Author Archive for McLing

Bang et al. in Journal of Phonetics

A paper by Hye-Young Bang and co-authors (Morgan Sonderegger, Yoonjung Kang, Meghan Clayards, Taejin Yoon), “The emergence, progress, and impact of sound change in progress in Seoul Korean: Implications for mechanisms of tonogenesis”, has just appeared in Journal of Phonetics. Congratulations!

This study examines the origin, progression, and impact of a sound change in Seoul Korean where the primary cue to a stop contrast in phrase-initial position is shifting from VOT to f0. Because it shares similarities with the initial phase of tonogenesis, investigating this “quasi-tonogenetic” sound change provides insight into the nature of the emergence of contrastive f0 in “tonogenetic” sound changes more generally. Using a dataset from a large apparent-time corpus of Seoul Korean, we built mixed-effects regression models of VOT and f0 to examine the time-course of change, focusing on word frequency and vowel height effects. We found that both VOT contrast reduction and f0 contrast enhancement are more advanced in high-frequency words and in stops before non-high vowels, indicating that the change is spreading across words and phonetic contexts in parallel. Furthermore, speakers suppress non-contrastive variation in f0 as f0 emerges as a primary cue. Our findings suggest that one impetus for tonogenetic change is production bias coupled with an adaptive link between the cues. We further discuss the role of Korean intonational phonology on f0 which may help explain why the phonetic precondition leads to change in Seoul Korean but not in other languages.

 

Linguistics at Open House

McGill Linguistics had a table at McGill’s Open House this past Sunday.  Thanks to Claire Bautista, Shannon Fiedler, Fiona Higgins, Hayley Ostrega, Alele Rangel, Nicole Ryan (pictured left), Vicky Svaikovsky and Tea Vincic (pictured right) who volunteered at the event — it was a great success!

McGill at NELS

A sizeable contingent of McGill related linguistics attended the 48th Annual Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (NELS 48) this past weekend. For the first time, the conference took place outside North America, viz. at the University of Iceland, Reykjavík. As the organizers emphasized, Iceland now easily holds the record as the smallest host country for NELS in terms of both population size (previously: Canada) and land area (previously: USA).

McGill at CILLA

Justin Royer and Jessica Coon headed to the University of Texas at Austin last week for the 8th Conference on Indigenous Languages of Latin America (CILLA). Justin’s talk was titled “Sistemas de clasificación nominal en chuj (maya)”. Jessica gave a plenary talk, presenting joint work with Lauren Clemens (SUNY Albany, McGill postdoc 2014-15), titled “Verb initial word order in Mayan: Causes and consequences.”   Robert Henderson (McGill postdoc 2013-13) also presented.

Justin Royer, Lauren Clemens (post-doc 2014–2015), Jessica Coon, Robert Henderson (post-doc 2012–2013)

Prosody & Meaning Reading group: Oct 23 and Oct 30

On Monday, the Prosody & Meaning Reading group will meet to discuss Judith Tonhauser’s recent paper on “Prosodic cues to presupposition projection“. Aron Hirsch will lead the discussion (Monday Oct 23rd, 11.30-1pm, Room 117). The following week, we’ll likely talk about Goldrick et al. (2016): Automatic analysis of slips of the tongue… (Monday Oct 30, 12-1pm, Room 117).

Aron Hirsch mini-course: Oct 30-Nov 9

Aron Hirsch (SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at McGill this year), will be giving a “mini-course” about his research on the syntax-semantics of “cross-categorial” operators, in five lectures stretching from October 30-November 9. See below for a course description and schedule. No advanced background in syntax or semantics is required. Mark your calendars, everyone is welcome to attend!
Cross-categorial operators
“Cross-categorial” operators — notably, the conjunction and and focus operator only — appear in a broad range of environments. And occurs, for instance, between full clauses in (1a) and DPs in (1b). Likewise, only occurs pre-vP in (2a) and pre-DP in (2b).
 
(1) a. John saw every student and Mary saw every professor.
b. John saw every student and every professor.
 
(2) a. John only learned oneF language.
b. John learned only oneF language.
 
Given their broad distribution, these operators seem to require a flexible semantics. In (1a), and operates on truth-values, like the & connective of propositional logic: (1a) is true iff both conjoined clauses are true. Yet, in (1b), and seems to have a different meaning which composes with quantifiers. A range of semantic mechanisms have been proposed to achieve the necessary flexibility (e.g. Keenan & Faltz 1978, 1985,
Gazdar 1980, Partee & Rooth 1983, Jacobson 1999, 2015). One approach draws on type-shifting rules: and is stored in the lexicon as &, but type-shifted to compose with quantifiers in (1b). Only receives a similar analysis, through type-shifting (Rooth 1985).
 
The aim in this mini-course is to challenge the idea that these operators have a flexible semantics, pursuing instead the Semantic Inflexibility Hypothesis (‘SIH’). Under the SIH, and always operates on truthvalues (following Schein 2017), and only again patterns in kind. The viability of the SIH for data like (1b)
and (2b) depends on covert syntax: the underlying structure must be richer than it appears from the surface string so that it includes a truth-value denoting scope site for the operator. The course will build a case the SIH. First: we will see that semantic flexibility approaches have overgeneration problems, providing initial motivation for the SIH. Second: we will diffuse some counterarguments to covert syntax with and from the prior literature (e.g. Partee 1970). And, third: we will provide a range of novel evidence that covert syntax is in fact present with both and and only in a fragment of data. The SIH, if successful, leads us to constrain the availability of type-shifting, and the expressive power of the semantic grammar more generally (cf. Heim 2015).
Class 1: The Semantic Inflexibility Hypothesis
October 30, Monday, 10:30-12:00 – Room 117
Class 2: Apparent DP conjunction
November 2, Thursday, 11:30-13:00 – LEACOCK 14
Class 3: November 3, Friday, 15:00-16:30 – Room 117
Apparent NP conjunction
Class 4: November 6, Monday, 10:30-12:00 – Room 117
Focus operators
 
Class 5: November 9, Thursday, 11:30-13:00 – LEACOCK 14
Consequences for the grammar

McGill at AMP 2017

McGill Linguists past and present presented at the 2017 Annual Meeting on Phonology last month at NYU:

  • Jeffrey Lamontagne, Heather Goad & Morgan Sonderegger: “Variability in French prominence: Evidence for weight sensitivity”
  • Jeffrey Lamontagne & Francisco Torreira: “Production planning and directionality in external sandhi”
  • Martha Schwarz (MA 2017), Morgan Sonderegger, & Heather Goad: “Representing a four-way contrast: Nepali, voiced aspirates and laryngeal realism”
  • Öner Özçelik (PhD 2012): “Phonological markedness and extraprosodicity as predictors of morphological errors in SLI”

Paulina Elias at SEURA symposium

Linguistics undergrad Paulina Elias was one of the first SEURA (Social Equity Undergraduate Research Award) recipients during this award’s first year at McGill. Paulina’s research project this past summer focused on the documentation of Chuj, a Mayan language spoken in Guatemala and by speakers here in Montreal, and was supervised by Jessica Coon. Last week they attended the SEURA Symposium, where they participated in a discussion panel that centred around social equity in research.

McGill at MIT Workshop on Simplicity

McGill linguists presented at the MIT Workshop on Simplicity in Grammar Learning on Sep 23:

  • Richard Futrell and Tim O’Donnell: “A generative model of phonotactics”
  • Kevin Ellis and Tim O’Donnell: “Inducing phonological rules: Perspectives from Bayesian program learning”
  • Aron Hirsch (postdoc) and Ezer Rasin: “An evolutionary effect of simplicity bias on the typology of logical operators”

 

 

 

McGill Ling at Montreal AI Symposium

McGill linguists past and present presented at the Montreal AI Symposium on Sep 26:

Chris Bruno, Eva Portelance (BHons ’17), Tim O’Donnell: “Unsupervised induction of natural-language dependency structures”

Elias Stengel-Eskin, Emily Kellison-Linn, Tim O’Donnell: “Variational Inference for Unsupervised Lexicon Learning”

McGill at Manitoba Workshop on Person

McGill linguists presented last week at the Manitoba Workshop on Person in Winnipeg. Jessica Coon and Michael Wagner presented joint work with Stefan Keine (USC), “Hierarchy effects in copular constructions: The PCC corner of German”, and Lisa Travis presented joint work with Ileana Paul (Western), “Augmented pronouns in Malagasy”.

L to R: Bronwyn Bjorkman (BA 2006), Ileana Paul (BA 1990, PhD 2000), Elizabeth Cowper (BA 1972), Jessica Coon, Richard Compton (postdoc 2014-2014), Lisa Travis, Michael Wagner.

Sonderegger, Bane, Graff in Language

A paper by Morgan Sonderegger, Max Bane, and Peter Graff, “The medium-term dynamics of accents on reality television”, has been published in the September 2017 issue of Language. The article can be found here (+ supplementary material), and is the subject of press releases by the LSA and McGill. and the abstract is below:
How flexible is an individual’s accent during adulthood, and how does this flexibility relate to longer-term change? Previous work has found that accents are remarkably flexible in conversational interaction, but predominantly stable over years, leading to very different views of the role of individuals in community-level sound change. This article examines medium-term accent dynamics (days to months) by taking advantage of a ‘natural experiment’: a reality television show where contestants live in an isolated house for three months and are constantly recorded, forming a closed system where it is possible to both determine the dynamics of contestants’ speech from day to day and reason about the sources of any observed changes. We build statistical models to examine time dependence in five phonetic variables within individuals, in 14.5 hours of spontaneous speech from twelve English-speaking contestants. We find that time dependence in pronunciation is ubiquitous over the medium term: large daily fluctuations in pronunciation are the norm, while longer-term change over weeks to months occurs in a minority of cases. These patterns mirror the conflicting findings of previous work and suggest a possible bridge between the two. We argue that time dependence in phonetic variables is influenced by contrast between sounds, as well as systematic differences between speakers in how malleable their accents are over time; however, we find only limited evidence for convergence in individuals’ accents. Our results have implications for theories of the role of individuals in sound change, and suggest that medium-term pronunciation dynamics are a fruitful direction for future work.

Buccola to Ecole Normale Supérieure

Brian Buccola (McGill PhD 2015) has just taken up a position as a postdoctoral researcher at the Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique, at CNRS lab, at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. Brian is moving to Paris from Jerusalem, where he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Language, Logic, and Cognition Center of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Congratulations, Brian!

Language revitalization talk: Megan Lukaniec

There will a talk on language revitalization Tuesday cosponsored by Linguistics and the Office of First Nations and Inuit Education, DISE. The talk will take place Tuesday September 12th at 4:15pm in Education room 233, and will be preceded by coffee and snacks in Education room 203A at 3:45. All are invited!
Speaker: Megan Lukaniec (Huron-Wendat Nation, UC Santa Barbara Linguistics)
 Abstract:

With the number of dormant languages steadily increasing, archival materials are becoming indispensable tools for linguistic research and revitalization. Absent the invaluable opportunity to consult a native speaker, reclamation in dormant language communities must follow a different trajectory: transform documentation into accessible and culturally relevant language teaching.

The Wendat language, also known as Huron or Huron-Wendat, is one such example of a dormant language undergoing revitalization. Although it lost its last fluent speakers in the mid-19th century, Wendat (Iroquoian) was documented extensively by missionaries in the 17th and 18th centuries. For the past decade, Wendat community members have been leading efforts to reawaken their language. These revitalization efforts, based out of the reserve of Wendake, Québec, have led to adult evening courses, workshops for children at the tribal elementary school, lessons at the tribal daycare center as well as the creation of an online, open access trilingual dictionary, Wendat-French-English (wendatlanguage.com).

So, how does one repurpose historical documentation for language reclamation? How does one use linguistics in order to repatriate linguistic and cultural knowledge? Using Wendat as a case study, this paper will examine the broader processes of language reclamation and revitalization, including the historical-comparative reconstruction of linguistic data, transforming such data into materials for teacher training and language courses, and reintroducing language into a dormant language community. Finally, I will offer observations about the social and cultural effects of language reclamation, including its effects on community healing and individual well-being.

Summer 2017 PhD defenses

Congratulations to Guilherme Garcia and Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron, who defended their dissertations this summer!

Gui’s dissertation, supervised by Heather Goad and defended August 2, is titled “Weight effects on stress: lexicon and grammar.” Gui is currently a lecturer in the Department of Education at Concordia University. In the winter he will be joining the Department of English at Ball State University as an assistant professor (tenure-track) in phonology/phonetics. Congratulations, Gui!

Gui (third from left), supervisor Heather Goad (fourth from left), and oral defense committee.

Oriana’s dissertation, supervised by Morgan Sonderegger and Michael Wagner July 21, is titled “Speech production planning affects variation in external sandhi.”  Oriana is currently a lecturer in the Department of Linguistics at Concordia University. Congratulations, Oriana!

Oriana with supervisors

Welcome new graduate students!

Welcome to this year’s incoming class of graduate students and QY student!

Jason Borga is primarily interested (so far!) in syntax, syntax-semantics interface, and language acquisition. He completed his B.A. in Cognitive Science at the University of Connecticut.

Masashi Harada completed his M.A. in linguistics at the University of Kansas. His primary research interests currently lie in the theory of syntax, semantics, and the interface of syntax with other modules of grammar.

Filiz Mutlu

Mathieu Paillé has research interests including syntax, biolinguistics, and Algonquian languages. He completed his B.A. in linguistics at the University of Winnipeg.

Justin Royeis interested in syntax, semantics, fieldwork and Mayan languages, and has conducted research on classifier systems and (in)definiteness. He completed his B.A. in Linguistics at Concordia University.

Vanna Willerton wants to get into the field of computational linguistics and, to this end, will spend the qualifying year developing her math and programming skills. She completed her B.A. in Linguistics, minoring in Philosophy, at Carleton University.

Wilfred Yau is interested modelling natural languages using computational and mathematical tools, such as lexical semantics, probabilistic programming and Bayesian Models of Language Processing. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto with a double major in Economics and Linguistics.

 

McLing summer news

What did McGill linguists do this summer? Some answers can be found below. If you didn’t get your post in on time, email the editors for round two.

Luis Alonso-Ovalle  presented work at SALT.

Chris Bruno presented work relating to his first evaluation paper at SALT, held at the University of Maryland, College Park. The title was “Contrastive negation and the theory of alternatives”.

Jessica Coon traveled to Beijing in May to present a public lecture on Arrival at the 2017 Global Machine Intelligence Summit. Then in June she headed to Guatemala to meet up with current and past McGill students in connection with the University of Maryland’s Guatemala Field Station. For the first two weeks the students took Kaqchikel immersion classes, and and spent the second two weeks conducting research on Mayan languages.

Jessica and Lisa Travis are happy to report that the Oxford Handbook of Ergativity was published over the summer, co-edited by Jessica Coon, Diane Massam (U. Toronto), and Lisa Travis.

Henrison Hsieh presented ongoing work with Luis Alonso-Ovalle entitled “Overcoming the Unexpected: The Tagalog Ability/Involuntary Action Form” at WCCFL and SALT, among other venues. Later in the summer, he attended the 2017 LSA Institute in Lexington KY before going to Southeast Asia to attend the Workshop on Quirks of Subject Extraction at the National University of Singapore and do some data collection in the Philippines.

Michael McAuliffe presented three co-authored papers at Interspeech 2017 in Stockholm, on Polyglot and Speech Corpus Tools , on the Montreal Forced Aligner, and on sentence prosody (with co-authors including Michael Wagner and Morgan Sonderegger).

Clint Parker spent most of his summer in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where he lived with a Tajik host family and studied the Tajik language (a dialect of Persian). While in Dushanbe, Clint was also able to study Shughni, an Eastern Iranian minority language of Tajikistan and Afghanistan, on which he hopes to focus much of his research. The summer helped him both to gain language skills necessary to do fieldwork on Shughni and to make contacts for future research in the country.

Bernhard Schwarz presented work at SALT.

Morgan Sonderegger presented two papers at Phonetics and Phonology in Europe (PaPE 2017).

A paper by James Tanner, Morgan Sonderegger, and Michael Wagner appeared in Laboratory Phonology (doi: 10.5334/labphon.96).

Lydia White attended two conferences in June: (i) the International Symposium on Bilingualism, University of Limerick, Ireland (https://isb11.com/); (ii) the Experimental Psycholinguistics Conference, Menorca (http://www.psycholinguistics.info/experimental/index.html). She presented papers on L2 Italian pronoun interpretation on behalf of the Second Language Acquisition Group (Heather Goad, Gui Garcia, Natália Brambatti Guzzo, Sepideh Mortazavinia, Liz Smeets, Jiajia Su, Lydia White). Lydia also made a keynote presentation in Menorca.

A paper on pronoun interpretation in L2 English by Roumyana Slabakova, Lydia White & Natália Brambatti Guzzo appeared in Frontiers in Psychology 8:1236 in July (doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01236).

 

Welcome back!

McLing hopes everyone had a great summer! As always, we invite you to send us your news: presentations, publications, fieldwork, courses, workshops, departmental events, student projects, jobs, etc., for presentation in upcoming newsletters. Know of a friend, colleague, or student who did something newsworthy? Send us a report and we will follow up.

Welcome new postdoc Aron Hirsch!

McLing would like to extend a warm welcome to a new postdoc, Aron Hirsch, who has jointed the department as a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow.  Aron is returning to the department, having completed a BA here in 2012. Welcome back, Aron!

Much of my research focuses on semantics, with the driving question being: how does semantics interact with other aspects of grammar and cognition, especially syntax and pragmatics, as well as prosody and language processing. Recent projects have pursued the idea that the semantics is less powerful than commonly thought, with labor re-distributed to interfacing modules. Topics I have worked on include: coordination, focus, questions, free relatives, and exceptive phrases. I am coming to McGill from MIT, where I recently finished my PhD. At McGill, I will be a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow, and will be co-teaching Semantics 4 in the second semester. I am looking forward to meeting those of you I don’t know, and learning about your work!

Welcome new lecturer Nico Baier!

McLing would like to welcome Nico Baier, who is joining the department this year as a Faculty Lecturer. Welcome, Nico!

Nico is just finishing his PhD at UC Berkeley. His primary interests are in syntax, morphology, and typology. His research focuses on the morphosyntax of A’-dependencies, including the interaction of phi-agreement and A’-movement and morphological reflexes of Ā-movement.

Blog authors are solely responsible for the content of the blogs listed in the directory. Neither the content of these blogs, nor the links to other web sites, are screened, approved, reviewed or endorsed by McGill University. The text and other material on these blogs are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or information of McGill.