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!! πŸŽ‰

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'kΓ©ha"!  

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! πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰

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 πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯

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! πŸ‡«πŸ‡·

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! πŸ§ΊπŸ₯–πŸŒ…πŸ·

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. πŸ˜‰ 

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! πŸ˜ƒ

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 PΓ©rez-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 PΓ©rez-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 PΓ©rez-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! 

June 22, 2022

UofT Publications in the Canadian Journal of Linguistics !

We are pleased to share that there are TWO UofT publications in the Canadian Journal of Linguistics

Cassandra Chapman (former Postdoctoral Fellow) and Keir Moulton (Faculty) have recently published "Second chances in antecedent retrieval: The processing of reflexives in two types of reconstruction environments." Here they investigate the phenomenon where reflexives in wh-predicate fronting constructions launch a search that is not structurally guided. They ask whether non-structurally guided retrievals of this sort result in comprehenders ever commit to ungrammatical antecedents. 

A great read for those interested in psycholinguistics! 

Elizabeth Cowper (Faculty Emirita) and Daniel Currie Hall (alum, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, N.S) have their paper "Morphosemantic features in Universal Grammar: What we can learn from Marshallese pronouns and demonstratives" published as well! They analyze Marshallese pronouns and demonstratives. Cowper and Currie Hall argue that both privative and binary morphosemantic features are necessary, and that these two types coexist in a single domain. 

A can't-miss paper for all our morphologists and semantics! 

June 17, 2022

Featured Article: Non-Auditory Effects of Environmental Noise

Marshall Chasin's (Faculty) paper "Non-Auditory Effects of Environmental Noises" is the Featured Story in Canadian Audiologist, the official publication of the Canadian Academy of Audiology! Chasin's work stands out as the study of non-auditory effects of everyday environmental noises (e.g sleep disruptions and annoyances) that are not typically considered in audiology. 

Chasin examines reviews done by the World Health Organization on the effects of non-auditory noise on stress and cardiovascular effects, sleep disruption patterns, cognition, adverse birth outcome issues and general annoyance. His paper summarizes and delineates the difficulties in researching non-auditory effects of everyday noises and provides insight into the conclusions from the WHO's general recommendation for dealing with non-auditory environmental noises. 

This is an interesting read for all our audiologists, phoneticians and psycholinguists!

June 16, 2022

Undergrad Award Recipient πŸŽ“πŸŽ‰

Huge congratulations to Gianna Francesca Giovio Canavesi (now UTM undergrad alum) for graduating and receiving two esteemed awards! 

She is the recipient of the UofT Excellence Award for her work on "Production and Perception of Keiyo Vowels,"a research project supervised by Dr. Avery Ozburn. She also received the Outstanding Program Performance Award in Language Studies at UTM! 

Congrats Gianna! Your hard work has paid off and we are excited to see the amazing things you'll accomplish as you pursue your Masters in Speech-Language Pathology! 

June 15, 2022

Podcast on Computational Linguistics!

You have all probably binge-listened to the Gender in Language Podcasts from the JAL355 class, and we will we now share ANOTHER amazing listen from within the department! 

Frederick Gietz (PhD Candidate) was a guest on the Learn Real Good Podcast, a science-comedy podcast! His episode, "Teaching Semantics to Computers with Frederick Gietz" talks about teaching computers how to use verbs in the many complex ways humans do. As Gietz uses semantic and psychological theories to better understand language processing, he made for an excellent and engaging podcast guest! 

We highly recommend listening to his episode on your next daily walk! 

June 13, 2022

Associate Professor Keir Moulton!


We offer big CONGRATULATIONS Keir,  
who has been awarded Tenure and Promotion to Associate Professor in our Department. 
He will now have time to perfect his risotto and other culinary undertakings.

June 9, 2022

Graduation Tea πŸ«–πŸŽ“πŸŽ‰

All undergrad linguists spend years working towards the goal of attending the Graduation Tea! This year, members of the graduating class joined faculty members on Wonder where they reminisced on their undergrad years and chatted about future plans! We are pleased to hear many are continuing their studies in linguistics at various institutions around the world! 

Congrats to all students who are graduating this year! We cannot wait to hear about all the amazing things you'll do in the future! 


June 8, 2022

Ba-TOM 1!

The First Toronto-Montreal Bantu Colloquium (Ba-TOM) was hosted (IN PERSON!) on our Scarborough Campus from May 27th -28th! 

Students from the Winter Semester Field Method courses at the University of Toronto and at McGill's linguistics department presented their final papers at Ba-Tom 1. 

Here we have almost all the UofT presenters! 

Check out the program to see how many UofT names you can recognize!

This was an amazing event and the department is excited to see Ba-TOM continue in the years to come! 

June 7, 2022

Workshop: Semantics of NPs, DPs, and Modality!

On June 9th the Department of Linguistics and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese are co-organizing this workshop:

Semantics of NPs, DPs, and Modality

Thursday June 9, 2022 NFC, Victoria College VC102


Professor Roberta Pires de Oliveira, a specialist on modality and bare nominals in Brazilian Portuguese, is the invited speaker and will be sharing their work on Semantics, Language Variation and Experiments! 

Students working on related topics will also be presenting their work during the workshop! Student Talks include: 

  • Sophie Harrington: "More than a mood": Uniting structure and interpretation through prominalized complements 
  • Crystal Chen (PhD Student): That Kind-of demonstrative: A Semantic Analysis of English Demonstratives 
  • Samuel Jambrović: Names, articles, and unique individuals 
  • Ohanna Severo: The syntactic properties of bare nouns in a Spanish-Portuguese contact situation
  •  Gregory Antono (PhD Student), Daphna Heller (Faculty) and Craig Chambers  (cross-appointed with the Department of Psychology): Linearizing classifiers, numerals, and nouns in the noun phrase. Does artificial language learning reflect cognitive biases? 
If you'd like to attend this intriguing workshop, please register in advance! 


10:30 – 11:00 a.m.
Sophie Harrington
"More than a mood": Uniting
structure and interpretation through pronominalized complements

11:00 – 12:00 p.m.
Roberta Pires de Oliveira (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina/CNPq PQ-1C) Invited talk: Bare arguments and kinds: The case of Brazilian Portuguese

12:00 – 1:30 p.m. Lunch

1:30 – 2:00 p.m.
Crystal Chen
Kind-of demonstrative: A Semantic Analysis of English Demonstratives

2:00 – 2:30 p.m.
Samuel Jambrović
Names, articles, and unique individuals

2:30 – 2:45 pm Coffee break

2:45 – 3:15 p.m.
Ohanna Severo
Investigating bare nouns in Spanish-Portuguese bilinguals

3:15 – 3:45
Gregory Antono, Daphna Heller, Craig Chambers
Linearizing classifiers, numerals, and nouns in the noun phrase. Does artificial language learning reflect cognitive biases?

3:45 – 4:00 p.m. Closing remarks