May 22, 2018

The Canadian origins of HAL 9000

This year is the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, featuring the iconic HAL 9000, a computer (specifically an artificial general intelligence) that Gerry Flahive describes as "perhaps the most memorable non-animal character in the history of cinema" in his article on HAL's speech and origins.

If no geographic features stood out to you in HAL's speech, that was the intention. After considering actor Martin Balsam, who has a mild Bronx accent, Kubrick decided on Canadian actor Douglas Rain. Jack Chambers explains in Flahive's article: "you have to have a computer that sounds like he’s from nowhere, or, rather, from no specific place". Raised diphthongs notwithstanding, Canadian English is a good candidate for this, at least in a North American context. Jack:
“Standard Canadian English sounds ‘normal' –the vowels are in the right place, the consonants are in the right place, it covers a large piece of ground. That’s why Canadians are well received in the United States as newscasters, as anchormen and reporters, because the vowels don’t give away the region they come from. It’s entirely wrong to describe Rain’s voice as ‘mid-Atlantic’–the Canadian accent has almost no trace of Britishness.”

May 16, 2018

Catching up with old friends

Saradindu Guha dropped into the department on Tuesday. Saradindu was our administrative assistant from 1990 until 1999, when he retired at 65. Now 85, he was downtown sorting out his visa for a trip to China and Japan. A remarkable man with a remarkable memory, he greeted everyone by name, inquired about spouses and partners by their names, and talked about numerous old colleagues and students. (He asked about the progress of an “affair” between two grad students. No progress— he disappeared, and she married someone else and has a university-age son.) Saradindu has a Ph.D in chemistry, and he continues his 40-year sideline of translating scientific articles from Russian into English.  Mary Hsu took this photo of Saradindu with Keren and Jack.

May 15, 2018

LVC field trip: Oral histories in Parry Sound, Ontario

The first Language Variation and Change CRC-sponsored field trip team have been doing oral histories in Parry Sound, Ontario for the past week. We have talked to 45 people and documented their stories. We are finding many interesting linguistic features in the data! In rare moments like the one portrayed in this picture, they get a chance to wind down in the local scene.

(LtoR): Kinza Mahoon, Lisa Schlegl, Tim Gadanidis, Fiona Wilson, Andrei Munteanu, Jean-François Juneau.

May 14, 2018

41st Generative Linguistics in the Old World (GLOW)

U of T was well represented at GLOW in Budapest in April:

Left to right: Monica Irimia, Ph.D. 2014, now at University of Modena and Reggio Emilia; Elizabeth Cowper, Professor Emeritus; Avery Ozburn, M.A. 2014, now at UBC; Naomi Francis, MA 2014, now at MIT; Julianne Doner, Ph.D. student. Also participating but not pictured: Daniel Currie Hall, Ph.D. 2007, now at Saint Mary's University

May 12, 2018

11th annual Science Rendezvous

On Saturday, May 12, 2018, the Linguistics Department at the University of Toronto will be taking part in the 11th annual Science Rendezvous.

Science Rendezvous is an educational outreach event that boasts dozens of exciting exhibits and many fun activities for attendees of all ages. The University of Toronto St George campus will be open to the public throughout the day.

At the Linguistics booth, there will be hands-on activities including ultrasound, spectrogram, a mini-sociolinguistic experiment, an Inuktitut morphology puzzle, immersive videos, button making, and much more! We have an enthusiastic team of linguistics students and volunteers who have worked hard to make all this happen.

You can check out the Linguistic Department’s website for the event at
The University of Toronto Science Rendezvous page with the information about exhibits on campus is here:
The Canada-wide site is at

The event runs from 11 to 4, and will take place on and around St George Street between Harbord and College. The Linguistics Booth will be at the Bahen Center for Information Technology Atrium BA1140.

Hope to see you there!

May 2, 2018


The 6th annual Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Hamilton workshop on syntax (MOTH 6) was recently held at McGill. Presenters from UofT:

Virgilio Partida Peñalva (PhD): Multiple PP-remnants in Spanish Pseudostripping: The interaction between NP- and TP-ellipsis

Kinza Mahoon (PhD): Structure of ezafe in Urdu – a compounding approach

Fiona Wilson (PhD): The amn’t gap in Scottish English

Jean-François Juneau (PhD): On the Old and Modern Georgian Suffixaufnahme in Possessive Noun Phrases

Andrew Peters (PhD): Form and Function: Mandarin de in the Nominal and Verbal Domains

Sahar Taghipour (PhD): On Definite Marking in Laki

Nadia Nacif (UofT French): Restrictive and non-restrictive adjectives in Romance languages: Portuguese and Spanish evidence

(LtoR) Back: Virgilio Partida Peñalva, Jean-François Juneau, Koorosh Ariyaee, Sahar Taghipour, Arsalan Kahnemuyipour. Front: Fiona Wilson, Kinza Mahoon, Andrew Peters, Nadia Nacif.

May 1, 2018

48th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (LSRL 48)

The 48th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (LSRL 48) was recently held at York University. Some of the presentations associated with UofT:

Ana Teresa Pérez-Leroux (faculty): A Child’s View of Romance Modification

Gavin Antonio Bembridge (York University) & Andrew Peters (PhD): Who, or where are ‘you’ to me? Formality as distance in Romance and beyond

Suzi Lima (UofT faculty/UFRJ) & Cristiane Oliveira (UFRJ): Value and quantity in the evaluation of bare singulars in Brazilian Portuguese

Sophia Bello (UofT French): Does null mean something to you? Children’s missing objects and what it all means

Jacob Aziz (Western), Vanina Machado (UofT Spanish&Portuguese), Yasaman Rafat (Western), Rajiv Rao (University of Wisconsin, Madison) & Ryan Stevenson (Western): Investigating the sources of nuclear intonation in Argentinian-Canadian heritage speakers of Spanish: Evidence of parental and English influences,

Juliane Doner (PhD) & Çağrı Bilgin (MA 2017): Same Extended Projection Principle, Different Null Subject Language

Hilary Walton (UofT French): The influence of the presence of orthography on the production of a novel vowel contrast by Anglophone learners of French

April 30, 2018

Alana Johns: National Achievement Award, Canadian Linguistic Association (2018)

Alana Johns has been announced as one of the two 2018 laureates of the National Achievement Award from the Canadian Linguistic Association. She will give a plenary talk at the CLA's Annual Meeting at the University of Regina at the end of May. Congratulations on this wonderful honour, Alana! Here is the CLA's announcement:

Dr L. Alana Johns has had a substantial impact on three areas of Canadian linguistics: theoretical morphosyntax, comparative research on Inuit dialects, and community work in language revitalization, maintenance, and documentation.
Dr Johns is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Toronto, where she also served as Director of Aboriginal Studies/the Centre of Aboriginal Initiatives. She spent the first part of her career at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. At both institutions, she inspired, trained and mentored many linguistics students, some of whom she brought to northern regions of Canada to engage in fieldwork. Today, an impressive number of her students have distinguished careers as scholars and as collaborators with Indigenous communities.
The core of Dr. Johns’ theoretical contributions lies in her research on the morphosyntax of Inuktitut, specifically in her work on noun incorporation and on syntactic properties that underlie ergativity. Originating in her PhD dissertation and expanded throughout her career, this influential research has redefined our understanding of cross-linguistic variation in the domain of argument structure, agreement, tense, and case assignment. Furthermore, it has contributed to our knowledge of dialectal variation within the Inuit languages. Dr Johns has also collaborated with other scholars on issues such as phonological change, sentence prosody, and receptive bilingualism in Labrador Inuttitut heritage speakers.
A strong advocate of participatory research between linguists and Indigenous communities, Dr Johns has contributed tremendously to creating a space for fruitful collaborations based on mutual trust and on the needs of the communities. In doing so, she has also contributed to redefining attitudes toward Indigenous people. In her work, she has trained and mentored community members to become Inuit language specialists. Her involvement in collecting and transcribing Inuktitut stories has contributed to preserving and enhancing the collective memory of the Inuit. Her language maintenance projects have produced grammars and teaching manuals on Inuktitut and Inuttitut as well as research documents such as the Dictionary of Utkuhiksalingmiut Inuktitut Postbase Suffixes (co-authored with Jean Briggs and Conor Cook), which is foundational to future revitalization efforts.
In sum, Dr Johns has been a driving force in the study and promotion of the Inuit dialects of Canada. Her ongoing efforts to support language documentation and revitalization have enhanced the status of Indigenous languages and have served the field of linguistics. We are very pleased to recognize her advocacy and inspirational work by awarding her the National Achievement Award of the Canadian Linguistic Association for 2018.

April 24, 2018

WSCLA and SAIL at the University of Ottawa (2018)

WSCLA (23rd Workshop on the Structure and Constituency of the Languages of the Americas) and SAIL (Symposium for American Indian Languages) were recently held together at the University of Ottawa (April 13th and 14th, 2018).

Current faculty/students/visiting scholars that presented their work at WSCLA/SAIL:

  • Suzi Lima (faculty): A typology of the count/mass distinction in Brazil and its relevance for count/mass theories (invited talk, WSCLA)
  • Guillaume Thomas (faculty): Resultatives in Mbyá and the grammar of causativization (talk, WSCLA)
  • Suzi Lima: The Kawaiwete pedagogical grammar (talk, SAIL)
  • Vidhya Elango (undergraduate), Isabella Coutinho (Universidade Estadual de Roraima), and Suzi Lima: Language vitality in Macuxi and Wapichana in Terra Indígena Serra de Lua, Roraima, Brazil (poster, SAIL)
  • Fábio Bonfim Duarte (visiting scholar): Is Tentehara a head-final over head-initial language? (talk, WSCLA)
  • Fábio Bonfim Duarte (with colleagues Camargos and Castro): The parallel between verbs and nouns in the Tenetehára language (poster).

Several alumni, former post-docs and former visiting scholars presented their work in one of these events: Nicholas Welch (former post-doc, now at McMaster), Richard Compton (PhD 2012, now at UQAM), Will Oxford (PhD 2014, now at UManitoba), Michael Barrie (PhD 2006, now at Sogang University), Jorge Emilio Rosés Labrada (former visiting scholar, now at UAlberta), and Michelle Yuan (MA 2013, now at UofT)

Vidhya Elango

Suzi Lima

Fábio Bonfim Duarte and Guillaume Thomas

April 20, 2018

Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics Vol. 40: Special Issue from CRC-Sponsored Phonology/Phonetics Workshops

Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics is happy to announce the publication of a special volume dedicated to research presented at the recurring phonology/phonetics workshop during Keren Rice’s time as Canada Research Chair.

This online volume can be found at the following link:

We are very grateful to the authors, to the TWPL editorial staff, and to Keren, for making this volume possible.

April 15, 2018

Grading and lasagne

Naomi, Lex and Julien celebrated the end of a long grading day with a lasagne feast.

April 10, 2018

Linguistic Perspectives on Variation: Toronto-Buffalo Workshop (2018)

On Friday, April 6th, 2018, the first annual Buffalo-Toronto Workshop on Linguistic Perspectives on Variation was held at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Presentations from our department:

Variation and change in reduplication and repetition in Ontario dialects — Sali Tagliamonte (faculty) & Katharina Pabst (PhD)

A socio-indexical feature in Heritage Italian: VOT in Toronto — Naomi Nagy (faculty), Rosalba Nodari (Scuola Normale Superiore) & Chiara Celata (Scuola Normale Superiore)

Height or hide? Partial contrast, dialect exposure, and the perception of Canadian Raising  — Patrick Murphy (PhD) & Philip Monahan (faculty)

Evidence of intradialect variation in Scottish English  — Fiona Wilson (PhD)

Accented stops? L1-based variation in L2 English stop production  — Jessamyn Schertz (faculty)

Group Photo (LtoR): Derry Moore (Buffalo), Patrick Murphy (Toronto), Randi Moore (Buffalo), Katharina Pabst (Toronto), Sali Tagliamonte (Toronto), Christian DiCanio (Buffalo), Jessamyn Schertz (Toronto), Thomas St. Pierre (Buffalo), Naomi Nagy (Toronto), Jeff Good (Buffalo), Fiona Wilson (Buffalo), David Fertig (Buffalo)

Katharina Pabst and Sali Tagliamonte

Naomi Nagy

Fiona Wilson

Jessamyn Schertz

April 9, 2018

New book: Nominal Contact in Michif

Carrie Gillon (MA 1999, now at Quick Brown Fox Consulting) and Nicole Rosen (PhD 2007, now at University of Manitoba) have a new book: Nominal Contact in Michif. From the OUP website, the book:

  • Offers a detailed formal description of the structure of Michif with extensive examples
  • Accessible to linguists from all theoretical and descriptive backgrounds
  • Explores the validity of 'mixed language' as a category
  • Proposes a new classification of Michif as an Algonquian language with French contact influence

April 2, 2018

New book: Direct Objects and Language Acquisition

Congratulations to Ana-Teresa Pérez-Leroux (Faculty, Dept. of Linguistics, Department of Spanish and Portuguese), Mihaela Pirvulescu (Faculty, Dept. of Language Studies UTM, Graduate Department of French), and Yves Roberge (Faculty, Dept. of French, Graduate Dept of Linguistics) on the publication of their book: "Direct Objects and Language Acquisition" with Cambridge University Press.

You can take a peek at the exciting contents inside at the following site:

March 23, 2018

How Fox Saved the People: Tlicho folktale turned video game

Nicholas Welch (faculty), Shay Hucklebridge (MA 2016, now at UMass Amherst), and Luke West (MA 2015, now at UCLA) were recently featured in a CBC article about a language-learning video game they created around a Tlicho folktale, "How Fox Saved the People". Check out the article here!

March 22, 2018

Keren Rice on donating

Arts & Science is currently running a series on their faculty and staff giving campaign, talking with employees of the university who donate. Keren Rice (faculty) was profiled on her donations to scholarship funds in honour of retiring colleagues (link here). Quote:
Why do I give? For many reasons. You see a gap, and you hope that if you do something to fill it, it won’t stay a gap.
Over the past few years I’ve made several donations to scholarship funds in honour of retiring colleagues. In a small department like Linguistics, every single faculty member makes a difference for every single student, and you want to be able to remember the contributions they have made. Each time a student gets a named award, it makes them stop and think about who that person is, what kinds of important contributions they have made.
Last year we set up a new undergraduate award in honour of our colleague Elaine Gold, who had just retired and become the Director of the Canadian Language Museum. When I wrote the student to tell him he’d gotten the award, he was just so flattered to be recognized. It’s not a lot of money, but it made him feel like his hard work had been noticed.
As a faculty member, I donate to scholarships at U of T because I am at a stage in my life when I have the means to do so and am thinking about what kinds of things I want to support. Honouring my colleagues and helping our students are definitely worthwhile causes.

March 21, 2018

Angelika Kiss featured in U of T Bulletin article on family study space

Angelika Kiss (Ph.D.) and her son Mark (9-and-a-half months old) have been featured by The Bulletin in an article on a new family study space at Robarts Library: "Robarts Library opens family study space for parents and kids".

“It's important to have a safe and secure space that allows parents to engage in their academic pursuits while also caring for their children,” says Larry Alford, the university's chief librarian.
Angelika Kiss, a PhD student in linguistics, says the new space will come in handy.
She usually studies at home where she can watch her energetic 9-month-old Mark.
It isn't long before Mark loses interest in his picture-books and demands his mom's attention. “I would love it if I could just read a few pages of an article with Mark being awake because that's sometimes impossible. He's so active,” Kiss says.
A special room for parents who want to use the library would make it much less tricky to do research with a toddler in tow, she says.

March 20, 2018

Undergraduate Research Forum

The Undergraduate Research Forum took place in the Great Hall at Hart House on March 14. Linguistics undergrads were well-represented by 3 research posters:
  1. Anna Pechkina, supervised by Naomi Nagy, “Heritage Russian Case Variability", a Summer 2017 ROP299 project.
  2. Rachel Evangeline Chiong, Andrea Macanovic, supervised by Peter Jurgec, “Long-distance palaltalization in Zadrečka Valley Slovenia", a Summer 2017 LIN398 project.
  3. Charlotte Fiegenbaum, Ariel Gomes, Morgan Marden, Olivia McManus, Si Yuan Jeffrey Wang, supervised by Sali Tagliamonte, “Catching language change: A Trans-Atlantic perspective on really reat intensifiers", a Winter 2018 ICM Project.
Students interested in these sorts of opportunities should check out:

Andrea Macanovic and her poster (along with Rachel Evangeline Chiong, Peter Weiss of ZRC SAZU, and Peter Jurgec)

March 19, 2018

Bettina Spreng: tenure-track appointment, University of Saskatchewan

Bettina Spreng (PhD 2012) has just signed a contract for a tenure-track appointment as Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the Department of Linguistics at the University of Saskatchewan. Her current position with Linguistics and Religious Studies (also at Saskatchewan) lasts until June. Congrats, Bettina!

(LtoR): Alana Johns (supervisor), Bettina Spreng, Diane Massam, and Elizabeth Cowper

March 16, 2018

Sali Tagliamonte at South by Southwest

Sali Tagliamonte (faculty) was at South by Southwest (a music/film/etc. festival) in Austin, Texas this week. She participated in a panel on language and the Internet titled “Doggos, Bork, BAE: the New World Language”. It was one of the few events at the festival focused on language. The moderator was Neha Bansal and the participants were: Nick Farmer, Subramanyeswar S, and Sali Tagliamonte.

(LtoR) Subramanyeswar S, Neha Bansal, Sali Tagliamonte, Nick Farmer.