Workshop on the Syntax of Polynesian Languages

Workshop Details

The Workshop on the Syntax of Polynesian Languages is being held at the University of Toronto in honour of Professor Diane Massam, on the occasion of her retirement from the Department of Linguistics. It will take place on Friday, June 8th and Saturday, June 9th, 2018.

The goal of the workshop is to bring together linguists working on various aspects of the syntax of Polynesian languages to share their work.

We gratefully acknowledged the sponsorship of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Toronto. Thanks as well to the Canadian Linguistics Association.

Call for Papers

The abstract submission deadline was on March 10th, 2018, and so applications are now closed. If you have any questions, please send them to


Registration is no longer open (the workshop has concluded). Thanks to everyone who attended!


We now have maps with restaurant recommendations around the workshop venue (click here) and a separate one for bars and cafes (click here). In addition, the program now features abstracts for each talk and poster. Finally, note that subway service will be replaced with shuttle buses from Sheppard West to Lawrence West on Line 1, from Saturday night to Sunday morning. This is not particularly close to the venue but it will affect those travelling to/from the northwest part of the city during those times. See the TTC alert here.



June 8th and 9th, 2018: Chestnut Residence and Conference Centre (89 Chestnut Street). Registration, breaks, talks, and posters will be in the St. Patrick Room (3rd Floor). The reception will be in the Armoury Suite (2nd Floor). The venue is close to (just east of) St. Patrick Station on the subway (Line 1 Yonge–University).

Friday, June 8th (Day 1)

11:30 – 12:00, Registration

12:00 – 1:00, Lunch (Chestnut)

1:00 – 2:00, (Keynote Talk) Maria Polinsky and Eric Potsdam: Tongan VOS word order

2:00 – 2:15, Coffee Break

2:15 – 3:00, Elizabeth Pearce: Preverbal subjects and preverbal particles in Māori

3:00 – 3:45, Heidi Quinn, Lisa Matthewson and Lynsey Talagi: The aspectual properties of Niuean preverbal ko in the wider Polynesian context

3:45 – 4:15, Coffee Break

4:15 – 5:00, Rebecca Tollan: The processing of wh questions in Niuean

5:00 – 6:00, (Keynote Talk) Yuko Otsuka: Apparent raising and other instances of null operator movement in Tongan

6:00 – 8:00, Dinner (see suggested restaurants)

8:00 – 10:00, Reception (Chestnut)

Saturday, June 9th (Day 2)

9:30 – 10:00, Breakfast

10:00 – 11:00, (Keynote Talk) James Collins: Mapping meanings to argument structure: The semantics of Samoan case

11:00 – 12:30, Posters (and coffee)

Rashid Al-Balushi: On What it Takes to License a Subject

Kaz Bamba: Japanese Sentence-Final Particles and Null Subject Referent

Julianne Doner: Niuean as a Predicate-EPP Language

Julie Goncharov and Monica Alexandrina Irimia: Romance imperfect and polarity sensitivity

Drew Hancock-Teed: Passives and Lookalikes in Faka’uvea

Monica Alexandrina Irimia: Decomposing differential object marking

Monica Alexandrina Irimia and Safieh Moghaddam: Differential object marking in Davani

Kinza Mahoon: Shifting Phase Boundaries in Hindi-Urdu

Will Oxford: Algonquian inverse and Austronesian voice

12:30 – 1:30, Lunch (Chestnut)

1:30 – 2:15, Dave Medeiros: Hawaiian ai Revisited

2:15 – 3:00, Jens Hopperdietzel: Resultatives in Samoan

3:00 – 4:00, Afternoon Tea

4:00 – 4:45, Vera Hohaus: Q-Verbs in Samoan and the Syntax-Semantics Interface

4:45 – 5:45, (Keynote Talk) Sandy Chung: Reaffirming Māori negatives as verbs

5:45 – 6:00, Closing Remarks

7:00, Banquet (U of T Faculty Club, 41 Willcocks Street)


The workshop has reserved a block of rooms at the University of Toronto's Chestnut Residence, which is centrally located in downtown Toronto. The residence is on a subway line, and easy walking distance to St. George campus. To receive conference rate, reservations must be made by April 13, 2018. Rooms cost CAD$129 (plus tax) and include a full buffet breakfast. Reservations can be made by emailing or calling 416-977-0707, Ext 0 and referring to the Polynesian Workshop to get the discounted rate. Cancellation policy is 48 hours in advance and a credit card number will be required to hold the space. All rooms are private with en suite washroom (linen and towels are provided). Housekeeping services the rooms weekly. Complimentary Wi-Fi is provided. For details, please visit Chestnut's Summer Accommodations page.

Diane Massam

Diane retired from the Department of Linguistics on June 30th, 2017. A professor here since 1989, she has played a major role in shaping our department. Much of her career has been dedicated to Niuean, a Polynesian language that has brought her to Niue and New Zealand for field-work. Her contributions to syntactic theory address areas such as argument structure, case, and ergativity. See the UofT Linguistics blog's interview with Diane and compilation of messages from her former students for more on her life, career, and contributions.

Organizing Committee

  • Susana Béjar
  • Julianne Doner
  • Arsalan Kahnemuyipour
  • Rebecca Tollan