Michael served as an ‘opponent’ on Matthijs Westera‘s thesis defense in Amsterdam last week at the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation Universiteit van Amsterdam. The thesis is titled “Exhaustivity and Intonation. A Uni fed Theory“. While there, Michael also presented a paper on “Prosodically marking focus and givenness: What a purely pragmatic account needs to account for” in a satellite workshop to the event.
Archive for the 'Faculty news' Category
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.
McLing is pleased to report that Jessica Coon’s paper with Robert Henderson (Post-doc ’12-’13), “Adverbs and Variability in Kaqchikel Agent Focus: A Reply to Erlewine (2016)”, has been accepted for publication in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory.
The paper is available here.
In many languages with ergative morphology, transitive subjects (i.e. ergatives) are unable to undergo A’-extraction. This extraction asymmetry is a common hallmark of “syntactic ergativity,” and is found in a range of typologically diverse languages (see e.g. Deal 2016; Polinsky to appear, and works cited there). In Kaqchikel, the A’-extraction of transitive subjects requires a special verb form, known in Mayanist literature as Agent Focus (AF). In a recent paper, Erlewine (2016) argues the restriction on A’-extracting transitive subjects in Kaqchikel is the result of an Anti-Locality effect: transitive subjects are not permitted to extract because they are too close to C. This analysis relies crucially on Erlewine’s proposal that transitive subjects undergo movement to Spec,IP while intransitive subjects remain low. For Erlewine, this derives the fact that transitive (ergative) subjects, but not intransitive (absolutive) subjects are subject to extraction restrictions. Furthermore, it makes the strong prediction that phrasal material intervening between IP and CP should obviate the need for AF in clauses with subject extraction. In this paper, we argue against the Anti-Locality analysis of ergative A’-extraction restrictions along two lines. First, we raise concerns with the proposal that transitive, but not intransitive subjects, move to Spec,IP. Our second, and main focus, is to show that there is variation in whether AF is observed in configurations intervening phrasal material, with a primary focus on intervening adverbs. We propose an alternative account for the variation in whether AF is observed in the presence of adverbs and discuss consequences for accounts of ergative extraction asymmetries more generally.
room DS-1950 at UQAM (http://carte.uqam.ca/pavillon-ds)
coffee and snacks provided
McGill linguists will participate in the Second Intonation Workshop at the University of Toronto February 16-17, giving two papers:
“The continuation contour in French: Realisation and representation”
Jeffrey Lamontagne, Heather Goad & Morgan Sonderegger
“Melodic alternations in Spanish, and their implications for intonational phonology”
Francisco Torreira (McGill University and Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics) &
Martine Grice (University of Cologne)
McLing would like to (belatedly) welcome Tim O’Donnell, who joined the McGill Linguistics faculty this January.
Tim O’Donnell develops mathematical and computational models of language learning, processing, and generalization. One area of special interest is how language users strike a balance between the ability to creatively express new meanings, on one hand, and conservatively reuse existing words, idioms, and other constructions, on the other. His research draws on experimental methods from psychology, formal modeling techniques from natural language processing and computational linguistics, theoretical tools from linguistics, and problems from all three domains. Recent projects include work on lexicon learning from speech input, morphological productivity, phonotactics, syntactic structure building, and the meaning of verbs.
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 McAuliffe, Jurij Bozic, Christopher Bruno, September Cowley, Bing’er Jiang, Jeffrey Lamontagne, Martha Schwarz, Jiajia 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:
Jessica Coon and Lizzie Carolan’s (BA ’14) paper “Nominalizations and the structure of the progressive in Chuj Mayan” will appear in the journal Glossa. A draft of the paper is available here. Congrats both!
McGill BA student Sara Carrier-Bordeleau and Lisa Travis represented McGill Linguistics at the Atelier bilingue en linguistique théorique -Bilingual Workshop in Theoretical Linguistics (ABLT-BWTL) at Concordia University, which took place December 12th and 13th. Their talks were Orphan prepositions as surface anaphora (Sara) and Little words – big consequences (Lisa).
McGill Linguistics continues to make headlines with the recent release of Arrival. Jessica Coon and Morgan Sonderegger both appeared on CTV National News last week, and Jessica was interviewed on CBC’s The Current last Friday. A full list of recent press, along with resources by McGill MA alum and internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch, can be found here.
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:
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 Observer, The 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.
And you’ll see Morgan’s spectograms and Heptapod sounds throughout the film.
Join us this week for Ling-Tea at its regular time, 12–1 in room 117.
Speaker: Francisco Torreira
Title: “Melodic constructions in Spanish and their implication for intonational phonology”
In this presentation I will explore the structure of intonation, arguing for the existence of melodic constructions, which I define as meaningful sequences of tonal targets with association properties that may be melody-specific and dependent on the metrical structure utterance. Following a qualitative description of several melodic constructions in English, Catalan, and Spanish, I provide data from two imitation-and-completion experiments, each carried out on a Spanish melodic construction: the low-rise-fall and the circumflex contour. I show that a high tonal target in each of these melodies is realized either at the right edge of the phrase (i.e. with a delimitative function) in phrases of one prosodic word (e.g. Manolo), or on a stressed syllable (i.e. with a culminative function) in longer phrases (e.g. El hermano de Manolo ‘Manolo’s brother’). To account for this alternation in contour shape, I argue for a stricter separation between tonal targets and metrical structure in intonational phonology, allowing melodic constructions in the intonational lexicon-grammar of a language to have tonal targets without an intrinsic culminative function (i.e. as pitch accents) or delimitative function (i.e. as edge tones). More generally, the data support the existence of meaningful intonational units larger than those traditionally discussed in the intonational phonology literature (e.g. pitch accents, edge tones, prenuclear and nuclear contours).”
McGill linguists presented at the 47th Annual Meeting of North East Linguistic Society (NELS 47), which was hosted at the University of Massachusetts Amherst October 14–16. Presentations by current McGill affiliates included:
- Lauren Clemens and Jessica Coon
VOS two ways: A unified account of V1 order in Mayan
- Jessica Coon, Stefan Keine and Michael Wagner
Hierarchy effects in copular constructions: The PCC corner of German
- Guilherme Garcia
Grammar trumps lexicon: Typologically inconsistent weight effects are not generalized
- Vincent Rouillard and Bernhard Schwarz
Epistemic Narrowing from Maximize Presupposition
- Alex Drummond and Junko Shimoyama
Complex degrees and an unexpected comparative interpretation
McGill affiliates of past and present gathered for a photo at the dinner:
Jen Mah (PhD 2011), Heather Goad and Karsten Steinhauer’s paper ‘Using event-related brain brain potentials to assess perceptibility: The case of French speakers and English [h]’ will appear shortly in Frontiers in Psychology. Congratulations!
Jessica Coon is just returning from Arezzo, Italy, where she gave an invited talk at the workshop: “What’s in a Label?”. The title of her presentation was “What’s in Pred? Functional categories and the parameterization of predication.’
Meghan Clayards co-organized a satellite workshop at LabPhon 15 on “Higher-order structure in speech variability: phonetic/phonological covariation and talker adaptation”. She also presented a poster with Hye-Young Bang as the first author titled “Structured Variation across Sound Contrasts, Talkers, and Speech Styles”.
In this paper we present novel evidence for the availability of scope reconstruction of the German and Dutch equivalents constituents of the form [only + DP]. Adding to earlier arguments in Reis (2005) and Meyer & Sauerland (2009), this paper provides additional evidence against the analysis of the German equivalent of only in B uring & Hartmann (2001), which claims that it can exclusively adjoin to adverbial positions. We rely on evidence from the Prosodic Question Answer Congruence and data from the scopal interaction between exclusive operators and adverbs to support our claims. We also present a syntactic analysis which accounts for the reconstruction data, and provides an alternative explanation for some of the syntactic restrictions on its distribution for which the Adverbial Analysis was originally proposed. We conclude with a discussion of why it might be that scope reconstruction is always available from the pre field, whereas in the middle field only arguments seem to be able to reconstruct.
This paper presents evidence that shifts in prosodic prominence are anaphoric and require a contextually salient antecedent, similar to pronouns. The argument is based on a series of experiments looking at prosodic optionality in dialogues in which there are multiple potential antecedents embedded in a contextually salient coordinated structure. By looking at the interaction with adverbs that restrict the choice of antecedent, we show that the observed prosodic variability reveals different anaphoric choices, and hence different speaker intentions. The results are incompatible with the hypothesis that prominence shifts can be explained purely in reference to low-level facilitation due to repetition of the linguistic structure or accessibility of it referent, and are not reducible to existing accounts of prominence in terms of predictability.
Jessica Coon is one of three McGill faculty members to receive this year’s Principal’s Prize for Outstanding Emerging Researchers. “The Principal’s Prize for Outstanding Emerging Researchers was first awarded in 2013 with the intention of celebrating and supporting the work of highly accomplished scholars still in the early stages of their careers.” Congratulations!