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The McGill Linguistics Department Newsletter
Updated: 5 hours 43 min ago

ProsodyLab at DGFS Summer School

Tue, 03/29/2016 - 01:50

This summer, McGill’s prosodylab will be represented at the DGFS summer school in Tübingen on Mapping Meaning: Theory – Cognition – Variation, which is held August 15th – 26th, 2016 in Tübingen/Germany. Early bird registration is open until June 1st.



The course is titled Prosody and Incremental Processing, an abstract is posted here.


McGill at MOTH 2016

Tue, 03/29/2016 - 01:50

This year’s Montréal-Ottawa-Toronto-Hamilton Syntax Workshop (MOTH) will take place April 15th and 16th at the University of Toronto Mississauga. There will be three presentations from McGill students:

The rest of the program is available here: http://moth2016.github.io/#programme

Faculty of Arts Graduate Student Teaching Award to Dan Goodhue

Tue, 03/29/2016 - 01:50

McLing is pleased to announce that the Committee on Graduate Studies has selected Daniel Goodhue as one of the three recipients for the 2016 Faculty of Arts Graduate Student Teaching Award. These awards are designed to recognize outstanding teaching in the Faculty by graduate students. The award will be formally announced at the April 12 Faculty of Arts meeting, held at 3pm in Leacock 232.  All are invited!

Schwartz and Goad in Language Acquisition

Mon, 03/21/2016 - 02:00
Misha Schwartz (BA 2014) and Heather Goad’s paper Indirect positive evidence in the acquisition of a subset grammar has just been accepted for publication in Language Acquisition. The abstract appears below: This paper proposes that second language learners can use indirect positive evidence (IPE) to acquire a phonological grammar that is a subset of their L1 grammar. IPE is evidence from errors in the learner’s L1 made by native speakers of the learner’s L2. It has been assumed that subset grammars may be acquired using direct or indirect negative evidence or, in certain L1–L2 combinations, using positive evidence. The utility of IPE is tested by providing native speakers of English with indirect evidence of the phonotactic constraints holding of word-initial clusters in Brazilian Portuguese (BP), which are a subset of those in English. Participants were tested on the well-formedness of BP-like words and the results indicate that approximately one-third were able to use the IPE to make appropriate BP-like judgements. This suggests that IPE may be another source of evidence that learners can use to build a grammar that is a subset of their own L1 grammar.

McGill at MOLT

Mon, 03/21/2016 - 01:50

McGill Linguistics was well represented at this year’s Montreal-Ottawa-Laval-Toronto Phonology Workshop (MOLT), which took place this past weekend at Carleton University. There were talks by graduate students, lecturers, postdocs, alumni, and faculty. The full program can be found here.

  • Guilherme Garcia & Natália Brambatti Guzzo – Second language acquisition of word-level prominence in English by Canadian French speakers
  • Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron, Michael Wagner, Meghan Clayards – The effect of production planning locality on external sandhi: a study in /t/
  • Donghyun Kim, Meghan Clayards, Heather Goad – Patterns of individual differences in second language vowel perception
  • Jeff Lamontagne – Mid-Vowel Features and Allophony in Laurentian French
  • Michael McAuliffe, Morgan Sonderegger, Michael Wagner – A system for unified corpus analysis, applied to polysyllabic shortening across 12 languages
  • Peter Milne – The variable pronunciations of word-final consonant clusters in a force aligned corpus of spoken French
  • Heather Newell (PhD 2004) – The pathology of level-specific morpho-phonology


Sasha Simonenko to take up postdoc at University of Ghent

Mon, 03/21/2016 - 01:50

This month Alexandra (Sasha) Simonenko (McGill PhD 2014) is finishing a 17-month postdoc at Labex EFL in Paris on quantitative methods in Medieval French morphosyntax and taking up a 3-year postdoc at the University of Ghent under the supervision of Liliane Haegeman. The Ghent postdoc is funded by the Flemish Research Council and will focus on the comparative semantics and morphosyntax of the DP in several Finno-Ugric languages spoken in Russia. Congratulations Sasha!

Ling-Tea, 3/15 – Kim, Kilbourn-Ceron, Lamontagne

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 02:50

Please join us this week for Ling-Tea at its usual time and place: Tuesday at 1:00 in Linguistics room 117.

This week we have three MOLT practice talks:

Donghyun Kim, Meghan Clayards, Heather Goad – Patterns of individual differences in second language vowel perception

Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron, Michael Wagner, Meghan Clayards – The effect of production planning locality on external sandhi: A study in /t/

Jeff Lamontagne – Mid-Vowel Features and Allophony in Laurentian French

Colloquium, 3/18 – Lisa Pearl

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 02:20

Speaker: Lisa Pearl (UC Irvine)
Date & Time: Friday, March 18th at 3:30 pm
Place: ARTS Bldg. room 260
Title: How to know what’s necessary: Using computational modeling to specify Universal Grammar

Abstract: One explicit motivation for Universal Grammar (UG) is that it’s what allows children to acquire language as effectively and as rapidly as they do. Proposals for the contents of UG typically come from characterizing a learning problem precisely and identifying a potential solution to that problem. One benefit of computational modeling is to see if that solution works when it’s embedded in a learning strategy used during the acquisition process. This includes specifying (i) what the child knows already, (ii) what data the child is learning from, (iii) how long the child has to learn, and (iv) what the child needs to learn along the way. When we identify successful learning strategies this way, we can then examine their components to see if any are necessarily both innate and domain-specific (and so part of UG). I have previously used this approach to propose new UG components (and remove the necessity of others) for learning both syntactic islands and English anaphoric one. In this talk, I investigate what’s been called the Linking Problem, which concerns where event participants appear syntactically. I’ll discuss some initial findings about when prior (and likely UG) knowledge, such as the Uniformity of Theta Assignment Hypothesis (UTAH), is helpful for learning useful information about the Linking Problem.

McCCLU, 3/18–3/19

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 01:50

The Society of Linguistics Undergraduates at McGill is proud to announce the 10th edition of McCCLU, the McGill Canadian Conference for Linguistics Undergraduates. This year McCCLU will run on March 18-19 and will include a Wine & Cheese event in Arts 160 (Arts Building) on the 18thand a full day of presentations on the 19th at New Rez, 3625 Parc. We are hosting speakers from several universities in Canada and the US, our very own Hannah Cohen and Douglas Gordon, and Professor Lisa Travis of McGill as a keynote speaker.

Check out the schedule below and visit our website http://mccclu2016.wix.com/mccclu

We hope to see you at McCCLU!

McGill at WSCLA in Montreal

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 01:50

This year’s Workshop on the Structure and Constituency of Languages of the Americas (WSCLA) will take place at UQÀM, April 1st–3rd. In addition to a number of McGill alums and former affiliates, presentations with current McGill linguists include:

  • Colin Brown – Revisiting ergativity in Gitksan
  • Lauren Clemens and Jessica Coon – Deriving Mayan V1: A Fresh Look at Ch’ol
  • Heather Newell, Glyne Piggott and Lisa Travis – The Possessive Structure of Ojibwe: Support from Cupeño
  • Hadas Kotek and Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine – Non-interrogative wh-constructions in Chuj

WSCLA is organized by Heather Newell (PhD ’09) and Richard Compton (former McGill post-doc). The rest of the program is available here, and if you’d like to attend you can register here: https://sites.google.com/site/wscla2016/registration

Lydia White at FLing

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 01:50

Lydia White was at Florida International University last week (March 10 and 11), giving plenaries at two meetings which have been combined into one, called Miami FLing 2016.The titles of her talks are:

1. How Applied Should Linguistics Be? From Theory to Practice. Barbara Gordon Memorial Lecture.
2. Is there a DPBE in L2 acquisition and, if so, why?

Ling-Tea, 3/8 – Hadas Kotek

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 02:50
Hadas Kotek will present in this week’s Ling-Tea, Tuesday 3/8 from 1pm–2:30 in room 117. Note that this will be an extended 90 minute Ling-Tea for a practice talk. Title: Most: architecture, evidence, and variation Abstract: Formal semantic analyses often take words to be minimal building blocks for the purposes of meaning composition. However, work on syntax and morphology has converged on the view that the unit of the “word” should not receive a special status. In this talk, I argue for the same conclusion for the compositional semantics of superlatives, concentrating in particular on the superlative quantifier most. I present a series of experimental studies supporting the conclusion that most is decomposed into a gradable predicate many and a superlative morpheme -est, and uncover a previously unnoticed micro-variation among English speakers in their interpretation of most. I argue that these findings lend support to the unified analysis of “most (of the)“ as in Mary climbed most of the mountains and “the most” as in Mary climbed the most mountains in Heim (1999) and Hackl (2009). More broadly, I discuss questions of modularity and methodology in linguistics, and conclude that investigating the interaction between the meaning, structure, and real-time use of language can illuminate underlying theoretical primitives in the architecture of grammar. **This is a practice job talk, all are welcome!**

Jessica Coon at Minnesota and Concordia

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 02:20

Jessica Coon spent the last few days of break in Minneapolis, where she gave a colloquium talk, “Unergatives, antipassives, and Roots in Chuj” at the University of Minnesota. This Friday she will present joint work with Alan Bale at a colloquium at Concordia University. The title of their talk is “Counting banana trees in Ch’ol: Crosslinguistic consequences for the syntax and semantics of classifiers.” Stay tuned for a Ling-Mont announcement with details.

Brendan Gillon at Ohio State

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 01:50

On March 2nd Brendan Gillon was at The Ohio State University where he gave a talk entitled “Polyvalence, Polyadicity and Permutation”.

Oriana Kilbourn-Ceroen in Journal of Semantics

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 01:50

Congratulations to Oriana Kilbourn-Ceroen, whose paper “Embedded Exhaustification: Evidence from Almost” just appeared in Journal of Semantics!

Sepideh and Liz at Pscychoshorts

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 01:50
Sepideh Mortazavinia and Liz Smeets presented their work at Psychoshorts 2016, which took place in Ottawa February 27th. Sepideh presented a poster related to her thesis work entitled “Second language acquisition of Even”, and Liz gave a talk on Ultimate Attainment at the syntax-discourse interface, using evidence from L2 acquisition of object movement in Dutch.

Liz, Sepideh, and recent McGill post-doc Meg Grant at Psychoshorts

Welcome new faculty member Francisco Torreira

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 01:50
McLing is very happy to welcome Francisco Torreira, who will be joining the department as a new permanent faculty member in Fall 2016. Francisco will be arriving from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, where he was a research staff member. He is interested in the sound structures of human languages, with a focus on their mapping onto physical utterances under naturalistic conditions of language use (e.g. conversation, communicative tasks). His work touches aspects of phonetics and phonology, psycholinguistics, corpus linguistics and interaction studies.

Hadas Kotek’s paper to appear in Glossa

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 01:50

Hadas Kotek‘s paper “Covert partial wh-movement and the nature of derivations” has just been accepted for publication with Glossa: Special Issue on Syntactic Computation. Here is a link to the latest version on Lingbuzz: http://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/002541/. Congratulations Hadas!

Ling-Tea, 2/23 – Jessica Coon

Mon, 02/22/2016 - 02:50

Presenter: Jessica Coon

When: 2/23 1pm-2pm in Linguistics 117

Title: Unergatives, antipassives, and roots in Chuj

The suffix -w in Chuj (Mayan) is found in two contexts: (i) attached to transitive roots to form what have been labelled “incorporation antipassives” and (ii) attached to nominal and positional roots to form unergatives. In both contexts, the result is an intransitive verb form with a single, agentive external argument. In this paper I provide a unified analysis of these constructions in which -w is a Voice head that attaches to a category-neutral root, introducing an external argument but not assigning case. This has important implications for the status of antipassives—or at least certain types of constructions which have been described as antipassives. In Chuj, I argue that the incorporation antipassive formed with -w does not convert a transitive verb into an intransitive verb (as antipassives are frequently described; see Polinsky, to appear). Instead, both transitive and “antipassive” stems are formed directly from an under-specified root.

I contrast stem-forming morphology like -w with other valence-altering morphology in Chuj, arguing for a distinction between (i) morphemes which attach directly to bare roots, and serve to specify the argument structure properties of the stem, and (ii) morphemes which attach to already-formed stems, and may alter the argument structure of a stem. Interestingly, the latter type permit the reintroduction of “demoted”. arguments via oblique phrases (i.e. the antipassive patient and the passive agent), while the former do not. I suggest this is a direct consequence of their level of attachment.

Admitted students open house, 2/25–2/26

Mon, 02/22/2016 - 02:30

We’re having an open house for admitted graduate students later this week on Feb. 25-26. Admitted graduate students will attend classes, a lab tour, and a campus tour; have individual meetings with faculty members; learn about our current graduate students’ research, as well as the faculty members’ research; enjoy a party afterwards, socialize with our current graduate students, etc. etc. You can find more details on the final schedule that has been sent out by email. Meanwhile, if you see any new faces wandering the halls, please say hello!