May 27, 2020

CLA-ACL 2020

The annual meeting of the Canadian Linguistic Association/Association canadienne de linguistique normally occurs in conjunction with the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. This year's Congress has been cancelled owing to current events. However, CLA-ACL will be held online from May 30 through June 1. Digital attendance is free.

Presentations from scholars who are associated with our department are:

Nathan Sanders (faculty), Pocholo Umbal (Ph.D.), and Lex Konnelly (Ph.D.):
"Methods for increasing equity, diversity, and inclusion in linguistics pedagogy."

Peter Jurgec (faculty):
"Online interactive tools for undergraduate phonology."

Arsalan Kahnemuyipour (faculty) and Sahar Taghipour (Ph.D.) with Mansour Shabani (University of Guilan):
"The two faces of a nominal linker: Another look at reverse ezafe in Gilaki."

Cristina Cuervo (faculty) and Alexander Tough (MA, Department of Spanish and Portuguese):
"Not aspect, but tense: A morphological argument for the old analysis of the Spanish imperfect."

Sahar Taghipour (Ph.D.) and Philip Monahan (faculty):
"Paradigmatic gaps impact early morphological decomposition: Evidence from masked priming."

Koorosh Ariyaee (Ph.D.) and Peter Jurgec (faculty):
"Persian elides the second vowel."

Diane Massam (faculty) and Ileana Paul (University of Western Ontario):
"Instructions for nullness."

Michelle Troberg (faculty) and Justin Leung (BA):
"On the uniform loss of Medieval French verb particles."

Julien Carrier (Ph.D.):
"From ergative to accusative in North Baffin Inuktitut."

Jean-François Juneau (Ph.D.) with Gavin Bembridge (York University):
"Root alternations for discourse effects: A challenge for locality?"

Gregory Antono (MA):
"Expressing a multiplicity of events in Macuxi."

Nadia Takhtaganova (MA):
"Les titres de civilité : De l’ancien français jusqu’au français moderne>"

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

Alia Alatassi (Ph.D., Department of French), and Mihaela Pirvulescu (faculty):
"The acquisition of French object clitics by L2 children: Effects of age of onset."

Olga Tararova (Ph.D. 2018, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, now at the University of Western Ontario) with Martha Black (University of Western Ontario):
"Adult acquisition of grammatical gender in instructed L2 Spanish and the role of metacognition."

David Heap (Ph.D. 1997, now at the University of Western Ontario) with Yarubi Diaz Colmenares (University of Western Ontario):
"Variation et changement dans les accords du français inclusif."

Andrew McCandless (Ph.D., Department of Spanish and Portuguese):
"The influence of phonetic training on production of Spanish rhotics in beginner L2 learners with L1 Canadian English."

Former visiting student Sander Nederveen (Simon Fraser University):
"Discourse novelty, givenness, and EV2 in German."

Posters include those of:

Alana Johns (faculty) and Elan Dresher (faculty):
"Morpheme structure change in Labrador Inuttut."

Elan Dresher (faculty), Daniel Currie Hall (Ph.D. 2007, now at St. Mary's University) and Sara Mackenzie (Ph.D. 2009, now at Memorial University of Newfoundland):
"The status of phoneme inventories: The role of contrastive feature hierarchies."

Songül Gündogdu (postdoc), Arsalan Kahnemuyipour (faculty), and Andrew Peters (Ph.D.):
"Revisiting 'doubled' ezafe in Southern Zazaki."

Mihaela Pirvulescu (faculty) and Elena Valenzuela (University of Ottawa) have a poster:
"Genericity in the grammars of Romanian, French, and English trilinguals."

Elizabeth Johnson (faculty) with Tania Zamuner (University of Ottawa), Amélie Bernard (McGill University), and Félix Desmeules-Trudel (University of Western Ontario):
"The timecourse of toddlers' recognition for native-accented versus non-native-accented speech."

Crystal Chow (MA):
"Expressing paths of motion in Apurimac Quechua."

Samuel Jambrović (Ph.D., Department of Spanish and Portuguese):
"Regular and irregular inflexion of derived proper nouns: A syntactico-semantic model."

Daniel Milway (Ph.D. 2019):
"The puzzle of irrelevant assertions in alternative semantics."

Michael Iannozzi (BA 2014, now at the University of Western Ontario):
"Variable realization of /v/ as [v] or [w] in a heritage Italian variety."

May 26, 2020

Research Groups: Week of May 25-29

Wednesday, May 27, 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM, online
Syntax Group
Practice talk for CLA: Cristina Cuervo (faculty) and Alex Tough (MA, Department of Spanish and Portuguese): "Not aspect, but tense: A morphological argument for the old analysis of the Spanish imperfect."

The Spanish imperfect past was analyzed by grammarian Andrés Bello (1841) as a relative tense, denoting simultaneity of the event or situation with a reference point prior to the utterance time (Juan cantaba el himno/'Juan sang the hymn'). Simply put, the imperfect was analyzed as the present of the past, and aptly named co-preterite. Thus, for Bello, the imperfect contrasted with the simple past or preterite on the temporal dimension, the preterite being an absolute tense encoding direct reference to a time before the utterance time.

The 20th century saw a new analysis of the imperfect-preterite contrast not as a contrast in tense, but a contrast in grammatical aspect (perfective-imperfective), an analysis that became standard in descriptive, theoretical and experimental works alike. More recently, a small number of works have opposed the aspectual analysis from various perspectives (Rojo and Veiga 1999; Cowper 2003, 2005; Soto 2014; Markle LaMontagne and Cuervo 2015), whose arguments we review.

We develop an analysis of the imperfect past in Spanish which reconciles the view of the imperfect as a complex tense expressing two temporal relations—the present of the past—with recent developments in the morphological analysis of simple verbal forms as consisting of a hierarchical structure containing a root and a series of functional heads (as in Distributive Morphology, Hale and Marantz 1993). In particular, we follow Arregi's (2000) and Oltra-Massuet and Arregi’s (2005) analysis of Spanish verbal inflection as the expression of various syntactic heads (e.g., v, Tense, (person & number) Agreement), with a theme vowel position added in the Morphological Component to each functional head.

We propose that simple forms in the Spanish verbal paradigm can hide complex temporal reference and structure (one or two heads expressing a relation of anteriority, posteriority or simultaneity). In parallel to Oltra-Massuet and Arregi’s analysis of the conditional as comprising two temporal nodes, future and past, we propose that the imperfect consists of a present node, a past node, and an agreement node.

In this analysis, present tense is null (or Pres is deleted in the Morphological Component), and the b-a/ø-a morpheme is the spell-out of the (Past) Tense head and its theme vowel. The extra structure in the imperfect is responsible for the fact that the imperfect is longer than the preterite (cant-á-ba-mos; com-í-a-mos vs. cant-a-mos, com-i-mos 'we sang'; 'we ate'), and that in the preterite, the past and agreement morphemes are fused, facts that were left unaccounted for in previous morphological analyses, including Oltra-Massuet and Arregi’s approach.

May 25, 2020

Symposium on Jackman Scholars-in-Residence project

For this year's Jackman Scholars-in-Residence program, Barend Beekhuizen (faculty) has guided a group of outstanding undergraduates - Mah Noor Amir, Maya Blumenthal, Li Jiang, Anna Pyrtchenkov, and Jana Savevska - on an intense 4-week computational project examining cross-linguistic variation in the translations of words such as true, real, actual, and right in a sample of languages (Urdu, Hindi, Hebrew, German, Mandarin, Greek, Russian, Spanish, Macedonian, and Bulgarian). At the conclusion of the project, the students will be presenting their findings on Thursday, May 28, at 11 AM to 12 PM, online. See the email for the Zoom link and come hear about what this powerhouse team of emerging researchers has been up to!

May 18, 2020

Research Groups: Week of May 18-22

Wednesday, May 20, 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM, online
Syntax Group
Two practice talks for CLA-ACL 2020:

Samuel Jambrovic (Ph.D., Department of Spanish and Portuguese): "The morphosyntactic behavior of derived proper nouns: A DM account."
Nadia Takhtaganova (MA): "Les titres de civilité : Old French to Modern French honorifics."

May 16, 2020

Congratulations, Suzi!

Congratulations to Suzi Lima (faculty), who has been named this year's recipient of the new Early Career Researcher Award from the Canadian Linguistic Association! Their released statement describes Suzi's accomplishments as follows:

Dr. Suzi Lima is an early career researcher who has contributed substantially to language research, demonstrated innovation in research and dissemination, and engaged in practice and policy development in the broader community. Her theoretical focus is the pragmatics and semantics of number and quantity, and she has made contributions to formal semantics, typology, language acquisition, psychology, language documentation and revitalization, and the study of indigenous languages. She has held several research grants and has presented her work at the world's top conferences. She has published many peer-reviewed research works, and has also prepared, with the indigenous communities, a dictionary of verbs (Yudja) and a co-authored pedagogical grammar (Kawaiwete), to be published. She is also in demand as an invited speaker and as an innovative teacher and mentor. Dr. Lima holds a BA and MA from the University of São Paulo (Brazil), and a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts. Since her 2014 graduation she has held a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, and Assistant Professorships at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, and in the Departments of Linguistics, and Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Toronto. In 2019, she began her current position as Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Toronto. Dr. Lima's research focuses on pragmatics, semantics, typology, language acquisition, and documentation and revitalization. She engages in experimental fieldwork, with a focus on indigenous languages of Brazil, most prominently on Yudja and Kawaiwete. In her dissertation and much of her following work, Dr. Lima has developed ingenious protocols for uncovering the mechanisms by which languages count and measure things and substances, making novel contributions to the semantics and typology of number and quantity. Her work is also innovative in investigating the acquisition of these concepts in under-studied languages, through the study of monolingual and bilingual speakers of indigenous languages and Brazilian Portuguese. She has also collaboratively investigated questions of general cognition, such as how mathematical reasoning relates to cultural practice. Dr. Lima has also been exemplary in the ways she has shared her research with academic and non-academic communities. For example, her collaborative work has resulted in a questionnaire which is a masterpiece in elicitation and experimental design, targeting detailed semantic properties by using methods such as translation, production, comprehension tasks, storyboards, and videos. This questionnaire was applied by specialists who presented their results at a 2017 workshop, now in press as a special volume of Linguistic Variation. One reading book (Kawaiwete songs) was published in 2015 by the Museu do Índio. This ambitious project (coorganized with Susan Rothstein) involved both under-represented scholars and languages, demonstrating Dr. Lima's qualities of leadership. Dr. Lima also reaches out to communities and activists in her work twice funded by United Nations/National Indian Foundation/Indian Museum in Brazil, to document the Kawaiwete language. This work has involved educational workshops for teachers and collaborations with community leaders and researchers, and has resulted in the production of educational materials such as a pedagogical grammar and a dictionary draft. Dr. Lima has also collaborated in creating a database featuring resources for documentation and methods for fieldworkers. Dr. Lima is also an inspiring teacher and mentor, demonstrated in particular by her research excursion program courses where she takes undergraduate students to Brazil for hands-on documentation and fieldwork experience. In summary, Suzi Lima is an extraordinary early career researcher who has already achieved distinction in a range of areas, including theoretical, experimental, and documentation linguistics, while also demonstrating innovation in teaching and community outreach. The Canadian Linguistic Association is delighted to recognize her achievements by awarding Dr. Suzi Lima our inaugural Early Career Researcher Award in 2020.

May 15, 2020

TWPL 42 released

The 42nd volume of Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics (TWPL 42) is now available. It collects a range of recent work in sociolinguistics and language contact, including Faetar, Cree, Farsi, and English. Contributors to this volume come from multiple institutions but include current faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates. Thanks to all those who contributed - and to editor Pocholo Umbal (Ph.D.) and his team.

May 14, 2020

Two new papers: Elango, Coutinho, and Lima (2020); Lima (2020)

The editors of Language Documentation and Conservation have released their 20th special publication, 'Collaborative approaches to the challenges of language documentation and conservation', based on the 2018 Symposium on American Indian languages (SAIL).

Incoming MA student Vidhya Elango (BA 2019), Isabella Coutinho (State University of Roraima), and Suzi Lima (faculty) are the authors of "A language vitality survey of Macuxi, Wapichana and English in Serra da Lua, Roraima (Brazil)."

Serra da Lua is a multilingual region in the state of Roraima (Brazil) where Macuxi (Carib), Wapichana (Arawak), Brazilian Portuguese and Guyanese English are all spoken. Based on a self-reported language survey, we present an assessment of the vitality of the languages spoken in this region and the attitudes of the speakers towards these languages. While previous literature has reported the existence of English speakers in this region, the literature does not provide more details about domains of use or the attitudes towards the English language in contrast with Portuguese and the Indigenous languages. This paper helps to address this gap. In sum, the goals of this paper are twofold: first, in light of the results of the survey, to discuss the vitality of the Macuxi and Wapichana languages in the Serra da Lua communities according to the criteria set out by UNESCO’s 'Nine Factors' for assessing language vitality; and second, to provide insight about the use of English in this region.

Suzi also has a solo paper: "The Kawaiwete pedagogical grammar: Linguistic theory, collaborative language documentation, and the production of pedagogical materials."

This paper describes the intersection between linguistic theory and collaborative language documentation as a fundamental step in developing pedagogical materials for Indigenous communities. More specifically, we discuss the process of writing a mono-lingual pedagogical grammar of the Kawaiwete language (a Brazilian Indigenous language). This material was intended to motivate L1 speakers of Kawaiwete to think about language as researchers: by exploring linguistic datasets through the production and revision of hypotheses, testing predictions empirically and assessing the consistency of hypotheses through logical reasoning. By means of linguistic workshops in Kawaiwete communities, linguistic training of Indigenous researchers and production of pedagogical materials, we intended to motivate younger generations of Kawaiwete speakers to become researchers of their own language.

May 10, 2020

Research Groups: Week of May 11-15

Wednesday, May 13, 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM, online
Syntax Group
Guest speaker: Monica Irimia (Ph.D. 2011, now at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia): "Oblique DOM in enriched case hierarchies."

In a cross-linguistically robust type of differential object marking (DOM), specifications at the higher end of animacy/referentiality scales are signalled via oblique morphology (Bossong 1991, 1998, Masica 1993, Torrego 1998, Lazard 2001, López 2012, Manzini and Franco 2016, 2019, Fernández and Rezac 2016, Odria 2017, 2019, a.o.). A well-known example comes from Spanish, illustrated in (1). The definite human DP in (1a) needs a marker which is homophonous with the dative; the same marker is ungrammatical with the inanimate in (1b). One challenge is that despite their oblique appearance, such objects exhibit the syntax of structural accusatives in many languages (Bárány 2018 for recent discussion, a.o). Thus, in numerous descriptive and formal accounts alike, oblique DOM reduces to a matter of allomorphy more generally seen with accusatives (the ‘prepositional accusative’ tradition, Rohlfs 1971, 1973, Roegiest 1979, Halle and Marantz 1993, Keine and Müller 2008, Keine 2010, López 2012, a.o.). However, this raises the question of how to capture the relevant syncretism without incurring an ABA pattern (Johnston 1996, Caha 2009, 2017, Bobaljik 2012, 2015, Harðarson 2016, Starke 2017, McFadden 2018, Smith et. al 2018, Zompì 2019, a.o., for syncretism and *ABA). More simply put, the DOM-oblique syncretism would require the two categories to be adjacent on the case sequence. But as individual languages use various oblique means (dative, locative, genitive, etc.) which can also interact with other licensing strategies, none of the ‘simple’ case hierarchies can derive the facts in a uniform manner. Examining data from a set of language families including Romance, Indo-Aryan, Basque, Slavic, etc., we propose that a solution comes from the use of so-called Enriched Case Hierarchies, which contain more than one accusative category (following observations in Stake 2017). As oblique DOM affects various alignment types, we also illustrate similar problems from ergative-absolutive systems. The logic behind enriched case hierarchies is moreover an opportunity to probe the similarities/differences oblique DOM shows with respect to other structural objects, leading to a better understanding of its nature.

(1) Spanish (Ormazabal and Romero 2013, ex.1 a,b)

a. He encontrado *(a) la niña.   
have.1sg found dat=dom girl
I have found the girl.'

b. He encontrado (*a) el libro.
have1sg found dat=dom book
I have found the book.'

May 9, 2020

Guest speaker: Lyn Tieu (Western Sydney University)

We are very pleased to (digitally) welcome back alumna Lyn Tieu (BA 2007, MA 2008, now at Western Sydney University). Following our MA program, she earned her Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut in 2013, focusing on syntax and semantics from an acquisitional and psycholinguistic perspective, and then completed two postdoctoral fellowships. She is now a Senior Research Fellow at Western Sydney University and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Linguistics at Macquarie University. Her talk, "Psycholinguistic investigations of linguistic inferences," will be held online via Zoom meeting on Friday, May 15, from 9:30 AM to 11:00 AM. Please see the email for registration and room details.

Language conveys meaningful information through different kinds of 'inferences', a number of which have been investigated in contemporary linguistics. For example, the sentence "Mary liked some of your ideas" asserts a positive sentiment from Mary, but it can also convey the negative meaning that she didn't like all of your ideas. The ability to decipher the complexities of linguistic meaning and navigate the different inferences that abound in everyday conversation is integral to linguistic communication, and we typically deploy this ability without a moment's thought. But what exactly is the nature of this ability and where does it come from? Much of my research investigates the nature of linguistic inferences - how they are represented in the grammar, how children acquire them, and what their cognitive origins might be. In this talk, I’ll focus on two findings from recent work. First, children acquire some kinds of linguistic inferences before others, shedding light on the grammar behind linguistic inferences. Second, people can spontaneously draw linguistic inferences even from non-linguistic objects, such as gestures, sound effects, and emoji, suggesting a more general cognitive source for linguistic inferences than previously thought. Both of these findings exemplify how the cognitive architecture that underlies meaning can readily and reliably be investigated using modern psycholinguistic techniques in conjunction with formal linguistic theories.

May 8, 2020

Guest speaker: Dave Kush (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)

We are delighted to welcome Dave Kush, who is a faculty member in linguistics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, based in Trondheim. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in 2013, and his research focuses on syntax, psycholinguistics, and typology. His talk, "How does the grammar guide incremental prediction during sentence processing?", will be held via Zoom meeting on Tuesday, May 12, from 3:15 to 4:45 PM. Note that you should register to attend via the link in the email.

Previous work (e.g. Stowe 1986) has argued that comprehenders pursue an active strategy when
processing incomplete wh-filler-gap dependencies such as (1):

(1) Frida wondered who...

Comprehenders appear to predictively assign a gap/trace position for the dislocated wh-filler "who" in (1) before they receive evidence for the true gap position. In this talk I investigate (i) whether such instances of pre-emptive structural commitment reflect a more general strategy of active prediction across dependency types and (ii) how to best characterize the underlying motivation for active prediction. To this end I discuss recent studies that investigate the role of active prediction in the processing of cataphoric, relative-clause, and embedded question dependencies in English and Norwegian. In the first half of the talk I show that comprehenders incrementally predict yet-to-be-seen referents during the online resolution of cataphoric pronouns. I suggest that these results motivate a general, cross-dependency characterization of the mechanisms underlying active prediction. In the second part of the talk I consider how animacy information impacts predictions for gaps in filler-gap dependencies. Results suggest that comprehenders predict gaps for animate fillers, but not for inanimate fillers. I argue that these results are incompatible with most models of expectation-driven dependency parsing, including diagnostic utility models (Wagers and Phillips 2014) and models that treat expectation as arising via (rational) inference over statistical regularities in comprehenders’ language experience (e.g. Levy 2008).

May 5, 2020

Guest speaker: Christopher Hammerly (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

We are very pleased to welcome Christopher Hammerly, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His research is grounded in psycholinguistics and morphosyntax, and he is particularly interested in Ojibwe/Anishinaabemowin in accordance with his own heritage. His talk, "Processing obviation in Border Lakes Ojibwe," will be held on Friday, May 8, from 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM, via Zoom meeting. Please see the email in order to register to attend.

Obviation systems provide a means to mark the relative 'prominence' of third person nouns. When more than one third person is introduced into the discourse, one is placed 'in the spotlight', a role known as proximate, and all others are 'outside of the spotlight', a role known as obviative. These systems are a hallmark of Algonquian languages. In this talk, I consider how proximate-obviative marking is used to comprehend filler-gap dependencies into relative clauses in the Border Lakes dialect of Ojibwe, an Algonquian language of Northwest Ontario. Using evidence from a preferential looking experiment with native speakers of Border Lakes Ojibwe, I show that two basic preferences govern the interaction between filler-gap dependency resolution and obviation: (i) an agent-first preference, which prefers parses where the first noun encountered in a sentence is encoded as the thematic agent, and (ii) a preference for proximate nouns to be agents and obviative nouns to be patients. The results reveal how obviation is understood by speakers of Ojibwe, showing that it is fundamentally similar to other types of prominence-based information such as animacy. Finally, the data support an analysis of the direct/inverse agreement system where proximate nouns uniformly undergo passive-like promotion to the syntactic subject position. This provides another productive analogy, where direct-marked verbs are compared to active sentences, and inverse-marked verbs to passive.