December 4, 2010

Holiday Party

United in one small department lounge (and the hallway) on December 3rd were faculty, Ph.D. students, visiting students, MA students (including all of the new ones),undergrads, alumni (Dylan, we see you!), staff, and family-members.

Christmas and Hanukkah songs were provided by the ever-reliable F-ZERO, now joined by MA student Christopher Spahr on bass guitar.

Refreshments included an inordinate number of varieties of cheese; and thanks to MA student Maddie Shellgren, we were all treated to the sight (and taste) of a twelve-inch-tall gummy-bear.

November 11, 2010

Linguistics-Psychology Welcome Party

On Thursday the 11th members of the psychology and linguistics departments got together to "meet the people at the other end of the hall" in the Linguistics Lounge. Opening remarks were made and the departmental band, F-ZERO, provided entertainment.

October 29, 2010

LGCU Welcome Workshop

The LGCU hosted its second annual Welcome Workshop, an informal conference that enables participating new students in particular to introduce themselves and share a bit of their research in a 15-minute talk.

Half of the new MA students opted to take part, along with Ph.D. students Ross Krekoski, Will Oxford, and LeAnn Brown. The presentations were interspersed with coffee, cheese, and pastries; and then followed by leftovers and an impressively lengthy period of standing around in the room and talking.

October 22, 2010

Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change

This is a photo taken Oct. 21, 2010 after a private screening of the new movie "Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change" at U of T before its official premiere Sat. Oct. 23. The movie screening was sponsored by the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation as part of a new series of events on the topic of northern security .
The photo shows the ABS 231 Inuktitut class which is being taught by Alana Johns and Saila Michael standing with the famous Inuit director Zacharias Kunuk (who co-directed this movie with Ian Mauro) in the middle. At least two of these students are undergraduate linguistics students: Michelle Yuan and Paul King.

October 4, 2010

Diane's visit to New Zealand

I am now in New Zealand as a visiting Erskine Fellow at the University of Canterbury, teaching syntax, meeting students, and taking part in field methods (Kiribati is the language and it has fascinating directional constructions and mysterious verbal suffixes). Plus meeting members of the Niuean community and doing a little field work on Vagahau Niue (Niuean). It has been an interesting time, with 348 earthquakes since I got here on Sept 14th (out of a total of 1448) until today, Oct 4th, 8 pm. It has been great to see a second Spring this year! I went to Wellington to give a talk too, where I saw Naomi and Jack's pictures in the Sociolinguistics Hall of Fame. Here is a picture of me with Ofania Ikiua, consultant extraordinaire for Vagahau Niue, and my co-author for two papers on Niuean. She is a senior analyst with the NZ Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs. During my time here, I have found out interesting things about Niuean cognate object constructions, focus, causatives and a little bit about pro-drop.

September 28, 2010

The End of Argument Structure? Workshop

This weekend the University of Toronto is hosting "The End of Argument Structure?" Workshop. Invited speakers included Mark Baker, Heidi Harley, Lisa Travis and Grant Armstrong. The abstract booklet is available here. The workshop description is below. The workshop has been organized by María Cristina Cuervo and Yves Roberge.

This  workshop,  to  be  held  on  1‐2  October,  2010,  will  be  an  opportunity to  explore  current  issues  and  re‐assess  generally  accepted  premises  on  the relationship  between  lexical  meaning  and  the  morphosyntax  of  sentences.  A central  question  in  the  study  of  language  concerns  the  mechanisms  by  which the  participants  in  an  event  described  by  a  sentence  come  to  occupy  their positions  in  the  structure  and  acquire  their  interpretation.  A  long‐standing approach  is  based  on  the  assumption  that  it  is  the  lexical meaning  of  a  verb  that  determines,  albeit  indirectly,  the  basic  properties of  sentence  structure  at  the  level  of  verbal  meaning,  including asymmetric relations, thematic roles, case, and agreement.  An alternative approach claims  that  the  syntax  itself  greatly  restricts  possible  verbal meanings on the basis  of the legitimate relations that can exist between syntactic heads, complements, and specifiers.  

 If  we  think  that  all  systematic  aspects  of  verbal  meanings  (licensing  of external  argument,  number  and  type  of  ‘obligatory’  and  extra  arguments, agentivity,  causativity,  aksionsart,  etc.)  are  dependent  on  configurational properties,  what  is  left  for  lexical  entries?  Do  generalizations  such  as the
UTAH  and  other  prominence  hierarchies  need  to  be  stated  explicitly,  or are they  derived  from  more  general  principles  of  syntactic  operations  (and structures)  and  semantic  compositionality?  What  is  left  unexplained  by syntax‐driven approaches? 

In  order  to  promote  an  open  exchange  of  ideas,  we  have  in  mind  a  real workshop  format  rather  than  a  regular  conference  around  themes  that  will be  determined  in  consultation  with  the  invited  participants,  based  on  their contributions.  A  small  number  of  papers  will  be  selected  from  open submissions.  
Invited participants:  
Mark Baker (Rutgers University)
Heidi Harley (University of Arizona)  
Lisa Travis (McGill University)

Invited student participant:  
Grant Armstrong (Georgetown University)

September 24, 2010

Earthquake in NZ

Diane Massam is in New Zealand now. She sent this image of how things are after the recent earthquake. Our thoughts are with all our friends in NZ, with hopes for speedy recovery.

September 21, 2010

Summer fun w/ Faetar & Cellese

Sometimes friends wonder how we academic-types keep busy all summer, with all that "time off." This would be a great place to post what you did this summer. Especially if you have good photos to add.

I spent several days hanging out in Brantford (home of Wayne Gretsky!) and other parts of the Greater GTA. Turns out there are lots of speakers of Cellese, the Francoprovençal dialect "from across the valley" to Faetar, where I did fieldwork in the early '90s. These speakers came from Celle, in southern Italy, in the 1950's, mostly, and have been living in Ontario, and continuing to speak Faetar and Cellese ever since. So far, I've talked to over 30 people. Given that there are only about 600 left in Faeto and Celle, this is a pretty good sample! I went to their summer picnic (140+ people, a variety of sausages, and a great bocce tournament) and will be meeting the Rochester contingent at their Polenta Dinner (Migliazzate) next month.

Side benefits, besides getting to practice my Faetar and drink "real" Italian coffee, include tasting the fruits (and veges (?)) of their gardens, prosciutto from Faeto, and their homemade wine, as well as meeting race car drivers, artists, and shoemakers. And I keep busy during the non-interviewing days transcribing some of the highlights of these interviews. Sadly, I have no photos to post, but you can see some great pix of Faeto, taken by one of my favorite speakers, here.

Language and Cultural Expo

New PhD student Matt Gardner brings this to our attention:

Omni TV is sponsoring a Language and Cultural Expo Oct. 2-3, 2010 at Exhibition Place. Looks like a variety of events, and maybe a great place to recruit speakers for various research projects...

If you go, come back and blog about it!

June 15, 2010

CLA student poster winner

Our PhD student Liisa Duncan has been announced as the winner of the student poster competition at this year's CLA annual conference. Liisa's poster was titled "Consonant gradation in Finnish dialects". Congrats, Liisa!

May 31, 2010

CLA 2010

This year's CLA Conference was held at Concordia University in Montreal from May 29-31, and our department had a very strong presence!

The following members of the department gave talks:

Rashid Al-Balushi

The licensing of structural case in Standard Arabic

Ailis Cournane

A cline of subject clitic doubling: Grammaticalization in small steps

Elizabeth Cowper

Where auxiliary verbs come from

Yoonjung Kang and Seung-Joon Park

Variation of consonant-final nouns in heritage Korean in Toronto

Loredana Andreea Kosa

Sibilant harmony: Investigating the connection between typology and learnability

Diane Massam

On the status of inversion in an inverse language

Alexandra Motut

A puzzle for the syntax and semantics of depictives

Kenji Oda

Dependent verbal morphology in Modern Irish: A distributed morphology approach

Will Oxford

Same, other, and different: A first look at the microsyntax of identity adjectives

Yves Roberge and Nelleke Strik

L'omission Wh: théorie et acquisition

Michelle St-Amour

On being definitely unique in Inuktitut

Nelleke Strik

French wh-questions in child L2 acquisition

And the following members of the department presented posters:

Elizabeth Cowper and Daniel Hall

Structures for possession in Upper Sorbian and Czech

Liisa Duncan

Consonant gradation in Finnish dialects

Julie Goncharov

'Definite' adjectives in Slavic

Maria Kyriakaki

What Greek DETs do: The restrictive DP

Annick Morin

Diachrony and synchrony of /l/ gemination in Québec French

Ana Pérez-Leroux and Yadira Alvarez

How to BE in Spanish: The acquisition of copula and existential constructions by Spanish speaking children

Last but not least, Naomi Nagy was a panelist in a round-table discussion entitled "Corpora: Heritage and Preservation."

Congrats to all who participated!

(If anyone has inadvertently been omitted from this lengthy list, please contact the blog committee at to let us know.)

May 24, 2010

41st Annual Conference on African Linguistics

The University of Toronto and York University recently co-hosted the 41st Annual Conference on African Linguistics (ACAL2010), on May 6-8th. Plenary speakers were Prof. Sammy Beban Chumbow (Université Yaoundé I, Cameroon), Prof. Salikoko Mufwene (University of Chicago), and Prof. Sharon Rose (University of California at San Diego). These talks touched upon a number of key issues related to African language description, analysis, history, status, and preservation, tying well with the theme of the conference “African Languages in Contact”.

There were over 80 talks presented from researchers at institutions throughout the world including North America, Europe, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon, Sudan, and others. Five parallel sessions were needed at times at the conference to accommodate the great number of participants!

Talks were presented covering numerous aspects of formal linguistic theory and language studies, including sessions centered around Phonology, Tonology, Phonetics, Syntax, Semantics, Acquisition, Language Variation, Language Policy, Language Contact, and others.

University of Toronto linguistics graduate students Isaac Gould, Safieh Moghaddam, and Nicholas Rolle each presented a paper at the conference in distinct syntax sessions. Isaac presented on the absentive marker and Safieh presented on focus constructions, both in Lamnso’ [Bantoid: Cameroon], while Nicholas presented on morphosyntactic aspects of personal pronouns in Esan [Edoid: Nigeria]. All three of these talks come from continued work on these languages stemming from past Field Methods courses taught by University Professor Keren Rice.

The conference ended with a bang, held at the hall of the Eritrean Canadian Association of Toronto. There, the participants feasted on a great variety of foods from East and West Africa, sipped on Ethiopian beer, all to the tunes of a great Zimbabwean band Asaansi (sp?), whose name in Shona means “Waves”. The night was capped by lots of dancing, both by the band and by the participants. You can see more of the festivities here:

Our linguistics students Derek Denis, Nicholas Rolle, and Isaac Gould

Co-organizer Peter Avery

Wonderful African food

The great Zimbabwean band

Plenary Speaker Sharon Rose

Plenary Speaker Sammy Beban Chumbow

Co-organizer Bruce Connell

Women in traditional Nigerian garments

Profs. James Essegbey and Salikoko Mufwene

The conference was organized by Peter Avery, Parth Bhatt, Bruce Connell, Juvenal Ndayiragije, Emmanuel Nikiema, Keren Rice, and Nicholas Rolle, with the help of volunteers too numerous to mention here in full.

May 20, 2010

Lecture by Elan, May 27

Everyone is invited to attend a lecture on Thursday May 27 that will be given by Prof. Dresher in the Department lounge. His topic is "Dating the Hebrew Bible: Can Linguistics Help?". Here is a short description of the talk:

Despite years of scholarship going back to the Renaissance, dating the books of the Hebrew Bible remains a controversial enterprise. Professor Dresher will discuss contemporary methods in historical linguistics and sociolinguistics that can be used to evaluate the relative age of the language in the Bible's many books.

The event runs from 7-9 pm and will include a reception and a question period. Please RSVP to William Forrest <>, so that we know how much food to buy!

The event is co-sponsored by flaut (Friends of Linguistics at the University
of Toronto) and Spring Reunion 2010.

May 13, 2010

Naomi went to Hamburg

Naomi recently spent a week in Hamburg, Germany, discussing research projects in the domain of urban multilingualism with the Linguistic Diversity Management research group at the University of Hamburg.

It was her first time in Germany, and she was delighted to find an abundance of chocolate, as well as common interest in systematic approaches to understanding contact-induced language change.

May 1, 2010

Spring has arrived on campus

Alana has sent along this lovely photo of the cherry trees blossoming by Ed Burstynsky's memorial bench outside Robarts. (Click on the image to see it full-size.)

It's the little things in life

Of all the things you'd expect to find on a linguistics blog, a faucet is pretty low on the list --

-- but regular users of our departmental lounge will understand just how heartwarming the preceding photo is!

41st Annual Conference on African Linguistics

The University of Toronto and York University, Glendon Campus are hosting the 41st Annual Conference on African Linguistics 2010.

The conference will take place from Thursday, May 6 to Saturday, May 8. May 6 and 7 are in Sidney Smith Hall, University of Toronto, while May 8 is at the Glendon Campus.

Registration begins on Wednesday, May 5, at 5:00pm, in the linguistics lounge on the 4th floor of Sidney Smith Hall.

Visit the conference website for full details.

April 6, 2010

UT linguist talks at GURT

Atiqa Hachimi reports that she recently returned from the Georgetown University Round Table on Arabic Language and Linguistics.

The title of her talk was:
"Arabic sociolinguistics and mobility: Exploring the social reinterpretation of old urban varieties in contemporary North Africa"

She's off to another conference at U of Texas next week. and she'll make sure to take pictures this time :-)

Georgetown University Campus Main EntranceGeorgetown Campus

Manami at the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics in Tokyo

Manami Hirayama writes from Tokyo to say that she landed a postdoc
appointment at the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics in Tokyo. The
Institute is one of the marvels of the linguistics world, a corporation founded in 1948
and occupied continuously by teams of linguists doing pure research. It is a great place
for Manami to get started. Manami's project is phonology and her boss is Haruo Kubozono.
The Institute moved to a new glass-and-chrome building a few years ago in Tachikawa, on
the western edge of Tokyo, and the commute for Manami from her parents' house is almost 2
hours each way. She is also going to start a part-time teaching job in a few weeks.

She says, "I've been seeing my friends and people whom I hadn't seen for a long time,
which is nice as well. I miss Toronto very much, at the same time, however. People are in
my dreams!"

Maybe she'll send us some pictures to link? of the "Dialect research room"?

March 9, 2010

"Dene Soundscapes"

Friends of Linguistics At the University of Toronto
presents a lecture by

University Professor, University of Toronto

Dene Soundscapes

In this talk, Keren Rice explores the sounds of language and the sounds of nature in the north Mackenzie area of the Northwest Territories. Learn about the languages, see some pictures, and hear some unusual sounds in this first flaut presentation in our department’s new location.

Thursday march 18, 2010
7 – 9 p.m.

4th floor
100 St. George Street


March 5, 2010

MinJae update

Dear all,

We would like to thank all of you for kind and supporting messages about the baby.
It has really been great comfort and encouraging in this super-stressed time.

We also want to let you know that MinJae is finally discharged from the hospital and in a good condition to fly
back to Calgary! We are leaving next Tuesday.

Best wishes to all of you and thanks again!

Kyumin and Jae.

February 24, 2010

Daphna in Arizona

Daphna Heller wishes to share a photo from her recent trip to Tucson, Arizona. There she gave a colloquium at the University of Arizona, and met with Adam Ussishikin to discuss their collaboration on lexical access in Modern Hebrew.

February 22, 2010

Kyumin's baby, Min Jae Park

Kyumin and Jae write:
We are excited to announce our baby boy's arrival. He was born in Feb 13, at 6:29pm, which was 6 weeks earlier than expected. (so, he's born in Toronto, not in Calgary). He weighs 2.165kg. His name is Min Jae Park. He is under NICU care, as he is premature. But, he is fine, he just needs to grow up more. He will be discharged from the hospital probably in one and a half weeks later.
These pictures are of Min Jae, one day old, still in an incubator.

February 16, 2010

M.A. Students in New Zealand

Over the winter break in December and January, two of our current Master's students, Isaac Gould and Nik Rolle, took a trip to New Zealand. Here are some of the pictures from their trip.

Overlooking the Waimana river valley in Te Urewera national park at dusk.

An early morning shot at one of the harbours in Auckland.

Intrepid Nik braves the volcano with his gas mask.

The greenish water is from the sulphur from the volcano.

Intrepid Nik blazes a trail through the forest.

Isaac dancing with a Puka Pukan in the Fale Pasifika at the University of Auckland.

February 10, 2010

Manami's Farewell

On January 22nd we held the first party at the new department space. While enjoying good food and basking in the natural sunlight coming through the lounge windows, we also said goodbye to Manami Hirayama, who has recently completed her PhD at the department. We wish her the best of luck on her move back to Japan.

More pictures from the party can be found by following this link.

February 4, 2010

Phonetic work on Argentine and Cuban Spanish

Alexei Kochetov and Laura Colantoni (Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese) have been actively involved in an extensive phonetic electropalatographic (EPG) investigation of Argentine and Cuban Spanish.

This project – the first articulatory kinematic study of these varieties – consists of a series of experiments examining variation in the articulation of coronal consonants, the processes of nasal place assimilation and s-deletion, and a change in progress in Buenos Aires Spanish resulting in the depalatalization of palatal nasals. EPG is particularly suitable for this kind of research, as it records the timing and location of the tongue constriction during speech using an artificial palate equipped with 62 electrodes. Data collection and analysis for the project (funded by Connaught) are being performed in the Linguistics Department Phonetics Lab, with the assistance of a work-study student Bojana Radovanovic.

Some of the results from the project have been presented at the 158th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of the America in San Antonio, TX in October, 2009 (poster), the 23rd conference Going Romance in Nice, France in December 2009 (slides), and will be presented soon at the 28th West Coast Conference in Formal Linguistics in Los Angeles, CA (February 2010), the 40th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages in Seattle, WA (March 2010), and at the 12th conference on Laboratory Phonology in Albuquerque, NM (July 2010).

Alexei and Laura are currently looking for more speakers of Cuban Spanish from Havana. Please contact them at or if you happen to know suitable candidates.

Hank Rogers

We are very sorry to report the death of Professor Emeritus Hank Rogers, a member of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Toronto since 1967.

We will miss him!

To learn more about Hank, visit his website.

Further information and directions to his funeral can be found at:

You are invited to make donations in his memory to the Henry Rogers Undergraduate Scholarship in Linguistics.

Please share your thoughts about Hank by commenting on this post.

February 3, 2010

Looking for Russians & Koreans

The Heritage Language Variation and Change Project is nearing the end of the interviewing and recording phase, but we still need to find a few types of speakers. So, if you know of anyone who fits these categories, please let me (Naomi) know!

We are looking for Russian speakers who are from Moscow or St. Petersburg

Female, age 38-40, lived in Moscow or St. P. until she was ~20, then moved to the GTA
Female, older than 40, parents born in the GTA, grandparents from Moscow or St. P.
Male, under age 40, born in the GTA, parents born in Moscow or St. P.
Male, under age 40, parents born in the GTA, grandparents from Moscow or St. P.

And, if you know ANY third generation Koreans who speak Korean, we'd love to talk to them! (3rd generation means their grandparents are from Seoul, but their parents and they were born in the GTA.)

Many thanks!

January 25, 2010

Marina's new baby Yana

Dear all,
Our family is all excited to announce our new baby daughter's arrival! She was born 22.01.10 at 3:33 pm, weighing 3476 g, height 51 cm. Her name is Yana Maria Lieber ('Yana' rhymes with 'Hannah', her big sister's name, and the Russian nickname for 'Hannah' is 'Anya', which in Russian is spelled as the reverse of 'Yana'; 'Maria' was my grandmother's name).
Both Yana and me are happy and healthy. We attach a picture of Yana, almost one day old, with her big sister and Mommy.

Marina, Zeev and Hannah

January 23, 2010

Sali and Derek defend teenagers in Montreal Gazette

Recent media buzz in the UK warned teens all over the world that their "teenspeak" is making them "unemployable". On this side of the pond, the media was a little less extreme and consulted linguists with real data, including U of T's Sali Tagliamonte and Derek Denis.

January 18, 2010

Video rapportage of the move-in

Alana writes:

This video was taken on the first day in December 2009 that members of our dept. actually started using the new dept. It was mid-move and I think it shows the magical moment when the grad students transformed an empty lounge into our new living quarters.

January 7, 2010

Overheard on Campus

Linguistics was featured in this week's edition of the Varsity's "Overheard on Campus":

(Students leaving after a linguistics class)
Student 1: I'm just walking this way, but not because I'm scared of getting mugged or anything. Even if we meet a mugger, we can stand together and beat 'em like two dogs attacking a bear!
Student 2: You know, that was exactly what I was thinking!
(Some time later...)
Student 2: Well, you know, despite our skinny frames, we are mighty warriors wielding language!

(Spotted by Elan)