Next meeting: Friday 22 March 2019, 1h30-3 PM, room 117, 1085 Dr Penfield
Presenter: Claudia Perez-Herrera
- Bermudez-Otero, R. (2016) We do not need structuralist morphemes, but we do need constituent structure. In Daniel Siddiqi & Heidi Harley (eds), 2016, Morphological metatheory (Linguistics Today 229), 387–430. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/002774
McGILL UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF LINGUISTICS AND SCHOOL OF COMPUTER SCIENCE
Language allows us to face novel concepts and situations by building structured mental representations of the world. The primary goal of my research program is to use computational models and behavioral experiments to understand how we construct and update these rich mental models both from experience (i.e., language acquisition) and from language (i.e., language processing). In this talk, I draw on methods in computational linguistics and computational cognitive science to propose a model of lexical acquisition formalized as logical program induction. First, I’ll illustrate how the model explains the systematic patterns of behavior observed in children as they acquire kinship words. Then, I will present a large cross-cultural data analysis model that infers how children use data from the timing of their lexical acquisition. Lastly, I will use children’s acquisition of exact number words as a case study to demonstrate how both of these models can be combined to learn about the universal and culturally-specific processes of the human learning machine. Taken together, this body of work provides the first computational model for how children learn relational word meanings, the first large-scale cross-linguistic model of children’s data usage during early word learning and an innovative computational toolbox for leveraging large datasets and discipline knowledge to draw theoretical insights in child development.
At next week’s meeting, Emi will present on sections of chapters 3 (“The Tipping Point”) and 4 (“Signal and Noise”) of Charles Yang’s book The Price of Linguistic Productivity; How children learn to break the rules of language. The presentation will focus on the Tolerance Principle, Yang’s account of linguistic productivity. Specifically, she will highlight the principle’s recursive applications, particularly as they apply to the case of German plural nouns.
We will meet Wednesday 5:30pm in room 117. Food will be provided
1:00 — 2:00: Karim Achab (University of Ottawa) — Diachronic and Synchronic Account of Anti-Agreement in Amazigh Languages
2:00 — 3:00: Hamid Ouali (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) — On Tense and Aspect in Tamazight
3:30 — 4:30: Khokha Fahloune (UQAM) — Retour sur les marqueurs sujet et objet en kabyle
4:30 — 5:30: Nico Baier (McGill University) — Person Case Constraint Effects in Kabyle
Please feel free to drop by for any of the talks.
Justin Royer received a Graduate Mobility Award, which will help fund a fieldwork trip in April and May to pursue research on Chuj. While in Guatemala, Justin intends to follow up on research projects related to three areas: 1) random-choice modality and the morpheme komon (joint work with Luis Alonso-Ovalle); 2) maximal and existential free relatives; and 3) nominalizations (joint work with Jessica Coon). Justin will also continue working on a collaborative grammar sketch of Chuj.
Speaker: Susi Wurmbrand (Universität Wien)
Date & Time: March 22, 2019
Place: Education Bldg. rm. 334
Title: Proper and improper A-dependencies
This talk provides an overview of case and agreement dependencies that are established across clause-boundaries, such as raising to subject or object and cross-clausal agreement. We will see that cross-clausal A-dependencies (CCADs) in several languages can apply not only across non-finite but also across finite clause boundaries. Furthermore, it will be shown that the DP entering a CCAD is situated in the specifier of the embedded CP. This poses a challenge for the traditional ‘truncation’ approach to CCADs according to which CCADs are restricted to reduced (CP-less) complements. It also poses a challenge for the view that A-dependencies cannot follow A’-dependencies involving the same element. Lastly, we can observe that a clause across which a CCAD applies functions as true, non-deficient, A’-CP for other purposes. The direction proposed to bring the observed properties together is to maintain a universal improper A-after-A′ constraint, but allow certain positions in certain CPs to qualify as A-positions from which further A-dependencies can be established.
The 12th annual Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal Semantics Workshop (TOM 12) will be co-hosted by the Department of Classics, Modern Languages and Linguistics at Concordia University and the Department of Linguistics at McGill University on Saturday, March 30, 2019. For details and registration, see https://tom12mtl.wixsite.com/tom12. All are welcome. Those planning to attend are requested to register. Registration is free.
McGill UNIVERSITY – DEPARTMENT OF LINGUISTICS AND SCHOOL OF COMPUTER SCIENCE
SPEAKER: Rachel Rudinger
PhD student, Center for Language and Speech Processing, Johns Hopkins University
TITLE: Natural Language Understanding for Events and Participants in Text
DATE: Monday, March 11, 2019
PLACE: ARTS W-20
Consider the difference between the two sentences “Pat didn’t remember to water the plants” and “Pat didn’t remember that she had watered the plants.” Fluent English speakers recognize that the former sentence implies that Pat did not water the plants, while the latter sentence implies she did. This distinction is crucial to understanding the meaning of these sentences, yet it is one that automated natural language processing (NLP) systems struggle to make. In this talk, I will discuss my work on developing state-of-the-art NLP models that make essential inferences about events (e.g., a “watering” event) and participants (e.g., “Pat” and “the plants”) in natural language sentences. In particular, I will focus on two supervised NLP tasks that serve as core tests of language understanding: Event Factuality Prediction and Semantic Proto-Role Labeling. I will also discuss my work on unsupervised acquisition of common-sense knowledge from large natural language text corpora, and the concomitant challenge of detecting problematic social biases in NLP models trained on such data.
ALL ARE WELCOME
P* Reading Group (Wednesday, 1:30 pm)We’ll be having P* Group on Wednesday, March 13th at 1:30 pm in room 831 of SCSD (2001 McGill College, 8th floor), during which Jeff will lead a discussion of Breen’s (2018) “Effects of metric hierarchy and rhyme predictability on word duration in The Cat in the Hat”. The paper is available at bit.ly/PGroup_2019a. All are welcome to attend!
McGILL UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF LINGUISTICS AND SCHOOL OF COMPUTER SCIENCE
SPEAKER: Kyle Mahowald
TITLE: Cognitive and communicative pressures in natural language
PLACE: WILSON 105
There is enormous linguistic diversity within and across language families. But all languages must be efficient for their speakers’ needs and cognitively tractable for processing. Using ideas and techniques from computer science, we can generate hypotheses about what efficient languages should look like. Using large amounts of multilingual linguistic data, computational modeling, and online behavioral experiments, we can test these hypotheses and therein explain phenomena observed across and within languages. In particular, I will focus on the lexicon and explore why languages have the words they do instead of some other set of words. First, consistent with predictions from Shannon’s information theory, languages are optimized such that the words that convey less information are a) shorter and b) easier to pronounce. For instance, word shortenings like chimpanzee -> chimp are more likely to occur when the context is predictive. Second, across 97 languages, phonotactically probable words are more likely to also have high token frequency. Third, applying these ideas about efficiency to syntax, I show that, across 37 languages, the syntactic distances between dependent words are minimized. I will conclude with a discussion of my work in experimental methods and my directions for future research.
ALL ARE WELCOME
The fieldwork lab will meet this Thursday from 4:30–6:00pm in room 117. Richard Compton (UQAM) will lead discussion ethics and university REB, and will be discussing a reading by Monica Macaulay’s (2004) article, ‘Training Students for the Realities of Fieldwork.’ If you need access to a copy of the article, or if you would like to receive regular Fieldwork Lab meeting announcements, email organizer Clint Parker.
McGill linguistics will host a Workshop on Amazigh languages on March 21st and March 22nd. The workshop will have invited talks by Karim Achab (University of Ottawa), Hamid Ouali (University of Wisconsin, Madison), and Khokha Fahloune (UQAM), as well as short presentations on Kabyle by the students in this semester’s Field Methods course.
All are welcome! If you do you plan on attending for some or all, please email organizer Nico Baier ideally by Monday, March 11.
P* Reading Group (Wednesday, 1:30 pm)We’ll be having P* Group on Wednesday, February 27th at 1:30 pm in room 831 of SCSD (2001 McGill College, 8th floor), during which Meghan will lead a discussion of Yu’s (2019) “On the nature of the perception-production link: Individual variability in English sibilant-vowel coarticulation”. The paper is available at bit.ly/PGroup_2019a. All are welcome to attend!
This week, Michael Wagner will give a talk titled “Interactions between focus and choice of intonational tune”. As usual, we will meet on Friday at 3pm in Room 117. All are welcome to attend!
P* Reading Group (Wednesday, 2 pm)We’ll be having P* Group on Wednesday, February 6th at 1:30 pm in room 831 of SCSD (2001 McGill College, 8th floor), during which James will lead a discussion of Williams and Escudero’s (2014) “A cross-dialectal comparison of vowels in Northern and Southern British English”. The paper is available at bit.ly/PGroup_2019a. All are welcome to attend!