Invited speaker (Alexandre Cremers) at the Semantics Research Group – May 23rd & 25th

Alexandre Cremers will be visiting and is giving two talks in the semantics research group. They will take place on May 23rd and 25th at 3pm in 117. Details below. All are welcome!


Wednesday, May 23, Title: Testing the QUD sensitivity of modified numerals

Abstract: Modified numerals, such as “at least 3” or “less than 5”, tend to trigger ignorance inferences. Geurts&Nouwen (2007) famously argued that these ignorance inferences are stronger with superlative “at least” than with comparative “more than”, and proposed a modal denotation for “at least” which semantically encoded the ignorance inference. Since then, competing accounts have been proposed which aim to derive all ignorance inferences as implicatures, keeping very simple denotations for “at least” and “more than”. In this talk, I will first present experimental work showing that (a) there is indeed a difference between “at least” and “more than”, but (b) against the predictions of a purely semantic account, the ignorance inference of “at least” is not so strong, and is affected by QUD. Along the way, we also show a contrast between “at least/more than” on the one hand, and “at most/fewer than” on the other hand, as well as some interesting results with bare numerals. No current theory can fully account for the results, but a few are very promising.


Friday, May 25, Title: The Exhaustivity of Embedded question: Experimental investigations and theoretical consequences

Abstract: Verbs such as ‘know’ can relate an agent to a question, as in “Mary knows who dances”. The meaning of such sentences has been strongly debated with proponents of a ‘weak exhaustive’ reading (Karttunen, 1977, Berman, 1991), or of a ‘strong exhaustive’ reading (Groenendijk&Stokhof, 1982). To further complicate the matter, an ‘intermediate exhaustive’ reading has also been proposed (Spector, 2005).

In this talk, I will present experimental evidence from adult and children understanding of embedded questions showing that all three readings are possible, but suggesting that the weak exhaustive reading is “basic” while the other two are derived by a strengthening mechanism similar to implicatures (exhaustification). I will then discuss what an exhaustification theory for embedded questions should look like and address several challenges that have been raised against such approaches.


Word Structure Research Group in Summer 2018

The Word Structure Research Group will be having meetings at McGill, Tuesdays at 10:30am during the summer (room TBA). There will be no meeting this week but Tues May 29th we will have two CLA practice talks, Richard Compton – Inuit φ-markers as the exponence of agree: Evidence from granularity, default forms and Johnatan Nascimento – The beginning of transformation: A nanosyntactic account for parasynthetic verbs in Brazilian Portuguese. Future meetings will be listed on the research group website here ( or if you want to receive announcement through email please write to

McGill at SALT 28

Former and current McGill linguist gathered at MIT this past weekend for Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 28 ( Their talks included:

  • Maayan Abenina-Adar (McGill MA 2014) and Yael Sharvit: “Domain uniformity in questions”

While the following gave poster presentations:

  • Keely New and Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine (McGill postdoc 2014-15): “The expression of exhaustivity and scalarity in Burmese”
  • Bernhard Schwarz and Alexandra Simonenko (McGill PhD 2014): “Ways and reasons: probing the semantics of how- and why-questions”
  • Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Aron Hirsch: “Keep only strong”

Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine, Maayan Abenina-Adar, Aron Hirsch, Bernhard Schwarz, Luis Alonso-Ovalle

McGill at the Primer Encuentro de Estudios sobre el Chuj

The McGill Chuj group was at the Universidad Autónoma de México last week for the Primer Encuentro de Estudios sobre el Chuj, May 17th and 18th. Their presentations were:

  • Robert Henderson, Paulina Elias, Justin Royer, and Jessica Coon – La composición de la estatividad en chuj
  • Justin Royer – La (in)definitud en Chuj y su relación con los clasificadores nominales
  • Jessica Coon – Distinguiendo adjetivos y cláusulas relativas en chuj (con la ayuda del ch’ol)

Robert Henderson (post-doc ’12–’13), Paulina Elias (BA ’18), Jessica Coon, Justin Royer


Workshop group at Teotihuacán

McGill Summer News

Undergraduate news

Elias Stengel-Eskin (CogSci) will be starting the PhD program in Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University in the fall.

Arlie Coles (CogSci) will be working on the Speech Across Dialects of English project in the department this summer, then starting the Professional Masters in Machine Learning at MILA (Université de Montréal) in the fall.

Michael Goodale (CogSci) will be working on the Speech Across Dialects of English project in the department this summer as an ARIA intern.

Madelaine O’Reilly-Brown is conducting research this summer on Urdu syntax as part of the ARIA internship program (supervisor Lisa Travis). She will specifically be looking at the interaction of agreement, scrambling, and extraposition in Urdu/Hindi, testing the notions of phases (Chomsky) and horizons (Keine).


Graduate news

Emily Kellison-Linn will be presnting at LabPhon 16 in Lisbon.

Masashi Harada will attend the Crete summer school from 7/15 – 7/28.


Faculty news

Morgan Sonderegger will mostly be leading the McGill arm of the the Speech Across Dialects of English project. He’ll also be traveling to Chicago (Northwestern) and Tel Aviv (Bar-Ilan University) to give talks and work with collaborators. He is an author on several presentations at LabPhon 16.

Meghan Clayards will be at LabPhon 16 this summer along with Bing’er Jiang, Jia-er Tao and Francisco Torreira. Jiaer and Francisco will also be at Speech Prosody in Poland.

Lydia White will be presenting a poster at the International Symposium on Bilingual and L2 Processing in Adults and Children in Braunschweig, Germany, May 24-25 ( Title of the paper is ‘How prosody affects L2 processing: Pronoun interpretation in L2 Italian’. Co-authors: Heather Goad, Natalia Brambatti Guzzo, Guiherme Garcia, Sepideh Mortazavinia, Liz Smeets and Jiajia Su.

Jessica Coon returns to Montreal from her sabbatical in Mexico this summer and is looking forward to seeing everyone again. She’ll head back south briefly in August for the 5th Form and Analysis in Mayan Linguistics (FAMLi V), to be held in Antigua.

Lisa Travis will be presenting a co-authored paper with Ileana Paul (McGill, PhD 2000) at the International Conference of Austronesian Linguistics (ICAL) in Antananarivo, Madagascar (paper title: Augmented pronoun constructions across time and space) in July, and then will stay another week for research purposes.

Heather Goad and Lisa Travis will be giving a joint presentation at the MfM fringe workshop, Phonological Solutions To Morphological Problems, at the University of Manchester, UK on May 23rd. The title of their paper is A phonological solution to a morpho-syntactic problem in Athabaskan.



McGill at AFLA 25

This past weekend, some current and former McGill linguists participated in AFLA 25 (the Meeting of the Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association) at Academia Sinica, Taiwan. Their presentations were:

  • Kie Zuraw (Invited speaker, UCLA, McGill BA ’94): Frequency and Predictability: How and Why do They Influence Phonological Rules
  • Tingchun (TC) Chen (MIT, McGill BA): Multiple case assignment and case-stacking in Amis
  • Cheryl Lim & Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine (National University of Singapore, McGill postdoc ’14-’15): Agent extraction and topicalization in Bikol
  • Carol-Rose Little (Cornell, McGill BA) & Ekarina Winarto: Kinds, classifiers and definiteness in Indonesian: Two grammars in one
  • Michaela Socolof (McGill BA ’16, incoming PhD student) & Junko Shimoyama: The Distribution of the Māori Genitive Relative Construction

Henrison, Mitcho, Michaela, TC, Junko, Kie

Marielle Côté-Gendreau wins two research prizes

Undergaduate student Marielle Côté-Gendreau  has won two research prizes in the value of $1000 (CAD) each, one for the project “Contribution onomastique à l’histoire sociale : Napoléon, son prénom et son mythe dans le Canada français du XIXe siècle“, and the other for having a promising profile as a researcher. Both prizes were awarded at the 86th ACFAS meeting. Marielle was congratulated, along with two other winners, by Rémi Quirion, Quebec’s scientifique en chef for their achievements, which can be viewed here.




Clayards at UMass Amherst

Meghan Clayards gave a colloquium talk at UMass Amherst Linguistics on April 18, entitled “Flexibility and individual differences in speech perception”.


McGill Symposium on the Role of the University in Supporting Indigenous Languages

The McGill Symposium on the Role of the University in Supporting Indigenous Languages will take place this Thursday and Friday, May 10th and 11th, on McGill Campus and in Kahnawà:ke. As noted on the Symposium website:

In response to Call to Action #34 of the Final Report of McGill’s Task Force on Indigenous Education and Indigenous Studies, on May 10th and 11th, the Department of Linguistics and the Office of First Nations and Inuit Education are jointly hosting a symposium examining the role of the university in Indigenous language maintenance and revitalization.

Organized with the support of the Kanien’keháka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Centre, McGill Faculties of Arts and Education, the McGill Indigenous Studies Program, and McGill’s Institute for the Study of International Development, the purpose of this Symposium is to: (a) signal McGill’s commitment to Indigenous languages in this province and (b) examine more closely what role the University should play in supporting the health of Indigenous languages, locally and regionally.

The Symposium will involve both closed-door and public sessions with the goals of establishing a broad consultative body on this question and developing a concrete plan of action for McGill to pursue. Special invitees include Indigenous language teachers, scholars, and university program directors from across Canada.

More details, including information about invitees and panels, can be found on the symposium website.

Dan Goodhue to the University of Maryland

McLing is thrilled to report that PhD student Daniel Goodhue has just accepted a postdoctoral position in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Maryland. He will be working with Dr. Valentine Hacquard and Dr. Jeffrey Lidz at the intersection of semantics and language acquisition. The position begins in August 2018.

Congratulations Dan!

O’Donnell presents at Conference on Quantitative Approaches to Language Science

Tim O’Donnell gave a talk on May 5th at the Conference on Quantitative Approaches to Language Science hosted by the University of California Irvine. The title of his talk was Algorithmic program synthesis of morphophonological rules. The entire program ca be found here.

Smeets and Wagner in Semantics and Pragmatics

Liz Smeets and Michael Wagner have just published the paper Reconstructing the syntax of focus operators in Semantics and Pragmatics. The early access version can be found here.




This paper presents novel evidence that the exclusive operator alleen in Dutch (and nur in German) can directly attach to the focus constituent it associates with, and against an analysis like the one in Jacobs 1983 and Büring & Hartmann 2001 which analyzes all instances of alleen/nur as sentential adverbs that take a single syntactic argument that denotes a proposition. Instead, we argue that alleen/nur takes two syntactic arguments, which combine to denote a proposition. The evidence comes from novel data showing scope reconstruction of [alleen/nur + DP] sequences from the prefield in Dutch (and German), adding to earlier arguments in Reis 2005 and Meyer & Sauerland 2009.


Syntax Reading Group, 01/5

In the upcoming Syntax Reading Group meeting, Michaela Socolof (via Skype) and Junko Shimoyama will be giving a practice talk for AFLA as follows: “On the distribution of Maori genitive relative construction“. The meeting with take place on Tuesday, May 1, 12:30-1:30pm in Room 117 (1085 Dr. Penfield).

Everyone is welcome!

MOTH 6 a Success

McGill hosted MOTH 6 (the 6th annual Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Hamilton workshop on syntax) on Saturday, April 28, 2018. It was a big success. Thank you to all the participants, and to the student organizers Gouming Martens and Clint Parker for all the work!

McGill presenters:

  • Nico Baier (invited speaker) – Reassessing the link between anti-agreement and A’-movement
  • Masashi Harada – Japanese Sluicing with an AP Remnant as a Copular Sentence-Based Sluicing
  • Henrison Hsieh – Peripheral extraction in Tagalog: implications for syntactic ergativity
  • Gouming Martens – Frozen by Context: Focus Effects on Syntactic Freezing
  • Clinton Parker – A feature-based analysis for vestigial ergativity in Shughni

The full program can be found here.


Semantics reading group, May 4 : Bruno, Gentile, Goodwin

At the Semantics Research Group on May 4, Chris Bruno, Francesco Gentile, and Emily Goodwin will be presenting on some ongoing research on compositional semantics and monotonicity in neural network models.

The meeting is at 3 PM in room 117.


McGill at WCCFL 36

McGill linguists past and present gathered at UCLA this past weekend to present their research at the 36th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL).

McGill linguists past and present gathered at UCLA this past weekend to present their research at the 36th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL).


Matthew Barros & Hadas Kotek (McGill postdoc 2014-16): “Some Issues with Sluicing as Anaphora to Issues“
Mathieu Paillé & Bernhard Schwarz: “Knowing whether and ignorance inferences“


Aron Hirsch: “Epistemically-sensitive ‘only’ ”
Maayan Abenina-Adar (McGill MA 2014): “Surprising”
Guilherme D. Garcia (McGill PhD 2017) and Heather Goad: “Can you have stress without feet?”
Jeffrey Lamontagne: “Acoustic Evidence of Phonemicization: Laxing Coarticulation in Canadian French”

Photo, from left to right: Mathieu, Maayan, Heather, Aron, Bernhard

Left to right: Mathieu, Maayan, Heather, Aron, Bernhard


Upcoming Colloquium: Karen Jesney (April 27th)

Karen Jesney from Carleton University will be giving a talk titled “Constraint Scaling Factors and Patterns of Variation in Phonology” on Friday, April 27th in Leacock 210. All are welcome to attend, and those wishing to arrange a meeting before the talk should contact Emily Kellison-Linn. The abstract for this talk, as well as information about our other departmental colloquia, is available here.

Goodhue gives talk at workshop “Meaning and Commitment”

Last week, Daniel Goodhue (PhD 2018) presented a talk based on his thesis titled Epistemic bias in polar questions at the workshop on Meaning and Commitment at Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris.

MOTH 6 at McGill this Saturday (28th April)

MOTH 6 (the 6th annual Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Hamilton workshop on syntax) is coming up on Saturday, April 28, 2018, hosted at Thomson House, McGill University. We hope to see many of you there! McGill presenters are:

  • Nico Baier – TBA
  • Jason Borga – Sprouting, Preposition Stranding, and Sluicing Identity
  • Masashi Harada – Japanese Sluicing with an AP Remnant as a Copular Sentence-Based Sluicing
  • Henrison Hsieh – Peripheral extraction in Tagalog: implications for syntactic ergativity
  • Gouming Martens – Frozen by Context: Focus Effects on Syntactic Freezing
  • Clinton Parker – A feature-based analysis for vestigial ergativity in Shughni

The full program is found here.

McGill at WSCLA 23

McGill linguists presented at the 23rd Workshop on Structure and Constituency of Languages of the Americas (WSCLA 23), held last week at the University of Ottawa.

BA student Paulina Elias presented “The role of directionals in positional and locative constructions in Chuj“, and faculty lecturer Nico Baier presented collaborative work with Zachary O’Hagen (Berkeley), titled “Morphological Reflexes of Subject Extraction in Caquinte“. The full program can be found here.

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