March 31, 2016

Ninth Annual Coptic Studies Symposium

The Ninth Annual Coptic Studies Symposium, co-sponsored by the Canadian Society for Coptic Studies and the U of T Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, is taking place on the St. George campus this weekend and is likely to be of considerable interest to the linguistics community.

It will be running from 9 AM to 5 PM on Saturday, April 2, in room 142 of the Earth Sciences Centre (5 Bancroft Avenue). Registration on-site is $40 for CSCS members, $45 for non-members, $25 for student members, and $30 for student non-members.

The annual Coptic Studies Symposium for 2016 will focus on the many areas of confluence and divergence between the fields of Coptic Studies and Egyptology. While the conquest of Alexander the Great delimits the usual parameters of Egyptology and subsequent periods fall within the purview of specialists in Coptic Studies, these different chronological phases are essentially points along a continuum of cultural development that has spanned more than five thousand years. One of the most striking areas of continuity and particularity is linguistic - grammatical, phraseological and lexical. Both Coptic and pre-Coptic, in use over four millennia, have been prominent objects of scholarly attention for centuries; yet the present rift between Coptological and Egyptological linguistics seems to be deepening as years go by, to the fateful loss of both Coptologists and Egyptologists. As the list of speakers and topics listed below indicates, the 2016 Coptic Studies Symposium will encourage discussion and exchange of ideas between scholars in both fields of study carrying out linguistic research, as well as those whose interests focus on other aspects of cultural production.

The keynote speaker will be Tonio Sebastian Richter (Universitat Leipzig and Freie Universtät Berlin): "Whatever in the Coptic language is not Greek might be considered to be Ancient Egyptian: From the beginnings of Egyptian lexicography to recent approaches towards an integrated lexicon of the Egyptian-Coptic language."

Other speakers include Wolf-Peter Funk (Université Laval) on Coptic dialectical morphosyntax, Helmut Satzinger, University of Vienna (Austria) on dialectical variation across millennia of Egyptian-Coptic, and Ariel Shisha-Halevy on approaches to Egyptian linguistics over the years.

March 29, 2016

Research Groups: Friday, April 1

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Psycholinguistics Group
Jed Meltzer (Baycrest Hospital): "Phonology, semantics, and syntax through the lens of neural oscillations."

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax Group
Paper discussion led by Becky Tollan (Ph.D.): Baker, Mark; and Bobalijk, Jonathan (forthcoming). On inherent and dependent theories of ergative case. To appear in Jessica Coon, Diane Massam, and Lisa Travis (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Ergativity.

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Fieldwork Group
Peter Jurgec (faculty): "Emergent voicing and vowel length contrasts in Šmartno Slovenian: On effective use of in-depth acoustic and morphological analysis in phonological fieldwork."

March 28, 2016


This year's Workshop on Structure and Constituency in Languages of the Americas (WSCLA 21) is taking place at the Université du Québec à Montréal from April 1 to 3. Our department will be represented by one faculty member and lots of alumni:

Guillaume Thomas (faculty):
"Real 'fake' tense in Mbyá."

Michael Barrie (Ph.D. 2006, now at Sogang University)
"Subject/object asymmetries in Iroquoian noun incorporation."

Richard Compton (Ph.D. 2012, now at the Université du Québec à Montréal) with colleagues Anja Arnhold (Universität Konstanz) and Emily Elfner (UBC):
"Prosody and wordhood in South Baffin Inuktitut."

Kyumin Kim (Ph.D. 2011, now at Cheongju University)
"Agreeing and non-agreeing PPs in Blackfoot."

Will Oxford (Ph.D. 2014, now at the University of Manitoba)
"Equidistance and impoverishment: Deriving direct-inverse alignment in Algonquian."

Leslie Saxon (MA 1979, now at the University of Victoria) and colleague Rosa Mantla (Tlicho Community Services Agency):
"Consequences of working together: Research and learning in Indigenous language and culture collaborations."

March 27, 2016


The 46th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages is being held at Stony Brook University from March 31 to April 3.

A number of faculty and alumni are presenting:

Faculty members Laura Colantoni, Alexei Kochetov, and Jeffrey Steele:
"Gradient assimilation in French cross-word (nasal+stop) sequences."

Monica Irimia (Ph.D. 2011, now at the University of York) with colleague Virginia Hill (University of New Brunswick, Saint John):
"Unergative frames for nonargument SE verbs: A case study."

Monica is also part of a talk with colleagues Cristina Guardiano (University Modena e Reggio Emilia), Dimitriso Michelioudakis (University of York), Ioanna Sitaridou (Cambridge University), Giuseppe Longobardi (University of York), Nina Radkevich (University of York), Andrea Ceolin (University of York), and Giuseppina Silvestri (University of York):
"Measuring syntactic diversity in southern Italy: A microparametric approach."

Former postdoctoral scholar Heather Burnett (Université de Paris 7, Denis Diderot) and Julie Auger (Indiana University):
"Syntax, semantics and affect in Picard secondary negation."

Spanish and Portuguese Ph.D. student Olivia Marasco:
"L2 Spanish speakers' perception and production of utterance-initial intonation cues in yes/no questions."

Former visiting student Graziela Bohn (University of São Paulo):
"The acquisition of vowel contrasts in Brazilian Portuguese."

March 25, 2016

New Canadian Language Museum exhibit

The Canadian Language Museum, under the ongoing direction of faculty member Elaine Gold, will be launching its newest traveling exhibit this week: "A Tapestry of Voices: Celebrating Canada's Languages" will open in the Wilson Hall lounge in New College on Thursday, March 31 from 5 to 7 PM. Come join us and help celebrate the languages of Canada - First Nations languages, English, French, and heritage languages alike!

PLC 40

The 40th Penn Linguistics Colloquium took place from March 18 to 20 at the University of Pennsylvania.

Former postdoc Heather Burnett (now at l'Université Paris 7) presented research conducted with faculty member Sali A. Tagliamonte:
"Using intra-speaker variation to diagnose syntactic structure."

Heather presented a second talk on solo work:
"Signalling games, sociolinguistic variation, and the construction of style."

Alumna Yining Nie (MA 2015, now at New York University) also gave a presentation:
"Phonetic enhancement and three patterns of English /æ/-tensing."

March 23, 2016

Report from WICL 3

After warming up with a poster at the Undergraduate Research Forum back at the U of T, the Heritage Language Variation and Change Project took part in the 3rd Workshop on Innovations in Cantonese Linguistics (WICL 3) at Ohio State University.

We learned a lot about recent research in Cantonese, and are especially excited about the PyCantonese tool. Linguistics BA student Sam Lo and Research Opportunity Program student Zahid Daujee presented a talk about variability in classifiers, co-authored with linguistics majors Qianling Elaine Wang and Deepam Patel, economics major Junrui Alfred Wu, and Professor Naomi Nagy. Former visiting student Holman Tse (University of Pittsburgh) also presented two talks, one with colleague Andrew Peters (York University).

(Photos courtesy of Naomi Nagy: see the HLVC news page for more!)

Zahid, Sam, and Andrew prepare for their talks.

Naomi studies Cantonese during the conference dinner.

Holman explains the Cantonese vowel space.

 Sam and Zahid's presentation on classifiers in Cantonese and Korean.

March 15, 2016

Research Groups: Friday, March 18

Note that there is no Phonetics/Phonology group meeting this week.

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Language Variation and Change Group
Joint abstract review for Change and Variation in Canada 9, plus another Discovery Day if there's time.

12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Semantics Group
Kaz Bamba (Ph.D.): "The identity of HOO in Japanese comparatives."

In this talk, I present my ongoing project looking at the semantic identity of the Japanese morpheme HOO. Despite its frequent appearance in comparative constructions, the first formal analysis in the literature was given quite recently by Matsui and Kubota (2010). Their analysis, based on the cardinality restriction on a comparison class, offers a straightforward explanation for the empirical observations such that (a) the distribution of HOO is limited to the context of a two-way comparison, and that (b) its presence contributes to disambiguate between two possible interpretations which often arise in a canonical comparative construction. Careful examination of the distribution of HOO, however, reveals that the morpheme rather seems to introduce a set of contextually salient alternatives, which may not necessarily correspond to a comparison class in the context. By demonstrating some additional pieces of data, I develop the idea that a specific comparative reading associated with HOO is not owing to the nature of the morpheme itself, but rather the interaction between HOO and a comparative operator.

March 14, 2016

TWPL 35 released

Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics (TWPL) is pleased to announce the release of volume 35, accessible here. This volume benefitted from many people’s input over the years. Many thanks to all who contributed to its assembly, notably recent editor Ruth Maddeaux (Ph.D.) and her committee.

March 13, 2016

MOLT 2016

This year's Montréal-Ottawa-Laval-Toronto Phonology Workshop will be taking place at Carleton University in Ottawa from March 18 to 20. Our department will be well-represented, especially when it comes to the grad students!

Mary Aksim (MA):
"Perceiving the Canadian Vowel Shift."

Laura Colantoni (faculty), Alexei Kochetov (faculty), and Jeffrey Steele (faculty):
"Gestural overlap and gradient assimilation in French (nasal + velar stop) sequences."

Elan Dresher (faculty) with colleague Aditi Lahiri (University of Oxford):
"Latinate suffixes and the directionality of English stress."

Gloria Mellesmoen (MA):
"Say 'æ', B.C.: Pre-nasal /æ/ in British Columbia English."

Kiranpreet Nara (Ph.D.):
"Acoustic analysis of Punjabi stress and tone (Doabi dialect)."

Heather Yawney (Ph.D.):
"Prosodic inversion of the yes/no question marker in the Turkish verbal domain."

Former visiting student Michael Wagner (McGill University) is a part of two talks. With McGill colleagues Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron and Meghan Clayards, he is presenting "The effect of production planning locality on external sandhi: a study in /t/." With a different set of McGill colleagues, Michael McAuliffe and Morgan Sonderegger, "A system for unified corpus analysis, applied to polysyllabic shortening across twelve languages."

March 9, 2016


The 3rd Workshop on Innovations in Cantonese Linguistics is being held on Saturday, March 12, and Sunday, March 13, at Ohio State University. Several department members are involved.

Samuel Lo (BA), Junrui Wu (BA), Elaine Wang (BA), Zahid Daudjee (BA) and Naomi Nagy (faculty): "Use of Heritage Cantonese and Korean classifiers in Toronto."

Former visiting student Holman Tse (University of Pittsburgh): "Contrast maintenance and innovation in Toronto Heritage Cantonese high vowels."

Holman is also part of a presentation with colleague Andrew Peters (York University): "Evaluating the efficacy of ProsodyLab Aligner for a study of vowel variation in Cantonese."

March 8, 2016

Guest speaker: Christopher Green (University of Maryland)

We are delighted to welcome guest speaker Christopher Green, currently a researcher at the Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL) at the University of Maryland. He earned his Ph.D. from Indiana University in 2010, and his research interests include fieldwork (particularly on languages of Africa), documentation, phonology, prosody, and morphology.

His talk, "Matches (and mismatches) in prosodic and grammatical structure: Somali phonology and its interfaces," will be taking place at 3 PM on Friday, March 11, in SS 560A.

Somali is a language full of linguistic complexities and typological peculiarities, yet some of these apparent oddities melt away when the language's grammar is viewed through the lens of prosodic structure. In this talk, I discuss the role that prosodic structures play in Somali in mediating and influencing segmental and tonal processes occurring at the phonology-morphology, phonology-syntax, and phonology-information-structure interfaces that have heretofore been considered to be fairly haphazard and otherwise unpredictable. I will present three case studies drawn from my ongoing research that illustrate key characteristics of Somali’s prosodic domains. I will show that these domains and the phenomena that they govern can be formalized and represented in a version of Prosodic Hierarchy Theory that permits some degree of domain recursion. Finally, I will show that while there are a number of clear matches and strong correlations between phonology and its closer interfaces, there are also mismatches that begin to arise as the interfaces grow more distant.

March 7, 2016

Research Groups: Friday, March 11

9:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Psycholinguistics Group
Ruth Lee (OISE): "The influence of fantastical discourse context on young children's on-line sentence comprehension."

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Syntax Group
Keffyalew Gebregziabher (postdoc): "Bare nouns and the morphosyntax of number in Tigrinya."

In this talk, I will discuss a work in progress on the nature and morpho-syntactic properties of bare nouns in Tigrinya. Using both syntactic and semantic arguments, I show that bare nominals in Tigrinya are not fully predicted by Chierchia’s (1998) typology of nominals. Particularly, Chierchia predicts that languages, which exhibit a singular-plural distinction, should not allow bare singulars in argument position. I will present data from Tigrinya that directly disconfirm this prediction. In order to account for all the data, I propose that Tigrinya bare singulars are underspecified for number. I will conclude with some tentative views on how external agreement, subject verb agreement, happens in the context of bare nouns.

2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Fieldwork Group
Guillaume Thomas (faculty): "Towards a nominal tense meta-questionnaire."

I have been working on a meta-questionnaire on nominal temporal markers that could be used by fieldworkers who are not necessarily specialists in truth-conditional semantics or even in generative grammar. My goal is to use it as the foundation of a collaborative project comparing the grammar of nominal temporal markers in a variety of South-American languages. This is a delicate task since (i) the meta-questionnaire has to abstract away from the grammar of specific languages, yet (ii) it should be precise enough to allow a linguist who is not a semanticist (let alone a specialist of nominal tense) to develop a full-fledged questionnaire in her field language. In this meeting, I present the current state of this meta-questionnaire and get feedback on its usability.

Department of Linguistics Participant Pool

Thanks to the excellent hard work of Ph.D. students Emily Clare and Ruth Maddeaux, our department now has a participant pool that can be used by those doing experimental research. This minimizes the time and effort necessary for tracking down participants, as well as the amount of funding needed to run a useful study.

The participant pool allows undergraduate students to participate in linguistics experiments for course credit. It's administrated in one course per semester – in Fall 2015, LIN228, and in the present semester, LIN229. The course instructor sets up the syllabus such that 2% of the student’s participation grade comes from participating in an experiment. The experiments are run by graduate students and faculty in the linguistics department. The pool is an excellent resource for grad students (and faculty!), because it allows them to test a greater number of participants without needing to have the funding to pay them, and without having to advertise for participants independently.

The pool is also a major benefit to our undergraduate students, who get first-hand experience of how experimental work is done. Feedback from undergrads so far has been very positive and has attracted students interested in learning more about linguistic experimentation.

The participant pool suited to a whole range of experimental research in linguistics. Thus far, individual experiments drawing on the pool have asked participants to discriminate between sounds, to give grammaticality judgments, to  wear an eye tracking device while they read sentences, and more.

Researchers who have an experiment to run and are interested in using the pool should get in touch with Ruth Maddeaux ( and send her a brief description of their study. Every semester, there will be a deadline sometime around the start of classes by which interested researchers need to have received their ethics approval (including approval to compensate students with course credit, which has to be built into the ethics submission) and their experiment protocol ready. If they have everything in place by that deadline, they are welcome to have their experiment included in the pool! Researchers are highly encouraged to get in touch with Ruth as they’re preparing their ethics submissions, since there is some specific language involving the use of the pool that needs to be included.

If all goes well, Ruth will then post all the available experiments on the Blackboard page for the course that the pool is running in, with links to where the students can sign up for the experiment of their choosing. After that, the researcher will schedule appointments with the students who signed up for their experiment. Once the student’s participation is done, the researcher signs a sheet confirming that the student participated. At the end of the semester, Ruth assigns the 2% extra credit to all the students who participated. As much as possible, the students are divided evenly between the experiments, to make sure all researchers get the same number of participants.

There is a Gmail account – – at which students can contact Ruth (as the pool manager) if they have general questions about the process, or if they run into a problem. Course instructors interested in having the participant pool run in their course should also get in touch with Ruth. The endeavour wouldn’t be possible without them, and it involves very little extra work for them.

There is a bonus advantage to recruiting Toronto students into the participant pool, and that is the enormous variety of linguistic backgrounds in our classrooms! As a linguistics department, this is a valuable resource. In exchange for the benefit of using the pool, researchers are asked to record their participants reading a word-list in their native language. The participants also fill out a short language background questionnaire. At the end of the semester, I upload all the recordings along with the questionnaires into a database. As the semesters go by, we’ll build up quite a big database filled with recordings of our students. They can be used in class projects, for pretty much anything the instructor can think of!

(Thanks very much to Ruth Maddeaux for all the details!)

March 6, 2016

Naomi and undergrads at Undergraduate Research Forum

Four of our undergraduates in the Research Opportunity Program (ROP) -  Deepam Patel, Junrui Wu, Elaine Wang, and Zahid Daujee - plus fellow undergraduate Samuel Lo presented a poster with faculty member Naomi Nagy about variation in Cantonese classifier use and non-variation in Korean classifier use at the Undergrad Research Forum on March 3. This was a big step toward their presentation next week at the Workshop on Cantonese Linguistics taking place March 12-13 at Ohio State University.

Deepam Patel and Junrui Wu with the joint poster, enjoying the bright sunlight
streaming into Hart House's Great Hall. (But no sign of the Great Hall Bird.)

March 2, 2016


The ninth annual TULCON (Toronto Undergraduate Linguistics Conference) will be taking place this weekend, from Friday the 4th to Sunday the 6th. Kudos to the organisers for all the time and effort that they have put in.

The keynote talks are being given by faculty members Peter Jurgec and Sali A. Tagliamonte. Undergrads of ours who are giving talks are:

Angela Baer, Deirdre Demson, and Cedric Ludlow:
"Language reconstructing via noun incorporating: A focus on Proto-Iroquoian."

Fulang Chen:
"Complex nominals in Niuean."

Vina Law and Anna Huynh:
"The Midas touch of sound: How congruent tactile cues enhance auditory speech perception."

Taeho Lee, Chris Klammer, and Sarah Moncur:
"Tonogenesis in Korean: Assimilation of tonal distinction from Seoul Standard dialect to regional dialects."

Kathy Leung and Rachel Soo:
"Phonetic variation in native Mandarin and L2 English stop voicing contrasts."

Cedric Ludlow:
"Syllabification of harmonic clusters in Georgian."

Alissa Varlamova:
"A longitudinal study of the early language development of non-identical triplets."

Luke Zhou:
"The dark side of the loon: A sociophonetic sketch of the Canadian English lateral."

Guest speaker: Elizabeth Johnson (University of Toronto)

Faculty member Elizabeth Johnson from UTM is giving a talk at UTSC early next week: "Lexical development in a multicultural setting: A comparison of multi- versus mono-accented children". The talk will be held in HW305 (Humanities Wing) on Monday, March 7, from 12 to 2 PM. A light lunch will be provided.