostook County English

We had a little reception featuring cupcakes, ayuh!

And alcohol for sanitizing...


August 12, 2022

In person workshop! SPF on August 8

We are getting back to in-person events. Many members of the department, undergrads, grads, faculty and staff, got to see each other for SPF, the Summer Phonetics/Phonology Forum, 2022 edition. 

One highlight was lunch together in the lounge:

Some of the organizers: Alexei, Phil and Jessamyn (faculty at StG, UTSC and UTM, respectively) 

More organizers: Nathan and Keren, plus Naomi and the beautiful window garden 

Koorosh Ariyaee (PhD student) and Gideon Mehna (UTM undergrad presenter)
 Mary and Yoonjung (organizer) catch up. Kiranpreet and Jessica do the same, with Greg's dog Mochi.

Great food from Cumin Kitchen

Presentations were really interested and diverse. They included:

Martin Renard
Stem and Initial Segment Faithfulness in Kanien’kéha Dresher Prize Winner

Simon LiVolsi, Angela Cristiano, Naomi Nagy
Modeling Italian variable apocope

Jessica Yeung
How not to learn an ATR harmony pattern: Results from two pilot experiments

Song Jiang and Alexei Kochetov
An ultrasound study of English rhotic allophones produced by L1 and L2 speakers

Abram Clear and Naomi Nagy
Identifiably Italian: Acoustic features of the Toronto Italian Ethnolinguistic Repertoire

Yi-Ting Deng, Gianna Giovio Canavesi, Ji Whan Kim, Gideon Mehna, and Avery Ozburn
A preliminary investigation of the tone system of Keiyo Hafza Nuh, Aman Sakhardande, and Avery Ozburn
Plosive voicing in Keiyo

Radu Craioveanu
A prosodic typology of preaspiration

Thank you, Organizing committee (Peter Jurgec, Yoonjung Kang, Alexei Kochetov, Philip Monahan, Avery Ozburn, Keren Rice, Nathan Sanders, Jessamyn Schertz)!

 And thanks to Simon LiVolsi, recent grad from St. George, for taking these photos!


August 5, 2022

Dresher and Cowper Grad Student Prizes!! 🎉

We are proud to share the winners of the 2021-2022 Dresher and Cowper Prizes! 

Martin Renard (PhD Student) is the recipient of the Dresher Prize for his phonology paper entitled "Stem and Initial Segment Faithfulness of Kanien'kéha"!  

Akil Ismael (MA Student) is the recipient of the Cowper Prize for his paper entitled "Ergativity in Shilluk"!

Congratulations to both Renard and Ismael! The Department is incredibly proud of your work and is excited to see what the future holds! 

Note: The prizes are named for two emeriti profs in our Department: Elizabeth Cowper and Elan Dresher.

August 3, 2022

Newest Faculty Member: Shohini Bhattasali!

In the Fall, we will be welcoming a new faculty member to the Department of Language Studies at UTSC! Shohini Bhattasali will be joining us as a computational linguist! We had the great pleasure of sitting down with her for an interview. Keep reading to learn more about her! 

What attracted you to the UofT linguistics department?

UofT has an incredible intellectual community and this is reflected through the research and the curriculum. I would love to help strengthen the computational linguistics program and I’m very excited to collaborate within Linguistics and with other departments (e.g. cognitive science, and information science). I also like how each campus has its unique identity but still makes up one cohesive whole. 

Do you have any expectations regarding the department? 

Everyone seems really welcoming and friendly. I am excited to see what everyone is working on and learn more about collaborative, interdisciplinary opportunities. The students at UofT seem very motivated and I’m excited to work with them and guide them along the way. I’m especially looking forward to working with students who want to incorporate computational modelling into their projects or are interested in the cognitive science of language and need guidance. 

You have taught/assisted many courses ranging from computational linguistics to Hindi to writing, which has been your favourite? 

Definitely the linguistics courses! They line up with my interests much more. While I was a teaching assistant for linguistics courses, I got to design tutorials. This was a great teaching experience as I got to see how the students were able to apply the theories they were learning. The writing courses were also great because I was able to design a course from scratch for first-year students. It was very fulfilling to see the students' trajectories as they improved their academic writing skills. These courses were the most rewarding in terms of seeing students improve and gain confidence in their writing! 

Do you notice any trends amongst your top students?

My top students are typically the ones who are engaged and ask questions in class. They are the ones who are not afraid to dive deeper into ongoing topics during class discussions. I know some students are shy and might be intimidated by speaking up in class, but they can still participate in tutorials and drop by during office hours. While it is hard to generalize, student engagement can often be an indicator of how they are doing. If they can relate their personal interests to the material, they will be more motivated and interested in learning. It is great to see students interested in what I am lecturing about and how it changes the way they see linguistics. Students coming from high school often don’t know much about linguistics so it's particularly enjoyable to observe the ah-ha moment where their interest is sparked and they figure out how linguistics isn’t centred around prescriptivism. 

What has been your most memorable research project? 

My dissertation was mainly based on a large-scale fMRI study. I had started grad school with an interest in computational linguistics and discovered neurolinguistics along the way. My advisor was starting a new cognitive neuroscience project and gave me an opportunity to be involved in this cross-linguistic fMRI study. He believes in experiential learning so it was a steep learning curve but I was involved in the experimental design, data collection, data analysis and then training other grad students and undergrad RAs. It was my first time working with neuroimaging data, but this experience really helped guide my research program. It took over a year to collect the brain data but the good thing with using continuous, naturalistic fMRI datasets is that it's not tailored to one research project and we can use it for many different research topics. I’m a big fan of naturalistic fMRI/EEG/MEG datasets for reusability and replicability purposes!

What are some of the issues you face in the field of computational linguistics?

In the last 10 years, the field has exploded and grown exponentially. It can be challenging to even define what “computational linguistics” is as the field is changing so quickly. Additionally, the line between natural language processing and computational linguistics is getting blurry. I personally see computational linguistics as a scientific study of language using computational tools, whereas natural language processing is more about engineering and building tools that are useful for language applications, e.g., Amazon Alexa (speech recognition) and Google Translate (machine translation). 

Artificial intelligence and machine learning approaches have also become tremendously popular, but we need to be careful in applying these approaches blindly to neuroimaging data because there is still so much about the brain we don’t know. While we can use these new fancy tools to get good results on certain tasks, we cannot always rely on them to understand why we get the results we get. For example, a computational model like GPT-3 is very good at predicting the next word in a sentence, but we don’t fully know how the prediction is being generated. If we don’t fully understand the representations being learnt by these models, how can we use them to understand the representations that the brain is using? As scientists, we always critically think about the tools we use and this is just another tool we have at our disposal. Maybe in a few years, we will have a more in-depth understanding of these models, and we can leverage that to understand cognitive mechanisms behind language comprehension and production. I do use computational models in my work to operationalize and embody cognitive hypotheses but I always prefer using simple and interpretable models over these fancier, black-box models.

Do you have any hobbies / secret passions? 

I love reading! I also like to bake since it’s a great way to destress while still feeling productive. Dance and music have played a large role in my life. Growing up in India, I trained as a classical Indian dancer (Odissi) for 15 years and then, I was on my college dance team too. I also love attending classical music concerts and dance performances. I’m looking forward to attending more of those in Toronto! 

What are you most looking forward to about living in Toronto? 

Toronto is a big diverse city which is exciting! I grew up in a large city too, but I have mostly lived in smaller, college towns during undergrad and grad school so I’m very happy to be moving to an urban area. I’ve also heard a lot of good things about Toronto’s multicultural food scene which makes sense given the large immigrant population. I also love visiting museums, discovering local bakeries, and finding new go-to coffee spots. It will be interesting to see what I will find in Toronto! I’m also looking forward to exploring more of Ontario and Canada in general since I’ve only visited Quebec City. 

I will be going back and forth between the Scarborough and St. George campuses, and luckily for me I already have a few connections on all campuses which I’m excited about. Nathan Sanders  (Facultywas actually my undergrad thesis advisor so it’s such a small world moment to now be his colleague! One of my best friends from grad school is a faculty in iSchool (Shion Guha) and another friend is joining UTM Language Studies (Lingzi Zhuang, new faculty member). Overall, I am excited to join UofT and am looking forward to creating a lab at the intersection of computational linguistics and cognitive neuroscience, meeting the students and making more connections here!

We would like to thank Shohini for taking the time out of her busy schedule to be interviewed! We look forward to seeing her on campus in the Fall! Feel free to connect with her on Twitter if you have any questions or if you want to introduce yourself! 

August 2, 2022

UofT Linguists at the Cognitive Science Society's Annual Meeting!

The Cognitive Science Society held their Annual Meeting here in Toronto from July 27th - 30th 2022.  This year's meeting hosted the latest theories and data from the world's best cognitive science researchers. No surprise, we found many UofT faculty members and students in the programme! The Submitted papers have been published in the Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 44(44).  

UofT papers include: 

Overall,  this was a VERY eventful conference for our linguists! 🎉🎉🎉

July 28, 2022

Welcome Lingzi Zhuang to the Department!

Drumroll please as we welcome the newest faculty member of the Department of Language Studies

 at UTM 🥁🥁🥁🥁🥁🥁🥁🥁

Lingzi Zhuang 

Starting July 1st 2022 Zhuang will be joining as Assistant Professor Teaching Stream! Zhuang is currently finishing his PhD dissertation at Cornell University. He works on semantics, pragmatics and language change, with a focus on languages in the Himalayas and China! 

Within semantics and pragmatics, he is interested in how languages express evidence, attitudes, and epistemic commitments, and in verbal aspect and nominal reference. He is also interested in semantic and syntactic change and has worked on topics in Sino-Tibetan historical linguistics! 

Does his name ring a bell? Zhuang gave a lecture on "Definiteness in Chinese Nominals" at UTM in February 2022! 

Check out his recent Student Spotlight from Cornell University Graduate School to learn more about him! 

July 26, 2022

(Re-)Meet the Staff: Kai Herzog-Hara

While we are all familiar with the wonderful Kai Herzog-Hara (former Undergraduate Secretary), we thought it would be fun to re-introduce her in the blog as she has just taken the position of Graduate Office and Departmental Officer Assistant! Kai was able to fit in an interview with What's Happening in Toronto Linguistics where we go to learn much more about her! 

How are you liking your new position so far?

I like it a lot! I get to know a different side of the department which is great! I’m still learning the new parts of the job, but I really like it so far. 

Why did you decide to switch from undergrad admin to grad admin?

I really enjoyed working as the undergrad admin. I loved being able to help students plan and organize themselves to help them achieve their goals. When this position opened up, the department thought it would be a good idea for someone who already knew the department to take over. As I already had the experience of working as an undergrad admin, it just makes sense for me to take on this new role. 

When you finished your undergrad at UofT (in linguistics), why did you decide to work on the administration side of the department? 

During undergrad, I worked in Sali Tagliamonte’s (Faculty) lab and while I really liked it, I wasn't ready to go further into graduate school. I needed more time to get myself organized and manage my mental health. When the undergrad admin position opened up, Sali brought it to my attention, and again, it just made sense for me to apply

What is your favourite thing about working in the linguistic department? 

My favourite thing is being able to help students in the ways that I can. In undergrad, I majored in psychology and linguistics and I feel like both subjects are relevant to my work. I enjoy being able to help people achieve their goals! 

What was the most memorable moment from your time as an undergraduate student in the department?

I don’t have an exact moment. I would say the most memorable thing was the community. It was in my second year when I first felt that. The department has a really strong sense of community and that has to be the most memorable aspect.

Do you have any hobbies / secret passions?

Haha does Netflix count? In all seriousness, I do enjoy embroidery! I started during undergrad when some of my friends from back home (Ottawa) wanted to make matching sweaters. It was a cool thing for us to do all together. I will still embroider shirts and sweaters but now I do more patches. The motion is easier on patches. My least favourite part is finishing the edges to make it look nice, I have yet to complete one that I am happy with but it’s coming! I do like to have ​tv or movies on in the background. Currently, I am committed to a Marvel Universe binge. I made a bet that I would do it and now I’m stuck. At least I can embroider while they are playing! 

What is the best-kept secret in Toronto?

There are not many secrets in Toronto! But I do love going to parks around Toronto. Bickford Park might be a favourite because it's not exposed to the busyness of Bloor Street but is still so central. When someone is visiting or is new to Toronto, I take them to Toronto Island because it is great to explore! Some spots have more greenery and are great for a picnic while other spots are beautiful beaches. Plus, there is an amazing view of the Toronto shoreline you can see while on the ferry.

What is your favourite spot on campus?

When I was an undergrad, I would say it would be the top floor of Myhal for studying and the Cat’s Eye for socializing. I was a Victoria College student, so I spent a lot of time there. Now I’m in my Office (Fourth Floor of Sidney Smith) and I don’t get to move locations too much. In Autumn, I love going to Queen’s Park as it is beautiful at that time of year.

What is your dream travel destination? 

Oh, that is a lot to think about! I would love to go to Melbourne to visit friends! It’s far and it seems like a really good place. But my dream travel destination would depend on who I’m going with and what the purpose is. I like a resort vacation ​just as much as I like to go out and seeing things. Overall, I just need friends and sunshine and I’m happy. That's probably why I like bringing people to Toronto Island!

We would like to thank Kai for participating in an interview! It was great getting to know her some more! We will be waiting to see more of your fun embroidery! 

July 20, 2022

Welcome Colin Gibson, Undergrad Secretary!

We would like to give a warm welcome to the newest staff member of the Department! Colin Gibson has recently joined as the Undergraduate Secretary! You can read his statement below and get to know Colin a bit better!

My name is Colin Gibson and I have been assigned to the role of Undergraduate Secretary for the next little while. I'm so glad to join this team and to be a part of such an interesting field of study! I hope to continue to offer the same great responsive service given to undergraduates by my predecessors. 

I was educated as a journalist and marketing professional. I've worked at various positions around the university for the past 5-6 years, including extended stints as a development officer, events coordinator, communications assistant, even front-line support and office reception. I often joke that there's very few jobs around the campus that I haven't done. 
One of the things that I love about working here is the diversity of backgrounds and breadth of experiences. We have so many interesting and skilled people walking through our streets and halls. The University of Toronto really is a city-within-a-city, and our students, staff, and faculty makeup reflects the wide international community that Toronto represents. 
My goals in this role are to help further the excellent support historically offered to undergraduate students. I also hope to enhance the profile of the office through my extensive background in marketing and communications. 
I look forward to meeting you all and working with you to help make your academic journey as smooth and productive as possible. Drop by the office sometime to say hello! 

July 8, 2022

MORE UofT Linguistics in Paris! 🇫🇷

The Structures Formelles du Langage (The Formal Language Structures Laboratory) hosted The Workshop on Copular Sentences: Prediction, Specification, Equation! This workshop took place in Paris, France from June 14th-15th 2022. 

Susana Bejar (Faculty) and Arsalan Kahnemuyipour (Faculty) presented their work on "Failing low, succeeding high: Agreement with specificational subjects." 

After all their hard work, Bejar and Kahnemuyipour got to enjoy an amazing sunset picnic under the Eiffel Tower with their colleagues! 🧺🥖🌅🍷

July 7, 2022

Radio 1 Interview with Sali Tagliamonte!

For those who have not heard yet, Sali A. Tagliamonte (Facultywill be taking a Field trip to Thunder Bay, Ontario! As Tagliamonte and her students head up the north shore of Lake Superior, they will be interviewing locals for a dialect survey and for an accommodation study! 

RADIO 1 did a story on Tagliamonte's upcoming trip! In her interview, "A linguist dedicated to the language of Northern Ontarians",  she shared more details on the project and got to show off her French-speaking skills. 😉 

Be sure to check out the interview to learn more! They are always looking for participants, so if you know any born and raised locals in a Northern Ontario community, share this post with them! 😃

July 6, 2022

New Publication from Angelika Kiss!

PhD Candidate Angelika Kiss has published work in Acta Linguistica Academica! Kiss' paper is entitled "The Hungarian question tag mi? As characterized by dependent and independent commitments"!

Kiss argues that the tag mi? is favoured in contexts where both the addressee and the speaker are independently committed to a proposition; additionally, the speaker is independently committed to the fact that the addressee is independently committed. Her results show direct support for the claim that mi? tentatively commits the addressee as a source for a proposition. 

Amazing work from Angelika Kiss!! 

June 28, 2022

Reunited at DiGS 23!!

From right to left: Erin Hall, Ana Pérez-Leroux, Ailis Cournane  
The Diachronic Generative Syntax (DiGS) conference, held at NYU,  took place June 8-10.  DiGS 23 had a special workshop on "Child learners in syntactic change: Theory and methods"! This workshop hosted presentations and discussions on topics combining theoretical syntax, child language acquisition, variationist sociolinguistics and computational modelling of language change.

Erin Hall (PhD Alum 2020, now assistant professor at California State University, San Bernardino) and Ana Pérez-Leroux (Faculty) presented their work entitled "Children take steps toward cyclic and non-cyclic diachronic changes". The pair examine the role of child language acquisition in systematic, cyclic processes of grammaticalization, and non-cyclic changes in progress. They propose that there are 2 different processes involved in child language acquisition.

Not only did this workshop allow for Hall and Pérez-Leroux to share their amazing work, but they also got to reunite with Ailis Cournane! Cournane is a PhD alum, class of 2015, and is now an assistant professor at NYU! 

Overall, UofT faculty and alum had a successful time at DiGS 23!