Author Archive for McLing

LingTea, 1/26 – Lydia Felice, Sarah Mihuc

In this week’s LingTea, on Thursday (Jan. 26th) 12-1pm in room 117, Lydia Felice and Sarah Mihuc will each present on their work on Kabyle Berber.

Speaker: Lydia Felice
Title: An Analysis of the State Alternation in Kabyle Berber

Abstract: In Kabyle, nominals may appear in the Free State or Construct State. Free State nominals are characterized by presence of the prefix a-. Construct State nominals lack this prefix. Nominals in the Free State appear as preverbal subjects, complements of certain prepositions, and objects of the verb. Nominals in the Construct State appear as postverbal subjects and complements of certain prepositions. I assume that the Free State morpheme is an intrinsic case marker occupying K0. Nominals in the Construct State are DPs that must be licensed structural case, while nominals in the Free State are KPs that receive case from the FS morpheme a-. I propose that treating the FS vowel as K0 accounts for the full distribution of Free State and Construct State nominals.


Speaker: Sarah Mihuc
Title: Effects of Focus on Word Order in Kabyle Berber

Abstract: A variety of word orders are attested in Kabyle Berber; changes in word order have previously been explained as related to focus and topic in Berber (Mettouchi 2008). In order to precisely test the relationship between focus and word order, I present an experiment based on Calhoun’s (2015) experiment on Samoan focus and word order. Speakers were shown illustrations of events, and were asked to answer questions about them. The questions have answers with six different types of focus. Thus, the answers to each question type show which word order is associated with which type(s) of focus in Kabyle Berber.

LingTea, 1/19 – Jessica Coon

In this week’s LingTea, on Thursday (Jan. 19th) 12-1pm in room 117, Jessica Coon will give a talk with the title “The linguistics of Arrival: Aliens, fieldwork, and Universal Grammar“. This is a practice talk for an up-coming Arrival-related public lecture.


If aliens arrived, could we communicate with them? How would we do it? What are the tools linguists use to decipher unknown languages? How different can human languages be from one another? Do these differences have bigger consequences for how we see the world?

The recent science-fiction film Arrival touches on these and other real questions in the field of linguistics. In Arrival, linguistics professor Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is recruited by the military to translate the language of the newly-arrived Heptapods in order to answer the question everyone wants to know: why are they here? Language, it turns out, is a crucial piece of the answer.

Jessica Coon, science consultant for the linguistics in Arrival, has never worked with an alien, but will discuss her own fieldwork on Mayan languages, and what these languages can tell us about linguistic diversity and Universal Grammar.

Semantics Research Group – 1/20

The semantics research group will be meeting January 20th at 15:00 in room 117. Bernhard Schwarz will be presenting on Wataru Uegaki’s dissertation:  Interpreting questions under attitudes.

WORDS Group – 1/20

The WORDS Group will be meeting on Friday 20th January, at UQAM (room DS-3470) at 10-11.30.  The focus of this meeting will be on Head movement in syntax and morphology. In particular, two handouts from the Workshop on the Status of Head Movement in Linguistic Theory held at Stanford University (September 16-17, 2016) will be discussed:

  • Gribanova, V. & Harizanov, B. (2016): Whither Head Movement
  • Harley, H. (2016): What Hiaki stem forms are really telling us

Everyone is welcome to attend!

McGill at LSA/SSILA/ADS 2017

McGill linguists past and present attended the 91st Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, and the associated meeetings of the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA) and the American Dialect Society(ADS), which took place 5–8 January 2017 in Austin, Texas. Their many presentations included:

  • George Aaron Broadwell, Lauren Eby Clemens (Postdoc ’14-’15): “Inflectional change in Copala Triqui”
  • Lauren Clemens (Postdoc ’14-’15), Jessica Coon, Carol-Rose Little (BA ’12), Morelia Vázquez Martínez: “Encoding focus in Ch’ol spontaneous speech”
  • Lauren Clemens (Postdoc ’14-’15): “Prosody, pseudo noun incorporation, and V1 syntax: VP-fronting or Vo-raising?”
  • Emily Elfner (Postdoc ’12-’14), Patricia A. Shaw: “Game-based methodology for the study of intonational contours in Kwak’wala”
  • Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine (Postdoc ’14-’15), Theodore Levin: “On the unavailability of argument ellipsis in Kaqchikel”
  • Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine (Postdoc ’14-’15): “C-T head-splitting: evidence from Toba Batak”
  • Guilherme Garcia: “Adapting inconsistent lexical patterns: a Bayesian approach to weight and stress”
  • Daniel Goodhue: “Biased polar questions: VERUM focus is semantic focus, high negation is a distinct phenomenon”
  • Natália Brambatti Guzzo, Heather Goad: “Overriding default interpretations through prosody: depictive predicates in Brazilian Portuguese”
  • Aron Hirsch (BA ’12): “Fragments, pseudo-clefts, and ellipsis”
  • Thomas Kettig (BA ’13): “One hundred years of stability: the case of the BAD-LAD split”
  • Hadas Kotek (Postdoc ’14-’16): “Movement and alternatives don’t mix: a new look at intervention effects”
  • Jeffrey Lamontagne, Heather Goad, Morgan Sonderegger: “Penultimate prominence in Québec French: internal motivations or English influence?”
  • Jeffrey Lamontagne and Gretchen McCulloch (MA ’13): “Wayyy longgg: orthotactics and phonology in lengthening on Twitter”
  • Cora Lesure (BA ’15): “Phonologically null morphemes and templatic morphology: the case of Chuj (Mayan)”
  • Moti Liberman and Gretchen McCulloch (MA ’13) organized a symposium entitled “Datablitz: Getting High School Students Into Linguistics”
  • Michael McAuliffe, Michaela Socolof (BA ’16), Sarah Mihuc, Michael Wagner, Morgan Sonderegger: “Montreal Forced Aligner: an accurate and trainable forced aligner using Kaldi”
  • Michaela Socolof (BA ’16): “The position of the negative particle ara and NPIs in Kabyle negation”
  • Morgan Sonderegger, Michael McAuliffeJurij BozicChristopher BrunoSeptember CowleyBing’er JiangJeffrey LamontagneMartha SchwarzJiajia Su: “Laryngeal timing across seven languages: phonetic data and their relationship to phonological features”
  • Lisa Travis: “A typology of VP-fronting”
  • Jozina Vander Klok (PhD ’12) and Vera Hohaus: “Building Blocks of Weak Necessity Modality: The View from Paciran Javanese”

Some current and past McGill affiliates gathered for a photo:



LingTea in Winter 2017

In the upcoming Winter 2017 term, LingTea will take place every Thursday from 12-1pm. The first session will be on January 12th. Below is a tentative list of available dates for LingTea presentations:

  • Jan: 12th, 19th, 26th
  • Feb: 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd
  • Mar: 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th
  • Apr: 6th, 13th.

Everyone is invited to sign up for a slot.

Semantics Research Group – 12/9

The Semantics Research Group is meeting this Friday the 9th at 1 pm in room 117. Alan Bale will continue presenting on his work on “Sentential Oddities and the Mass-Count Distinction“. Note the time change, as we are meeting at 1 pm instead of the usual 3 pm.

WORDS Group – 12/9

The WORDS Group will be meeting on Friday 9th December, at UQAM (room DS-3470). This will be an extended session (1pm – 5pm). The focus of this meeting will be on comparing different approaches to Phase Theory.

Everyone is welcome!

McGill at ASA 172

McGill’s linguists attended the 172nd Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), which took place on 28th November – 2nd December 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Presentations of current McGill affiliates included:

  • Hye-Young Bang:
    (a) The acoustic counterpart to articulatory resistance and aggressiveness in locus equation metrics and vowel dispersion
    (b) The relationship of VOT and F0 contrasts across speakers and words in the German voicing contrast
  • Donghyun Kim: Individual differences in the relation between perception and production and the mechanisms of phonetic imitation
  • Bing’er Jiang: Cue weighting in the tonal register contrast of Jiashan Wu

McGill affiliates gathered for a photo:



(Left to right: Haruko Saito (McGill, SCSD), Linda Polka (McGill, SCSD), Hye-Young Bang, Donghyun Kim, Bing’er Jiang)

Clayards, Kilbourn-Ceron, Sonderegger, Tanner and Wagner – Colloquia at Princeton and Johns Hopkins University

Michael Wagner gave talks at colloquia at Princeton University (16th November) and Johns Hopkins University (17th November), in which he reported on his joint work with Meghan Clayards, Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron, Morgan Sonderegger and James Tanner with the title “Allophonic variation and the locality of production planning“. The abstract is given below.


The application of allophonic processes across word boundaries (processes such as flapping (cf. De Jong, 1998; Patterson and Connine, 2001) and sibilant assimilation (cf. Holst and Nolan, 1995) in English, or liaison in French (Durand and Lyche, 2008)) is known to be subject to locality conditions. The same processes are also known to be variable. While a correlation between the locality of cross word processes on the one hand and their inherent variability is often observed (e.g. Kaisse, 1985), existing theories of either aspect usually do not make any predictions about the other. In this paper we report on several projects that pursue the hypothesis that the locality and variability of cross-word allophonic processes are tightly linked, and can be both be understood as a consequence of the locality of production planning.

The basic idea is that flapping, sibilant assimilation, liaison and related processes are sensitive to the segmental environment in a following word, but the following segmental environment can only exert its effect of the relevant information is already available when the phonetic detail of the current word is being planned. Under this view, effects of syntax and prosody on the application of these processes are reducible to their indirect effects on production planning: For example, a speaker is less likely to plan ahead across a sentence boundary, and less likely to plan ahead across a prosodic juncture. This hypothesis makes specific predictions that all factors affecting planning should affect the likelihood of cross-word allophonic processes (such as the predictability of the following word, the # syllables of the following word, etc.). We report evidence from several experimental and corpus studies that test our hypothesis, which makes different predictions than accounts that tie allophonic processes to particular phonological domains. It also makes different predictions than accounts that try to explain sandhi processes as an effect of gestural overlap, or than currently popular accounts in terms of probabilistic reduction.

An account of the the locality of sandhi processes in terms of the locality of production planning removes some of the motivation for categorically distinct phonological domains as they are assumed in the theory of the prosodic hierarchy. It also makes new predictions about what types of processes will necessarily have to be local and variable, and also about the degree of locality/variability depending on which information their application relies on.

LingTea, 11/24 – Junko Shimoyama & Keir Moulton

In this week’s LingTea, on Thursday (Nov. 24th) 12-1pm in room 117, Junko Shimoyama and Keir Moulton (who will be present through Skype) will give a talk with the title “On inverse trace conversion in Japanese internally-headed relative clauses“.


We report on our ongoing project that examines a recent analysis of various types of relative clauses in Japanese (Erlewine and Gould 2014, 2015). Our focus will be on the use of Inverse Trace Conversion and a maximal informativeness analysis of internally-headed relative clauses.

Semantics Research Group

This Friday the 25th, Alan Bale will present on his recent paper “Sentential Oddities and the Mass-Count Distinction“, which can be found via the link. The meeting will be at 3pm in room 117 as always. Hope to see you there!

Report of McGill at Mo-MOT 1

McGill’s linguists attended the The First Annual Morphology in Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto Workshop (Mo-MOT 1) on 18th-20th November, 2016, which took place at Carleton University. Presentations of current affiliates included the following:

  • Jurij Bozic: “Two Loci of Morphological Neutralization“
  • Lydia Felice & Lisa Travis: “The realization of gender morphemes and the articulation of K in Kabyle“
  • Maire Noonan: “The trouble with German lefties“

Current and past McGill affiliates gathered for a photo on Sunday:



Left to right: Gabriel Daitzchman, Jurij Bozic, Lydia Felice, Heather Newell (PhD, 2008), Lisa Travis, Bronwyn Bjorkman (BA, 2006), Elizabeth Cowper (BA, 1972), Kumiko Murasugi (PostDoc, 1993-1994), Maire Noonan.

LingTea, 11/17 – Lydia Felice & Lisa Travis

In this week’s LingTea, on Thursday (Nov. 17th) 12-1pm in room 117, Lydia Felice & Lisa Travis will give a talk on the topic of Kabyle morphology.


Some researchers have observed the prefixes are more loosely connected to the stems that they attach to than are suffixes (e.g. Hyman 2008, Bobaljik and Wurmbrand 2001). This asymmetry can be accounted for if one assumes (a) that syntax is the generative system that creates complex morphological structure and (b) morpheme order is determined by the syntax. In one version of this view, suffixes are attached to the stem via head movement and prefixes through some mechanism of morphological merger (e.g. Kayne 2015). We use these ideas to account for the realization of gender morphemes in Kabyle, a dialect of Berber and to further relate this account to the nano-syntax of Case (Caha 2009).

Selected references:

Bobaljik, J. and Wurmbrand, S. (2001). Seven prefix-suffix asymmetries in Itelmen. In Proceedings of CLS.Caha, P. (2009). The Nanosyntax of Case. PhD thesis, University of Tromsø.Hyman, L. M. (2008). Directional asymmetries in the morphology and phonology of words, with special reference to Bantu. Linguistics, 46(2):309{350.Kayne, R. S. (2015). Antisymmetry and morphology. prefixes and suffixes. unpublished ms, NYU.

LingTea, 11/10 – Justin Royer

In this week’s LingTea, on Thursday (Nov. 10th) 12-1pm in room 117, Justin Royer will give a talk with the title “Classifier systems in Chuj (Mayan)“.


Chuj, a Mayan language, has a robust system of classification. On the one hand, it features over 15 nominal classifiers which classify nouns according to their physical and social attributes. On the other, it possesses a set of numeral classifiers which obligatorily accompany nouns after certain numerals. Both types of classifiers can surface within the same utterance.    This talk will consist in presenting an overview of the environments in which nominal and numeral classifiers are licensed in Chuj. Data from ongoing fieldwork will be put forward in order to describe and discuss the theoretical implications of these systems and their interaction. Regarding nominal classifiers, I will follow Craig (1986) in arguing that nominal classifiers mark nouns that are referential or salient. This contrasts with prior analyses, which have described them as definite determiners (see e.g. Domingo Pascual 2007). Moving on to numeral classifiers, I will provide substantial evidence in support of Krifka (1995), and Bale and Coon’s (2014) claims that numeral classifiers result from the deficiency of certain quantifying expressions, rather than from the deficiency of certain nouns (Cherchia 1998). Finally, I will establish the importance of treating these two classifying systems as separate systems, governed by separate linguistic properties.

Semantics Reading Group, 11/11

On Friday November 11th, Roni Katzir will present at the Semantics Research Group. The meeting will be held at 3 pm in room 117. Title and abstract are below. Hope to see you there!

Abstract: The roles of questions, answers, and anaphoricity in focus

The placement of accent on elements in sentences interacts both with felicity — so-called free focus (FF) — and, in the presence of certain operators, with truth conditions and presuppositions — so-called association with focus (AF). This interaction is often taken to be anaphoric: in FF, the focus alternatives of a sentence are required to have a contextually salient element or subset (Jackendoff 1972, Rooth 1992, Schwarzschild 1999); and in AF, focus alternatives are matched against an anaphoric element that determines domain restriction (Rooth 1992, von Fintel 1994).My goal in this talk is to argue that the role of anaphoricity in focus is more limited than commonly thought and that questions are central to both FF and AF. In FF, I present evidence that suggests that focus is more discriminating than under the theories of Rooth 1992 and Schwarzschild 1999 and that it must target questions rather than arbitrary discourse antecedents. Moreover, I use an extension of Wagner 2005’s ‘convertible’ paradigm to argue that FF depends not just on questions but also on the ability of sentences to answer them. For AF, I present evidence that challenges the idea that the effect of focus alternatives on domain restriction is ever anaphoric. Instead, I will suggest that some AF operators access focus alternatives directly, while others have their domain restriction constrained by a derived question.

WORDS Group, 11/11

The WORDS Group will be meeting on Friday 11th November at 1-2.30pm (location and room tba). This week’s meeting is dedicated to practice talks for the upcoming Mo-MOT 1 meeting. The following is a tentative list of presentations:

  • Lydia Felice & Lisa Travis: “The realization of gender morphemes in Kabyle and the Syntax/PF interface”
  • Ievgeniia Kybalchych (UQAM): “The trimorphemic structure of Japanese deictic expressions within a two-dimensional reference system”
  • Thomas Leu (UQAM): “Dividing the definite article up between verbal inflection and  personal pronoun”
  • Maire Noonan: “The irksome nature of left members of German compounds”

Everyone is welcome to attend!

McGill at Mo-MOT 1

Carleton University is hosting the The First Annual Morphology in Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto Workshop (Mo-MOT 1) on 18th-20th November, 2016. McGill linguists will attend the meeting to present their work:

The entire program can be found here.

McGill at BUCLD 41

McGill linguists presented at the 41st Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD 41), which was hosted at Boston UNiversity on 4-6th November, 2016. Presentations by current McGill affiliates included:

  • G. Garcia, H. Goad, N. Guzzo: “L2 Acquisition of High Vowel Deletion in Quebec French”
  • J. Klassen, A. Tremblay, M. Wagner, H. Goad: “Prominence Shifts in Second Language English and Spanish: Learning versus Unlearning”
  • L. Smeets: “Ultimate Attainment at the Syntax-Discourse Interface: the acquisition of object movement in Dutch”
  • L. White, H. Goad, J. Su, L. Smeets, M. Mortazavinia, G. Garcia, N. Guzzo: “Prosodic Effects on Pronoun Interpretation in Italian”

Past and present McGill affiliates gathered for a photo:



Sepideh Mortazavinia, Liz Smeets, Shanley Allen, Lydia White, Silvina Montrul, Alan Bale, Theres Grüter, Jeffrey Klassen, Makiko Hirakawa, Guilherme Garcia.

WORDS Group, 11/4

The WORDS Group will be meeting on Friday 4th November, at McGill (room tba) at 1-2.30pm. Half of the session will comprise two practice talks for the upcoming Mo-MOT, given by Laura Grestenberger (Concordia University) and Chris Mauro (UQAM), while the second half will continue the discussion of Smith el al. (2016): Case and Number Suppletion in Pronouns.

Everyone is welcome to attend!

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