Patrick Murphy: Linguistics

I am a PhD candidate in Linguistics at the University of Toronto. I'm a psycholinguist with a particular interest in speech perception and dialect variation. Here you can find up-to-date information on me and my research, including my CV. (Separate page for paper/presentation downloads.)

Contact: p.murphy [at]

Halifax skyline

Cape Breton Highlands National Park

1. Research Interests

My primary research focus is speech perception, so you could call me a psycholinguist or a phonetician (or a laboratory phonologist).

I'm especially interested in the perception of dialectal variation, like affrication in Canadian French and raising in Canadian English, because I can gain insight into topics related to dialect (like dialect exposure and cross-dialect perception) and broader topics in phonology (I'm especially interested in contrast, allophony, and phonotactics).

I have various secondary interests outside of perception, including ergativity, null objects, and semantic coercion.

2. Research Projects

2.1 Doctoral Research


Committee: Philip Monahan, Jack Chambers, & Jessamyn Schertz

In progress. Topic: Canadian Raising.

Complement Coercion in the Canadian English "be done NP" Construction (Generals Paper 2)

Supervisors: Margaret Grant & Philip Monahan

This is an eye-tracking study of the Canadian English "be done NP" construction ("I'm {done/finished} my homework"). It looks at reading times of two classes of objects (entities like "the script" and events like "the audition") to test Fruehwald & Myler's (2015) analysis of this construction (specifically that it involves an extra interpretive mechanism—coercion or type-shifting—for entity objects).

  • Available downloads: poster (30th CUNY) and paper (Toronto Working Papers)

Phonotactic Rareness and Partial Allophony in Canadian French (PhD Generals Paper 1)

Supervisors: Philip Monahan & Margaret Grant

This project is a perceptual study of Canadian French affrication, which affects coronal stops (/t, d/ → [ts, dz]) before high front vowels, as in tigre "tiger" [tsɪgʁ] (non-allophonic affricates exist and they occur in other environments, e.g. tsé "y'know", but they are rare). It tests two main hypotheses: (1) listeners are biased against perceiving sound sequences that are possible but rare in their language, (2) when two sounds are contrastive or non-contrastive depending on the environment, the perceptual boundary between them will be sharper in the contrastive environment.

  • Available downloads: poster (LabPhon 15) and paper (CLA Proceedings)

2.2 Master's Research

Recipe Null Objects

Co-researchers: Diane Massam & Kazuya Bamba

English is not traditionally seen as a pro-drop language. Despite this, null objects are found extensively in instructional contexts such as recipes. For example, "take 4 potatoes, boil _ for 20 minutes, and then mash _" (Cummins & Roberge 2004). This paper proposes a generative grammar theoretical analysis of these register-specific null objects that links them to the obligatorily null 3rd person inanimate pronoun in the Polynesian language Niuean.

Split Accusativity in Finnish (MA Degree Paper)

Supervisor: Diane Massam

One peculiar feature of ergative/absolutive languages is the prevalence of case splits (in the presence of a particular trigger, often related to aspect, the regular case or agreement patterning changes). This paper builds heavily on Coon's (2013) analysis of split ergativity and argues that certain case alternations in nominative/accusative languages (particularly the partitive alternation in Finnish) should be considered "split accusativity"—the equivalent of split ergativity but in a nominative/accusative language.

2.3 Undergraduate Research

I got my first taste of working with French dialects (and doing field-work) when I recorded 10 speakers of Acadian French (the traditional dialect of Atlantic Canada, distinct from Quebec French) at Université Sainte-Anne, a francophone university in southwest Nova Scotia. Interesting findings for me included the rhotics, which varied between the apical tap [ɾ] and the English-like retroflex [ɹ] (rather than the more standard uvular [ʁ]).

3. Teaching

For 10 semesters I've taught tutorials (of 2040 people, where we do content lessons, quizzes, and review homework) each week, mostly in introductory linguistics courses and courses for non-linguists. I've also graded for more advanced linguistics courses like statistics and language acquisition.

4. Involvement

I run the department blog (What's Happening in Toronto Linguistics), I'm an editor for TWPL (Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics), and I help to organize the annual Welcome Workshop for new students.

5. Curriculum Vitae


6. Tools and Workflow

The main software I use over the course of a project: Praat (editing recordings and making my stimuli), OpenSesame (designing and running the experiment), R/RStudio (analyzing the results), and then LaTeX or RMarkdown (writing the paper or making the poster/presentation). For reading experiments I've used SR Research Experiment Builder and Ibex farm (online). I'm a fan of Zim Desktop Wiki for organizing notes at all stages of the research process.

My preferred operating system to run all of this software on is Linux (e.g. Ubuntu or Debian, although recently I've been liking Solus).

7. Background

7.1 Academic

My main interests in undergrad were syntax (especially ergativity), dialect variation, and phonetics (especially perception). I focused on syntax for my master's, and while I still find ergativity fascinating, a course in speech perception at the beginning of my PhD rekindled my interest in perception and really got me hooked on experimental methods. Since then, I've developed my research program around speech perception and, to a large extent, dialect variation.

7.2 Personal

I'm from Nova Scotia (Latin for "New Scotland"), a province on the east coast of Canada. I grew up mostly in and around the town of Truro (near the Bay of Fundy). I lived in Halifax, the capital of the province, for the four years of my undergrad. Now for graduate school I live in Toronto, the largest city in Canada.

My personal interests include technology, nature, fitness and staying active, visiting other places when I get the opportunity, and music (Canadian groups like Arcade Fire and Hey Rosetta!, post-rock groups like Sigur Rós and Explosions in the Sky).