SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow


Department of Linguistics

University of Victoria

Clearihue Building D353

3800 Finnerty Road (Ring Road)

Victoria, British Columbia

Canada V8P 5C2


RECENT NEWS (Feb. 2017)

I've accepted a tenure-stream position in the Department of Language Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga; I'll begin this position in July!

A new paper by me and Sali Tagliamonte has been published in English Language and Linguistics.


When I was a kid I was fascinated by the family tree of the Indo-European languages printed inside the back cover of my mom's 1960s era American Heritage Dictionary. The idea that multiple languages could be related to some long gone language blew my mind and sparked a life long interest in language change. How does language change happen? Why does it happen? Who is innovating? How does anyone understand the new languages? When I started my undergrad degree at the University of Toronto, I met Sali Tagliamonte and was introduced to the field of variationist sociolinguistics, a discipline that investigates language change in action and concerns itself with asking and answering all those questions that Little Derek had while staring at that tree.

Since becoming a linguist, my research has focussed on language change and innovation. I am primarily interested in the actuation and transition problems, which ask the questions how does language change begin and how does it spread. An answer to these questions will necessarily appeal to factors both internal and external to the language faculty and my publications and work reflect this. I am interested in how the human language faculty allows for linguistic variation to arise within an individual's grammar, how linguistic variables come to have social meanings and how this leads to change, and what members of the speech community are on the forefront of innovation.

I'm currently pursuing three major projects under this umbrella.

  1. Homogeneity of Canadian English. Using longue durée approach to examine the development of Canadian English over time and across space. This is my postdoctoral project. Collaborators: Alexandra D'Arcy (UVic), Sali Tagliamonte (UofT).
  2. Grammaticalization of pragmatic markers. The broad question of my 2015 dissertation is: 'what role does grammaticalization play in the development of pragmatic markers?' I'm continuing this line of research using variationist methods and a Minimalist syntactic framework. Collaborators: Alexandra D'Arcy (UVic) and Martina Wiltschko (UBC).
  3. The sociocogntive character of linguistic innovators. I've previously argued that an individual's gregariousness correlates with their linguistic innovativeness and now have shown, using an experimental methodology, that the sociocognitive differences between individuals predicts their sociolinguistic competence. Collaborators: Suzanne Evans Wagner (MSU) and Ashley Hesson (UMich).

You can download my full CV here.


Assistant Professor. University of Toronto Mississauga, Department of Language Studies and University of Toronto, Department of Linguistics. (Begins July 1, 2017)

SSHRC Post-Doctoral Fellow. University of Victoria; Linguistics. (2015–2017)

Project: Homogeneity, convergence, and linguistic regionalism in Canadian English

Supervisor: Alex D'Arcy.

Visiting scholar. University of Toronto; Linguistics. (2015–2017)

Sessional instructor. University of Victoria; Linguistics. (2016)

Sessional instructor. University of Toronto; Linguistics. (2015)


Ph.D. University of Toronto; Linguistics. (2015)

Dissertation: The development of pragmatic markers in Canadian English.

Committee: Sali A. Tagliamonte, J.K. Chambers, Elizabeth Cowper, Jenny Cheshire, Naomi Nagy, and Aaron Dinkin.

Generals Paper 1: Innovators and innovation: Tracking the innovators of 'and stuff' in York English.

Committee: Sali A. Tagliamonte, Naomi Nagy, J.K. Chambers

Generals Paper 2: "Null" expletives, the EPP and Affix Support in Scandinavian.

Committee: Elizabeth Cowper, Elan Dresher, Arsalan Kahnemuyipour

M.A. University of Toronto; Linguistics. (2009)

Forum paper: Transmission and Diffusion Above The Level of Phonology in Thunder Bay, Ontario

Committee: Sali A. Tagliamonte, J.K. Chambers

Hon. B.A. Victoria University in the University of Toronto; specialist in Linguistics, High Distinction (2008)


Denis, Derek and Sali A. Tagliamonte. (2017). The changing future: competition, specialization and reorganization in the contemporary English future temporal reference system. English Language and Linguistics. Online now, to appear in print.

Denis, Derek and Sali A. Tagliamonte. (2017). Language change and fiction. To appear in The Handbook of Pragmatics 12: Pragmatics of Fiction, edited by Miriam A. Locher and Andreas H. Jucker. Mouton de Gruyter.

Denis, Derek. (to appear). The development of and stuff in Canadian English: A longitudinal study of apparent grammaticalization. Accepted for publication in Journal of English Linguistics.

Denis, Derek. (2016). A note on mans in Toronto. Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics 37.

Denis, Derek and Sali A. Tagliamonte. (2016). Innovation, right? Change, you know? Utterance-final tags in Canadian English. Discourse-Pragmatic Variation and Change in English: New Methods and Insights, edited by Heike Pichler. Cambridge University Press.

Tagliamonte, Sali A. and Derek Denis (2014). Expanding the transmission/diffusion dichotomy: Evidence from Canada. Language 90(1):90-136.

Denis, Derek. (2013). The social meaning of eh in Canadian English. Proceedings of the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Canadian Linguistics Association.

Denis, Derek. (2011). Innovators and innovation: Tracking the innovators of 'and stuff' in York English. Selected Papers from NWAV 39. Penn Working Papers in Linguistics 17.2.8. [A digest by Jenny Cheshire]

Nagy, Naomi, Nina Aghdasi, Derek Denis and Alexandra Motut. (2011). Null subjects in heritage languages: Contact effects in a cross-linguistic context. Selected Papers from NWAV 39. Penn Working Papers in Linguistics 17.2.16.

Tagliamonte, Sali A. and Derek Denis. (2010). The stuff of change: General Extenders in Toronto, Canada. The Journal of English Linguistics 38(4):335-368.

Tagliamonte, Sali A. and Derek Denis. (2008). Linguistic ruin? LOL. Instant messaging and teen language. American Speech 83(1):3-34. [American Speech's "Most Read" article and third "Most Cited" article in the last year.]


Denis, Derek and Sali A. Tagliamonte. (2017). Beyond the peak: evidence for adolescent incrementation in trend and panel studies. International Conference on Language Variation in Europe 9 (Part of panel "Trend and panel studies: What can they really tell us about language change?") Málaga, Spain. June 6–9, 2017.

Denis, Derek. (2017). I couldn't take the TTC but mans made it over anyway: Pronominal mans in Toronto English. American Dialect Society Annual Meeting 2017. Austin, Texas. Jan. 5–8, 2017.

Denis, Derek, Martina Wiltschko, and Alexandra D'Arcy. (2016). Charting the grammaticalization trajectory of right. NWAV45. Simon Fraser University/University of Victoria, Vancouver. Nov. 3–6, 2016.

Denis, Derek. (2016). Pathways to homogeneity in Canadian English. NWAV45. Simon Fraser University/University of Victoria, Vancouver. Nov. 3–6, 2016.

Denis, Derek, Martina Wiltschko, and Alexandra D'Arcy. (2016). Deconstructing multifunctionality: Confirmational variation in Canadian English through time. Discourse-Pragmatic Variation and Change 3. University of Ottawa, Ottawa. May 4–6, 2016.

Gardner, Matt, Derek Denis, Marisa Brook, and Sali A. Tagliamonte. (2016). From the bottom to the top of the S-curve: be like and the Constant Rate Effect. 90th Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America. Washington, D.C. January 7–10, 2016.

Denis, Derek. (2015). Leaders and laggards: the intersection of sex and gregariousness in change. NWAV44. University of Toronto/York University. Toronto, Ontario. Oct. 22–25, 2015.

Denis, Derek and Alexandra D'Arcy. (2015). Input, homogeneity, and stuff like that. Studies in the History of the English Language. University of British Columbia. Vancouver, BC. June 4–7, 2015.


At UTM, I will be teaching undergraduate courses in sociolinguistics, quantitative methods, and general linguistics. I will also occasionally be teaching graduate courses in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Toronto, St. George and be supervising graduate students in that department.

As a grad student, I was the course instructor for several different courses. The first course I taught was Sociolinguistic Patterns, a third year course in variationist sociolinguistics. I also taught Introduction to Language (a general interest course for non-majors), Urban Dialectology (a sequal to Sociolinguistic Patterns), English Words (an etymological history of English) and Quantitative Methods in Linguistics (stats and some experimental design for linguists). Urban Dialectology and Quantitative Methods were mixed graduate/undergraduate course. In the spring semester of 2016, I got the chance to return to my first linguistic love and taught LING420 Historical and Comparative Linguistic at UVic.


One of the best parts of being an academic is that you get to travel the world to attend conferences. Moreover, we sometimes end up in a place we never had any desire to visit but nevertheless discover how awesome it actually is. A few places like this that I've ended up in include Potsdam, Humlebæk, St. John's, Bloomington, and Tübingen. Most of these places I've travelled to with my partner Alex, who is also a linguist. That's a photo of us on Whistler Mountain in British Columbia.

Outside of linguistics I have a variety of interests. For nearly two decades I've played guitar in various bands. The volume and speed of the music waxed and waned over the years. I also love cooking, craft beer, mystery novels, cryptic crosswords, and badminton.