Nico Baier recently received his PhD in Linguistics from UC Berkeley. At McGill this year he’ll be doing a post-doc with Jessica Coon working on agreement and anti-agreement in Kabyle, a Berber language of Algeria. His research interests are in theoretical syntax, morphology, and typology, with particular focus on agreement and extraction and their interaction.
Ying Li did her PhD degree in Linguistics at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne and her research interests lie primarily in Second Language Acquisition, particularly in the acquisition of L2 phonology, phonetics, and morphology. Her postdoctoral research, supervised by Heather Goad, explores prosodic transfer in a case where the grammar of the language being learned is a subset of the native language grammar. This study is funded by China Scholarship Council.
This semester, Syntax Group is organized by Henrison and Nico and will meet Wednesdays from 1–2pm in Linguistics Room 117. All are welcome to attend!
On 9/12 Nico will lead discussion of chapter 2 of Coppe van Urk’s dissertation, which is an overview of the A vs A-bar distinction. The full dissertation may be found here:The current schedule for meetings this semester can be found here.
McGill Linguists, past and present, attended Sinn und Bedeutung 23, hosted by the Centre de Lingüística Teòrica at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, on September 5-7, 2018. Presentations included:
- Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Esmail Moghiseh – Contradiction-Free Strengthening and Alternative Discharge: Persian -i Indefinites
- Amir Anvari, Brian Buccola (PhD McGill 2016) and Andreas Haida – Alternative questions in Farsi
- Alan Bale (PhD McGill 2006) and Bernhard Schwarz – Reverse proportionality without context dependent standards.
- Daniel Goodhue (PhD McGill 2018) – High negation questions and epistemic bias.
Welcome to the 2018–2019 academic year from McLing, your weekly McGill linguistics newsletter digest. This year’s faculty editors are Jessica and Tim, and Francesco is joining the team as graduate student editor. Throughout the year, don’t forget to send McLing your linguistics news and events!
Jacob Hoover is interested in formal linguistics and logic, and has an undergraduate background in mathematics. He is starting the graduate program at McGill after ten years of a career as a ballet dancer, and is also curious about the structure of nonlinguistic communication such as dance.
William Johnston‘s interests are in syntax, semantics, and the cognitive science of language. He completed a B.A. in linguistics at Carleton College.
Esmail Moghiseh‘s research interests lie primarily in semantics and pragmatics, and he is also interested in philosophy of language. He earned a master’s degree in engineering from Concordia University, and completed his second degree, B.A. in Linguistics, at McGill University
Michaela Socolof‘s main interests are in syntax, computational linguistics, and fieldwork. She completed her B.A. in Linguistics here at McGill, minoring in Italian, then spent a year as a Baggett Fellow in the University of Maryland’s linguistics department.
Ken Wickham is entering into a qualifying year at McGill having previously completed a BA in Near Eastern studies at the University of Washington. He is primarily focused on syntax, morphology, and typology as they relate to ergativity, but is also interested in syntax-semantics interface, language acquisition, and philosophy of language.
Vanna Willteron got her B.A. in Linguistics, minoring in Philosophy, at Carleton University and has just completed a Qualifying Year here at McGill. She spent the year developing math and programming skills and is finally ready to start her MA, with research interests primarily in computational linguistics.
McGill linguists did a lot of linguistics this summer! Here is a selection of summer news:
In early July, Amelia Bruno and Eva Portelance (BA McGill, now at Stanford) presented a poster at the “Learning Languages in Humans and Machines” conference in Paris, entitled “A Framework for Lexicalized Grammar Induction Using Variational Bayesian Inference”. This work was coauthored with Tim O’Donnell and Leon Bergen (UCSD).
Jessica Coon returned from her six-month sabbatical stay in Mexico, then in August traveled to Guatemala where she gave a plenary talk (‘Construyendo verbos en chuj y ch’ol’) as well as a collaborative talk (‘Relativas libres en ch’ol y maya yucateco y la tipología de cláusulas relativas sin núcleo’ with Scott Anderbois, Oscar Chan Dzul, and Juan Jesús Vázquez Álvarez) at FAMLi 5.
Brendan Gillon gave one talk entitled ‘Underspecification and the count mass distinction’ at a conference called The Count and Mass Distinction: a linguistic understanding?, held in May at Ruhr Univesität, in Bochum, Germany. Later in the summer, he gave a talk entitled ‘Complementation in Sanskrit treated by a modest generalization of categorial grammar’ in the Sanskrit Computational and Digital Humanities session of the 18th World Sanskrit Conference, held at the University of British Columbia.
Jacob Hoover, Michael Wagner, Masashi Harada, and Gouming Martens (from left to right in the photo below) attended the 2nd Crete Summer School of Linguistics in Rethymnon in July.
Henrison Hsieh published a paper in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory entitled Distinguishing nouns and verbs: A Tagalog case study. It is currently available online here.Donghyun Kim successfully defended his thesis in August titled “Individual differences in plasticity in speech perception”. Don is off to a post doc at the University of Exeter working with Nicholas Dumay on research involving speech, memory, and sleep. Best of luck Don!
Tim O’Donnell visited the Digital and Cognitive Musicology Laboratory at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne this summer to work with collaborators Martin Rohrmeier and Daniel Harasim on models of musical cognition.
Clint Parker attended CoLang 2018 (the Institute on Collaborative Language Research) at the University of Florida. During the first two weeks, he attended workshops focused on ethical considerations in fieldwork and collaboration between universities and Indigenous peoples in language revitalisation. In the second three weeks, he participated in a practicum in which he helped compile materials and analyze the grammar of the dormant Timucua language, once spoken in northern Florida. His CoLang work will feed into his second Evaluation Paper, which will connect to language revitalisation and the role of the university in supporting Indigenous languages.Justin Royer did three months of research and fieldwork in Mexico, where he was supervised by Roberto Zavala at the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS) in San Cristóbal de las Casas, funded by a MITACs travel grant. While in Mexico, he participated to the workshop on Headless Relatives Clauses in Mesoamerican Languages CIESAS. He also attended two conferences where he presented two talks, and one joint poster with Luis Alonso-Ovalle:
- In May, at the Primer encuentro de estudios sobre el Chuj at the Universidad Autónoma de México he gave a talk entitled ‘La (in)definitud en chuj y los clasificadores nominales’.
- In August, at Form and Analysis in Mayan Linguistics (FAMLi 5) in Antigua, Guatemala he gave a talk titled Configuraciones referenciales en chuj and a poster (with Luis Alonso-Ovalle) titled ‘La modalidad de decisión arbitraria en chuj: komon‘
Liz Smeets travelled to Italy to test second language learners of Italian with Romanian or English as a first language for her dissertation research on Conditions on L1 transfer in L2 discourse-syntax mappings. Liz also published a paper entitled ‘The acquisition of object movement in Dutch: L1 transfer and near-native grammars at the syntax–discourse interface’ in Second Language Research. The paper can be found here.
In July, Lisa Travis gave a joint paper at the International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics (ICAL) with Ileana Paul, held at the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar. She stayed on ten days to work with students and professors at the university (see attached photo) collecting data for a paper co-authored with Baholisoa Ralalaoherivony and Jeannot Fils Ranaivoson on dialect variation in Malagasy focus constructions.
The Montréal Computational and Quantitative Linguistics Laboratory (MCQLL) hosted two local workshops. From June 11-15, MCQLL held a workshop on models of morphological productivity which included visitor Mika Braginsky from MIT. From August 15-17, MCQLL hosted a workshop on computational minimalist grammars and parsing which included Eva Portelance, visiting from Stanford, and Leon Bergen, visiting from UCSD.
Finally, a number of other publications involving current and former McGill authors came out this summer! These include:
Mackenzie, Sara, Erin Olson, Meghan Clayards, and Michael Wagner (2018). North American /l/ both darkens and lightens depending on prosodic context. Laboratory Phonology, 9(1)(13) DOI: 10.5334/labphon.104
Santi, Andrea, Nino Grillo, Emilia Molimpakis & Michael Wagner (2018) Processing relative clauses across comprehension and production: similarities and differences, Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1080/23273798.2018.1513539
We are happy to share our colloquium schedule for the upcoming academic year. As always, colloquia will take place Fridays at 3:30, rooms TBA. Mark your calendars!
Two faculty have been awarded NSERC Discovery grants for 2018-2023:
Tim O’Donnell: “Towards Robust Unsupervised Language Learning”
Michael Wagner: “Three dimensions of sentence prosody”
Congratulations to Sepideh Mortazavinia for a successful thesis defence on Friday June 1st 2018! Below find the abstract from her thesis.
One of the differences between first language (L1) acquisition, which is always successful, and second language (L2) acquisition, where convergence on target-like representations is not always possible, is that L2 learners are already equipped with the fully established system of their L1. In fact, a great body of literature has shown that L2 learners demonstrate systematic errors in the L2 which can be attributed to the properties of their L1. The present study contributes to this area of research on the role of L1 transfer by investigating the L2 acquisition of semantic properties related to the word even across English and Persian. In particular, focus will be on the additive presupposition of even and how it is manifested in the two languages. The study will consider two learning directions: L1 Persian L2 English and L1 English L2 Persian. These two languages differ in the ways the additive presupposition is encoded: In English, the additive presupposition of even is triggered only when even is used in prenominal syntactic position. I assume that this presupposition is covertly expressed because it is not encoded in an overt lexical item and is constrained by syntax. Besides, the expression of this presupposition is indirect, because it is a secondary function of even, assuming that this particle is used to express surprise, unexpectedness, or unlikelihood primarily. Therefore, the assumption will be that L1 English L2 learners of Persian start off by a covert and indirect system of encoding the additive presupposition from their L1. L1 Persian L2 learners of English, on the other hand, start off by an overt and direct system of encoding additivity: the additive presupposition is lexicalized on an additive operator ham which overtly and directly triggers this presupposition.
In this study, the Feature Reassembly Hypothesis (FRH) (Lardiere 2005, 2008, 2009, and subsequent work) was implemented as the theoretical standpoint to investigate the extent to which L2 learners in both languages fail and/or succeed at acquiring the semantic system of the L2s, as described above. This theory assumes a mapping stage in L2 acquisition where learners map their L1 feature specifications onto the L2, as well as a reassembly stage triggered by inconsistencies between the L2 input and the L1, where the L2 learners reconfigure their feature organizations onto those of the L2. Felicity judgment experiments were designed and administered on two proficiency learner groups, intermediate and advanced, in order to monitor L2 development in both stages of acquisition. The results indicated strong lingering L1 effects in both proficiency groups for both L2 learning directions which were identified as sources of difficulty in converging on target-like feature configuration. In particular, the L1 Persian L2 learners of English demonstrated that dissociating from an L1 feature which is overtly expressed in favour of acquiring an L2 covert system of encoding the same feature presents considerable challenge to the L2 learners. In addition, the L1 English L2 learners of Persian showed that it is not difficult to learn the absence of an L1 covert and indirect encoding system in the L2. It is, however, challenging to acquire the overt L2 system when the native language offers an indirect way of expressing the same feature.
We are pleased to announce that the Department of Linguistics will be hosting the Symposium on Second Language Acquisition in Honour of Lydia White, August 31–September 1, 2018. The program is attached. Everyone is invited to attend. You can find the program here.
We gratefully acknowledge the support of our McGill sponsors: Provost’s Research Fund, Dean of Arts’ Development Fund, as well as the Department of Linguistics.