Archive for the 'Events' Category

Jessica at Public Astro Night

Jessica will be giving a public lecture this week as part of the Astrophysics & Cosmology Public Astro Nights series. The talk will be Thursday, March 17th at 7pm in McIntyre Medical room 522. Weather-permitting, the talk will be followed by night-sky observations.

The Linguistics of Arrival: Aliens, Fieldwork, and Universal Grammar

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.

Admitted students open house, 2/23–2/24

We’re having an open house for admitted graduate students later this week on Feb. 23-24. Admitted graduate students will attend classes, a lab tour, and a campus tour; have individual meetings with faculty members; learn about our current graduate students’ research, as well as the faculty members’ research; enjoy a party afterwards, socialize with our current graduate students, etc. Department members can find more details on the final schedule that has been sent out by email. Meanwhile, if you see any new faces wandering the halls, please say hello!

Arrival arrives

Arrival, the new sci-fi movie with a world-saving linguist protagonist, premiered Friday. The Washington Post recently said it’s made linguistics look “almost cool,” and Science Magazine adds that this will our field’s “chance to set the record straight” about linguistics as a science.

Filmed in Montreal and directed by Denis Villeneuve, Arrival filmmakers worked with McGill linguists Jessica Coon, Morgan Sonderegger, and Lisa Travis. A group of Montreal-based linguists got to attend a special pre-release screening in downtown Montreal last Wednesday:

Linguists at Arrival

Linguists at Arrival

Jessica spent the last couple of weeks doing a lot of press interviews. You can read about some of them in the The Wall Street Journal, The New York ObserverThe Montreal Gazette, Wired, PCMag, Metro News, and McGill’s Alumni Magazine.

Jessica also wrote a piece for Museum of the Moving Image on aliens, fieldwork, and Universal Grammar.

You’ll notice an uncanny resemblance between Lisa’s office and the office of Dr. Louise Banks, documented on LanguageLog.

The Banks/Travis office

The Banks/Travis office

And you’ll see Morgan’s spectograms and Heptapod sounds throughout the film.


Departmental Picnic: return to Parc Lafontaine

The rain stopped just in time for linguists to enjoy a beginning-of-the-year departmental picnic in perfect weather in Parc LaFontaine. Delicious food and good conversation were had by all.  Here are some pictures of linguists, and a white squirrel who joined us:

DSC_0160 DSC_0159 DSC_0189

Latex Tutorial announcement

Chris, Gui, and Henrison are hosting a series of informal LaTeX tutorials for the department. These tutorials will be appropriate for those with little to no experience, but they are also planning on covering some non-introductory topics, for those who want to supplement their current knowledge. If you are interested in attending, please email Henrison for any future news.
Sessions will be every Thursday over 4 weeks starting next week (September 15, 22, 29, and October 6) in Room 002 from 2:00 to 3:30. Here’s roughly what each session will cover:
  1. LaTeX basics and getting started, document structure, common formatting
  2. In-depth topics useful for managing larger/multiple projects: bibliographies, custom commands and environments, custom packages and class files, handling larger projects
  3. Creating presentations
  4. Linguistics-specific: Example sentences, trees and tree-like figures, tableaux, mathematical/semantics formulae

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.

McCCLU, 3/18–3/19

The Society of Linguistics Undergraduates at McGill is proud to announce the 10th edition of McCCLU, the McGill Canadian Conference for Linguistics Undergraduates. This year McCCLU will run on March 18-19 and will include a Wine & Cheese event in Arts 160 (Arts Building) on the 18thand a full day of presentations on the 19th at New Rez, 3625 Parc. We are hosting speakers from several universities in Canada and the US, our very own Hannah Cohen and Douglas Gordon, and Professor Lisa Travis of McGill as a keynote speaker.

Check out the schedule below and visit our website

We hope to see you at McCCLU!


Admitted students open house, 2/25–2/26

We’re having an open house for admitted graduate students later this week on Feb. 25-26. Admitted graduate students will attend classes, a lab tour, and a campus tour; have individual meetings with faculty members; learn about our current graduate students’ research, as well as the faculty members’ research; enjoy a party afterwards, socialize with our current graduate students, etc. etc. You can find more details on the final schedule that has been sent out by email. Meanwhile, if you see any new faces wandering the halls, please say hello!

Welcome lunch and Fest-Eval, 8/28

Please join us for two events to kick off the year: FestEval and the annual departmental Welcome (Back) Lunch. Both events will take place in the Department building (1085 Dr. Penfield) on Friday, August 28 2015.
Welcome (back) Lunch: 12.30-2, Department Lounge (Room 212)

FestEval (Friday, August 28, 2pm-5.05pm, Room 002)
2.00 Liz Smeets: Against the adverbial analysis of focus association
2.25 Jiajia Su: The syntactic structure of Chinese Classifiers
2.50  Dan Goodhue: Epistemic must is not evidential, it’s epistemic
3.15  Henrison Hsieh: An additional inference for actuality entailments
3.40.-3.50 Break
3.50 Hye-Young Bang: The lexical and contextual path of tonogenesis: Evidence from Seoul Korean
4.15 Gui Garcia: Extrametricality and Second Language Acquisition
4.40-5.05  Donghyun Kim: A longitudinal study of individual differences in the acquisition of novel vowel contrasts
Hope to see you all there!

Open House, 2/19–20

We’re having an open house for admitted graduate students on Feb. 19-20. Admitted graduate students will attend classes, a reading group meeting, a lab tour, and a campus tour; have individual meetings with faculty members; learn about our current graduate students’ research, listen to Florian Jaeger’s colloquium talk and enjoy a party afterwards; and also socialize with our current graduate students, etc. etc. You can find more details on the final schedule that will be sent out by email shortly. Meanwhile, if you see any new faces wandering the halls, please say hello!

Jonathan Bobaljik “Dependent Case and Case-Dependent Agreement” workshop, 1/29

McLing is pleased to announce that Jonathan Bobaljik will be visiting Montreal next week, sponsored by the Concordia LSA and McSIRG.

What: Mini workshop: “Dependent Case and Case-dependent Agreement” (presenting in part joint work with Mark Baker)

Coordinates: Thursday January 29th, 5:30–7pm in Linguistics 117; to be followed by a dinner reception in the Linguistics Lounge

In this tutorial/workshop, we’ll work through some of the evidence for treating case on an NPs as primarily reflecting syntactic configuration (transitivity / whether there is another NP in the same domain, Marantz 1991, Baker to appear) rather than by a relationship to a designated functional head (as in Chomsky 1981 et seq). Time and audience interest permitting, we will look at some of the following:

    •  critical examination of arguments that ergative case is ‘inherent’ (tied to a theta-role assigning head)

    • arguments that case and agreement are not ‘two sides of the same coin’ but are distinct grammatical operations

    • arguments that agreement depends (imperfectly) on case (Bobaljik 2008, Baker 2008), with attention to putative counter-examples

    • different distribution of ‘active’ patterns in case vs. agreement (and the implications of this for the questions above)

      Please RSVP to Jessica if you are interested in attending.

Information for the colloquium at Concordia is as follows:

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Linguistics at Indigenous Awareness Week

This past week was McGill’s 4th Annual Indigenous Awareness Week. The week’s activities culminated in a Pow Wow Friday in McGill’s lower field. The Mi’gmaq Research Partnership had a booth at the Pow Wow, which included information on language endangerment and language revitalization in Canada, as well as some fun facts about Mi’gmaq. The booth was organized by undergraduates Douglas Gordon, Jacob Leon, and Madeleine Mees.

Madeleine, Jacob, and Douglas

Madeleine, Jacob, and Douglas

Learn about clusivity and see if you can figure out what the morpheme wenji means here.

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