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The McGill Linguistics Department Newsletter
Updated: 17 hours 29 min ago

Move&Agree, 3/5 – Chen 2017

Mon, 03/01/2021 - 02:20

Move&Agree Reading Group is meeting this Friday, March 05 and will be discussing Chen’s 2017 paper entitled Philippine type voice affixes as A’-agreement. Please contact Hermann Keupdjio for Zoom information.

McGill @ DGfS 43

Mon, 03/01/2021 - 02:00

McGill was represented at the 43rd Annual Conference of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS 43, Freiburg, February 23-26, 2021), presenting the following talks in two focused workshops:

Aurore Gonzalez and Justin Royer
“Expletive negation and negative polarity: the view from Québec French”
(Workshop on Empirical approaches to canonical and non-canonical uses of negation)

Elizabeth Bogal-Allbritten, Keir Moulton (postdoc 2009-11) and Junko Shimoyama
“Nouny propositions and their individual correlates: the view from Japanese”
(Workshop on the nouniness of propositional arguments)

P* Reading Group, 2/22 — Natália Brambatti Guzzo

Mon, 02/22/2021 - 03:00

This week Natália Brambatti Guzzo will be leading discussion on “Pretonic Vowel Reduction in Brazilian Portuguese: Harmony and Dispersion”. P* Group meets on Mondays at 12:30pm. All are welcome! To get information on how to join the meeting, please register here.

Fieldwork Lab Meeting, 2/25 — Victoria Chen

Mon, 02/22/2021 - 02:30

This week during our fieldwork lab meeting, Victoria Chen (Assistant Professor in Syntax at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand) will present “When Austronesian-type voice meets Indo-European-type voice: Insights from Puyuma”. See attached abstract! Contact Carol-Rose if you would like to join the fieldwork lab. We meet from 4-5pm on Thursdays.

Public lecture, 2/25 — Michel DeGraff at Concordia

Mon, 02/22/2021 - 02:30

Black History Month at Concordia, the Black Perspectives Office, and the Centre for Cognitive Science present a public lecture by Professor Michel DeGraff (MIT)
#BlackLivesMatter → #OurLanguagesMatter
Language rights are HUMAN rights—in Haiti and beyond

When: Thursday Feb. 25 at 18:00
Where: Zoom—register here to receive the meeting ID and passcode
Who: Open to the university community and the general public

Abstract: As a creolist who works on language and education for social justice (http://MIT-Ayiti.NET, I continuously puzzle at the vast array of educators, activists, intellectuals, politicians, etc., who fail to realize that language rights are at the core of human rights. This puzzlement will take us to my native Haiti and other outposts of Empire where we can document spectacular violations of linguistic rights in the course of knowledge production and in the workings of human-rights organizations. We’ll highlight the persistent incoherence in these patterns throughout history… Or perhaps there’s a logic (a colonial racist logic?) to this apparent madness. In this talk, I’ll take Haiti and Creolistics as twin case studies to try and understand the genesis of these human-rights violations as part of the history of colonization and slavery. Then I’ll present one specific and concrete set of “direct actions” (à la Martin Luther King Jr.) that we linguists and educators can take toward a constructive forward-looking resolution of these violations. Here our case study is the MIT-Haiti Initiative where we’re helping to usher a paradigm shift in the perception and use of Haitian Creole as a key tool for universal access to quality education and for the respect of human rights in Haiti. We hope, perhaps with too much optimism, that our MIT-Haiti Initiative, in spite of its obvious limitations (after all, MIT is part of the Global North), can serve as one among other models that can help the Global South recover, and perhaps even escape, from imperialism and racism.

Dr. Michel DeGraff is a Professor of Linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Director of MIT-Haiti Initiative. This talk is sponsored by the Black Perspectives Office and the Centre for Cognitive Science, with support from Concordia’s INDI Program, Linguistics Program and Linguistics Student Association.

MCQLL Meeting, 2/25 — Richard Futrell

Mon, 02/22/2021 - 02:30

This week’s MCQLL meeting, taking place Thursday, Feb 25th, 1:30-2:30pm will feature a talk entitled “Information-theoretic models of natural language” by Professor Richard Futrell. Abstract and bio are below. If you would like to join the meeting and have not yet registered for this semester’s MCQLL meetings, please send an email to requesting the link.

Abstract: I claim that human languages can be modeled as information-theoretic codes, that is, systems that maximize information transfer under certain constraints. I argue that the relevant constraints for human language are those involving the cognitive resources used during language production and comprehension. Viewing human language in this way, it is possible to derive and test new quantitative predictions about the statistical, syntactic, and morphemic structure of human languages.

I start by reviewing some of the many ways that natural languages differ from optimal codes as studied in information theory. I argue that one distinguishing characteristic of human languages, as opposed to other natural and artificial codes, is a property I call “information locality”: information about particular aspects of meaning is localized in time within a linguistic utterance. I give evidence for information locality at multiple levels of linguistic structure, including the structure of words and the order of words in sentences.

Next, I state a theorem showing that information locality is a property of any communication system where the encoder and/or decoder are operating incrementally under memory constraints. The theorem yields a new, fully formal, and quantifiable definition of information locality, which leads to new predictions about word order and the structure of words across languages. I test these predictions in broad corpus studies of word order in over 50 languages, and in case studies of the order of morphemes within words in two languages.

Bio: Richard Futrell is an Assistant Professor of Language Science at the University of California, Irvine. His research applies information theory to better understand human language and how humans and machines can learn and process it.

Sytax/Semantics group, 2/26 – Masashi Harada presenting Viola Schmitt

Mon, 02/22/2021 - 02:20
This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, February 26th at 2:30pm. Masashi Harada will be presenting a recent paper by Viola Schmitt titled “Cumulation Across Attitudes and Plural Projection”. The presentation will be related to the colloquium talk that Viola Schmitt will be giving directly after the reading group. Below is an abstract for the paper. Abstract: This paper investigates cumulative readings of sentences in which some, but not all of the plural expressions have a de dicto reading, i.e. sentences where the lower plural is interpreted in the scope of an attitude verb like believe. I argue that such cases represent a problem for existing accounts of cumulativity, because the required cumulative relation cannot be formed. I then motivate and propose an alternative analysis where all plural expressions are interpreted in situ: I expand the ‘plural projection’ framework put forth by Haslinger & Schmitt (2018, 2019), Schmitt (2019), where embedded pluralities ‘project’ to the denotations of higher nodes in the sense that the latter reflect the part-structure of the former and where cumulativity is derived via a compositional rule in a step-by-step fashion. I show that if the denotations of the plurals with the de dicto construal are analyzed as pluralities of individual concepts, which project in the afore-mentioned sense to pluralities of propositions, the data can be explained straightforwardly. This proposal differs from treatments in terms of collective belief that don’t appeal to pluralities of propositions (Pasternak 2018a,b), in that it (i) arguably generalizes to a larger number of examples and (ii) links grammatical plurality in the embedded clause to the availability of cumulative readings.

Syntax/semantics group, 2/19 – Hermann Keupdjio on resumptive pronouns in Bamikele (rescheduled)

Mon, 02/15/2021 - 02:20

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, February 19th at 2:30pm. Hermann Keupdjio––rescheduled from last week due to Montreal-wide internet problems––will be presenting his work on the syntax and semantics of resumptive pronouns in Bamileke entiled “Economy of derivation vs economy of interpretation: Resumption in Medumba”. An abstract is here: abstract

Bernhard Schwarz at UCL

Mon, 02/15/2021 - 02:00

As part of the UCL Linguistics Seminar series, Bernhard Schwarz gave an invited talk today entitled “Comparisons of concentration and the composition of dimensions”, reporting on on joint work with Alan Bale (Concordia University) and David Shanks (McGill University).

Colloquium, 2/26 — Viola Schmitt

Mon, 02/15/2021 - 02:00

Our next talk in the 2020-2021 McGill Linguistics Colloquium Series will be given by Viola Schmitt (Humboldt University Berlin) on Friday, February 26th at 3:30pm. The title of the talk is “Are worlds special?”. The abstract can be found at the end of this message.

Viola is interested in meeting with students and faculty. If you are interested in setting up a meeting with her, please contact Masashi Harada by next Monday with a list of your availability on February 26th from 10:00 – 13:30.

If you have not yet registered for the colloquium series, please do so here (you only need to register once for the 2020-2021 year). For more information on upcoming events in the McGill Linguistics department, please see our website.

This talk (which owes a lot to current joint projects with Nina Haslinger, Eva Rosina, Tim Stowell and Valerie Wurm) addresses an apparent gap in an otherwise apparently robust pattern, namely, that all semantic domains contain pluralities (or at least objects with a non-trivial part structure). In the individual domain, plurality-denoting expressions have a number of well-known characteristic properties (see Link 1983 for a general discussion): On the one hand, we have properties that are intuitively related to the presence of a part-whole relation – plurality- denoting expressions can partake in cumulative readings (Scha 1981 a.m.o.) and be targeted by certain adverbs that seem to directly appeal to their part-structure (Link 1987, Zimmermann 2002 a.o.). On the other hand, a subset of plurality-denoting expressions – namely, definite plurals and individual conjunctions – can give rise to homogeneity effects (Löbner 2000, Schwarzschild 1993, Križ 2015 a.o.) and some of these expressions sometimes permit non-maximal predication (Brisson 1998, Malamud 2012, Križ 2016 a.o.). My first point will be to show that if we consider the first set of tests, the notion of plurality (or rather, some form of part-structure) is pretty much persistent across semantic domains: It looks like we find pluralities in the domains of a number other ‘primitives’, like events, degrees and times (see Landman 2000, Dotlacˇil & Nouwen 2016, Artstein & Francez 2006 a.m.o. for discussion of different types of such primitives), as well as in ‘functional’ domains like those of predicates of individuals, propositions, question denotations, quantifiers or individual concepts (see Schmitt 2019, 2020, Beck & Sharvit 2002, Haslinger 2019, Haslinger & Schmitt to appear for discussion of different aspects of this claim). I will then argue, based on data from German, that the best candidates for world-pluralities fail these tests. First, it has been argued that the antecedents of (indicative) conditionals denote (definite) pluralities of worlds (see Schlenker (2004), Kaufmann (2017), Križ (2018, 2019)) because they exhibit two traits of plurality: Homogeneity and non- maximality (see in particular Križ (2018) for these points and Gajewski (2005) for relevant connected observations). Second, neg-raising constructions with attitude verbs have been discussed as potentially involving world-pluralities, with neg-raising being a potential instance of homogeneity (see Križ (2015) for a discussion of this possibility). However, neither construction allows for cumulative readings that appeal to parts of world pluralities (rather than, say, pluralities of propositions). Furthermore, adverbs sensitive to part-structure which, in all other cases, seem to be pretty much category blind, cannot access parts of world pluralities. The last part of the talk will probe the consequences of these findings. (Warning: I don’t really have a solution, yet, just some speculations.)

Syntax/semantics group, 2/12 – Hermann Keupdjio on resumptive pronouns in Bamikele

Mon, 02/08/2021 - 08:41

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, February 12th at 2:30pm. Hermann Keupdjio will be presenting his work on the syntax and semantics of resumptive pronouns in Bamileke entiled “Economy of derivation vs economy of interpretation: Resumption in Medumba”. An abstract is here: abstract

P* Reading Group, 2/8 — Beini Wang

Mon, 02/08/2021 - 03:00

Next Monday at 12:30pm, Beini will lead a discussion on “Tone languages and the universality of intrinsic F0: evidence from Africa”.

We are changing the meeting time because we are still trying to find a good time for everyone. If none of the times work well, we might do different times each week based on what’s best for most people and on the availability of the discussion leaders.

To join the meeting, please use information in the confirmation email that you received following registration. If you haven’t registered, please do so here.

SLUM + LING 215 presents: Menashe — 2/11

Mon, 02/08/2021 - 02:20

SLUM, together with Carol-Rose Little’s LING 215 (Languages of the World) class will be showing their first movie, Menashe in Yiddish with subtitles in English. Zoë Belk and Eli Benedict will provide a commentary and Q&A after the movie. The showing begins at 8pm EST on Thursday, February 11th and will be streamed over Zoom.

Link to register for Menashe:
Synopsis of Menashe: A year after his wife’s death, a widower faces pressure from his Hasidic community to give up his son for adoption unless he finds a new partner.

Clint Parker in Iranian Studies

Mon, 02/08/2021 - 02:00

Clint Parker recently published a book review of The Routledge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition and Pedagogy of Persian, which was edited by Pouneh Shabani-Jadidi, senior lecturer of Persian in McGill’s Islamic Studies Department.  The review was published with the journal Iranian Studies and can be found here.

Carol-Rose Little in Cornell “alumna spotlight”

Mon, 02/08/2021 - 02:00

McGill postdoctoral fellow Carol-Rose Little was recently featured in a Cornell University “Alumna Spotlight”, where she talks about her work as well as her (virtual) time in the McGill department. Nice work Carol-Rose!

Fieldwork Lab Meeting, 2/4 — Jorge Emilio Rosés Labrada and Erin Hashimoto

Mon, 02/01/2021 - 02:20

At this week’s Fieldwork Lab meeting, Jorge Emilio Rosés Labrada and Erin Hashimoto will give a presentation entitled “Using Legacy Text Collections for Student Training and Linguistic Research”. Details follow. Fieldwork Lab meets on Thursdays at 4:00pm. Contact Carol-Rose Little if you would like to attend.


Using Legacy Text Collections for Student Training and Linguistic Research


Jorge Emilio Rosés Labrada
Assistant Professor, Indigenous Languages Sustainability
University of Alberta

Erin Hashimoto
MA Student
University of Victoria


In language documentation, the “Boasian trilogy”—which has come to be seen as the gold standard— refers to a grammar, a dictionary and a text collection. While grammars and dictionaries have received substantial attention in the literature over the last 30 years, text collections remain understudied. Yet legacy texts—broadly understood here to include narratives, procedural texts, songs, etc. collected in the past—constitute invaluable sources of language and culture for many Indigenous communities. In this talk, we focus on the potential of legacy text collections in student training and linguistic research through a case study on the mobilization of such a collection for Makah (Wakashan, Washington State, USA). To conclude, we also briefly explore the potential benefits of such work for communities.

Syntax/semantics group, 2/5 – Bernhard Schwarz

Mon, 02/01/2021 - 02:20
This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, February 5th at 2:30pm. Bernhard Schwarz will be presenting his recent work with Alan Bale (Concordia) and David Shanks (McGill), ‘Measurement monotonicity and comparisons of concentration’. A precursor of this work can be found at: Abstract: Grammar does not fully determine a measure function for much to invoke when combining with a mass noun, as in more watermore string, or more travel. But certain measure functions are invariably excluded. Schwarzschild (2006) argued that permissible measure functions must be monotonic—they must track the relevant parthood relation between entities in the mass noun’s extension. We draw attention to potential counterexamples to this constraint: comparisons of concentration, comparatives about the concentration of substances in substances that contain them. Such comparatives seemingly reference measure functions that are non-monotonic, as they seem to output degrees of purity or density (Bale and Barner 2009). Extending Bale and Schwarz (2020), however, we argue that they must not in fact be so analyzed. What such cases actually teach us, we propose, is that much can reference Skolemized measure functions—functions that map any individual, their Skolem argument, to a measure function.  Comparisons of concentration can arise when different values serve as Skolem arguments in the main clause and in the comparative clause. Schwarzschild’s constraint, now extended to also apply to the outputs of Skolemized measure functions, can and must be upheld.

P* Group — No Meeting

Mon, 02/01/2021 - 02:00

P* Group will resume regular scheduled meetings next week, stay tuned!

Call for papers for “Move and Agree” workshop, cohosted by McGill and UBC

Mon, 02/01/2021 - 02:00

The call for papers is now out for the workshop Move and Agree: Forum on the Formal Typology of A’-Agreement, cohosted by McGill and UBC and co-organized by Hermann Keupdjio, James Crippen, and Rose-Marie Decháine (UBC). The workshop will take place virtually May 31st–June 24th, with abstracts due March 5th.

The invited speaker line-up includes current and former McGill affiliates: Nico Baier (postdoc ’18–’19), Michael Hamilton (PhD ’15), Carol-Rose Little, and Martina Martinović. The workshop description is below:

The minimalist research program (Chomsky 1995 et seq.) creates a paradox for movement operations: Merge is conceptually necessary, but Move – and its accompanying Agree relation – is not. Yet there are many natural language phenomena which are insightfully analyzed using the metaphors of movement and agreement. We wish to theorize the paradox of Move/Agree (Keupdjio 2020), namely why does Move/Agree exist at all, if it is conceptually unnecessary? This forum focuses on the syntactic contexts that can be analyzed as instances of A′-movement and which are also associated with A′-agreement; e.g. content questions, relativization, information-structure operations like topicalization and focus. The agreement morphology that arises with A′-movement is known under various names:

  • A′-agreement (Keupdjio 2020);
  • wh-agreement (Chung 1994, Carstens 2005, Reintges, LeSourd & Chung 2006, Hedinger 2008, Schneider-Zioga 2009, Lochbihler & Mathieu 2010);
  • wh-copying (Fanselow & Mahajan 2000, Felser 2004);
  • extraction morphology (Zentz 2016);
  • complementizer agreement (McCloskey 2001, Carstens 2003);
  • reflex of successive cyclic movement (van Urk 2015, Georgi 2017).

Grouping these various morphological reflexes of A′-movement together as instances of A′-agreement, this forum explores the connection between A′-movement and A′-agreement with two goals in mind:

  1. to gain a broader and deeper empirical coverage of A′-agreement via case studies of typologically distinct languages from a variety of language families;

  2. to move forward the theory of A′-agreement defined as a non-local morphosyntactic feature-sharing mechanism that correlates with A′-movement (Baier 2018).

SLUM+LING 215 Linguistics movie nights

Mon, 02/01/2021 - 02:00

The SLUM, together with Carol-Rose Little’s LING 215 (Languages of the World) class, are hosting three upcoming virtual movie nights, featuring movies in Yiddish, Tsotsil, and Haida. See poster below for details! Registration links in the poster are not clickable in this blog post, but are:

  • Menashe –
  • Tote/Abuelo –
  • Edge of the Knife –


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