12 of 12 for November 2009

12 Nov

It’s that time of month again!

I began my day with a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios (co-labelled as Cheerios au Miel et aux Noix) and last night’s Daily Show. I almost always watch a TV show when I eat a meal. It’s fun and time-efficient!

The view from my bedroom window. Just another day on Borden Street…

I don’t have classes on Thursdays, but I do meet with my thesis advisor to discuss my research progress. In preparation, I was doing some acoustic analysis of my New Hampshire speaker recordings. I’m measuring vowel formants in historically /a/ words in New England, e.g. half, last, father, aunt, car, and start. Younger speakers tend to advance the vowel in words of the half, last lexical set towards /æ/ (e.g. at, trap), whereas the vowel in the other words is retracted towards /ɑ/ (e.g. cot, log). Part of my goal is to map the vowel ranges for different speakers.

My morning “commute” takes me down the length of Borden Street, past its colourful Victorian homes. I liked the combination of these pallid, lifeless leaves with the other colours in view.

The second stretch of my walk to school takes me down Harbord Street. My destination is that monstruous, grey, 1970s structure in the distance — Robarts Library, which houses the Linguistics department. If you look carefully you’ll notice the Portuguese language driving school with a French name.

Just outside Robarts, we have a nice view of part of the Toronto skyline as well as U of T’s diverse architectural styles. There’s also a man in a cape crossing the street, whom I later saw at the ATM (sore-ee, ABM) in Robarts getting some cash. I think he was some kind of minister. Minister of awesome.

My advisor is Jack Chambers, who is the long-standing leading expert on Canadian English and one of the most accomplished dialectologists anywhere. I hope he doesn’t mind that I surreptitiously photographed him.

Another candid shot of my fellow graduate students in the Linguistics department lounge. I spent the remainder of the afternoon and most of the evening here, even after everybody else had gone home. I pratically live here now.

I was perusing through J.C. Wells’ very comprehensive three-volume set on dialects of English, searching for sections relevant to my thesis project. It took me at least an hour to figure out how to photocopy the pages correctly, but in the end I managed!

By the time I finally emerged from the artifically lit department, it had been dark out for several hours already. That’s kind of a depressing feeling.

I really wanted to get a good shot of the CN Tower at nighttime, but it was hard to find a high, flat surface to set my camera on. This shot at College and Spadina was the best I could manage. The tower’s in the background, but it’s partially obscured by the lamp post. Oh well.

Even though I had returned home, it seemed like my work would never end. It was time to enter some data for my Field Methods course into our online databse. The goal of the course is to analyse the structure of a language that you’ve never been exposed to, using only utterances that you elicit from a native speaker of said language in class. The language this year is Tigrinya, a Semitic language spoken in Eritrea. It has been a challenge to unravel the grammar of this language, thanks in no small part to its vast phonetic inventory — Tigrinya has a number of typologically marked guttural consonants and central vowels that are nearly impossible to distinguish from one another. The language also has a really complex templatic morphology and a bunch of copular verbs that I haven’t figured out yet. I will be spending most of the weekend writing a paper on this.

It’s a fun course, though, and the skill set I’m developing is really useful. Our Tigrinya speaker is a wicked cool guy and I’ve begun to develop an appreciation for the beauty of Semitic languages.

So that’s November 2009.

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One Response to “12 of 12 for November 2009”

  1. Megan 13 November 2009 at 05:11 #

    Record your Tigrinya speaker and put up a sound clip here! I can’t even begin to imagine what it sounds like…

    And I feel you re: emerging from artificially lit buildings into the darkness. At 5pm! Grrr.

    Grad students do SO much work!

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