Nathan Sanders

Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream
Department of Linguistics, University of Toronto


office:Sidney Smith Hall 4070
Department of Linguistics
University of Toronto
100 St. George St.
Toronto ON M5S 3G3
hours:Tue. & Thu. 3–4pm
phone:+1 (416) 978-1766

Research Interests

I have done research in phonology, especially its interface with phonetics and morphology; sign language phonetics; derivational opacity; linguistic typology; ludlings (language games, like Pig Latin); constructed languages (like Esperanto and Klingon), especially their use as an educational tool; Polish and Slavic phonology; historical phonology; mathematical and statistical models of linguistic phenomena; and in general, the physical, biological, and cognitive factors that shape language.

I've most recently been working on the articulatory and perceptual phonetics of more than two dozen sign languages, phonetically-informed historical reconstruction for sign languages, and the effects of prosody on eye gaze in reading tasks in English.


Fall 2017:
LIN 200: Introduction to Language
LIN 305: Quantitative Methods in Linguistics

Winter 2018:
LIN 200: Introduction to Language
LIN 1121: Phonological Theory

other courses taught:
phonetics, syntax, semantics, historical linguistics, linguistic typology and constructed languages, research methods


SB in Mathematics, minor in Linguistics, MIT (1996)
MA and PhD in Linguistics, University of California, Santa Cruz (2000, 2003)
PhD dissertation: Opacity and sound change in the Polish lexicon [ PDF ]

Recent Work

— 2018 —

Sanders, Nathan. 2018 (expected). A modular introduction to phonetics and phonology [tentative title]. Textbook contracted with Oxford University Press.

Sanders, Nathan. 2018 (forthcoming). A case study in teaching linguistics to middle school students with language-based learning differences. Poster presentation in Expanding the Reach of Linguistics: Collaborations with Other Disciplines and Beyond, organized session at the 92nd Annual Meeting of the Linguistics Society of America.

— 2017 —

Sanders, Nathan. 2017. Articulatory and perceptual patterns in sign language lexicons. Invited talk at SUNY Buffalo. [ PDF (slides) ]

Sanders, Nathan. 2017. Articulatory and perceptual patterns in sign language lexicons. Invited talk at Carleton University. [ PDF (slides) ]

Sanders, Nathan. 2017. Some issues in the perceptual phonetics of sign language: Motion-in-depth and the horizontal-vertical illusion. 2017 CRC-Sponsored Summer Phonetics/Phonology Workshop at the University of Toronto. [ PDF (handout) ]

Sanders, Nathan. 2017. Scales of effort in sign language articulation and perception. Invited talk at the University of Delaware. [ PDF (slides) ]

Sanders, Nathan. 2017. What sign languages tell us about phonetics: Expanding the notion of articulatory effort. Invited talk at the University of Toronto on joint work with Donna Jo Napoli. [ PDF (slides) ]

Sanders, Nathan. 2017. Constructed languages as a bridge to interdisciplinary teaching. Presentation in Teaching Linguistics with Invented Languages, organized session at the 91st Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America. [ PDF (slides) ]

— 2016 —

Sanders, Nathan, and Donna Jo Napoli. 2016. A cross-linguistic preference for torso stability in the lexicon: Evidence from 24 sign languages. Sign Language & Linguistics 19(2). 197–231. [ PDF (preprint) ] [ DOI ]

Sanders, Nathan, and Donna Jo Napoli. 2016. Signs of efficiency: Maintaining torso stability affects sign language vocabulary. Natural History 124(9). 28–32. [ PDF ]

Sanders, Nathan. 2016. Constructed languages in the classroom. Language 92(3). e192–e204. [ DOI ]

Sanders, Nathan, and Donna Jo Napoli. 2016. Reactive effort as a factor that shapes sign language lexicons. Language 92(2). 275–297. [ DOI ]

Sanders, Nathan. 2016. nslxIPA. Unicode IPA keyboard layout and documentation. v1.0. [ website ]

— 2015 —

Sanders, Nathan, and Donna Jo Napoli. 2015. Active and reactive effort in sign language phonetics. Invited talk for the Tri-Lo Linguistics Lecture Series at Swarthmore College. [ PDF (slides) ]

— 2014 —

Sanders, Nathan. 2014. Gradient (dis)harmony: Hidden harmony and anti-harmony. Poster presented at Phonology 2014 (Annual Meetings on Phonology), Massachusetts Institute of Technology. [ PDF (mini-paper) ] [ PDF (poster) ]

Napoli, Donna Jo, Nathan Sanders, and Rebecca Wright. 2014. On the linguistic effects of articulatory ease, with a focus on sign languages. Language 90(2). 424–456. [ DOI ]

Sanders, Nathan. 2006/2014. OTtablx. LaTeX software package and documentation. v0.4. [ website ]

— older work —


• games
• TV shows
• photography

Other Links

• my full CV (PDF)
• OTtablx (beta version), LaTeX package for drawing OT tableaux
• nslxIPA, keyboard layout for IPA symbols on Macs
• Language Log, a linguistics blog
• Jonathan Dowse's awesome clickable IPA chart
• linguistics majors at Williams College