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The McGill Linguistics Department Newsletter
Updated: 5 hours 45 min ago

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.