Summer news round-up, 1st edition

See below for what McGill linguists are up to this summer. Did you miss this edition? Send your summer plans to and we’ll get you in for round 2.

Undergrad news

Lydia Felice is finishing U2 and received an ARIA award to continue her work on Kabyle over the summer with Jessica Coon. She will be looking at so-called “free state” and “construct state” alternations.

Recent graduate Cora Lesure will head to Boston in the fall to start a Linguistics PhD at MIT. Cora’s honours thesis was titled Prosodic Boundary Marking in Ch’ol: Acoustic Indicators and Their Applications.

Dorothy Loong, who is finishing U2, will be doing an internship at the Chinese University of Hong Kong at their Childhood Bilingualism Research Centre.

Sarah Mihuc will be going to Johns Hopkins University for a summer research internship in the Computer Science department, working on machine translation of world languages with Dr. David Yarowsky.  She will also be working in the Prosody Lab.

Michaela Socolof will graduate and then will be working in the Montreal Language Modeling Lab, on software development and other MLML projects. In the fall she will head to the University of Maryland Linguistics Department as a Baggett Fellow.
Elias Stengel-Eskin (Cogsci) received an ARIA award to work over the summer with Morgan Sonderegger.  He will be working on Speech Corpus Tools and other MLML projects.

Grad student news

Chris Bruno is heading to New Jersey for the North American Summer School on Logic, Language, and Information (NASSLLI), held this year at Rutgers.

Gui Garcia will give two talks in late May at the 24th Manchester Phonology Meeting, at the University of Manchester. One of the talks investigates the role of suprasegmental information in lexical access. The second talk is joint work with Natália B. Guzzo and Heather Goad (Guzzo, Goad and Garcia), and explores high vowel deletion (/i/) patterns as evidence for vestigial iambs in Québec French. In June, he will participate in the Global School of Empirical Research Methods, at the University of St. Gallen, where he will take an intensive course on Bayesian data analysis. In July, he will present a poster (joint work with Natália B. Guzzo) on English stress acquisition by Québec French speakers at the 15th LabPhon, at Cornell University. Finally, in early September, he will be presenting a poster on extrametricality and default stress at GALANA, at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign).

Henrison Hsieh will be presenting a talk at the South East Asian Linguistics Society meeting (SEALS 26) titled “An argument for the noun-verb distinction in Tagalog”. He’ll also be presenting a talk at the Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association meeting (AFLA 23) titled “Prosodic indicators of phrase structure in Tagalog transitive sentences”. Finally, he’s in the process of arranging a visiting student position at the Department of Linguistics at the University of the Philippines Diliman to gather data and do research for his dissertation.

Martha Schwarz will be spending the summer doing fieldwork in India through a Mitacs Globalink Research Award.  She will be staying in the Nepali-speaking Darjeeling region, collecting data on Nepali ergativity and Nepali laryngeal contrasts.  The ergativity project is co-supervised by Jessica Coon and Ayesha Kidwai (Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi).

Liz Smeets will be collecting more data from L2 learners of Dutch on the acquisition of semantic and discourse constraints on object movement in The Netherlands in June. In August she will be presenting this work at EuroSLA at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland (

Faculty news

Meghan Clayards will be presenting a poster with Hye-Young Bang at LabPhon 15 at Cornell, and where she is also co-organzing a workshop on Higher-order structure in speech variability: phonetic/phonological covariation and talker adaptation.

At the end of June Jessica Coon will head to Fairbanks, Alaska for the CoLang 2016 Institute for Collaborative Language Documentation. In July she will participate in an Indigenous Language Sustainability Workshop, held concurrently with CILLDI at the University of Alberta.

Brendan Gillon will be giving guest lectures at the Nanjing Institute of Technology and Shanghai Maritime University in May. In June he will give a lecture at Workshop on Logic in East Asia, sponsored by the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Junko Shimoyama will be giving an invited talk at TaLK 2016 (Theoretical Linguistics at Keio) in Tokyo in August.

Morgan Sonderegger will be attending LabPhon 15 at Cornell, where he will give a poster with Michael McAuliffe and Michael Wagner and is co-organizing a workshop on tools for “big data” in laboratory phonology (BigPhon).

Michael Wagner will be presenting an invited talk at a workshop on Speech Planning at LabPhon 15, and will be teaching a class at the DGFS summer school on Mapping Meaning: Theory – Cognition – Variation in Tübingen, Germany in August.

Smeets and Wagner at WCCFL

Liz Smeets and Michael Wagner just presented a joint paper at WCCFL 34 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The title of their talk is “The syntax of focus association in German/Dutch: evidence from scope reconstruction.” The full program is available here.

Sasha Simonenko (McGill PhD '14) and Liz Smeets at WCCFL

Sasha Simonenko (McGill PhD ’14) and Liz Smeets at WCCFL

Bernhard Schwarz in Semantics and Pragmatics

Congratulations to Bernhard Schwarz, who published at least two articles this week in Semantics and Pragmatics: a full article titled “Consistency preservation in Quantity implicature: The case of at least“, as well as a reply “At least and ignorance: a reply to Coppock and Brochhagen (2013)“.

Ling-tea, 4/26 – Douglas Gordon

Join us for the Final Ling-tea of the semester!
Who: Douglas Gordon
When: Tuesday April 26th 1:00-2:00
Where: Ling 117
What: Animate-inanimate coordination in Mi’gmaq: consequences for conjunction reduction

There are two possible analyses of DP coordination: that apparent DP coordination is underlyingly TP coordination and material has been elided or simply that two DPs are coordinated. Conjunction reduction (CR) is the ellipsis of a repeated subject and verb in all but one of a set of conjuncts and can be used to derive DP coordination from underlying TP coordination.
I argue that CR is only an available mechanism in Mi’gmaq when plain DP coordination is not possible. I discuss this issue in reference to like- and mixed-animacy coordination, since transitive verbs must agree with the animacy of their internal argument. I show that in cases where the conjuncts match in animacy, CR would fail to derive grammatical agreement on the verb. I also show, however, that CR may be an available mechanism in cases where animacy of the conjuncts does not match.

McGill at CLS 52

The 52nd Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, held at the University of Chicago from April 21 to 23, featured three presentations by McGillians:

  • Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron, Michael Wagner & Meghan Clayards: The effect of production planning locality on external sandhi: A study in /t/
  • Dejan Milačić: Two types of dual number
  • Luis Alonso-Ovalle (McGill): Spanish siquiera in the EVEN landscape

TOM 9: A Success.

The ninth Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal workshop in semantics (TOM 9) took place on Saturday, April 23, 2016, at McGill, in the Ballroom of Thomson House. The workshop was well attended and offered all participants, faculty and students alike, many opportunities for thought provoking exchanges. Congratulations to the organizers: Elena Russo, Chris Bruno, Junko Shimoyama and Bernhard Schwarz.




Ling-Tea, 4/19 – Dejan Milacic

Please join us this week for Ling-Tea at its usual time and place: Tuesday at 1:00 in Linguistics room 117.
Presenter: Dejan Milacic
Title: Two types of dual number (a practice talk for CLS 52)

I identify three attested patterns for the morphological expression of dual and plural number in languages with number systems which include these categories. I note that two of these patterns lead to contradictory predictions about the morphological markedness of dual relative to plural. Plural is expressed by more morphemes than dual in languages like Mi’gmaq (Coon & Bale 2014), while dual is expressed by more morphemes than plural in languages like Manam (Lichtenberk 1983).

The system of number features and markedness put forward by Nevins (2011) is argued to account for the Manam pattern, but does not account for the Mi’gmaq pattern. I show that a logical extension of this feature system in fact gives the opposite result: it accounts for the Mi’gmaq pattern, but does not account for the Manam pattern. I give evidence from semantics and agreement to argue that this result is desirable. Based on this evidence, I suggest that dual marking in languages like Manam should be analyzed like non-inflectional plural marking (Wiltschko 2008; Butler 2011). I conclude that the meaning of dual marking in these languages comes from the morpheme’s origin as the numeral ‘two’ rather than coming from a number feature as in languages with the other two patterns.

Buccola & Spector in Linguistics and Philosophy

Brian Buccola’s (McGill PhD 2016) paper Modified numerals and maximality has been accepted for publication at Linguistics and Philosophy. The article, which is co-authored with Benjamin Spector, builds on central parts of Brian’s PhD thesis Maximality in the semantics of modified numerals.  Congratulations, Brian!

Kabyle Mini Workshop

This year’s Field Methods class wrapped up with a successful Kabyle Mini Workshop. A subset of the class is pictured below, along with invited speaker Karim Achab and language consultant Karima Ouazar.


back row: Michaela Socolof, Karim Achab, Daniel Biggs, Dejan Milacic, Morgan Sonderegger, Jeffrey LaMontagne
front row: Jessica Coon, Lydia Felice, Sarah Mihuc, Inés Patiño Anaya, Alex Elias, Karima Ouazar


McGill at MOTH

Bing'er Jiang, Chris Bruno, Martha Schwarz, Symon Stevens-Guille (UofT; McGill BA '15), Jessica Coon, Bronwyn Bjorkman (Queen's; McGill BA '06)

McGill affiliates of past and present at this year’s MOTH Syntax Workshop at University of Toronto Mississauga: Bing’er Jiang, Chris Bruno, Martha Schwarz, Symon Stevens-Guille (UofT; McGill BA ’15), Jessica Coon, Bronwyn Bjorkman (Queen’s; McGill BA ’06)

Lisa Travis at Ottawa

Lisa Travis gave a colloquium talk at the University of Ottawa last week, titled: “Determining the position of Out of Control morphemes in Malagasy and Tagalog.”

Kabyle Mini-Workshop, 4/13

This year’s Field Methods class is happy to announce a Kabyle Mini Workshop, which will take place this Wednesday, April 13th, in Education room 129. In addition to short 10-minute presentations by all class members, we will have an invited presentation by Karim Achab (U. Ottawa), from 1:10–2:10. The full program, along with Achab’s abstract, is below. Anyone is welcome to join for any portion of the workshop.

Kabyle Mini Workshop

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Education Building, room 129


  • Lydia Felice: Feminine plural noun formation
  • Sarah Mihuc: Noun-initial a- and the Construct State
  • Francesco Gentile: On the morphosyntax of causatives in Kabyle
  • Alyssa Gold: Complements and adjuncts in Kabyle noun phrases

11:40–12:00 – Questions & Break


  • Becca Hoff: The role of sonority sequencing in Kabyle syllable formation
  • Martha Schwarz & Bing’er Jiang: The role of sonority in schwa epenthesis: Stem level and beyond

12:30–1:10 – Lunch (provided for class members)

1:10–2:10 – Karim Achab: Lexical roots, nouns and nominal aspect (abstract below) 


  • Anisa Amin: Methods of nonverbal negation in Kabyle
  • Michaela Socolof: Two functions of ara in Kabyle
  • Dejan Milacic: Aḏ and ara in irrealis and negation
  • Melanie Custo-Blanch: Questions and clitics in Kabyle 

2:50–3:10 – Questions & Break


  • Alex Elias: Kabyle “double” consonants: Long or strong?
  • Jeff LaMontagne: Motiver ses choixExamining variability in schwa placement and acoustics
  • Daniel Biggs: A question of word order in Kabyle: VSO vs. SVO
  • Ines Patino Anaya: ḏ as a copular particle

3:50–4:00 – Questions and wrap-up


Lexical roots, nouns, and nominal aspect – Karim Achab 

It has been widely accepted in Afroasiatic linguistics that verbs and nouns in Afroasiatic languages are derived from lexical roots, considered as the smallest building block in the lexicon[1]. A lexical root is traditionally defined as the basic entity that conveys the semantics of a word but which lack a category feature. For instance the Tamazight root mɣr conveys the meaning of ‘tall’, ‘big’, ‘elder’, etc. It may yield a noun (eg. amɣar ‘old man’) if associated with the category feature [n], or a verb (eg. imɣur ‘grow up’, if associated with the category feature [v]. Lexical roots consist of consonants only; they are later combined with thematic vowels to form the (word) stem. Much has been said in the literature as regards the thematic (or stem) vowels associated with verbs, which indicate inflection (tense/aspect and agreement), as well as the initial vowel of nouns, which results from incorporation into the noun of an old determiner[2]. However, analyses regarding the inner vowel of nouns are almost inexistent, except in the situations where this vowel alternates with respect to number, known as internal plurals in the literature[3]. In the example amɣar ‘old man’, the internal vowel is by no means associated with number as the plural imɣarn is derived by means of the suffix –n. In this presentation, I argue that the inner vowel is associated with perfective (bound, telic or accomplished) aspect. Nominal aspect is not as investigated as verbal aspect in the literature, but it has been the topic of a number of studies[4] which point out to some inherent aspectual properties of nouns. However, unlike the aspect investigated in such studies, which is often of the type mass/count distinction, the nominal aspect that is dealt with in the present study is of the perfective/imperfective type, which is more reminiscent of verbal lexical aspect (or aktionsart). An example of a perfective nominal aspect in English is provided by nouns derived from participles such as a grown-up or writing where the perfective and imperfective aspect is inherited from the past and present participle, respectively. However, even in English, this type of nominal aspect is not restricted to nouns derived from participles. They are for instance implicit in deverbal nominals derived by means of the suffix –ion such as constructioninspection, etc. Similarly, some basic nouns, no matter the language, refer to an entity that is inherently perfective or accomplished. For instance, if we say a ‘house’ or an ‘adult’, these words are understood in their accomplished state or aspect (perfective, bounded or telic). Exploring data from Tamazight, I argue that the primary property of the inner vowel of nouns is aspectual and that in the case of internal plural, this aspectual vowel is put into contribution to indicate number. I further demonstrate that aspect is an essential property of the internal structure of nouns, without which the nominal structure cannot be complete. Finally, I explore the ways in which aspect interacts with other nominal properties such as class and number along the nominal spine.

[1] With the exception of Bohas (2000) who suggests the concept of etymon as an alternative.

[2] See Achab (2003, 2012) and references cited therein.

[3] There are three types of plurals in Tamazight: (i) internal, obtained by changing the internal vowel, (ii) external, obtained by means of the plural suffix –n and (iii) the mixt plurals, which is a combination of (i) and (ii).

[4] See among others Rijkhoff (1991, 2002), Nordlinger and Sadler’s (2004) and I Wayan Arka (2013) and references cited therin.

Ling-Tea, 4/5 – Colby, Sonderegger, Bang

Please join us this week for Ling-Tea at its usual time and place: Tuesday at 1:00 in Linguistics room 117.

This week Sarah Colby, Morgan Sonderegger, and Hye-Young Bang will be presenting their research. Details to follow!

Colloquium, 4/8 – Pat Keating

Speaker: Pat Keating (UCLA)
Date & Time: Friday, April 8th at 3:30 pm
Place: ARTS Bldg. room 260
Title: Linguistic Voice Quality

Abstract: In this talk I will present several results concerning the production and perception of voice quality (phonation type), from a larger interdisciplinary project at UCLA.  First, I compare the acoustic properties of phonation type distinctions in several languages, deriving a simple (low-dimensional) phonetic space for voice quality in which phonation types cluster across languages. Second, I discuss the relation between phonation and lexical tone. In some languages, phonation type is phonemic, and independent of tone, either because the languages are non-tonal (e.g. Gujarati), or because tones and phonation cross-classify (e.g. Mazatec, Yi languages).  In other languages, phonation is non-phonemic, instead conditioned by voice pitch and segmental/prosodic contexts (e.g. English).  In some such languages (e.g. Mandarin), this relation between voice pitch and voice quality gives voice quality a secondary role in tonal contrasts, increasing the effective size of the tone space.  Still other tone languages have both independent phonation and pitch-related phonation (e.g. Hmongic languages); we show that in one such language, White Hmong, the perceptual role of phonation is different for different tones. These cases will be illustrated with acoustic and physiological measures of voice production, obtained with our freely-available tools for voice analysis.

Luis Alonso-Ovalle at the APA Pacific Meeting

Luis Alonso-Ovalle has just returned from the 90th Annual Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, where he was invited to deliver a commentary (“Do Scalar Alternatives Provide Enough Truthmakers? (A Note on Santorio, Paolo (2015) “Alternatives and Truthmakers in Conditional Semantics”).

TOM 9 at McGill

The ninth Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal workshop in semantics (TOM 9) will take place on Saturday, April 23, 2016, at McGill in the Ballroom of Thomson House. The program includes two talks by students from our department:

Francesco Gentile: “Degree questions and collective predication: a puzzle for interval semantics”

Dan Goodhue: “VERUM focus and epistemic bias in English polar questions”

The full program is available here:

There is no registration fee, but those planning to attend are requested to pre-resister at the link provided above.

Colin Brown at “Putting Fieldwork on Indigenous Languages to New Uses”

Colin Brown returned last week from a workshop in São Paolo, Brazil called Putting Fieldwork on Indigenous Languages to New Uses. The workshop was supported by the São Paulo State Research Foundation (FAPESP), and was held from March 21st to April 2nd, at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil. Colin’s presentation was titled “A structural account of split ergativity in Gitskan”.

Goad and White in International Innovation

The research of Heather Goad and Lydia White on the Prosodic Transfer Hypothesis is featured this week in International Innovation, an organisation that aims to disseminate research results (described in non-technical terms) to funding councils, governments, industry, etc, etc. A link to the article can be found here:

Congrats new PhD, Alanah McKillen!

Congratulations Alanah McKillen, who successfully defended her PhD, “On the interpretation of reflexive pronouns”, last week. Alanah’s thesis was co-supervised by Bernhard Schwarz and Michael Wagner.

Alanah with her superivosrs

Alanah with her superivosrs


Michael performs the picture-moving ceremony

Meghan Clayards at University of Maryland

Meghan Clayards returned from University of Maryland last week, where she gave a colloquium talk titled “Modulation of Phonetic Contrasts”. The abstract is available here.

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