To further research collaboration, we will be hosting a series of Noon Talks (12h00-13h30 – Glendon campus – day and location to be chosen on a rotation basis). 

Those who would like to present a paper (published or drafts) should circulate them  1 week before their presentation. Please send these to Since the aim is to get to know each others’ work, we encourage every effort to participate in as many of these research meetings as you can.

Upcoming Talks

14 AVRIL 2021

Déjeuner-causerie  12 h 00 – 13 H 30

Philippe Bourdin (et dORIN URITESCU), avec la participation de Martin Maiden (Université d’Oxford)

Philippe Bourdin nous parlera du dernier article rédigé avec notre regretté collègue Dorin Uritescu (décédé il y a exactement un an) :

« Sur le comportement insolite d’une flexion roumaine »


Comme celui des autres langues romanes, le système verbal du roumain entendu au sens large distingue entre deux types d’éléments chargés, entre autres, de coder la personne et le nombre : les flexions suffixales et les pronoms clitiques. Les flexions sont inséparables de leur support verbal : pensons par exemple au suffixe -èrent de chantèrent en français. Quant aux clitiques, ils manifestent par rapport à leur hôte verbal une autonomie un peu plus grande, quoique limitée : pensons à je et à la dans Je la vois. On parle de « cliticisation » pour désigner le processus qui a transformé des pronoms anciennement autonomes, notamment en français, en clitiques. Il s’agit au fond d’un processus d’assujettissement qui, selon de nombreux linguistes, relèverait d’un phénomène bien plus général, appelée « grammaticalisation » : les éléments qui appartiennent à la grammaire d’une langue avaient, à un stade antérieur de son histoire, un statut lexical. Or, il se pourrait que dans de nombreuses variétés populaires du roumain il faille parler non pas d’assujettissement, mais au contraire d’émancipation.

Le phénomène se manifeste essentiellement à la 2ème personnel du pluriel de l’impératif, par exemple dans les deux traductions de l’impératif Plaignez-vous ! du français. La forme courante en roumain standard est plângeți-vă : -ți est le suffixe flexionnel qui code la 2ème personne du pluriel, est le pronom clitique de la 2ème personne du pluriel, qui est donc ici réfléchi. La structure de plângeți-vă  est parallèle à celle de plaignez-vous en français, avec le suffixe flexionnel -ez et le clitique réfléchi vous. Fait insolite, on entend, dans de nombreuses régions de la Roumanie, non pas plângeți-vă, mais plânge-vă-ți. Ce qui est insolite, c’est que le -ți se soit libéré de la tutelle étroite que devrait « normalement » exercer sur lui son support verbal. Là est l’émancipation. Mais alors, si assujettissement veut dire grammaticalisation, ne faut-il pas considérer qu’émancipation veut dire dégrammaticalisation ?

La question concerne au premier chef le roumain. Cependant, la soulever et en discuter, c’est apporter une contribution, modeste, aux débats, très animés depuis une vingtaine d’années, que suscite l’idée même que la dégrammaticalisation soit un processus concevable en linguistique historique.

« Sur le comportement insolite d’une flexion roumaine » (Ph. Bourdin et D. Uritescu), article à paraître dans les Actes du 29ème Congrès International de Langue et Philologie Romanes (Copenhague, 1er-6 juillet, 2019)


Sankoff, Gillian. 2019. Language change across the lifespan: three trajectory types, Language, (95), 2, 197-229.

Previous Talks

Linguistic change across the lifespan: juste and so in Welland spoken French

Raymond Mougeon and Françoise Mougeon, Glendon College,York University

Katherine Rehner, University of Toronto Mississauga

A common assumption is that grammatical or phonological change is driven by children and that speakers’ grammar or phonology remains stable after late adolescence (Sankoff, 2019). Consequently, it has also been assumed that adults are unlikely to participate in ongoing cases of phonological or grammatical change. While these assumptions have, until recently, remained largely unverified, a new research strand has begun to scrutinize this topic by focusing on cases of ongoing grammatical or phonological change by examining speech data from different points in adult speakers’ lives to verify if they are participating in the change. With respect to French, G. Sankoff and her associates have carried out this kind of research based on corpora collected in Montreal that include both panel speakers (individuals recorded twice, in 1971 and in 1984, or three times, in 1971, 1984 and 1995) who provide data on change across the lifespan and trend speakers (socially stratified speaker samples recorded once in 1971 or 1984) who are used to establish community-level patterns of variation and change. Such patterns constitue a useful backdrop in the analysis of the linguistic behavior of the panel speakers. These Montreal studies examined three cases of morphosyntactic change and one case of phonological change and found that the panel speakers participated in the case of ongoing phonological change and in one of the three cases of morphosyntactic change.

As part of a project investigating change in Montreal and in Welland spoken French from the 1970s to 2010s, the present study, focusing on Welland French, is akin to those of G. Sankoff. It examines change across the lifespan using a combination of panel and trend speakers, and it examines two cases of morphosyntactic change (the rise of restrictive adverb juste ‘only’ and of conjunction so ‘therefore’). However, it also has several distinctive features. First, since it examines change over a forty-year period (1975 to 2012-15), several of the panel speakers had retired one or two decades prior to the second recording, allowing us to capture patterns of change observable later in the speakers’ lives—an issue not documented in previous research. Second, while Montreal and Welland French are genetically-related varieties, French in Welland is a minority language experiencing much more intense contact with English, thus allowing us to consider the relative importance of these languages in the panel speakers’ educational and occupational histories and identity, as explanatory factors for interindividual similarities or differences in their (non-)participation in change. Third, while the cases of change examined in Montreal are driven by higher SES speakers, in Wellland, the rise of juste and of so are driven by lower SES speakers. Our study adduces evidence of individual participation in BOTH cases of change, though it shows a much higher proportion of panel speakers participating in the rise of juste than of so. In our discussion of factors accounting for these findings, we point out that while both juste and so have been favored by lower SES speakers, so, as a borrowing from English, has met with much stiffer resistance among higher SES speakers than juste, and hence so is a more stigmatized vernacular variant.


Sankoff, Gillian. 2019. Language change across the lifespan: three trajectory types, Language, (95), 2, 197-229.

February 24th, 2021 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm


Carolyn McCaskill and Ceil Lucas, Gallaudet University

Robert Bayley, University of California, Davis  

Joseph Hill, National Technical Institute for the Deaf/

Rochester Institute of Technology

Our guests will first present the Black ASL project and the documentary Signing Black ; a Q & A period will then follow the showing of the documentary.

Signing Black in America is the first documentary about Black ASL: the unique dialect of American Sign Language (ASL) that developed within historically segregated African American Deaf communities. Black ASL today conveys an identity and sense of belonging that mirrors spoken language varieties of the African American hearing community.  Different uses of space, hand use, directional movement, and facial expression are ways that Black ASL distinguishes itself as a vibrant dialect of American Sign Language. The African American Deaf community is now embracing their unique variety as a symbol of solidarity and a vital part of their identity.

Sign language interpreters will be present during this event

September 24, 2020 @ 12:00 pm – 1:15 pm
On line (zoom)

Two months before his death in January 2016, David Bowie had the pleasure of attending the New York première of his first musical, Lazarus, which followed the fate of Thomas Newton, the character he had played in his first film, The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976, dir. Nicholas Roeg). The misadventures of an alien who found himself in a hostile environment and ended up an incarcerated alcoholic had resonated with Bowie when he made the film, as it came at the end of his drug-addled America period, after which he had fled for the healing anonymity and productivity of Berlin. After his death, to the surprise of many, Bowie’s musical quickly found its way onto German-language stages. Of the over a dozen productions that have since taken place, only the first two in New York and London, where Michael C. Hall played Newton, were entirely in English, until the show premiered in Melbourne in May 2019.

In this paper Susan Ingram examines the appeal of Lazarus for German-speaking audiences by analyzing four of the musical’s 17 songs: “‘Heroes,’” “Where Are We Now?,” “This Is Not America,” and “Valentine’s Day.” She argues that because Bowie already laid the groundwork for such work by returning to the first album in his Berlin triptych in his penultimate album The Next Day, this translation work has been able to follow suit and has encouraged each production to be performed in such a way as to maximize affective intensity for local audiences.

Ian Martin – Limits to Linguistic Decolonization in Canada : the Case of Bill C-91 

September 16th, 2020

September 16, 2020 @ 12:00 am – 1:00 am
Click here to view the recording of the presentation and the Power point slides: