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The McGill Linguistics Department Newsletter
Updated: 5 hours 51 min ago

Charles Boberg – recent travels

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 01:50
Charles Boberg has given several talks in the past couple of months. On October 24th he presented a paper called “Cross-border convergence in loan phonology: Foreign (a) in North American English” at NWAV 43 in Chicago. The following week he traveled to Fredericton, NB, where he presented “Variation and Change in Gaspé English” to the Atlantic Provinces Linguistic Association. Finally, on Novermber 21st he presented an invited talk to the Linguistics Colloquium Series at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, titled “Manitoba and the westward diffusion of Canadian English.”

LingTea, 11/26 – Lauren Clemens and Jessica Coon

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 02:40

Who: Lauren Clemens and Jessica Coon

When: Wednesday, Nov. 263:05-4:05 in room 117

What: “An initial inquiry into the relationship between syntax and prosody in Chol”

Meg Grant at Ottawa

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 01:50

Meg Grant gave a colloquium talk today last week at the University of Ottawa. The title was: “Processing structural and referential ambiguities”. She reports that she also visited Laura Sabourin’s lab and had a great time meeting with her and her students.

McGill at at VocUM 2014

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 01:50

McGill linguists presented last week at Université de Montréal’s VocUM 2014, a “colloque multidisciplinaire en traduction, linguistique, littératures et langues modernes.”

  • Lizzie Carolan (BA ’14, currently working as an RA) gave a talk titled “An exploration of tense in Chuj”.
  • Heather Goad was a plenary speaker. Her talk was titled “Patterns in the second language acquisition of s-initial clusters: Is learning a subset grammar as hard as it semble?”

The full program is available here.

Course announcement – Syntax 4 / Topics in Syntax

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 01:50

Syntax 4, LING 675 /

Seminar in Syntax, LING 775

Winter 2015, Jessica Coon

“Case and Agreement“  

This course examines topics in the syntax of case, agreement, and the interactions between the two. Broadly speaking, we are investigating the relationship between a predicate and its arguments, and how theoretical accounts of these relationships have developed over the past few decades. We will look at not only morphological reflexes of case (on nominals) and agreement (on predicates), but also the theoretical mechanisms which have been proposed to underly these phenomena, including argument licensing (“abstract Case”) and the relation Agree. We begin with foundational readings on case and agreement, and then see how these theories have developed to cover a wide range of empirical phenomena in languages such as Icelandic, Hindi-Urdu, Dinka, Kaqchikel, Tsez, Tagalog, Nez Perce, and Sakha. Specific topics will include: the relation between abstract and morphological case; theories of structural vs. dependent case; failed agreement and uninterpretable features; the Person Case Constraint and clitic doubling; different alignment types, including ergativity and split ergativity; long distance agreement; and partial agreement.  


LING 675: homework assignments, short class presentation, final paper

LING 775 (Pass/Fail): homework assignments, class presentation

McGill at BUCLD 39

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 02:00

Heather Goad, Alan Munn(BA’87), Lydia White, Theres Grüter(PhD ’06), Roumyana Slabakova(PhD’97), Öner Özcelik(PhD ’12), Anne-Michelle Tessier(BAHon’01)

McGill linguists traveled to Boston, USA, for the Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD 39) on November 7-9.

Presenters included:

Hye-Young Bang, Meghan Clayards & Heather Goad - A Child-specific Compensatory Mechanism in the Acquisition of English /s/   (the Paula Menyuk Travel Award)


Lydia White (with Roumyana Slabakova (PhD’97))  Pronouns interpretation in the second language: DPBE or not? 

Elena Valenzuela(PhD’05), Roumyana Slabakova (PhD’97) and Lydia White

Tokiko Okuma The interpretation of Japanese pronouns by L1 English and L1 Spanish speakers (the Paula Menyuk Travel Award) McGill graduates, including Anne-Michelle Tessier (BAHon ’01), Phaedra Royle (MA ’96), Tania Zamuner(BAHon ’96), Elena Valenzuela(PhD ’05), Theres Grüter(PhD ’06), Öner Özcelik(PhD ’12), also presented their research.

Tokiko Okuma, Silvina Montrul(PhD’97), Hye-Young Bang, Lydia White and Öner Özcelik(PhD ’12) out to dinner

Syntax/Semantics Reading Group: 11/21 – Hadas Kotek on Questions (Part II)

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 02:00

Hadas Kotek will present this Friday, November 21, at the Syntax/Semantics Reading Group (Room 117 at 3:00) on her work on questions. This is the second part of the November 7 presentation. All welcome!

In this talk I present the theory of question semantics proposed in my dissertation. The theory builds on Cable’s (2007; 2010) syntax of pied-piping, where interrogative movement is driven by Q- particles (silent in English, but visible in e.g. Tlingit), but develops a new semantics for this system. I show that this new semantics is able to  model a range of data not captured at the same time in previous theories, including intricate patterns of pied-piping, superiority effects, the presuppositions of questions, the readings of multiple questions, and focus intervention effects in multiple questions. Time permitting, I will also discuss some possible modifications and expansions of the theory that I have been contemplating recently.

Meg Grant to UofT

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 01:50

Congratulations to postdoctoral fellow Meg Grant, who has just accepted a limited-term appointment as Assistant Professor, at the St. George campus of the University of Toronto. She begins Winter 2015. All the best Meg!

Ergativity Lab: 11/12 – Theodore Levin (MIT)

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 02:41
This week in the Ergativity Lab, there will be a talk by Theodore Levin (MIT). Toward a unified analysis of antipassive and pseudo noun incorporation constructions  In pseudo noun incorporation (PNI) constructions, an NP, usually the internal argument (IA), is merged in place of a DP. This choice triggers syntactic and semantic ramifications: (i) case alignment changes, (ii) object agreement disappears, (iii) IAs take narrow scope, (iv) IAs display number neutrality (e.g. Baker 2012; Dayal 2011; Massam 2001). I posit that antipassive (AP) constructions, which display similar effects (see also Aldridge 2012 on Tagalog; Campbell 2000 on Ki’che’; Dryer 1990 on Dyirbal; Kozinsky et al. 1988 on Chukchi; Rude 1988 on Nez Perce), also arise via NP-merger not variation in functional heads, as proposed by e.g. Spreng (2006), Aldridge (2012). Wednesday at 10am, room 215.

LingTea, 11/12 – Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine, Theodore Levin, Coppe van Urk

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 02:40

Who: Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine (McGill), Theodore Levin (MIT), Coppe van Urk (MIT)

When: Wednesday, Nov. 12, 3:05-4:05 in room 117

What: “Austronesian voice as extraction marking”


One major question within Austronesian syntax concerns the relationship between Voice marking, case, and extraction, which (commonly) display a one-to-one correspondence. Broadly, two approaches are employed to capture these correlations: (i) Voice morphology marks case and extraction via (wh-)agreement (e.g. Chung 1994; Richards 2000; Pearson 2001), (ii) Voice morphology determines case and extraction via changes in argument structure (e.g. Guilfoyle et al. 1992; Aldridge 2004; Legate 2012). Under a deterministic view of Voice morphology, dissociations of voice and case/extraction are unexpected. In this talk, we present two systems that display such dissociations, supporting the case/extraction-marking analysis of Voice (i). We present a concrete proposal for Voice as extraction marking that explains its effects on case.

Colloquium, 11/14 – Yoonjung Kang

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 02:20

We are pleased to announce that the next talk in our 2014-15 McGill Linguistics Colloquium Series:

Speaker:  Yoonjung Kang (University of Toronto Scarborough)
Date & Time: Friday, November 14th at 3:30pm, Education Building room 433.
Title: “Laryngeal classification of Korean fricatives: evidence from sound change and dialect variation”

Korean has a three-way contrast of voiceless stops among aspirated, lenis, and fortis stops. Recent studies converge to show that Seoul Korean is undergoing a tonogenetic sound change whereby the VOT distinction between lenis and aspirated stops is neutralized and the tone on the following vowel becomes the primary phonetic distinction. Korean fricatives, on the hand, show a two-way contrast between a fortis and a “non-fortis” fricative. The laryngeal classification of the non-fortis fricative has been a topic of much debate, as its phonetic patterning is ambiguous between aspirated and lenis categories. In this talk, I will bring additional evidence to the debate by examining the patterning of the fricatives in the on-going sound change in Seoul. I will also compare the Seoul data with the data collected from two major North Korean dialects as spoken by ethnic Koreans in China, where the stop contrast retains the “older” VOT pattern.

All are welcome to attend.

Course announcement: Semantics 4

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 01:55

Semantics 4, LING 665 /

Seminar in Semantics, LING 765

Winter 2015, Bernhard Schwarz

“Semantic disasters (in weak islands and elsewhere)”  

In this year’s edition of LING 665 (Semantics 4)/LING 765 (Seminar in Semantics), we will explore semantic explanations of apparent grammatical constraints, with a focus on wh-movement. The first part of the course will provide a hands-on introduction to classic approaches to the semantics of wh-questions, applying and extending the tools and notions introduced in Semantics 3. Building on this background, we will in the second part study recent ideas about so-called weak islands. “Weak island” is a cover term for a class of constraints illustrated by the contrast between How many children does Jones have? and *How many children doesn’t Jones have? (where negation is said to create a weak island for extraction of the how many-phrase). We will study various types of weak islands and various types of “semantic disasters” that have been held responsible for their existence. As a guide in this exploration, we will use Marta Abrusán’s 2014 book Weak Island Semantics. Our study of weak islands will also prepare us for examining semantic disasters in the analysis of other phenomena prominently discussed in recent literature (including work by several members of our department), such as semantic constraints on other cases of overt movement and so-called blocking effects.


LING 665: homework assignments, short class presentation, final paper

LING 765 (Pass/Fail): homework assignments, short class presentation

Main reference

Abrusán, Marta: 2014, Weak Island Semantics, Oxford University Press

(See http://mcgill.worldcat.org/title/weak-island-semantics/oclc/874163763&referer=brief_results)

LING 415 at Tibetan Bazar

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 01:50

Members of the LING 415 Field Methods class headed to the Montreal Tibetan Bazaar this weekend, where they watched a traditional yak dance, ate momos, and tested their ability to recognize stacked consonants during the calligraphy demonstration.

Lisa Travis at IOWC

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 01:50
Lisa Travis gave a talk this past Thursday at the Indian Ocean World Centre (IOWC) at McGill entitled History of Malagasy: Past and Future.  Lisa supplied the picture for the advertisement poster, here. Lexical, phonological, and morphological evidence has been used to support various hypotheses concerning the path taken by the Austronesian ancestors of the Malagasy people. A set of questions clusters around the influence of a Bantu population and whether it can be argued that Bantu formed a substratum in the development of the Malagasy language. This paper explores this influence using syntactic arguments that call into question the substratum hypothesis. Further syntactic work on current Malagasy dialects map innovations that shift the underlying structure of Malagasy from the firmly predicate initial structure of its Austronesian ancestors to a subject initial structure.

Call for Papers for McGWPL

Mon, 11/03/2014 - 02:00
Dear Students,

We are preparing an issue of McGWPL featuring Evaluation and MA papers from students in the department, and as such we are inviting students to submit their completed Evaluation and MA work to be published in McGWPL. Published work in the Department’s working papers provides an excellent opportunity to showcase your research both within and beyond the McGill linguistics community. As Evaluation and MA research papers have already been reviewed by the department for quality, no major revisions are required for submissions.

Submissions can be in Word or LaTeX format and must follow the formatting guidelines outlined in the McGWPL templates. Templates for LaTeX and Word submissions are available to download from our website (http://www.mcgill.ca/mcgwpl/submissions).

Below are the details for submission:
Deadline: November 20th 2014
Page Limit: No explicit page limit; please endeavour to keep submissions below ~70 pages
Format: LaTeX, Word
Bibliography: If you are submitting using LaTeX, please send the corresponding BibTeX file with submission
Further formatting details are available in the submission templatesPlease email your submission file to: mcgwpl.linguistics@mcgill.ca

We’re looking forward to receiving your submissions!

The McGWPL Team

McGWPL Submissions

Syntax/Semantics Reading Group, 10/14 – Hadas Kotek on questions

Mon, 11/03/2014 - 02:00

Hadas Kotek will present this Friday, November 7, at the Syntax/Semantics Reading Group (Room 117 at 3:00). The title of her presentation is XXX.

Hye-Young Bang at BUCLD 39

Mon, 11/03/2014 - 01:50

Hye-Young Bang was awarded the Paula Menyuk Student Travel Award to present at the 39th Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD 39) later this week. Her talk is titled A Child-specific Compensatory Mechanism in the Acquisition of English /s/: Children’s Deviant Forms Are Not Always Grammar-driven (with Heather Goad and Meghan Clayards).


Clayards et al. paper in Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics

Mon, 11/03/2014 - 01:50

Congratulations to Meghan Clayards, whose article “The time course of auditory and language-specific mechanisms in compensation for sibilant assimilation” will appear in Attention, Perception and Psychophysics. The online version is available here.

Clayards, M., Niebuhr, O., & Gaskell, M. G. (2014). The time course of auditory and language-specific mechanisms in compensation for sibilant assimilation. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 1-18.

Models of spoken-word recognition differ on whether compensation for assimilation is language-specific or depends on general auditory processing. English and French participants were taught words that began or ended with the sibilants /s/ and /∫/. Both languages exhibit some assimilation in sibilant sequences (e.g., /s/ becomes like [∫] in dress shop and classe chargée), but they differ in the strength and predominance of anticipatory versus carryover assimilation. After training, participants were presented with novel words embedded in sentences, some of which contained an assimilatory context either preceding or following. A continuum of target sounds ranging from [s] to [∫] was spliced into the novel words, representing a range of possible assimilation strengths. Listeners’ perceptions were examined using a visual-world eyetracking paradigm in which the listener clicked on pictures matching the novel words. We found two distinct language-general context effects: a contrastive effect when the assimilating context preceded the target, and flattening of the sibilant categorization function (increased ambiguity) when the assimilating context followed. Furthermore, we found that English but not French listeners were able to resolve the ambiguity created by the following assimilatory context, consistent with their greater experience with assimilation in this context. The combination of these mechanisms allows listeners to deal flexibly with variability in speech forms.



Montrealers of past and present at NELS

Mon, 11/03/2014 - 01:50

McLing reporters send photographic evidence of a good time had by all at this year’s NELS 45, hosted by MIT. McGill and Montreal-based linguists of past and present are pictured below.

Dan Goodhue, Michael Wagner, Aron Hirsch (BA ’12), Keir Moulton (Post-doc ’09-’11), Nino Grillo (faculty ’07-’08), Brian Buccola, Mike Hamilton, Bronwyn Bjorkman (BA ’06), Henrison Hsieh

Gretchen McCulloch (MA ’13), Brian Buccola, Erin Olsen (BA ’12), Hadas Kotek, Mike Hamilton, Henrison Hsieh, mitcho Erlewine, Mojgan Sarabi (Concordia)

McLing is also pleased to announce that next year’s NELS 46 will be hosted by Concordia University.

LingTea, 10/29 – Dan Goodhue & Michael Wagner

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 02:40

All are welcome to attend this week’s LingTea:

Who: Dan Goodhue and Michael Wagner

What: “It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it: intonation, yes and no” (NELS practice talk)

When: Wednesday, Oct. 29, room 117 3-4pm