March 27, 2020

Congratulations, Ross!

Ross Godfrey defended his doctoral dissertation, "Morphemes without morphs: A theory of syntactic arrangements and phonological processes", on Friday, March 27. The committee consisted of Keren Rice (supervisor), Elizabeth Cowper, Peter Jurgec, Susana Béjar, Daniel Currie Hall (St. Mary's University), and external examiner Jochen Trommer (Universität Leipzig). Congratulations, Dr. Godfrey!

March 25, 2020

New paper: Hall and Maddeaux (2020)

Erin Hall (Ph.D.) and Ruth Maddeaux (Ph.D.) have a new paper in the University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics, 25(2), among this year's invited papers from New Ways of Analyzing Variation: "/u/-fronting and /æ/-raising in Toronto families."

This paper examines the acquisition of both stable contextual variation and a change in progress by children aged four to twelve. Comparing children and their parents from 19 families, we investigate whether transmission and incrementation effects (Labov 2001, 2007) can be found in two vowel variables in Toronto English: /æ/-raising, a case of stable allophony, and /u/-fronting, an ongoing change. In /u/-fronting, children are extending the change to new, previously non-fronted environments. However, analysis does not reveal the expected incrementation pattern in which older children are more advanced. Instead we find the opposite: the youngest children are most advanced in the change, while the oldest are the most conservative, having retreated closer to the adult norm but still crucially further forward, allowing the change to progress. In the case of /æ/-raising, children are not extending the variation to new environments. Younger children do consistently overshoot the placement of /æ/ in raising environments, while older children appear to have retreated and stabilized in the same range as their parents, maintaining the contextual variation at the community level. We suggest that these patterns could be viewed as a kind of overgeneralization, similar to what is often seen in morphological acquisition.

March 24, 2020

Research Groups: Week of March 23-27

Please note that this week's meetings of the Language Variation and Change Research Group and Phonetics/Phonology Group are both cancelled, and that the other groups will be meeting virtually.

Thursday, March 26, 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM, online
Morphology Reading Group

Friday, March 27, 1:15 PM - 2:45 PM, online
Syntax Group
Samuel Jambrovic (Ph.D., Department of Spanish and Portuguese): "A cross-linguistic analysis of DOM with animate indefinite quantifiers."

March 23, 2020

Guest speaker: Pedro Mateo Pedro (University of Maryland)

We are delighted to (virtually) welcome Pedro Mateo Pedro, who is the Executive Director of the Guatemala Field Station run by the University of Maryland, and an Assistant Research Professor in the associated Language Science Center. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas (2014) and also teaches at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala. His research is focused on the Mayan languages, documentation and revitalization, and acquisition and variation. The talk that he will be giving for us, "Language documentation, revitalization, and research in Mayan languages," will be taking place at 3 PM on Friday, March 27, via Zoom meeting; please see the email from Jennifer for a link to the room.

This talk will be divided in three parts. In the first part, I will discuss the documentation projects that I am involved in: acquisition, dialectal variation, and languages in contact. I will highlight the role community members have played in these projects. The second part will be about revitalization projects, emphasizing on teaching method of Mayan languages, workshops in Mayan languages, and creating online materials. The third part will be about my current research projects, in particular my research on the acquisition of numeral classifiers in Q’anjob’al. Q’anjob’al is a language with a classifier system, which includes nominal, numeral, and mensurative. Q’anjob’al uses three numerical classifiers: -eb’, -k’on, and -wan, which are obligatorily suffixed to numbers to classify objects, animals, and people. The data come from three children: Xhuw (1;9-3;0), Xhim (2;3-4;0), Tum (2;7-3;6). This is the first study on the acquisition of numeral classifiers in Q’anjob’al. The study shows that children acquire numeral classifiers around the age of two. However, these children show extension errors; errors that are also seen in 10-year-old children. The data suggest that children seem to consider the numeral classifier -eb’ as a default form, especially Xhuw. The semantic complexity of what is being classified (objects, animals, or people) and the variation of use of these classifiers in the input may contribute to the extension errors. Errors of this type has also been reported in the acquisition of numeral classifiers in Yucatec (Pfeiler 2009) and Malay (Salehuddin 2009).

March 18, 2020

Chalkboard throwback #6: Wug Life (Spring 2014)

Isn't this what they call 'cyclical change'? Possibly by, or inspired by, Naomi Francis (faculty).

March 17, 2020


The 33rd Annual CUNY Human Sentence Processing Conference (CUNY 33) is taking place at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, from March 19th through 21st. Note that given international conditions, the talks are being streamed online and all of the posters are viewable through digital poster sessions. There is no charge for any of this. If you are interested, see the website for instructions.

We have a number of current and former departmental members presenting posters:

Nayoun Kim (postdoc), Keir Moulton (faculty), and Masaya Yoshida (Northwestern University):
 "Ambiguity resolution in wh-filler gap dependency."

Ailís Cournane (Ph.D. 2015, now at New York University) with Alicia Parrish (New York University):
"A within-subjects comparison of the acquisition of quantity-related inferences."

Ailís is also part of a poster presentation with Vishal Sunil Arvindam (University of California, Santa Cruz) and Maxime Tulling (New York University):
"Online processing of negation in 2-year-olds: Evidence from eye-tracking."

Giuseppe Ricciardi (MA 2016, now at Harvard University), Rachel Ryskin (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Ted Gibson (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) are presenting two posters:
1. "The distribution of locative inversions: Testing structural versus processing accounts."
2. "Epistemic must p is literally a strong statement."

March 15, 2020

Research Groups: Friday, March 20

Each of the research group meetings this week has been cancelled. The few that will be going ahead in subsequent weeks are those that are required for graduate students' progression through the Generals Paper stages. These will be held digitally. Watch for more details to follow.

March 14, 2020

Departmental scheduling rearrangements

Undergraduate and graduate classes in the Department of Linguistics are cancelled from now until the end of the semester; teaching material will be disseminated online. We will no longer be holding our Undergraduate Graduation Lunch (March 16) or End-of-Term Party (March 27).

These workshops/conferences are postponed until further notice: the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal Semantics Workshop (TOM 13) (March 21), the 3rd Buffalo-Toronto Workshop (April 4), and the Workshop on Agreement in Copular Clauses (April 8-9).

The visit of one of our remaining planned guest speakers, Pollet Samvelian (Université Paris III - Sorbonne Nouvelle), has been cancelled. That of another, Heejeong Ko (Seoul National University) has been postponed. The other guest speakers will be presenting their work from a distance via digital platform.

Thank you for your patience and efforts in a challenging time.

March 13, 2020

New paper: Kim, Han, and Moulton (2020)

Keir Moulton (faculty) and colleagues Kyeong-min Kim (Simon Fraser University) and Chung-hye Han (Simon Fraser University) are coauthors of a new paper in the Journal of East Asian Linguistics, 29: "The syntax of Korean VP anaphora: An experimental investigation."

The Korean VP anaphor (VPA) kuleha or kulay ‘do so’ has often been argued to involve ellipsis of an articulated VP structure, which is replaced with the surface form at PF (e.g., Cho 1996, Ha 2010, Park 2015). In this paper, we present empirical data that does not support such a characterization, obtained from two experimental studies designed to diagnose the presence of 'hidden' syntactic structure. In Experiment 1, building upon Kim and Han’s (2016) finding that quantificational binding of the Korean pronoun ku ‘he’ is subject to inter-speaker variation, we conducted a truth-value judgment task experiment to examine the (un)acceptability of sloppy identity interpretation in the VPA construction. If the VPA is indeed derived from the deletion of an articulated VP, and thus has an unpronounced internal structure to house ku, the distributions of the sloppy reading of ku and the quantificational binding of ku should be correlated across the sampled population; however, such a pattern was not found. In Experiment 2, we conducted a Likert scale rating experiment testing whether extraction out of the VPA site is possible. If the VPA is an instance of ellipsis, extraction from the VPA site should be possible since there would be a syntactic structure that hosts an extractable constituent. This prediction, however, was not confirmed. On the basis of these empirical findings, we argue that Korean VP anaphora are base-generated pro-forms (Bae and Kim 2012, Park 2013), and retrieve their semantic values from the context through interpretive rules (Hoji 1998, Hoji 2003), as in the case of pronominal resolution.

March 12, 2020

New paper: Jurgec and Schertz (2019)

Peter Jurgec (faculty) and Jessamyn Schertz (faculty) have a new paper out in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory: "Postalveolar co-occurrence restrictions in Slovenian."

This paper shows that a postalveolar co-occurrence restriction (Obligatory Contour Principle, OCP) is a productive component of Slovenian phonology. We first examine whether an apparent OCP-based restriction on derived palatalization, previously observed in corpus data (Jurgec 2016), extends to novel forms via a goodness-rating task. We then explore the generality of the restriction across the lexicon, in non-derived novel words as well as derived forms. Our results confirm that native speakers judge derived palatalized nonce forms to be less acceptable when the stem contains another postalveolar, reflecting the pattern found in the previous corpus study. We further demonstrate that multiple postalveolars are dispreferred even in non-derived words, which suggests that the effect is a general case of OCP. This is additionally supported by effects of proximity (the restriction is stronger for postalveolars separated only by a single vowel than for those further apart from one another) and identity (the restriction is stronger for identical than non-identical postalveolars), reflecting cross-linguistic tendencies in the manifestation of OCP and non-local consonant dissimilation. Finally, we show that the restriction does not appear to apply to all places of articulation, suggesting that the co-occurrence restriction in Slovenian specifically targets postalveolars, and adding a previously unattested pattern to the typology of OCP phenomena on consonant place.

March 11, 2020

Research Groups: Week of March 9-13

Note that this week's meeting of the Psycholinguistics Group is cancelled.

Thursday, March 12, 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM in SS 1078
Morphology Reading Group
Sahar Taghipour (Ph.D.) and Phil Monahan (faculty): "Paradigmatic gaps impact early morphological decomposition: Evidence from masked priming."

Friday, March 13, 1:15 PM - 2:45 PM in SS 560A
Fieldwork Group
Guest speaker: Bruce Connell (York University), on his work compiling a dictionary of Mambila (Mambiloid).

March 10, 2020

Guest speaker: Julia Nee (University of California, Berkeley)

We are very pleased to welcome Julia Nee, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley. Her work is centered on language revitalization and documentation, both with respect to case studies (Teotitlán del Valle Zapotec and on Northern Pomo) and the processes and pedagogy of the revitalization process itself. She will be giving a talk, "Language revitalization is about more than language: The role of community building in revitalizing Teotitlán del Valle Zapotec," at 3:00 PM on Friday, March 13, in SS560A.

One common barrier to language revitalization is the presence of an 'ideology of contempt' towards a language as a result of colonial and racist practices (Dorian, 1998). But the role of language ideologies in shaping language use is profound (Silverstein, 1979; Wollard and Schieffelin, 1994; Irvine and Gal, 2000; Kroskrity, 2006; among others), and language revitalization projects will not be successful in the long run if the negative language attitudes that supported language loss are not addressed (Dauenhauer and Dauenhauer, 1998; Hinton, 2001; Bradley, 2002; Beier and Michael, 2018). In strategizing ways to revitalize Teotitlán del Valle Zapotec use through Participatory Action Research, or PAR (White et al., 1991; Czaykowska-Higgins, 2009; Tuck, 2009; Martin et al., 2018), involving interviews, focus groups, and photovoice (Wang and Burris, 1997) with language activists, parents, and children, one common theme that emerged was the importance not only of teaching linguistic forms and structures, but also of building a supportive community of language learners and users. In this talk, I explore how PAR was implemented in Teotitlán, and how insights gained through using this methodology have allowed for improvements to the Zapotec language camps for kids that have been hosted since 2017. Specifically, I consider speaker-learner interactions and student-generated work (such as creative storybooks) to better understand the ways in which community-building activities such as field trips to archaeological sites increase learner investment (Pavlenko, 2001; Riestenberg and Sherris, 2018) and lead to greater acquisition and use of Zapotec among children. Additionally, I respond to previous calls in the literature to expand the range of genres studied in language documentation (Meek, 2011; Vallejos, 2016), and I argue for the importance of documenting the language revitalization process itself as a way to better understand how language is (or is not) being transmitted intergenerationally.

March 9, 2020

Guest speaker: Christian Brodbeck (University of Maryland, College Park)

We are delighted to welcome Christian Brodbeck, who is a postdoc at the University of Maryland, College Park, having completed his Ph.D. at New York University in 2016. His research is on neurolinguistics and cognition, especially with respect to processing on the semantic/pragmatic level. He will be giving a talk, "Time-locked cortical processing of continuous speech: From sound to words, and effects of selective attention," on Wednesday, March 11, from 2 PM to 4 PM, in SS 560A.

In most realistic contexts, speech is experienced as a continuous acoustic signal. MEG and EEG have the temporal resolution to track neural processes with millisecond accuracy, but the inherent temporal dynamics of natural, continuous speech pose a challenge for traditional data analysis techniques. In this talk I will introduce an approach modeling MEG responses to speech as a continuous, linear response to multiple concurrent, continuous predictor variables. This approach makes it possible to disentangle overlapping brain responses to successive events in naturalistic speech stimuli, such as an audiobook. By generating predictor variables based on cognitive models of neural processes, we can distinguish different cognitive processes involved in speech processing.

March 8, 2020

Jack and Elaine in the Los Angeles Times

Jack Chambers (faculty) and Elaine Gold (faculty) were interviewed for a recent story in the Los Angeles Times about the extent to which the stereotype matches the reality when it comes to the supposedly Canadian tag question 'eh?'.

March 7, 2020


The 38th meeting of the West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics is taking place at the University of British Columbia from March 6th through 8th, and several current or former department members are giving presentations:

Sahar Taghipour (Ph.D.) and Arsalan Kahnemuyipour (faculty):
"Agreement with deficient pronouns in Laki: A syntactic repair to a clitic cluster restriction."

Cassandra Chapman (postdoc) and Keir Moulton (faculty) are part of a talk with Ivona Kucerova (McMaster University):
"How to value gender: Lexicon, Agree, and feature transmission under ellipsis."

Former faculty member Meg Grant (Simon Fraser University) is giving one of the plenary talks:
"Processing polysemy: Expanding the empirical domain."

Gloria Mellesmoen (MA 2016, now at the University of British Columbia) and Suzanne Urbanczyk (University of Victoria):
"Avoiding multiple reduplication without INTEGRITY."

Gloria is also presenting a poster with Nico Baier (McGill University):
"Spelling out object agreement in Central Salish."

March 6, 2020


This weekend is the 13th Toronto Undergraduate Linguistics Conference (TULCON 13), taking place primarily in SS1069, with the poster session in the fourth-floor hallway (by the department offices). The program is available here. Note that if you are interested in attending, you should register.

Keren Rice (faculty) is giving one of the keynote speeches:
"Theoretical and practical challenges of phonological variation."

Pocholo Umbal (Ph.D.) is giving the other keynote speech:
"Towards increasing equity, diversity, and inclusion in the linguistics classroom."

Milena Injac (BA):
"The use of the negative particle ne in Québec French news media."

Justin Leung (BA):
"The unified loss of verb particles in Medieval French: A quantitative analysis."

Christopher Legerme (BA):
"Antimarkedness constraints in the lexicon?: Evidence from Haitian Creole."

Anissa Baird (BA):
"I am not my body: A preliminary study of gender identity, gender expression, and their effects on sex-based and gender-based variability."

Rosie Owen (BA):
"Sweet songs and soft hearts: Metaphor in Cuzco Quechua."

Ernest Leung (BA):
"Derogatory terms in Hong Kong English's first dictionary and their sociocultural impacts."

Jingshu Yao (BA):
"Mom, talk to me in my mother tongue: SES and heritage language maintenance of East and South Asian Canadian community."

Ryan MacDonald (BA) is presenting a poster:
"Onset and coda repair in phonetic loanwords from English into Mandarin Chinese."

Ewen Lee (BA) is also presenting a poster:
"Fuzhou tone sandhi: Complications and implications of an OT account."

March 5, 2020

Research Groups: Friday, March 6

As part of our prospective graduate students' day (by invitation), we're holding a research group extravaganza. Five of our seven groups will be meeting and holding a sequence of short mini-presentations to highlight our ongoing research.

10:00 AM - 10:50 AM in SS 4043
Psycholinguistics Group
Phil Monahan (faculty), Zhanao Fu (Ph.D.), Barend Beekhuizen (faculty), Julia Watson (BA 2018), Breanna Pratley (MA), Nayoun Kim (postdoc), and Daphna Heller (faculty)

10:50 AM -11:40 AM in SS560A
Language Variation and Change Research Group
Derek Denis (faculty), Shabri Kapoor (Ph.D.), Lisa Schlegl (Ph.D.), Katharina Pabst (Ph.D.), and Tim Gadanidis (Ph.D.)

11:40 AM - 12:30 PM in SS560A
Syntax Group
Arsalan Kahnemuyipour (faculty), Zoë McKenzie (Ph.D.), Virgilio Partida Peñalva (Ph.D.), and Andrew Peters (Ph.D.)

1:30 PM - 2:10 PM
Phonetics/Phonology Research Group
Alexei Kochetov (faculty), Yoonjung Kang (faculty), Alex Jaker (postdoc), Andrei Munteanu (Ph.D.), Angelika Kiss (Ph.D.), Koorosh Ariyaee (Ph.D.), Heather Yawney (Ph.D.), and Jessamyn Schertz (faculty)

2:10 PM - 3:00 PM in SS560A
Semantics Research Group
Nadia Takhtaganova (MA), Heather Stephens (Ph.D.), Angelika Kiss (Ph.D.), and Bruno de Oliveira Andreotti (Ph.D.)

March 4, 2020

Chalkboard throwback #5: Superheroism (Spring 2011)

Presumably by Christopher Spahr (Ph.D. 2015), who later went as Max Mora for Halloween. 
Or perhaps it was more than a clever costume idea?

March 3, 2020

Newcomers for March 2020

We've had two more people join us recently:

Jeremy Needle (postdoc) comes to us following a postdoc at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and a Ph.D. (2018) at Northwestern University. He's here working with Sali A. Tagliamonte on dialectology and change over time.

Annika Rossmanith (University of Groningen) an MA student originally from Germany, now studying in the Netherlands. She is here to work with Naomi Nagy on the Heritage Language Variation and Change project, as her current research is on heritage speakers of Russian.


March 2, 2020

Jack on the Sunday Edition

Our own Jack Chambers (faculty) is a dialectological legend who has been a professor here for fifty years, but he has long maintained a second life as a noted scholar of jazz music, and in this capacity is known for several books including a two-volume biography of Miles Davis. Yesterday, in the first of several planned installments, he and host Michael Enright of the CBC's Sunday Edition sat down to launch 'a series called 'Jazz for People Who Don't Like Jazz'. Check it out if you're either into jazz or not into jazz.

March 1, 2020


The 2020 Western Interdisciplinary Student Symposium on Language Research (WISSLR) took place at the University of Western Ontario on Saturday, February 29.

Derek Denis (faculty) gave the keynote speech:
"The enregisterment and the spread of Multicultural Toronto English."

Michael Iannozzi (BA 2014, now at the University of Western Ontario):
"An emigrated Italian dialect and its variable realization of /v/ as [w]."

Olga Tararova (Ph.D. 2018, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, now at the University of Western Ontario) was part of a presentation with Giulia Cortiana (University of Western Ontario):
"The complete deletion of /d/ in past participle -ar verbs: A comparative sociophonetic analysis between Spanish native speakers and English-speaking learners of Spanish."