AGReement Reading Group will resume on Friday, January 17th, 11:30am-1pm, in room 117. For this week, we’ll read and discuss Andrew Nevins’ 2011 paper, ‘Multiple Agree with Clitics: Person Complementarity vs. Omnivorous Number.” This meeting will also serve as an organizational meeting to choose readings for the rest of the semester. As always, all are welcome to attend.
McGill linguists past and present were well represented at the 2014 annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA), and the co-located annual meeting of the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA), both held Jan 2-5 in tropical Minneapolis.
- Brian Buccola and Morgan Sonderegger: On the expressivity of Optimality Theory vs. rules: An application to opacity
- Emily Elfner: Prosodic boundary strength in verb-initial structures: Evidence from English and Irish
- Aron Hirsch (BA ’11) and Martin Hackl: Presupposition projection and incremental processing in disjunction
- Thomas Kettig (BA ’13): The Canadian Shift: Its acoustic trajectory and consequences for vowel categorization
- Alanah McKillen: The role of focus in determining exceptional coreference
- Sasha Simonenko: Semantics of the DP wh-island
- Jozina Vander Klok (PhD ’12): Yes-no question and fieldwork strategies: A case study on Paciran Javanese
- Mike Hamilton: Deriving overt nominals in Mi’gmaq
- Gretchen McCulloch: Mi’gmaq -asi as a middle voice marker
Please join us for the first colloquium of the winter semester!
Speaker: Julie Legate (University of Pennsylvania)
Date & Time: Friday, January 10, 3:30 pm
Place: Education Building Rm. 433
Title: Acehnese causatives and the structure of the verb phrase
Morgan Sonderegger visited MIT on Dec 9. He gave a talk in the Phonology Circle, entitled “Phonetic and phonological variation on reality television: dynamics and interspeaker variation”.
Current topics in phonology: a computational approach
Instructor: Morgan Sonderegger
This course will address several topics of current interest in phonology, united by the theme of variability in sound systems, using a hands-on approach. Students will first learn to program in Python, with a focus on tools needed to extract information from corpora which can be used to test research questions about phonological variability — though these tools are useful for experimental and theoretical studies more generally.* We will then cover several topics related to variability, for two weeks each, including (preliminary list):
- Sources of variability
Explanations which have been proposed for the structure of phonologicalvariability, such as Steriade’s influential P-map hypothesis, which links the perceptibility of phonological contrasts to their likelihood of being used in a language.
- Variability in the lexicon
Within a given language, some unattested/attested sound sequences are judged worse/better than others by native speakers, and certain sound sequences are heavily overrepresented across the lexicon (the most famous example being co-occurrence asymmetries among consonants in Arabic). Much recent work explores how to account for such “probabilistic phonotactics” in terms of some type(s) of similarity between segments (e.g. perceptual distinctiveness, number of shared features).
- Variability in realization
Phonological variation — any situation where the same underlying morpheme can be realized as different surface forms in a given environment — has gained extensive attention in phonological theory over the past 15 years. Phenomena such as English t/d deletion (e.g. realization of “went” with or without the final [t]) are increasingly, though not uncontroversially, seen as part of phonology proper, rather than simply “phonetic implementation”.
- Variability in grammar:
Classic optimality theory (OT) can only account for categorical phonologicalpatterns. The increasing interest in gradient patterns (such as probabilistic phonotactics and phonological variation) in phonology has gone hand-in-hand with the adoption of theoretical frameworks which can account for both categorical and gradient patterns, most notably Maximum Entropy grammars and Stochastic OT.
For each topic, we will alternate theoretical and practical weeks: in the first week we will discuss 1-2 key papers and formulate research questions which build on them; in the second week (and a subsequent homework assignment), we will write and deploy Python scripts to test these questions, by extracting relevant data from corpora or running simulations. For example, after reading Frisch et al.’s influential paper on gradient consonant co-occurrence patterns in Arabic, which explains them in terms of similarity between segments, we might write scripts to extract consonant co-occurrence data from a pronunciation lexicon of a different language, and see whether Frisch et al’s account works for it as well.
Because of the hands-on nature of the course, most evaluation will be via frequent homework assignments, which will combine programming and brief write-ups. There may also be a short final paper for students in Phonology 4, which can either build on one of the homework assignments or continue an existing research project.
LING 665 (Semantics 4) / LING 765 (Seminar in Semantics) will focus this year on the semantics of modality.
The class will consist of two parts. The first part will provide students with a gentle hands-on introduction to the classic analysis of modal auxiliaries and conditionals developed by Angelika Kratzer. We will start by surveying the limits of an extensional semantics of the type encountered in Semantics 3 and will then progressively introduce some basic tools to capture the meaning of modals and conditionals. In this part, we will familiarize ourselves with the analysis of modals as restricted quantifiers over possible worlds, the ranking of worlds in the domain of quantification, and the interaction between if-clauses and modals.
The second part of the course will survey some more recent developments in the semantics of modals. This part will focus on the interaction of modality and aspect and the semantic import of the syntactic distinction between `high’ (epistemic and some deontic) and `low’ (root) modals, as investigated in recent work by Valentine Hacquard. We will also survey recent work on the evidential component of epistemic modals by von Fintel and Gillies, and, time permitting, we will study two recent proposals by von Fintel and Iatridou on the interpretation of weak necessity modals and sufficiency constructions.
LING 665: homework assignments, class presentation, final paper.
LING 765 (Pass/Fail): homework assignments, class presentation.
March 14-16, 2014
SLUM is looking for speakers for the next 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!
McGill will be well represented at the 19th Amsterdam Colloquium, a major biannual semantics meeting. Alexandra Simonenko, Bernhard Schwarz and Luis Alonso-Ovalle will present at the main session and Dan Goodhue and Michael Wagner at the joint SemDial/Amsterdam Colloquium session.
To celebrate the occasion, at least a subset of the presenters will give practice talks at the Syntax/Semantics Reading Group on Friday December 6 from 2:30 to 4:30 (room 117). Everybody is invited to attend.
P.S: Note that Sepideh’s talk, originally scheduled for December 6 has been postponed.
Our very own Gretchen McCulloch has been in the news lately for her blogging on internet speech. Her blog post on a new type of internet-speak construction involving because was quoted in a recent article in The Atlantic and she was interviewed last week by the CBC. You can here her full interview here. Because awesome.
Please note that the time and location of Richard Compton‘s colloquium talk at Concordia this Friday has changed. New coordinates are as follows. The talk will be immediately followed by a wine and cheese reception.
When: Friday, 11/29 4:30pm
Where: Concordia University, H-565 (Henry F. Hall Building, 1455 de Mainsonneuve)
Who: Eliot Michaelson (Philosophy. McGill)
What: ”Against Salientism”.
Both philosophers of language and linguists commonly appeal to salience in order to fix the meanings of context-sensitive terms in context. By considering the particular case of demonstratives, I will argue that the claim that salience fixes meaning in context is either trivial and uninformative, or else it is false. To show this, it will prove necessary to distinguish between four different types of salience: objective, speaker-oriented, listener-oriented, and coordinative. Objective salience, I argue, is in fact conceptually incoherent. The other three notions, on the other hand, make bad predictions in a number of cases. On this basis, I suggest that salience-based theories ought to be dispreferred to the alternative hypothesis —that speakers’ intentions are in fact responsible for fixing meaning in context.
When: Friday, November 29, 2013, 3:00-4:30 pm. (Room 117)
McGill post-doc Richard Compton will give a colloquium talk at Concordia this Friday: ”Two types of adjectives hiding in Inuit.” The talk will be on November 29th at 4:15 PM in H415 and will be followed by a wine and cheese reception. You can find more details on the Concordia LSA’s website.
Tokiko Okuma has just returned from the workshop, Pronouns@Tübingen, held at the University of Tübingen in Germany from November 15-17. She presented a paper, titled “Empirical evidence for the coreferential reading of Japanese overt pronouns.” She received the Arts Graduate Students Travel Award for this trip. The full program can be found here.
She also presented a poster, titled “Three factors affecting the coreferential interpretation of Japanese pronouns” at the CRBLM Scientific Day, held at UQAM on November 22. The full program can be found here. Nice work Toki!
Mark your calendars! On Sat-Sun March 22-23, 2014, McGill Linguistics will host a joint meeting of two regional conferences: MOLT (phonology — formerly “MOT”) and MOTH (syntax). Students are especially encouraged to submit work! The call is below.
The Department of Linguistics at McGill University is pleased to announce the call for a joint meeting of MOLT (Montreal-Ottawa-Laval-Toronto) Phonology Workshop (formerly MOT), and MOTH (Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Hamilton) Syntax Workshop.
The workshop will take place Saturday and Sunday March 22nd and 23rd at McGill, and will involve parallel phonology and syntax sessions, as well as a poster session and a joint session for work at the phonology-syntax interface. The workshop will also include an invited talk on work at the syntax–phonology interface by Glyne Piggott.
Anonymous abstracts on any topic in phonology or syntax (along with their interfaces) should be submitted electronically as PDFs. Abstracts should not exceed 500 words, including examples and references. Graduate students are especially encouraged to submit work. Work may be presented in French or English.
Deadline for receipt of abstracts: Friday, January 10th, 2014. Abstracts should be submitted using EasyChair, at
Please circulate this call for papers among your colleagues and students.
Hope to see you in Montreal!
Jessica Coon (MOTH) and Morgan Sonderegger (MOLT), on behalf of the organizing committee
Le département de linguistique de l’université McGill a le plaisir de lancer l’appel de propositions conjoint de l’atelier de phonologie MOLT (Montréal-Ottawa-Laval-Toronto), anciennement MOT, ainsi que de l’atelier de syntaxe MOTH (Montréal-Ottawa-Toronto-Hamilton).
L’atelier aura lieu samedi et dimanche les 22 et 23 mars à McGill et sera constitué de sessions parallèles de phonologie et de syntaxe, en plus en plus d’une session de présentations par affiche et d’un atelier conjoint pour les travaux se trouvant à l’interface de la phonologie et la syntaxe. Nous aurons le plaisir de recevoir Glyne Piggott en tant que conférencier invité, qui nous présentera ses travaux à l’interface de la syntaxe de de la phonologie.
Les résumés anonymes portant sur tout sujet en syntaxe ou en phonologie (ainsi que leurs interfaces) doivent être soumis électroniquement en format PDF. Les résumés ne doivent pas dépasser 500 mots, incluant les exemples et les références. Les étudiants gradués sont particulièrement encouragés à soumettre leur travaux. Les présentations pourront avoir lieu en français ou en anglais.
Date limite de soumission pour les résumés : vendredi le 10 janvier 2014. Les résumés doivent être soumis à l’aide de EasyChair, à l’adresse suivante:
Au plaisir de vous voir à Montréal!
Jessica Coon (MOTH) et Morgan Sonderegger (MOLT), au nom du comité organisateur