The structure of words at the interfaces (OUP volume)

The structure of words at the interfaces (editors Heather Newell, Maire Noonan, Glyne Piggott, and Lisa Travis) was published by Oxford University Press May 11th, 2017. As well as having four editors who are professors at and/or alumni of McGill, the volume also includes papers from alumni such as Bethany Lochbihler (McGill PhD 2012), Richard Compton (McGill Postdoc 2013-2014), and Tanya Slavin (McGill Postdoc 2011-2013).

For more information:

2017 Student Awards

The Department of Linguistics is pleased to announce this year’s award recipients. Learn more about the awards here, and see previous recipients here. Congratulations all!


Departmental Awards

Lara Riente Memorial Prize in LinguisticsGuilherme Garcia

Cremona Memorial Prize in Linguistics: Vincent Rouillard

In-House Undergraduate Student Awards

Academic Leadership: Lydia Felice

Department Citizenship Award: Jacob Schermer

Excellence in Research Award: Sarah Mihuc

U2 Academic Achievement Award: Fiona Higgins

Departmental retreat

Students and faculty on a hike at McGill’s Gault Nature Reserve


Students and faculty engaged in discussion

Students and faculty gathered outside




Montreal Grammars and Parsing Project

The Montreal Grammars and Parsing Project (MonGramPa) is a new Lab which has recently come to be in the department! If you are interested in how formal grammars can be implemented computationally, come to are weekly meetings (no background in computation is necessary; all levels are more than welcome)!

MonGramPa will cover subjects such as the generative capacity of different grammar formalisms, minimalist grammars variants, mildly context-sensitive formalisms, parsing algorithms, and more. The next meeting will be on Thursday May 25th at 1pm (location to be confirmed). If you are interested in joining the group, you can email to be kept up to date.

McLing summer news, final edition!

Jurij Bozic will attend Roots V at Queen Mary, University of London (17-18th June), where he will give a talk with the title “Roots and Non-Locally Triggered Allomorphy”. He will also spend several weeks in Slovenia eliciting judgements from native speakers on several topics that he is currently researching.

September Cowley has completed her M.A. at McGill and will join UC San Diego’s Linguistics department to begin her PhD this fall.

Henrison Hsieh has been spending some of the summer presenting joint work with Luis Alonso-Ovalle at various conferences, including the upcoming Workshop on the Semantics of African, Asian and Austronesian Languages (TripleA 4) in Gothenburg, Sweden. In July, he will be attending the LSA Summer Institute at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY.

The McGill acquisition group will be presenting work on Italian this summer at two conferences. Upcoming talks include:

  • Goad, H., L. White, G. Garcia, N. Guzzo, M. Mortazavinia, L. Smeets & J. Su. 2017. Effects of pause and stress on pronoun interpretation in L2 Italian. Paper to be presented at the International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB 11), University of Limerick, June 2017.
  • Goad, H., L. White, G. Garcia, N. Guzzo, M. Mortazavinia, L. Smeets & J. Su. 2017. Pronoun interpretation in Italian: assessing the effects of prosody.​ Paper to be presented at the Experimental Psycholinguistics Conference, Menorca, June 2017.

SSH Development Grant to Bernhard Schwarz

Bernhard Schwarz has been awarded a one-year internal Social Sciences and Humanities Development grant, for a project entitled “Games and probability: a new approach to antipresuppositions”, to be carried out in collaboration with Tim O’Donnell. Congrats!

Goodhue and Goodhue & Wagner papers to appear

Daniel Goodhue‘s paper “Must p is felicitous only if p is not known” has been accepted for publication in Semantics & Pragmatics. A draft of the paper is available here.

Daniel Goodhue and Michael Wagner‘s paper “Intonation, yes and no” has been accepted for publication in Glossa. A draft of the paper is available here.

Congrats both!

Gui Garcia in Phonology

Gui Garcia‘s paper ‘Weight gradience and stress in Portuguese’ is officially out in the journal Phonology, and can be found here. Congrats Gui!

McLing summer news, second edition

Some more summer news below––send your summer plans and other news to

PhD student Clint Parker will travel to Tajikistan in June to spend two months learning the Tajiki language, a dialect of Persian.  He will stay with a host family in the capital, Dushanbe.  In addition to looking at definiteness in Tajiki, he will use the language to conduct fieldwork on the endangered Pamir languages, also spoken in Tajikistan. Clint received funding from McGill’s Graduate Mobility Award for his trip.

This summer, graduating BA Honours student Sarah Mihuc will be traveling to Guatemala for the University of Maryland summer field school on Mayan languages, going to Yale for a grammar-writing bootcamp on Nyungar, and working for Morgan Sonderegger. In the fall she will be moving to Calgary to work in computer science, with plans to apply to graduate school after 2 years.

Vincent Rouillard is graduating from the BA Honours Linguistics program. He will spend the summer working at the McGill Language and Multilingualism Laboratory, where he is currently researching the effects of bilingualism on the use of sarcasm. By the end of the summer, he will be moving to Boston to begin his PhD in Linguistics at MIT.

Kilbourn-Ceron and Sonderegger in NLLT

Natural Language and Linguistic Theory has just published an article by Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron and Morgan Sonderegger: ‘Boundary phenomena and variability in Japanese high vowel devoicing’. The full article is available here.


Devoicing of high vowels (HVD) in Tokyo Japanese applies in two environments—between voiceless consonants, and between a voiceless consonant and a “pause”—and applies variably as a function of a number of factors. The role and definition of “pause” in this process, in terms of a physical pause or prosodic position (word or phrase boundary), remains unclear, as does what is expected when these environments overlap, and why HVD appears to be categorical in some environments and variable in others. This paper addresses three outstanding issues about HVD—the role of “boundary phenomena” (prosodic position and physical pauses), the relationship between the two environments, and the sources of variability in HVD—by examining vowel devoicing in a large corpus of spontaneous Japanese. We use mixed-effects logistic regression to model how boundary phenomena affect the likelihood of devoicing and modulate the effects of other variables, controlling for other major factors, including a measure of gestural overlap. The results suggest that all boundary phenomena jointly affect devoicing rate, and that prosodic phrase boundaries play a key role: variability in HVD looks qualitatively different for phrase-internal and phrase-final vowels, which are affected differently by word frequency, speech rate, and pause duration. We argue the results support an account of HVD as the result of two overlapping vowel devoicing processes, each widely-attested cross-linguistically: devoicing between voiceless consonants, and devoicing before prosodic phrase boundaries. Variability in the application of these two processes can then be partially explained in terms of aspects of phonetic implementation and processing: gestural overlap (Beckman 1996), which often plays a role in reduction processes, and the locality of production planning (Wagner 2012), a recent explanation for variability in the application of external sandhi processes.

Brendan Gillon to PhiLang 2017

Brendan Gillon will be a plenary speaker at The Fifth International Conference on Philosophy of Language and Linguistics (PhiLang 2017), to take place at the University of Lodz (Poland), 12-14 May 2017. The title of his  talk is: What is the object of semantics?

McGill at SALT 2017

McGill linguists will be heading to the University of Maryland later this week for the 27th Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT 27) meeting. Presentations include:

  • Chris Bruno – Contrastive negation and the theory of alternatives
  • Henrison Hsieh and Luis Alonso-Ovalle – Anchored implicatives: Tagalog ability/involuntary action
  • Bernhard Schwarz – Strength as entropy in questions: Evidence from uniqueness presuppositions

McLing summer news, first edition

Graduating BA Honours student Sara Carrier-Bordeleau is going to work in freelance translation and move to Helsinki (Finland) within the year. She’s also planning to continue to do linguistic research in her spare time and to apply to graduate school in linguistics later on.
BA student Paulina Elias received a Social Equity ARIA fellowship to spend this summer working with Jessica Coon on an ongoing collaborative project between McGill University and Universidad del Valle de Guatemala to document and analyze Chuj, a Mayan language spoken in Guatemala and Mexico.
BA Honours student Lydia Felice has finished her thesis on alternations between free state and construct state nominals in Kabyle (Berber), and will be entering the theoretical linguistics PhD program at Georgetown University in the fall.
Fiona Higgins, BA Honours linguistics student, is doing a summer research project through the Arts Internship Research Award program with Heather Goad on the perception of /s/ in hearing impaired children.
Martha Schwarz is graduating from the MA program this year, and will be moving to California to start a PhD at UC Berkeley in the fall. In late May she will go to the Manchester Phonology Meeting (25mfm) at the University of Manchester to give a talk based on her MA thesis, titled “Nepali laryngeal contrasts: voiced aspirates and laryngeal realism.”
BA student Eva Portelance will be graduating and then heading to Stanford in the fall to start a PhD in Linguistics. Her honours thesis was entitled Scrambling on the move: Lithuanian, free word order and minimalism. She will also be presenting her research on the prediction of narrative frames in novels, which she started during her ARIA internship last year, at the Digital Humanities 2017 conference in August.

Jenneke van der Wal and Bantu Mini Workshop, 5/3

Please join us for a special talk by Jenneke van der Wal (Harvard). The talk will be preceded by presentations from Bobangi field methods class (see here), though you are welcome to attend any part.

Where: Education 216

When: Wednesday May 3rd, 3:45–4:45pm

Title: Investigating focus marking in Luganda and Lingala

Abstract: While it is admittedly difficult to investigate information structure in an unfamiliar language, in this talk I hope to show that there are some manageable diagnostics for focus that can be applied in elicitation. Based on data from Luganda and Lingala I show why the discoveries about focus marking in Bantu languages are crucial for understanding both the synchronic analysis and the diachronic development of focus. (full abstract)

McGill at WCCFL 35

McGill’s linguists attended WCCFL 35, which was hosted at the University of Calgary on 28th – 30th April 2016. Here is a list of their presentations:

  • Henrison Hsieh and Luis Alonso-OvalleAnchored implicatives: Tagalog ability/involuntary action
  • Jurij Bozic: Non-Local Allomorphy in a Strictly Local System

The program can be found here. Current and former McGill affiliates gathered for a photo:

(Left to right: Elan Dresher, Keir Moulton, Jurij Bozic, Henrison Hsieh.)

(Left to right: Henrison Hsieh, Carol Rose.)

ACFAS Workshop May 12th

As part of the upcoming ACFAS (Association francophone pour le savoir), hosted May 8–12th at McGill, there will be a workshop: Le mot: syntaxe, morphologie, et phonologie. Talks by McGill linguists include:

  • Maire Noonan: Les prépositions de lieu complexes sous la loupe : une comparaison du français et de l’allemand
  • Lisa Travis and Heather Goad: Le rôle de la phonologie dans la violation du principe du miroir : le cas du navajo

Lisa Travis in Madagascar

Lisa Travis is currently doing fieldwork in three different cities in Madagascar – Tulear, Antananarivo, and Antsiranana – with Ileana Paul (Western).  They are meeting with linguists in all three cities and giving research protocol workshops to graduate students in Antanarivo and Antsiranana.

LingTea, 4/25 – Markus A. Pöchtrager

This week’s LingTea will exceptionally occur on Tuesday (April 25th) at 11.30am-1pm in room 117. Markus A. Pöchtrager (Boğaziçi University) will give a talk with the title “What do you mean, it’s not phonology?” Please note the time as this is an extended version of LingTea.


Research in phonology over the last decades has given rise to an impressive number of models, sometimes competing, sometimes complementing each other. However, communication across those models, especially competing ones, and therefore improvement is often hindered by a lack of agreement on what phonological theory is actually meant to explain. What is the domain of our investigation, what should be counted in, what not, and why? Worse still, such questions are rarely explicitly addressed, meaning that there is little hope in improving communication (and making progress).

In this talk I want to touch upon those issues from the point of view of Government Phonology, which is usually said to be rather restrictive in what counts as phonological. I will go through a number of case studies as well as several theoretical notions in order to show what different results are achieved from seemingly slight differences in basic assumptions and will try to evaluate the empirical and conceptual differences of those assumptions. For several phenomena that are assumed to be phonological by more mainstream models I will argue that we are better off having them dealt with in other components of grammar.

Semantics Research Group, 4/28 – Linmin Zhang

The Semantics Research Group will be meeting on Friday April 28. Linmin Zhang (from Concordia) will be presenting a practice talk of her upcoming SALT presentation. Title and abstract to follow.

McGill at TOM Workshop on Semantics

McGill Linguistics was well represented at the 10th Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal Workshop on Semantics, held this year at the University of Toronto on April 22nd. Presentations included:
  • Vincent Rouillard – Minimize Restrictors! Beyond Definite Descriptions
  • Francesco Gentile – A new presuppositional semantics for how many-questions
  • Chris Bruno – Contrastive negation and alternatives
  • Invited speaker: Prof. Junko Shimoyama – On Inverse Trace Conversion and the maximal informativeness analysis of Japanese internally-headed relative clauses (joint work with Keir Moulton, Simon Fraser University)
  • Invited speaker: Prof. Luis Alonso-Ovalle – Against the Odds: On the Modal Component of the Ability/Involuntary Action Verbal Inflection in Tagalog (joint work with Henrison Hsieh (McGill University)

Junko, Chris, Luis, Henrison, and Francesco at TOM

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