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The McGill Linguistics Department Newsletter
Updated: 2 hours 45 min ago

Welcome, Meg Grant

Mon, 2014-02-10 03:00

We are happy to extend a late welcome to Meg Grant, who in December took up a one-year postdoctoral position in our department. Meg is interested in sentence processing at the syntactic and semantic levels, and using experimental research to inform syntactic and semantic theory. Her dissertation (UMass Amherst) examined the processing of comparatives, mainly using eye tracking during reading. After receiving her Ph.D. she worked in 2013 for the Laboratoire d’Excellence ‘Empirical Foundations of Linguistics’ in France, where she developed a further interest in sentence production. At McGill, Meg is working under the supervision of Yosef Grodzinsky, Michael Wagner, and Bernhard Schwarz. This Winter term, she is teaching LING 390 Neuroscience of Language. Welcome, Meg!

McGillian WCCFLers

Mon, 2014-02-10 03:00

March will be upon us soon and, with it, the 32nd edition of WCCFL to be held at the University of Southern California.

This year, McGill will be well represented: Oriana Kilbourn-Cerón is giving a talk based on her first evaluation paper (“Almost: Scope and Covert Exhaustification”), Sasha Simonenko is presenting a poster, based on her dissertation (“A Structural Account of the Loss of Direct Referntiality”), and Richard Compton is an alternate, also presenting a poster (“Mood Variance as Evidence for Genuine Object Agreement in Inuit”.)

As usual, acceptance rates have been very competitive (12.7% for talks and 20.8% for both talks and posters.)

Congratulations McGillian WCCFLers!

You can check the WCCFL 32 program at:


McGill Canadian Conference for Linguistics Undergraduates (McCCLU)

Mon, 2014-02-10 03:00

March 14-16, 2014

SLUM is still looking for undergraduate speakers for the upcoming McCCLU – a three-day conference held in the spring each year. Undergraduate Linguistics students will be coming from all over the Northeastern U.S., Ontario, and Quebec to give talks about their research.

For more information, please see our post on the Linguist List: More Information

To submit an abstract, please see the following link: Abstract Submission

All are welcome to attend McCCLU!

Digging into Data grant to Bale, Coon, and Polinsky

Mon, 2014-02-10 02:50

A research collaboration among Alan Bale (Concordia University), Jessica Coon (McGill) and Maria Polinsky (Harvard University) was among the 14 Digging Into Data Challenge winners this year. The COULD Project (Cleaning, Organizing, and Uniting Linguistic Databases) seeks to create a universal format for existing linguistic databases and automate the detection of errors and inconsistencies. The project hopes to make these databases more reliable and accessible to both researchers and the general public.

This is the second Digging into Data Grant with a McGill linguistics connection: Michael Wagner‘s collaborative project was awarded in the first round of Digging into Data in 2009.

Glyne Piggott in Paris

Mon, 2014-02-10 02:50

Professor Emeritus Glyne Piggott just gave and invited talk, ”Words as the exponents of complex syntactic heads: evidence from minimality” at the workshop on Theoretical issues in contemporary phonology, EHESS, in Paris. Welcome back Glyne!

(Belated) welcome to post-doc Meg Grant!

Mon, 2014-02-10 02:50

We welcome Meg Grant, a McGill alumna and a recent Umass Amherst PhD, who arrived at the department last December as a post-doc in Yosef Grodzinsky’s neurolinguistics lab. Meg is a psycholinguist who has worked on the processing of comparatives, and hopes to continue while here. She is also teaching LING 390 this semester. Welcome, Meg!

Syntax/Semantics Reading Group: Meg Grant on 2/14, David-Étienne on 3/21.

Mon, 2014-02-10 02:50

The syntax-semantics research group meeting is an informal venue where people interested in syntax, semantics and pragmatics gather to present their work in progress, or discuss articles.

The group will continue meeting on Fridays, from 3:00 to 4:30 (room 117).

Mark your calendars: on February 14, Meg Grant will present work on processing subset comparatives.

Starting this semester, we will also have a series of informal tutorials on semantic/pragmatic topics that have not been taught in regular courses for a while. These mini ‘crash courses’ do not presuppose any background in semantics. Every curious person is welcome to attend.

Our very own David-Étienne Bouchard will be in charge of the first of our tutorials. He will be introducing us to the use of degrees in semantics:

The purpose of this tutorial will be to provide a semantics to sentences containing a degree operator, in particular the comparative morpheme ‘more¹. In order to do this we will introduce degrees in our semantic ontology and enrich the denotations of gradable adjectives like tall and heavy. Degree operators will be treated as quantifiers over degrees and shown to have some flexibility in scope, albeit in a limited manner.

Date Presentation Background reading(s) Friday, March 21, 2014
3:00-4:30 pm David-Étienne Bouchard on degrees. Kennedy (1999), Projecting the Adjective, chapter 1. Heim (2001). Degree Operators and Scope.

Ling Tea, 2/5 – Yusuke Imanishi

Mon, 2014-02-03 03:40

When: Wednesday, February 5, 3-4 pm in room 117
Who: Yusuke Imanishi (MIT)
What: Default ergative: A view from Mayan

Abstract: In this talk, I will propose that ergative Case in certain cases is best analyzed as a syntactic default.  To support this analysis, I will address several Mayan languages.  First, I will discuss the unexpected emergence of the ergative in intransitive clauses of Ixil.   This occurs when an instrumental phrase is fronted to a clause-initial position (Ayres 1983, 199).  I will argue that the intransitive subject receives ergative Case as syntactic default Case because it would be otherwise Case-less.  It will be shown that a fronted instrumental phrase blocks the assignment of absolutive Case to the intransitive subject.  Furthermore, I will deal with an alignment puzzle found in the nominative-accusative side of ergative splits in Kaqchikel, Q’anjob’al and Chol.  In non-perfective clauses, the ergative (or a set A marker) is aligned with the transitive object in Kaqchikel,  whereas it is aligned with the subject in Q’anjob’al and Chol.  I will show that this contrastive alignment can be captured by the default view of the ergative.  To formulate these analyses, I will propose (i) a model of default ergative Case assignment and (ii) the Absolutive Case Parameter in Mayan (cf. Aldridge 2004, 2008; Legate 2008; Coon et al. 2012).


Louisa Bielig to present at Arts Undergraduate Research Event – 2/6

Mon, 2014-02-03 03:00

Linguistics undergraduate Louisa Bielig will present this Thursday at the 4th Annual Faculty of Arts Undergraduate Research Event (4pm Leacock 232). Louisa will present the results of her Fall independent study course, co-supervised by Jessica Coon and Richard Compton. With the help of iLanguage Lab’s Gina Cook, Louisa used the collaborative database application LingSync to turn a copy of an Inuktitut bible into a searchable corpus. The corpus was used to investigate the distribution of ergative and antipassive patterns in the language. All are welcome to attend!

Syntax/Phonology Reading group, 2/7

Mon, 2014-02-03 02:59

The Syntax-Phonology Reading Group will meet this Friday, Feb. 7 from 11:30-1pm in room 117. We will read an excerpt on Tagalog from Norvin Richard’s (2010) book “Uttering Trees”. Maire Noonan has kindly agreed to lead the discussion.

The relevant excerpt is pp. 165-182. Note that the book is available as an ebook from the McGill library.

Colloquium, 2/7 – Jakob Leimgruber

Mon, 2014-02-03 02:58

We are pleased to announce that the next talk in our 2013-14 McGill Linguistics Colloquium Series will be by Jakob R. E. Leimgruber (McGill) on Friday, February 7th at 3:30 pm in the Education Building room 433.

The title of the talk is “Language policy in multilingual cities: effects on the linguistic landscape of Singapore and Montreal“. There will also be a reception following the colloquium, details to follow.

Abstract: Language legislation in the city-state of Singapore is remarkably simple. The constitution bestows official status on four languages: Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, and English, in this particular order. There is no official languages act or further legislation that regulates the use of language at the national level. Reasonably successful government campaigns have been concerned with the promotion of Mandarin instead of other varieties of Chinese, and of Standard English instead of the local ‘Singlish’. A number of largely non-statutory policies exist, however, that disrupt the ostensible equality of status between the four co-official languages and put English, and to a lesser extent Mandarin, into a more powerful position. Thus, English is the only language of the courts, as well as the only medium of education in state schools. It is also often labelled the country’s ‘working language’ by decision-makers.

The situation in Quebec is radically different: for one, there is a distinction between official bilingualism in federal and some municipal institutions and official monolingualism in provincial institutions. Secondly, there is strong emphasis on the promotion of the language of the province’s majority population. Regulatory efforts are wide-ranging (as seen in the scope of the Charter of the French language and its twelve subordinate regulations). The status of French as the working language of the province and as the default medium of instruction is mandated by statutory legislation.

These different legislative approaches have interesting consequences on the linguistic landscape, i.e. the visual language in public space (road signs, billboards, advertising, shop names, etc.). In Quebec, a very clearly articulated legislative framework has had a lasting impact on the linguistic landscape, resulting in a high visibility of French. In Singapore, the absence of any kind of statutory linguistic landscape regulation has brought about a much more heterogeneous picture, which, however, tends to see English as the language common to most signs. A comparative approach shows the similar outcome of monolingual dominance in contexts characterized by rather divergent policies.

Michael Wagner presents in Israel

Mon, 2014-02-03 02:55

Michael Wagner is giving an invited talk today at a workshop called ‘Focus Sensitive Expressions from a Cross Linguistic Perspective’, organized by Yael Greenberg and Malte Zimmermann. The title of his talk is “Even and the Syntax of Focus Sensitivity.” You can see the full program here. Enjoy the warm weather, Michael!

NACLO at McGill

Mon, 2014-02-03 02:55

McGill hosted the first round of the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad this past week, with a good turn-out from area high schools, and one from Toronto. You can learn more about NACLO here. Special thanks to Rebecca LeeGretchen McCullochSarah Mihuc, and James Tanner for helping out!

Grodzinsky and Schwarz at McGill-MIT Workshop on Gradability and Quantity in Language and the Brain

Mon, 2014-02-03 02:55

Yosef Grodzinsky and Bernhard Schwarz were in Cambridge Massachusetts this past weekend for the McGill–MIT Workshop on Gradability and Quantity in Language and the Brain. Bernhard presented a paper titled “‘At least’ and Quantity Implicature: Choices and Consequences”, Yosef presented “Quantities and Quantifiers: Sentence Verification, Weber’s Law, and Monotonicity.” The event was funded by Yosef’s Canada Research Chair in Neurolinguistics.

Bale and Coon to appear in Linguistic Inquiry

Mon, 2014-02-03 02:55

Alan Bale (Concordia) and Jessica Coon‘s paper “Classifiers are for numerals not for nouns: Consequences for the mass-count distinction” has been accepted for publication as a Linguistic Inquiry squib. You can find the paper, which discusses classifiers in Mi’gmaq and Chol, here.

McGill Canadian Conference for Linguistics Undergraduates (McCCLU)

Mon, 2014-01-27 03:00

March 14-16, 2014

SLUM is looking for speakers for the upcoming McCCLU – a three-day conference held in the spring each year. Undergraduate Linguistics students will be coming from all over the Northeastern U.S., Ontario, and Quebec to give talks about their research. For more information, or to submit an abstract, please see our post on the Linguist List: http://linguistlist.org/callconf/browse-conf-action.cfm?ConfID=169873
All are welcome (and encouraged) to attend!

Ling-Tea, 1/22 – Mike Hamilton

Mon, 2014-01-20 03:40

This week’s Ling-Tea is rescheduled from last week’s.

When: Wednesday January 22nd, 3-4 pm in room 117
Who: Mike Hamilton
What: Mi’gmaq as a discourse configurational language: A dissertation proposal

As always, if you’d like to present something at Ling-Tea, please contact Yuliya Manyakina at yuliya.manyakina@mail.mcgill.ca or Nina Umont at nina.umont@mail.mcgill.ca

Syntax-Phonology Reading Group, 1/24

Mon, 2014-01-20 02:51

The Syntax-Phonology Reading Group will resume this Friday, January 24, 11:30-1pm, in room 117 (note change in time from last semester). We will discuss a draft of Lauren Eby Clemens’ paper “The prosody of Niuean Pseudo Noun Incorporation”, which will be circulated via the group’s listserv (please contact Emily Elfner if you would like to be added to the list). In addition, this meeting will serve as an organizational meeting for the semester. All are welcome to attend, and we hope to see you there!

Exploring the Interfaces 3: Prosody and Constituent Structure

Mon, 2014-01-20 02:50

McLing is pleased to announce that the call for the third Exploring the Interfaces workshop has just been posted! Here are the details:

Exploring the Interfaces (ETI) 3 will take place at McGill University from May 8–10, 2014. This workshop will be the last of three workshops organized by the McGill Syntactic Interfaces Research Group (McSIRG) as part of a multi-year grant to study linguistic interfaces. Following ETI 1 (Word structure) and ETI 2 (Implicatures, alternatives and the semantics/pragmatics interface), the topic of ETI 3 will be Prosody and Constituent Structure.

In particular, ETI 3 will deal with issues surrounding prosodic and phonological evidence for syntactic constituent structure, with a focus on verb-initial languages.

Goals of the Workshop:

  • To bring together researchers working on issues at the syntax-phonology interface (e.g. syntactic constituency, prosodic effects on word order) from the perspectives of syntax, prosody, and phonology/phonetics
  • To bring together researchers working on a variety of different languages, with an emphasis on languages with default verb-initial word order
  • To encourage communication and discussion about methodologies that can be used for the empirical study of prosody and the syntax-phonology interface

Invited Speakers:

Judith Aissen (UC Santa Cruz)
Sasha Calhoun (Victoria University of Wellington)
Lauren Eby Clemens (Harvard)
Emily Elfner (McGill)
Jim McCloskey (UC Santa Cruz)
Norvin Richards (MIT)
Joey Sabbagh (UT Arlington)
Kristine Yu (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Methods Tutorials:

In addition to the regular session, we will have two tutorials on local technological tools for fieldwork, with special reference to fieldwork on prosody:

  • Tutorial 1: Automatic Acoustic Alignment in Underdocumented Languages
  • Tutorial 2: LingSync: An Online Tool for Field Work

This conference is supported through an FQRSC team grant on Linguistic Interfaces and funding from a SSHRC Grant on Prosody and Constituent Structure.

Organizing Team:

Emily Elfner, Jessica Coon, Lisa Travis, Michael Wagner

Student Organizers:

Michael Hamilton, Henrison Hsieh, Yuliya Manyakina

Call for Papers:

Abstract submission deadline: February 28, 2014
Notification of acceptance: March 10, 2014
Conference: May 8-10, 2014

In addition to eight invited speakers, we are accepting abstracts for a limited number of additional talks (30 minutes + 10 minutes discussion) and posters. We particularly welcome papers which address the following questions:

  • What can prosodic and phonological evidence tell us about syntactic constituent structure?
  • To what extent do syntactic, phonological and prosodic evidence agree with one another regarding constituent structure?
  • What is the role of prosody in determining word order?
  • Can prosodic and phonological evidence be used to help distinguish between competing syntactic accounts of how word order is derived?

We welcome abstracts dealing with these topics in any language, but would particularly welcome abstracts on verb-initial languages in keeping with the theme of the conference.

Abstracts should be anonymous and no longer than 500 words (including examples, but not counting title or references), and should be submitted in PDF format on the following easychair site:


Please indicate on the form whether you would prefer an oral presentation, a poster presentation, or whether either would be acceptable. By default, we will first consider you for an oral presentation. Additionally, we hope to have some funding available to supplement travel costs for student presenters.

Contact eti3.mcgill@gmail.com with questions.

Gretchen McCulloch finishes her MA

Mon, 2014-01-20 02:50

Congratulations to Gretchen McCulloch, who has completed her MA with a thesis titled “Verb Stem Composition in Mi’gmaq.” You can find this and her other work on her website. Congratulations Gretchen!