June 30, 2017

Alana Johns' retirement: messages from some colleagues and former students

On July 1st, 2017, Alana Johns is retiring from the Department of Linguistics. A professor here since 1996, Alana works on morphosyntax, with a focus on Inuktitut. But instead of me telling you about the importance of her contributions to the field and to the people she's worked with, you should hear it from some of her Inuktitut colleagues and former students.

Michelle Yuan (BA 2012, MA 2013, now at MIT) - website

I met Alana in Fall 2009 after enrolling in ABS230—Introduction to Inuktitut, which she co-taught that year with the late Saila Michael. I was in my second year of undergrad and had no idea who Alana was or that I'd end up a linguist in part because of her. Alana has been an amazing advisor and teacher these past eight years, and it has been an honour learning from her. She's also one of the funniest people I've ever met. I'm extremely grateful to have met her, and I think the field of linguistics has been greatly enriched by her work. Happy retirement, Alana!

Michelle and Alana at MA convocation

Joan Dicker (Labrador School Board) - website

Dear Alana
Congratulations on your retirement
Thankyou for all that you did with our Inuktitut language
Thankyou for being my professor in the Linguistics MUN courses that I took
Thank you for giving me good marks hahaa
Thankyou for giving me the opportunity to attend a language conference with you way out to Flaggstaff Arizona even though the first night we shared a room, you kept me up aaaall night with your snoring lol hahaa
Thankyou for bringing me here to Toronto to take part in this very worthwhile Inuktitut language and linguistics workshop and to join you in your retirement party
Nakummesuak Alana Ai..SilakKijaKattanialikKutit uvlu tamât
Ilitagijait Joan Dicker

Alana and the group from Nunatsiavut at the airport for the Inuktitut Language and Linguistics Workshop

Joan and Alana at a Canadian Language Museum exhibit

Richard Compton (MA 2004, PhD 2012, now at l'Université de Québec à Montréal) - website

I’m very lucky to have had Alana as a supervisor. It was her work with Inuktitut speakers that originally got me interested in the language and her bringing me up north at the end of my MA that set me on the course to where I am today. Throughout my MA and my PhD, she was both patient and supportive, always having interesting and insightful questions and comments on my work. I also have fond memories of fieldwork trips with her and other students to both Iqaluit and Baker Lake, as well as a trip to Ulukhaktok that has led to a very fruitful collaboration with an Inuinnaqtun speaker on a dictionary project. From writing letters and reading drafts, to sharing ideas and encouraging me, she was always there for me and her other students.

One particular set of memories that stand out begin with a rainy day in Baker Lake with Alana, Midori, and Conor, when we were invited out ice fishing with a local family. Alana and I had decided to stay in town and work, but we walked down to the shore with Midori and Conor and watched them take a little dingy out to the ice. It was July so the ice was receding and locals were riding their snow machines at full speed to skip over the water between the ice and the shore. As Midori and Conor set off in the cold rain, I distinctly remember a bit of glee on our part that we could go back inside where it was warm and get some more sleep and a hot drink. However, their successful return that night, with two Arctic char in hand, convinced us to join them the next day. We rode by snowmobile over the still mostly frozen lake to a tiny cabin up a hill from the shore. There on the ice, in view of the cabin, but quite a distance away, we fished in pre-drilled holes with fishing jigs made of caribou bone. As Alana rode up the hill to the cabin, leaving Conor and me to fish, I’ll never forget her reminder that arctic wolves would be white and thus blend into the surroundings, so we’d probably never see them coming… Despite her warning, all survived—except a goose the children shot out of the sky, and then proceeded to make honk with chest compressions.

Richard ice-fishing

Alana ice-fishing

Taking a picture of Alana taking a picture

Alana and colleagues at the Inuktitut Language and Linguistics Workshop (May 30-31, 2017)

Catharyn Anderson (Special Advisor to the President on Aboriginal Affairs, Memorial University of Newfoundland)

I first knew of Alana before I ever met her in person.  When I did my first Linguistics courses at Memorial in 1996/97, I had heard her name as someone great who did work on Inuktitut.  As a young Inuk undergraduate student, I was disappointed to learn that she had left Memorial for UofT.  However, after I graduated with my BA, I went back home to Nunatsiavut to work with the Cultural Centre in the area of language revitalization, and I would eventually meet and work with Alana.  She invited me to collaborate with her on a paper for a conference in Quebec City, which was a great learning experience and opportunity for me.  This was the first of many times that we worked together.  I know that Alana developed many strong relationships and friendships with people in Nunatsiavut, and I am happy to include myself amongst those.  Alana, thank you for the work you did on Inuttitut, for your support of community language projects, and your support of the people doing them.  I wish you a very happy retirement, and all the best for the years ahead!  Nakummemagialuk, Catharyn

Julien Carrier (current PhD student)

Congratulations on your retirement and thank you for everything you’ve taught me! You are one of the reasons why I moved to Toronto to do a PhD in linguistics, and your guidance and all your support have been really helpful. May all the years ahead bring you joy and relaxation… and maybe even more time for doing research on Inuktitut! Wishing you all the best! Julien

Bettina Spreng (PhD 2012, now at the University of Saskatchewan) - website

What I appreciate about Alana is how approachable she is. I came to Toronto having read her thesis for my MA in Germany while not having much background in Generative Grammar. I was quite intimidated since I had understood maybe half of it.

She made me feel welcome and one minute into our first meeting, she had made me feel completely comfortable. She is incredibly supportive of her students and that is something that I try to be with my students. Her enthusiasm for her work and her trust in her students is something I admire very much. I will always remember what she said after I came back after taking a break from the program to ask her if she would support me finishing after all. She said "I always knew it!" I don't think I ever told her how much that trust meant to me. So, here it is. Thank you, Alana.

June 29, 2017

More information on Sali's Canada Research Chair

Recently we announced the big news of Sali Tagliamonte (faculty) getting a Canada Research Chair. Here's more information on what she plans to do with this position!

Canada Research Chair in Language Variation and Change
Sali A. Tagliamonte
University of Toronto, Canada

How and why does language change? Canada’s diverse communities offer unique opportunities for understanding variation and change in language. As English becomes a global language, unique local language features are under threat from urbanization and changing economies. By studying language phenomena across Ontario, in communities of various sizes, types and with diverse founders, economies and cultures, this project will gain insights into Canadian dialects. By engaging in comparative analyses with UK dialects back at the root and other varieties around the world, broader generalizations can be made.

Four intersecting theories of linguistic change situate this research program: Labov’s principles of linguistic change (Labov, 1994; 2001; 2010), Labov’s theory of transmission and diffusion of language change (Labov, 2007), Trudgill’s theory of sociolinguistic typology (Trudgill, 2011) and theories of grammatical change (Heine, Claudi & Hünnemeyer, 1991; Hopper & Traugott, 1993; Joseph, 2001; Poplack, 2011). The goal is to synthesize their predictions and offer new interpretations.

On a broad societal level, the results will bring the richness of Canadian dialects into greater public awareness, including unique words and expressions. On a scientific level, the results will reshape our knowledge of linguistic and social impacts on language variation and change, stimulating interdisciplinary research in the social sciences and humanities. A dedicated website (http://ontariodialects.chass.utoronto.ca/) will enable the public to explore the linguistic landscape under study and offer their own observations and experiences for further study.


Heine, Bernd, Claudi, Ulrike & Hünnemeyer, Friederike (1991). Grammaticalization: A conceptual framework. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Hopper, Paul J. & Traugott, Elizabeth Closs (1993). Grammaticalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Joseph, Brian (2001). Is there such a thing as grammaticalization? . Language Sciences 23: 163-186.

Labov, William (1994). Principles of linguistic change: Volume 1: Internal factors. Cambridge and Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Labov, William (2001). Principles of linguistic change: Volume 2: Social factors. Malden and Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Labov, William (2007). Transmission and Diffusion. Language 83: 344-387.

Labov, William (2010). Principles of linguistic change: Volume 3: Cognitive and cultural factors. Malden and Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.

Poplack, Shana (2011). Grammaticalization and linguistic variation. In Heine, B. & Narrog, H. (eds.), Handbook of grammaticalization. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 209-224.

Trudgill, Peter J. (2011). Sociolinguistic typology: Social determinants of linguistic complexity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

June 27, 2017

Michael Iannozzi in the National Post on Ciociaro in Sarnia and Italy

Michael Iannozzi (BA 2014), now a graduate student at Western, was profiled by the National Post on his research on Ciociaro, a dialect of Italian widely spoken by Italian immigrants in Sarnia. Check it out: http://nationalpost.com/news/canada/the-keepers-of-a-dying-dialect-italian-immigrants-in-sarnia-ont-still-speak-an-ancient-language/

"Because the majority of the people who came from Ciociaria had little education, they didn’t have the opportunity to “lose their dialect,” Iannozzi said. To test the theory, Iannozzi is planning to travel to Italy to interview Ciociaro speakers there, and compare that version of the dialect to the one in Sarnia."

June 26, 2017

Farewell Aaron!

Aaron Dinkin (faculty) is leaving to join the linguistics department at San Diego State University. We'll miss you Aaron, including your habit of walking into the lounge with a pencil behind your ear and letting us in on any interesting or funny thoughts that happened to cross your mind!

Cake! (Credit: Marisa Brook)

(L-R): Savannah Meslin (MA), Brea Lutton (MA), Katharina Pabst (PhD), Naomi Nagy (faculty), Aaron Dinkin (man of the hour), Julie Doner (PhD). (Credit: Marisa Brook)

June 24, 2017

2016-17 Cowper Prize and Dresher Prize winners

Congratulations to Virgilio Partida Penalva (PhD), winner of the 2016-17 Elizabeth Cowper Syntax Prize for outstanding work in a graduate syntax course, and Andrei Munteanu (MA), winner of the 2016-17 Dresher Phonology Prize for outstanding work in a graduate phonology course!

June 23, 2017

Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics Volume 38

A new volume of TWPL has been released! Check it out here: http://twpl.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/twpl/index

Table of Contents:

Ewelina Barski: Nominal case restructuring: A case study on a Polish heritage speaker
Elizabeth Cowper and Vincent DeCaen: Biblical Hebrew: A formal perspective on the left periphery

Patrick Murphy: Complement coercion and aspectual adjectives in Canadian English
Sherry Yong Chen: Movement constraints on the relative order of double topics in Mandarin Chinese
Shay Hucklebridge: Relational and partitive inalienable possession in Slave
Doug Hitch: Vowel spaces and systems
Na-Young Ryu: Perception of Korean contrasts by Mandarin learners: The role of L2 proficiency
Eduard Sviridenko: Features of Russian affricate production by Native English speakers

June 21, 2017

LIN398 to Slovenia for fieldwork and workshop

In July, the students of LIN398 Research Excursion Program will visit Slovenia to conduct fieldwork on nasal harmony, palatalization and vowel harmony with Peter Jurgec (faculty). The trip will also feature a Workshop on Slovenian Phonology. Presentations from UofT:
  • Deepam Patel & Rosemary Webb: Examining nasal harmony in Slovenian
  • Rachel Chiong & Andrea Macanovic: Secondary palatalization in Zadrečka Valley Slovenian
  • Wenxuan Chen: Vowel harmony in Slovenian
  • Peter Jurgec: The phonology of binomials in Slovenian

June 20, 2017

A toast to Alana and Diane

Sali leads a toast to Alana and Diane, both set to retire on July 1 2017. (Photo: Yves Roberge)

June 19, 2017

Congratulations, Naomi!

Naomi Nagy (faculty) got married in Brooklyn, NY on June 9th, 2017. Here's a picture of her with her husband Craig. More pictures are available on Naomi's website here. Congratulations Naomi, we wish you two the best!

(Photo credit: Yves Roberge)

June 14, 2017

Alana shines light on a problem at the Inuktitut Workshop

A cool picture from the Inuktitut Language and Linguistics Workshop (held May 30-31, 2017, in honour of Alana Johns):

A sunbeam catches Alana, allowing her to illuminate the event. (Photo: Diane Massam)

June 12, 2017

Shayna Gardiner's thesis defense party

Thanks to Marisa Brook for these pictures from Shayna Gardiner's thesis defense party!

Lots of people!

Dan and Shayna

Radu and Shayna


More food!

June 5, 2017

Canada Research Chair for Sali Tagliamonte

Sali Tagliamonte (faculty) has been awarded a Canada Research Chair in Language Variation and Change. Congratulations, Sali!

June 4, 2017

Christina Cuervo in the Toronto Star on bilingualism

Christina Cuervo (faculty) has been featured in the Toronto Star on the benefits of bilingualism. Check it out: The health benefits of learning a second language

June 2, 2017

Congratulations, Dr. Gardiner!

Shayna Gardiner successfully defended her thesis "Yours, Mine & Ours: What Ancient Egyptian Possessives Can Tell Us About Language Change and Stable Variation" on Friday, May 19, 2017. On the committee were Naomi Nagy (supervisor), Elizabeth Cowper, Ronald Leprohon, Aaron Dinkin, Sali Tagliamonte, and Ann Taylor (University of York, External Examiner). Congratulations, Dr. Gardiner!