November 28, 2016

U of T linguists interviewed about Arrival!

In all the buzz about the new sci-fi film Arrival, U of T News interviewed Nicholas Welch (faculty) and Shayna Gardiner (PhD) about the linguistics in the movie! You can read their thoughts here.

November 24, 2016

NWAV45 at Simon Fraser University, November 3–6

NWAV45 had some great UofT representation this year! Earlier this month, a number of UofT sociolinguists flew to Vancouver to attend the conference. NWAV this year was co-organized by Alexandra D’Arcy (UofT alum, Ph.D. 2005) of UVic and Panayiotis Pappas of Simon Fraser University. Here are some photos from the trip:

The UofT crew from left to right: Jack Chambers, Marisa Brook, Ruth Maddeaux, Paulina Lyskawa, Darcie Blainey, Brianne Süss, Lex Konnelly, Naomi Nagy, Sali Tagliamonte, Sam Lo, Erin Hall, and Melanie Röthlisberger.
Gillian Sankoff listens attentively as Sali opens her talk wtih Suzanne Evans-Wagner.
Shayna intrigues the crowd.
A pod of UofT researchers in the wild!

Melanie shows off the ICE cube.

Presentations by UofT folks included:

Sali Tagliamonte (faculty) and Suzanne Evans-Wagner: “Vernacular stability: Comparative evidence from two lifespan studies.” 

Darcie Blainey (post-doc): “Staying true to your roots: Language stability through late adulthood amidst language shift.” 

Marisa Brook (Ph.D. 2016, now an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University): “A two-tiered change in Canadian English: The emergence of a streamlined evidential system.

Jack Chambers (faculty): “Cracking the code: Wedgies and lexical respectability.” and “Cognitive styles and language variation.”

Derek Denis (Ph.D. 2015, now a post-doc at the University of Victoria): “Pathways to homogeneity in Canadian English.”

Aaron Dinkin (faculty): “It’s no problem to be polite: Change in apparent time in responses to thanks.”

Erin Hall (Ph.D.): “Static and dynamic analyses of Canadian Raising in Toronto and Vancouver.”

Shayna Gardiner (Ph.D.): “The Dhutmose Letters: Lifespan change in Ancient Egypt?”

Shayna Gardiner (Ph.D.) & Naomi Nagy (faculty): “Stable variation and the role of continuous factor groups: A meta-analysis.” 

Sam Lo (undergraduate) and Naomi Nagy (faculty): “Variable use of Heritage Cantonese classifiers.”

Paulina Lyskawa (MA 2015): “Converging vs. competing phonology: Does coe-switching play a predictable role?”

Gloria Mellesmoen (MA 2016, now Ph.D. a thet University of British Columbia): “A vague phonological contrast: /eɪg/ as a distinguishing element of BC English.”

Naomi Nagy (faculty): “Cross-cultural approaches: Comparing heritage languages in Toronto.”

Melanie Röthlisberger (visiting researcher from Universiteit Leuven): “Is indiginization in probabilistic constraints a sign of different grammars? Insights from syntactic variation in New Englishes.” 

Brianne Süss, M.A. 2016: “Style-shifting over the lifespan: Evidence from a Canadian icon.”

November 18, 2016

Interview with recent hire Jessamyn Schertz

Our blog is doing a series of interviews with recent hires to the department, and first up is Jessamyn Schertz, who's been hired as an Assistant Professor at UTM / St. George. Most recently she was working in a postdoc position at UTSC with Yoonjung Kang, and we're very happy to have her continue on in her new position. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona in 2014, and her website is here.

We've also created a new post label called "interview" for this and other interviews in the future.

How would you introduce your research to someone who isn't familiar with linguistics?

I study the fine-grained details of how we pronounce and perceive the various sounds of speech. The “same” sounds can vary across languages (for example, French and English both have “p” sounds, but they are pronounced slightly differently) and even individuals with the same language background will have slightly different definitions of the same sound. The way we produce and perceive sounds is shaped by many factors, including our language background, social characteristics that we ascribe to ourselves and other talkers, the specific communicative situation, and general cognitive processes that may differ across individuals. In my work, I try to tease apart how these different factors interact with one another in 1) by recording speakers and doing acoustic analysis of their speech, and 2) by developing experiments to “map” listeners’ perception of sounds. 

How would you introduce your research to a fellow linguist?

It really depends on the linguist. As an introduction, probably pretty much the same way as above, actually!

What kinds of data collection (e.g. elicitation, experiments, oral texts, conversations) do you use in your research?

My work is mostly experimental, although I am interested in doing more corpus work as well.

Is there any research topic, area, or method you haven't explored very much but that you'd like to work with at some point?

I have recently been thinking more about the influence on social factors on speech perception. I’m hoping to take advantage of the rich social and linguistic diversity in Toronto to explore how linguistic and social factors shape perception and production. 

What courses do you most enjoy teaching?

I don’t have a favorite, but I do enjoy different aspects of teaching different levels. General introductory courses are always fun because students have no idea what to expect: most have never heard of linguistics, and their assumptions about what it is tend not to match up with the actual course content. On the other hand, the intellectual stimulation of working with advanced undergraduate and graduate students is both exciting and motivating for my own thinking.

What kind of graduate student research projects would you like to be involved in, either as a supervisor, second reader, etc.? (areas and methods)

Along with my primary areas of speech perception and production, I am looking forward to being involved in student projects that stretch my interests: students with primary interests in other subfields who are interested in doing experimental work, as well as projects looking at the relationship between linguistic systems in bilinguals and second-language learners.

What's your favourite thing about Toronto as a city?

I love Toronto! I will try to limit myself to two favorite things. First, I love walking around in all of the different neighborhoods and the opportunity to get groceries from all over the world. Second, there is a fantastic community of amateur musicians in Toronto - the best I have ever found. 

Since your main appointment is at UTM, what involvement are you going to have with the St. George department?

Right now, I’m helping to lead the Junior Forum, a professional development course for new graduate students. It’s fun to be involved at the beginning stages of people’s careers. I’ll be teaching grad courses about once a year, and looking forward to serving on thesis/GP/dissertation committees. I’ll also be continuing my involvement with the Phonetics/Phonology and Psycholinguistics groups, as well as research collaborations with my colleagues across the three campuses.

November 17, 2016

FLAUT lecture by Marshall Chasin (November 16th, 2016)

Friends of Linguistics At the University of Toronto (FLAUT) recently held a talk by Marshall Chasin titled "Clatter, Music and Hearing Loss". Here's a picture from the event.

Left to right: Yves Roberge, Marshall Chasin, Colin Swift (representative of the New College alumni association), Guillaume Thomas, and Jack Chambers. (Picture courtesy of Jennifer McCallum.)

November 11, 2016

Ph.D. convocation (November 2016)

Here are some pictures from the recent Ph.D. convocation that included graduates from our department.
Left to right: Mercedeh Mohaghegh, Yu-Leng Lin, Keren Rice (faculty), Safieh Moghaddam, Diane Massam (faculty), and Marisa Brook. (Picture from Diane Massam.)

There was a reception in the department that included wug cookies! (Picture from Keren Rice.)

November 2, 2016

Mo-MOT 1 at Carleton, November 18th to 20th

Mo-MOT 1, the First Annual Morphology in Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto Workshop, is being held later this month at Carleton University in Ottawa. The program is available here. Presenters from UofT include:

Ilia Nicoll (Ph.D.) “The Provacative Feature Deletion Model:  Morphological consequences of a syntactic model of agreement alternations”

Ross Godfrey (Ph.D.) “Process morphology and nonconcatenative allomorphy”

Elizabeth Cowper (faculty) & Lex Konnelly (Ph.D.) “The feature geometry of non-binary gender: Implications of singular definite specific they.”

Michael Barrie (Ph.D. 2006, now at Sogang University) “Two issues in the morphology of Iroquoian verbal prefixes”

Bronwyn Bjorkman (postdoc 2012-2015, now at Queen's University) “The inherent puzzle of modal subjects”

Alana Johns (faculty) is also the invited speaker on Saturday.

Rear, L-R: Mike Barrie (PhD 2006, now at Sogang U, Seoul), Elizabeth Cowper, Kumiko Murasugi (former undergrad, now at Carleton U), Andrew Peters (York U, currently taking courses at U of T), Lex Konnelly (MA 2016, current PhD student), Alana Johns
Front, L-R: Ross Godfrey (PhD), Bronwyn Bjorkman (former SSHRC & Banting postdoc, now at Queen's), Gavin Bembridge (York PhD)

October 28, 2016

Pumpkin carving night 2016

The Linguistics Graduate Course Union (LGCU) recently held a pumpkin carving night, its first one since 2010. Below is the result. Thanks to Keren Rice for the photo!

October 25, 2016

U of T linguists at USC!

U of T linguists presented their research last weekend at the 2016 Annual Meeting on Phonology, held October 21-23, 2016 at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Yoonjung Kang & Jessamyn Schertz: The role of perceived L2 category in cross-language perception and implications for loanword adaptation

Michael Becker (Stony Brook University) & Peter Jurgec: Inconspicuous unfaithfulness in Slovenian

October 20, 2016

Throwback: old department branding

Courtesy of Jack Chambers, we have an old department letterhead (from around 1981) that shows an attempt at branding for our department. It was created by an (at the time) new office of the university that was charged with branding the various departments of the university.

October 19, 2016

Naomi Nagy guest lecture at NYU

Naomi kicked off the 2016-2017 NYU Linguistics Colloquium series with a guest lecture , "Cross-cultural sociolinguistic surprises in Toronto Talk," sharing some recent findings from the Heritage Language Variation and Change Project. The perk of talking about Heritage Languages? Being wined and dined by local linguists at Japanese, Chinese, Italian (and another)—2 of these because she works on 2 Italian varieties!—and Ukrainian venues, all in a 2-day stretch. Oh, and mustn’t forget the Mah Ze Dahr Bakery, with Pakistani roots. Its Urdu names means "the taste essence of food, its flavor and magic that make it delicious."

Bonus: catching up with new NYU prof Dr. Ailis Cournane, a recent grad of our department.
NYU may be the only linguistics department with its own doorman!

Ryan DeCaire on CTV about revitalizing indigenous languages

Ryan DeCaire, who was recently hired in a cross-appointment between the Centre for Indigenous Studies and the Department of Linguistics, was recently interviewed by CTV's Your Morning on language revitalization. The UofT news write-up about it is here, and the actual interview is available from CTV here.

October 18, 2016

2016 Inuit Studies Conference at Memorial University

The 2016 Inuit Studies Conference was held at Memorial University on October 7th-10th. Presentations of interest for our department:

Alana Johns (faculty): "Unikkâk: The Story of a Story"

Alana Johns (faculty) and Rita Andersen: "Phrases from Nunatsiavummiut"

Julien Carrier (Ph.D.): "Sociolinguistic study on the loss of ergativity in Inuktitut across Eastern Canada"

Zoe McKenzie (Ph.D.): "Multi-Functionality of the Optative Mood (in Inuktitut)"

Douglas Wharram & Ilia Nicoll (Ph.D.): "A tripartite classification of intransitive incorporating verbs in Inuktitut"

Richard Compton (Ph.D. 2012, now at University of Quebec at Montreal): "Incorporated nouns in Inuktitut as in situ objects"

Marina Sherkina-Lieber (Ph.D. 2011, now at York University): "Inuit who understand Inuktitut but who do not speak it: What do they know and what do they lack?"

October 17, 2016

Group photo at NELS 47

Some past and present members of our department at UMass Amherst for NELS 47 were able to meet up for a picture!
(L-R): Yining Nie (MA 2015, now at NYU), Michela Ippolito (faculty), Kenji Oda (Ph.D. 2012, now at Syracuse), Michael Barrie (Ph.D. 2006, now at Sogang University), Clarissa Forbes (Ph.D.), Michelle Yuan (MA 2013, now at MIT)

October 14, 2016

Talks by Bob Ladd and John Esling this week

This week was a busy and exciting P-side week in the department, with visits and guest talks by both Bob Ladd (University of Edinburgh) and John Esling (University of Victoria, emeritus). On Tuesday, Bob Ladd presented "Lexical Allophones", a discussion of marginal phonological contrasts, subject to both phonological conditioning and lexical effects. On Thursday, John Esling presented "The Effect of the Laryngeal Articulator on Vowel Quality", showing some excellent MRI images of different laryngeal states and their effects on tongue shape and cavity sizes. The abstracts for both talks are below.

The Phonetics Brigade
(L-R: Alexei Kochetov, John Esling, Jessamyn Schertz)

October 10, 2016

Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics: Alumni Issue (Vol. 37)

Volume 37 of TWPL (Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics) has recently been released. This is a special issue made up of submissions from alumni of our department, to celebrate the recent revival of TWPL (after the six year hiatus between Volume 34 and Volume 35). The submissions for this issue span four different subfields: phonology, syntax, language acquisition, and language variation and change. The alumni issue itself can be found on the TWPL site here, and past issues of TWPL can be found on the archive here. Good work, TWPL team!

October 6, 2016

LGCU Welcome Workshop

The 8th annual Welcome Workshop of the Linguistics Graduate Course Union (LGCU) will take place this Friday, October 7, in Sidney Smith Hall, Room 1083. Our new graduate students will be presenting their research, so please stop by and have a look!

The schedule is below.

1:00-1:10 Coffee & welcome
1:10-1:35 Lexical variation in syntactic profiles: New insights from world Englishes (Melanie Röthlisberger)
1:35-2:00 Frequency of use and lexical change: A case study of Latin and Spanish (Fiona Wilson)
2:00-2:25 Hooking up: Defining and using an ambiguous term in the college bubble (Savannah Meslin)
2:25-2:40 BREAK
2:40-3:05 The dark side of the loon or Joyeux No-dark-ël (Luke Zhou)
3:05-3:30 Enriching sociolinguistic categories: Evidence from variation within the adjective phrase (Lex Konnelly)
3:30-3:55 ‘It’s new, it’s wicked, it’s awesome’: Using adjectives to pinpoint the actuation of linguistic change (Katharina Pabst)
3:55-4:20 The interpretation of pronouns in proxy counterfactuals (Heather Stephens)
4:20-4:35 BREAK
4:35-5:00 De and Chinese morpho-syntax (Cater Chen)
5:00-5:25 Restrictive relativized constituents and verbal predicates in Krio: An investigation of the accessibility hierarchy (Brea Lutton)
5:25-5:50 Relexification of Haitian Creole with French (Sarah Newman)

Fieldwork group meeting at 12:30

The Fieldwork Research Group will be meeting from 12:30-1:30 tomorrow (Friday, 7 October) not 1:00-2:00, in order to allow people more time to attend the Welcome Workshop.

October 4, 2016


The 47th annual meeting of the North East Linguistics Society is being held at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from October 16th to 18th. The program is available here. Of interest:

Will Oxford (Ph.D. 2014, now at the University of Manitoba): "Person dissimilation in the derivation of agreement alternations"

Yining Nie (MA 2015, now at New York University): "Why is there NOM-NOM but no ERG-ERG?"

Michela Ippolito (Faculty): "Indefinite Pronouns"

Clarissa Forbes (Ph.D.): "Aggressively ergative agreement in Gitksan"

October 1, 2016

Sali Interviewed for Her New Book on Teenager Language

Sali Tagliamonte (faculty) was recently interviewed for her new book Teen Talk: The Language of Adolescents on specific features of teenager speech in English (including "like" and "stuff", and online writing conventions) as well as the role of teenager speech in language change more broadly. The interview can be found here on New Books Network.

September 29, 2016

Phonology and psycholinguistics research group meetings

The first official meeting of the Phonology Research Group is this Friday, September 30, from 9:30 to 11:00 am in SS560A.  The speaker is Suyeon Yun, our new postdoc this year.

The Psycholinguistics Research Group will be meeting on October 7,  from 9:30 to 11:00 am in SS560A. The speaker is Jessamyn Schertz of the Department of Language Studies at UTM.