Archive for the 'Postdoc news' Category

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 (; (ii) the Experimental Psycholinguistics Conference, Menorca ( 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 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!

Emily Elfner to York University

McLing is pleased to report that Emily Elfner (McGill post-doc 2012–2014) has recently accepted a job as Asssistant Professor in Phonetics and Phonology at York University. Congratulations Emily!

Colloquium, 9/23 – Michael McAuliffe

We are pleased to announce that the first talk in our 2016-2017 McGill Linguistics Colloquium Series will be given by our own Michael McAuliffe. For more information on upcoming events in the McGill Linguistics department, please see our website (

Who: Michael McAuliffe

When: Friday 9/23 at 3:30pm

Where: Education room 433

Title: “Dual nature of perceptual learning: Robustness and specificity”

Abstract: “In perceiving speech and language, listeners need to both perceive specific, highly variable utterances, and generalize to larger linguistic categories. One large source of the variability is in how individual speakers produce sounds, but another source of variation is the way in which speech and language are used in a particular task to accomplish a goal. Perceptual learning is a phenomenon in which listeners update their perceptual sound categories when exposed to a novel speaker. Perceptual learning is robust in the sense that most listeners show perceptual learning effects, most sound categories can be easily updated, and most tasks involving speech facilitate perceptual learning. In this talk, I focus more on the ways that perceptual learning can be task-specific. I present a series of perceptual learning experiments for exposing listeners to a novel talker through single words or longer sentences, varying tasks and the linguistic context. The instructions and goals of the task exert a size-able influence over the amount of perceptual learning that listeners exhibit. In general, listeners adapt less in the course of an experiment if they do not have to rely on the acoustic signal as much. For instance, if listeners are presented the orthography of the word along with the audio, they will not learn as much as if they had heard the audio alone. In sentence tasks, listeners matching pictures to a word at the end of a predictable sentence (i.e., A deep moat protected the old castle) will not learn as much from the final word as from an unpredictable sentence (i.e., He dreaded the long walk to the castle). However, the inverse is true for sentence transcription tasks, with larger perceptual learning effects from predictable sentences than unpredictable. Perceptual learning effects can generally be seen for all listeners and all tasks, but the size of the effects are dependent on the exposure task and how the linguistic system is engaged.”

Meaghan Fowlie to Saarbrücken

Congratulations to recent McGill research fellow (and ’07 BA alumna) Meaghan Fowlie, who has accepted a post-doctoral position this fall at Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany. There she will continue her work on computational syntax and semantics with Professor Alexander Koller in the department of Computational Linguistics and Phonetics. Congratulations Meaghan!

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.

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”.

Many more McGill linguists presented at LabPhon, held this year at Cornell University, as seen below:
McGill faculty, students, alums at LabPhon 15 banquet

McGill faculty, students, alums at LabPhon 15 banquet

Jessica Coon spent two weeks in June at CoLang (the Institute on Collaborative Language Research) at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and in July she participated in the ANVILS (A National Vision for Indigenous Languages Sustainability) workshop at the University of Alberta.
rainbow from UAF campus, taken at midnight

rainbow from UAF campus, taken at midnight

Guilherme Garcia gave two talks at the 24th Manchester Phonology Meeting (one of which he co-authored with Natália Guzzo and Heather Goad). He then attended a workshop on Bayesian Data Analysis at the University of St. Gallen in June, and presented a poster at LabPhon 15. He also wrote the second chapter of his dissertation, which proposes a probabilistic representation of weight effects on stress—he will be presenting this at NELS and AMP later this year. In addition, he worked with Heather Goad and Natália Guzzo on a project about footing and stress in Québec French, which will also be presented at AMP. Finally, he finished writing a proceedings paper (46th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages), and prepared a workshop on data analysis using R, which he will teach in September.
Brendan Gillon spent the first three weeks of May lecturing on semantics at the Nanjing University of Science and Technology. At the end of June, he participated in a workshop on Buddhist Logic (hetuvidyā / yinming / inmyō) and its Applications in East Asia sponsored by the Austrian Academy of Sciences’  Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia.
Henrison Hsieh presented talks at the 26th Southeast Asian Linguistics Society and the 23rd Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association meetings entitled “An argument for the noun-verb distinction in Tagalog” and “Prosodic indicators of phrase structure in Tagalog transitive sentences”, respectively.
Henrison presenting at SEALS

Henrison presenting at SEALS

Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron, Donghyun Kim, and Jeff Lamontagne, and Michael McAuliffe also presented posters at LabPhon 15.
In July, Bernhard Schwarz visited the University of Tübingen (Collaborative Research Centre 833) and presented joint work with Sasha Simonenko (PhD McGill 2015); in August, he traveled to Tokyo to present joint work with Francesco Gentile at  “Theoretical Linguistics at Keio” (TaLK).
Junko Shimoyama gave an invited talk titled ‘Connectivity effects in dislocated phrases and fragments’ at TaLK 2016 (Theoretical Linguistics at Keio) in August in Tokyo. Her joint work with Elizabeth Bogal-Allbritten and Keir Moulton (postdoc 2009-2011), ‘Stay inside: the interpretation of internally-headed relative clauses in Navajo’, was presented by the co-authors at the CLA meeting in Calgary. Her joint work with Alex Drummond (postdoc 2012-2014), ‘Complex degrees and an unexpected comparative interpretation’, will be presented by Alex at the annual meeting of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB) this week. Earlier in the summer, Junko co-presented with Christopher Fuhrman (ÉTS) and Maria Orjuela-Laverde (McGill TLS) at the annual SALTISE conference, sharing her experience with a new activity in Syntax 2 last year, called ‘Would you publish it?’, where the students participated in a process modelled after journal article reviewing. Many thanks to the students for trying it out!
Liz Smeets presented at the EuroSLA conference in Jyvaskyla, Finland this August and in June she collected data on the acquisition of object movement on Dutch in The Netherlands. Her proceedings paper from WCCFL34 “The Syntax of Focus Association in Dutch and German; Evidence from Scope Reconstruction”, joint work with Michael Wagner, is now available online:
Liz's view from the conference dinner

Liz’s view from the conference dinner

Morgan Sonderegger went to Scotland, where he co-organized a workshop and gave talks at U. Glasgow and U. Edinburgh. He co-organized the BigPhon workshop (including with Michael McAuliffe) and gave a poster at LabPhon 15 at Cornell.
Michael Wagner presented a paper with Jeff Klassen (PhD ’16), Heather Goad, and Annie Tremblay — ‘Prominence Shifts in English and Spanish Parallel Constructions’ — at SemDial. (Proceedings here)

McGill at SALT

SALT wrapped up this past weekend at the University of Texas at Austin, and McGill linguists were present. Poster presentations by current McGill affiliates included:

The full program is available here:

mitcho Erlewine (postdoc 2014–15), Robert Henderson (postdoc 2013–14), Hadas Kotek, Maayan Adar (MA ')

McGill past and present at SALT: mitcho Erlewine (postdoc ’14–15), Robert Henderson (’12–13), Hadas Kotek, Maayan Adar (MA ’14)

McAuliffe talk in Glasgow

Michael McAuliffe gave a talk to the Glasgow University Laboratory of Phonetics last week about his PhD research, entitled “Attention in lexically-guided perceptual learning”.

Michael’s trip was funded by a McGill-Glasgow Travel Award, awarded to strengthen research ties between McGill and the University of Glasgow.

Meaghan Fowlie at NAPhC9

Meaghan Fowlie spoke at the Ninth North American Phonology Conference (NAPhC9), held May 7–8 at Concordia. The title of her talk was “Revenge of the Duke of York.”

Hadas Kotek to Yale

Congratulations to Hadas Kotek who has just accepted a lecturer position in Semantics at Yale, beginning in August. Hadas is finishing a two-year Mellon Post-doctoral fellowship at McGill, supervised by Junko Shimoyama. Best of luck Hadas!

McAuliffe & Sonderegger in Glasgow

This past week Michael McAuliffe and Morgan Sonderegger gave a workshop on Easier speech corpus analysis: A practical introduction to Montreal Corpus Tools (including Speech Corpus Tools) in GULP at the University of Glasgow.

McGill at WSCLA 2016

A subset of the current and past McGill affiliates attending WSCLA 2016 this year at UQÀM, co-organized by Richard Compton and Heather Newell.

back row: Carol-Rose Little (BA '12), Colin Brown (MA), Lauren Clemens (Post-doc '14-'15), Jessica Coon, Lisa Travis, Gretchen McCulloch (MA '13) front row: Emily Elfner (Post-Doc '12–'14), Cora Lesure (BA '15), Henrison Hsieh, Hadas Kotek, Elise McClay (BA '12), Heather Newell (PhD '08), Gustavo Beritognolo (MA '08)

back row: Carol-Rose Little (BA ’12), Colin Brown (MA), Lauren Clemens (Post-doc ’14-’15), Jessica Coon, Lisa Travis, Gretchen McCulloch (MA ’13)
front row: Emily Elfner (Post-Doc ’12–’14), Cora Lesure (BA ’15), Henrison Hsieh, Hadas Kotek, Elise McClay (BA ’12), Heather Newell (PhD ’08), Gustavo Beritognolo (MA ’08)

McGill at MOLT

McGill Linguistics was well represented at this year’s Montreal-Ottawa-Laval-Toronto Phonology Workshop (MOLT), which took place this past weekend at Carleton University. There were talks by graduate students, lecturers, postdocs, alumni, and faculty. The full program can be found here.

  • Guilherme Garcia & Natália Brambatti Guzzo – Second language acquisition of word-level prominence in English by Canadian French speakers
  • Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron, Michael Wagner, Meghan Clayards – The effect of production planning locality on external sandhi: a study in /t/
  • Donghyun Kim, Meghan Clayards, Heather Goad – Patterns of individual differences in second language vowel perception
  • Jeff Lamontagne – Mid-Vowel Features and Allophony in Laurentian French
  • Michael McAuliffe, Morgan Sonderegger, Michael Wagner – A system for unified corpus analysis, applied to polysyllabic shortening across 12 languages
  • Peter Milne – The variable pronunciations of word-final consonant clusters in a force aligned corpus of spoken French
  • Heather Newell (PhD 2004) – The pathology of level-specific morpho-phonology


Ling-Tea, 3/8 – Hadas Kotek

Hadas Kotek will present in this week’s Ling-Tea, Tuesday 3/8 from 1pm–2:30 in room 117. Note that this will be an extended 90 minute Ling-Tea for a practice talk.
Title: Most: architecture, evidence, and variation
Abstract: Formal semantic analyses often take words to be minimal building blocks for the purposes of meaning composition. However, work on syntax and morphology has converged on the view that the unit of the “word” should not receive a special status. In this talk, I argue for the same conclusion for the compositional semantics of superlatives, concentrating in particular on the superlative quantifier most. I present a series of experimental studies supporting the conclusion that most is decomposed into a gradable predicate many and a superlative morpheme –est, and uncover a previously unnoticed micro-variation among English speakers in their interpretation of most. I argue that these findings lend support to the unified analysis of “most (of the)” as in Mary climbed most of the mountains and “the most” as in Mary climbed the most mountains in Heim (1999) and Hackl (2009). More broadly, I discuss questions of modularity and methodology in linguistics, and conclude that investigating the interaction between the meaning, structure, and real-time use of language can illuminate underlying theoretical primitives in the architecture of grammar.
**This is a practice job talk, all are welcome!**

Sepideh and Liz at Pscychoshorts

Sepideh Mortazavinia and Liz Smeets presented their work at Psychoshorts 2016, which took place in Ottawa February 27th. Sepideh presented a poster related to her thesis work entitled “Second language acquisition of Even”, and Liz gave a talk on Ultimate Attainment at the syntax-discourse interface, using evidence from L2 acquisition of object movement in Dutch.
Liz, Sepideh, and recent McGill post-doc Meg Grant at Psychoshorts

Liz, Sepideh, and recent McGill post-doc Meg Grant at Psychoshorts

Hadas Kotek’s paper to appear in Glossa

Hadas Kotek‘s paper “Covert partial wh-movement and the nature of derivations” has just been accepted for publication with Glossa: Special Issue on Syntactic Computation. Here is a link to the latest version on Lingbuzz: Congratulations Hadas!

Colloquium, 11/20 – Meaghan Fowlie

Speaker: Meaghan Fowlie (McGill)
Date & Time: Friday, November 20th at 3:30 pm
Place: ARTS Bldg. room 260
Title: Modelling and Learning Adjuncts

Adjuncts have among their properties optionality and iterability, which are usually accounted for with a grammar in which the presence or absence of an adjunct does not affect the state of the derivation. For example, in a phrase structure grammar with rules like NP -> AP NP, we have an NP whether or not we have an adjective. However, certain adjuncts like adverbs and adjectives are often quite strictly ordered, which cannot be accounted for with a model that treats a phrase the same regardless of the presence of another adjunct: whether or not a particular adjunct has adjoined affects whether or not another adjunct may adjoin. I present a minimalist model that can handle all of these properties.

In terms of learning, I cover three topics: language learning algorithms and how they handle optionality and repetition; an artificial language learning experiment about repetition, and, just for fun, the use of machine learning to analyse the song of the California Thrasher, showing that their unbounded repetition lends itself much better to a human-language-like grammar than simple transitional probabilities.

Meaghan Fowlie at Workshop on Minimalist Parsing

Postdoctoral fellow Meaghan Fowlie gave an invited talk at Computation, Language, Biology: Workshop on Minimalist Parsing held at MIT October 10th and 11th. The title of her talk was “Parsing Adjuncts”, and the slides can be found on her website.

Hadas Kotek at IATL

This week postdoctoral fellow Hadas Kotek will be presenting a talk at the Israeli Association for Theoretical Linguistics (IATL). The title of her talk is: “On the semantics of wh-questions”.


Hadas Kotek in Amsterdam and Leiden

Hadas Kotek spent last week as a guest of the Institute for Logic, Language, and Computation (ILLC) at the University of Amsterdam. This week she is visiting the University of Leiden, where she will be giving a colloquium talk titled “Pervasive intervention and the architecture of grammar”.

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