September 28, 2012

Jack Chambers in the BBC News online

Jack Chambers was featured yesterday on the BBC News online, in a sidebar to the article "Britishisms and the Britishisation of American English".

The article was the #1 shared piece yesterday, and is still #3 today!

September 21, 2012

New Graduate Students in 2012-2013

Relaxing after the welcome tour
(L to R: Phil Howson, Emily Clare, Becky Tollan, Michelle Yuan, Dan Milway, and Clarissa Forbes)

A belated welcome to our incoming graduate classes! Here is a little bit of information about each of our new MA and PhD students.

New MA Students

Emily Blamire has a BA in Linguistics from UBC, and has a broad range of interests, including language variation (sexuality, gender, taboo words, and slang), fieldwork, and psycholinguistic experimentation.

Clarissa Forbes is originally from Seattle, but has spent the last few years in Vancouver at UBC, getting a BA in linguistics. Language documentation and the languages of the Pacific Northwest are her two greatest linguistic interests. So far she has worked on Gitksan (Tsimshianic) and Blackfoot (Algonquian). Other research interests include syntax, morphology, and historical linguistics. Her undergraduate thesis was on Gitksan noun modification, arguing in favor of a class of adjectives.

Jada Fung completed her undergraduate studies a couple years ago here at U of T and is happy to be returning to this department as a graduate student. Her research interests include syntax, semantics, language change/variation and the Chinese language.

Phil Howson is from Vancouver and is primarily interested in phonetics and speech production. He is interested in Slavic languages, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean and Germanic languages. He also has an interest in syntactic theory, scrambling, and phonology, and phonetics.

Dan Milway did his undergraduate studies here at U of T. After a brief foray into chemistry, he earned his degree in German and Linguistics in 2009. For his MA, he will be focusing on morphosyntax; specifically he is interested in morphological case and Germanic particle verbs.

Rebecca Tollan is from North Yorkshire in the UK, and completed her undergrad at the University of York. Her main research interests involve theoretical and historical syntax, first language acquisition and processing of island constraints/A-bar movement. She is also interested in evolutionary linguistics, in particular the emergence of the human capacity for recursive grammar, and comparative-historical work.  

Michelle Yuan completed her undergraduate degree at U of T in Linguistics and German. Her research interests generally fall at the interface of syntax and semantics. She is especially interested in the left-periphery of the clause and the behaviour and functions of syntactic operators. Languages of interest include Inuktitut, Twic East (Dinka), and Mandarin.

New PhD Students

Majed Al-Solami  [maʒɪd] is from The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His research interests are in phonetics and phonology in general. Specifically he is interested in the study of emphatics and post-velar sounds in Arabic.

Julien Carrier has a BA from UQAM and completed his MA there last year. He has worked on two varieties of Inuktitut: Tarramiut and Itivimiut, and plans to continue working on the morphosyntax of Itivimiut.

Emily Clare did a BA in Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MA in Phonological Development in Childhood at the University of York in the UK.  She is interested in acoustic phonetics, particularly human and machine speech recognition.  She hopes to research how speakers and listeners adjust in adverse listening conditions.

Julianne Doner just finished an MA in Linguistics here at U of T, after doing an undergraduate degree, also in Linguistics, at York University. She is interested in syntax, particularly the syntax of the inflectional domain. Her MA forum paper was entitled "A Typology of EPP-Checking Mechanisms," and considered how the EPP is checked in languages such as English, Niuean, Italian, Irish, and Arabic.

Shayna Gardiner did an undergraduate degree in linguistics and psychology at Queen's University, and wrote an honours thesis on Ottawa Valley English syntax.  She has an MA in linguistics from the University of Ottawa where she mainly focused on historical morphology and syntax. She did RA work on Old and Middle English and her major research paper was about Middle Egyptian lexical categories.  Her current interests and research are in the areas of morphology, syntax, historical linguistics, and Middle Egyptian.

Matt Pankhurst has an MA in linguistics from Western University and a BA in English Literature and Rhetoric. He has also holds diplomas in Chinese Language and East Asian Studies from the University of Waterloo, and a Chinese language certificate from Nanjing University. For his MA he did fieldwork on Spoken Manchu in Qiqihar.  His MA paper addressed a number of vowel-related processes in Spoken Manchu and the relevance of a diachronic approach to Spoken Manchu vowel harmony. He is interested in the phonology of languages in Northeast China, particularly rhotacization and prosody.

Kyle Weishaar is a first year PhD student. He has a BA from McMaster University in Cognitive Science of Language and an MA in Linguistics from the University of Toronto. His research follows two distinct paths. His primary interest is in the syntax-morphology interface in Romance languages. Specifically, he is interested in pronominal systems and agreement patterns in the Ibero-Romance languages in both Europe and in the Americas. His other area of interest is in the similarity between timing, or time keeping, in music and speech. 

September 20, 2012

Ringing in the New (Academic) Year

Last Friday we had our welcome reception for the 2012-2013 academic year, welcoming the newest members of our department. We also recognized several achievements by members of the department, including new appointments of tenure (Cristina Cuervo, Michela Ippolito, and Alexei Kochetov) and the successful completion of the MA program by last year's cohort (Erin Brassell, Julie Doner, Erin Hall, Shannon Mooney, Kyle Weishaar, and Tomohiro Yokoyama). We also announced that Ross Godfrey was the winner of the first Elan Dresher Award, which is to be awarded annually to the graduate student who writes the best phonology course paper.

Elizabeth's official welcome
Jack's annual toast
Midway through the party, we noticed that many of the attending linguists were unintentionally colour-coordinated!

September 14, 2012

Élodie Thomas in the news—in Paris!

Élodie Thomas went home to Courcouronnes this summer, the Paris suburb where she grew up, to interview teenagers of Arabic origin. The local newspaper turned the tables and interviewed her for a full-column “Portrait.” “In France,” she told them, “urban sociolinguistics is studied in sociology and is not entirely a scientific discipline.” She chose Toronto, she said, as “the best place for studying sociolinguistics.” In her research, she hopes to show how Arabic elements are being integrated to form a distinctive Courcouronnes French variety. The reporter concluded, “Élodie is a bit of an ambassador for Courcouronnes.” Also, we could add, for our sociolinguistics program. Élodie’s interviews will form the core of her first Generals paper this fall. And probably more to come.

Post courtesy of Jack Chambers 

Homeland and Heritage Cantonese trip

The second NWAV-Asia Pacific conference was held in Tokyo this August, providing a venue for sociolinguists working on Asian and Pacific languages to share their work. Jack Chambers was an invited speaker with a fascinating lecture about Takesi Sibata, a Japanese linguist who foreshadowed much that was "discovered" later in western sociolinguistics. Jack is pictured here with three of the conference organizers, Yoshiyuki Asahi, Shobha Satyanath, and Miriam Meyerhoff, at the ceremonial breaking of the sake cask to open the conference banquet.
NWAV-AP 2 conference organizers with Jack
Naomi Nagy presented a synthesis of recent work on Heritage Cantonese that was conducted by Nina Aghdasi, Tiffany Chung, Derek Denis, Alex Motut, Mario So Gao, and Josephine Tong at NWAV-AP. Naomi then went on to her first visit to Hong Kong where she met many linguists interested in the current work on Toronto Heritage Cantonese. She's pictured below with U of T student Josephine Tong, and with her host Katherine Chen of Hong Kong University. 
Naomi & Josephine on Victoria Peak
Naomi & Katherine in the middle of the huge subway system

September 12, 2012

New Professor and Postdoctoral Fellows

We are happy to introduce a few new faces in our department! Joining us from UBC (via Leiden), U of C, and MIT (via Northeastern University) are Tyler Peterson, Nicholas Welch, and Bronwyn Bjorkman. 
Assistant professor Tyler Peterson
Tyler completed his PhD in 2010 at UBC. His thesis, entitled "Epistemic Modality and Evidentiality in Gitksan at the Semantics-Pragmatics Interface", was supervised by Lisa Matthewson and was an in-depth formal study of the semantics and pragmatics of modality and evidentiality in Gitksan (a Tsimshianic language of British Columbia).
In addition to Gitksan, Tyler has worked on Amazonian languages. For the past few years, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics.
Tyler will be an assistant professor with us for one year, and he will be teaching English Words, Morphological Patterns in Language, Advanced Morphology, Introduction to Semantics, Semantic Theory, and Advanced Semantics II, which will be a seminar on the semantics and pragmatics of evidentials and modals. Tyler will be our departmental semanticist while Michela Ippolito is away on sabbatical.

Postdoctoral fellows Nicholas Welch and Bronwyn Bjorkman
Nicholas Welch joins our department as a postdoctoral fellow. His dissertation, entitled “The Bearable Lightness of Being: The Encoding of Coincidence in Two-Copula Languages”, was completed in 2012 at the University of Calgary under the supervision of Elizabeth Ritter. He is interested in Athabaskan languages, syntax, historical linguistics, and phonetics.
This year, Nicholas will be working with Keren Rice on the syntactic structure of individual-level predicates in Athabaskan languages such as Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì (Dogrib).

Bronwyn Bjorkman joins our department as a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow. She completed her PhD at MIT in September 2011 and taught at Northeastern University (Boston, MA) for a year before joining us. Her thesis was supervised by Sabine Iatridou, and was entitled “BE-ing Default: The Morphosyntax of Auxiliaries”. The thesis was an investigation of the syntactic mechanisms underlying auxiliary verb constructions; she argued that these arise from the interaction of more general principles of verbal inflection and morphosyntactic realization.
This year Bronwyn will be working with Elizabeth Cowper, extending this work to the domain of motion verb auxiliaries (e.g. the going to future). She is also working on projects involving the morphological marking of counterfactual/subjunctive conditionals, and the properties of asymmetric coordination structures.

Welcome Tyler, Nicholas, and Bronwyn!

September 10, 2012

Summer Wrap-Up!

Ailis Cournane in Rouen, France
(Photo credit: Ailis Cournane)
We had quite an eventful summer! In addition to our five thesis defenses, three of our students completed their thesis proposals (Will Oxford, LeAnn Brown, and Michelle St-Amour), several members of our department participated in summer conferences and workshops (in addition to the CLA and the workshops we hosted), and one PhD student (Derek Denis) taught for the first time.

In May, Ailis Cournane went to France to present "Experimenting with Innovation in the Domain of Modality" at the International Conference on Grammaticalization Theory and Data, hosted by the University of Rouen.

U of T linguists at CVC VI
(Photo credit: Derek Denis)

In June, at Change and Variation in Canada VI (hosted by UQAM), Natalia Lapinskaya (undergraduate) and Naomi Nagy presented "“Cross-generational change in Heritage Russian phonology”, Derek Denis presented “Reaching a little further back: Building a corpus of earlier Ontario English from oral histories”, and incoming PhD student Matthew Pankhurst presented “Rhotic lenition as a marker of a dominant character type in Henan Mandarin Chinese”. This conference was also attended by Shannon Mooney (MA), and PhD students Marisa Brook, Matt Hunt Gardner, and Élodie Thomas.

Also in June, Julia Su presented "Inner modal in Mandarin excessive constructions" at the North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics (NACCL 24) in San Francisco.

In August, incoming MA student Clarissa Forbes presented "Gitxsan adjectives: Evidence from nominal modification" at the International Conference on Salish and Neighbouring Languages (ICSNL 47) in Cranbrook, BC, and Radu Craioveanu and Christopher Spahr attended Nordic Prosody XI at the University of Tartu in Estonia, where Christopher presented "Rethinking the morphophonology of Estonian quantity".

An LGCU Welcome Workshop is in the works for October to provide all of the incoming students (as well as current students) the opportunity to share and learn about each other's areas of research.

(Photo credit: Eugenia Suh)
One of our PhD students, Derek Denis, taught for the first time this summer. The course, with
roughly 35 third year students, was LIN 351, Sociolinguistic Patterns in Language. Derek taught students how to measure and interpret the correlations between linguistic variation and social categories. Topics included social class, gender, ethnicity, and age and linguistic change, perception and attitudes toward variation, the language of the internet, and theoretical approaches to linguistic variation.
He shared that he really enjoyed teaching and the best part was having the opportunity to go back and re-read (and in some cases read for the first time) the classics of sociolinguistics, such as "Labov's Social Stratification of English in New York City". Through the course he learned how to synthesize the material in the most effective way for teaching it to students who were brand new to the field and is happy that he is now equipped with a foundational set of lecture notes and materials which he can use in the future.

We hope that Derek has inspired many new sociolinguists and variationists!

September 6, 2012

Molson Prize Reception for Keren

Yesterday we celebrated the official presentation to Keren Rice of the prestigious 2012 Molson Prize in the humanities and social sciences. The $50,000 prize recognizes Keren's lifetime of outstanding work on Aboriginal languages and communities, and her continuing contribution to cultural and intellectual life in Canada and beyond.

In a reception at the Faculty Club, members of our department gathered with members of the Aboriginal Studies Program, as well as family and friends of Keren's. There were speeches from Dean of Arts & Science Meric Gertler , as well as Robert Baker (Vice-Dean Research) and representatives from SSHRC and the Canada Council who had traveled from Ottawa for the occasion.

Congratulations, Keren!

Jack and Elan comparing notes on retirement
The award: Up close and personal
Celebrating as a department