Syntax Reading Group, 1/24 – Nico Baier

This week in Syntax Reading Group, Nico Baier will be leading a discussion on extraction of/from PPs in Kabyle. There is no reading for this week.
Our meeting times this semester are Thursdays 12-1pm in Linguistics room 117. All are welcome!

Words Research Group, 1/25 – Vanna Willerton on Bobaljik 1994

This semester, the Words Research Group will be meeting on Fridays 1:30-3pm at UQAM, DS-3470 (Pavillon J.-A.-DeSève, 320, rue Sainte-Catherine Est) and the topic of discussion is irregularities in word formation (problems with regards to locality, readjustment rules, blocking, etc…).  At this week’s meeting, Vanna Willerton will present Bobaljik, J. (1994) The Morphology-Syntax Connection. MITWPL 22. H. Harley & C. Phillips (eds.).

All are welcome!  For more information, go to

Workshop on Amazigh Languages, 3/21 – Save the date!

McGill linguistics will host a Workshop on Amazigh languages on March 21st. The workshop will have invited talks by Karim Achab (University of Ottawa), Hamid Ouali (University of Wisconsin, Madison), and Khokha Fahloune (UQAM), as well as short presentations on Kabyle by the students in this semester’s Field Methods course. A full schedule will be released soon. Attendance is free and all are welcome! For more information, contact organizer Nico Baier.

McGill Undergraduate Research Event, 1/14

The Annual Faculty of Arts Undergraduate Research Event will take place this evening, January 14th at 5pm in Leacock room 232. Students who conducted research support by Arts Research Internship Awards (ARIAs) last summer will present their work. From linguistics, these projects include:

“Long Distance relationships in Urdu-Hindi: phases or horizons”
Madelaine O’Reilley Brown, Linguistics
Prof. Lisa de Mena Travis, Linguistics

“Prosodic Transfer and the L2 acquisition of Hindi”
Avleen Mokha, Linguistics
Prof. Lydia White, Linguistics

“Intonational Tunes in English: Corpus and Experiment”
Emma Gibson, Linguistics
Prof. Micheal Wagner, Linguistics

“Enabling large-scale analysis of stop consonants across English dialects”
Micheal Goodale, Cognitive Science
Prof. Morgan Sonderegger, Linguistics

“Neural Networks, compositionality, and linguistic representation: evidence from monotonicity”
Emily Goodwin, Linguistics
Prof. Timothy O’Donnell, Linguistics

“Storage and Computation of morphology: Evidence from English”
Gregory Theos, Linguistics
Prof. Timothy O’Donnell, Linguistics

“Gender Bias in Book Reviews”
Isabella Nikolaidis, Linguistics
Prof. Andrew Piper, Linguistics

“Linguistic Fieldwork Research”
Benjamin Oldham, Linguistics
Prof. Jessica Coon, Linguistics

Benjamin Oldham’s work was also showcased on the Faculty’s webpage. Congratulations all!

P* Reading Group, 1/16

P* Reading Group (Wednesday, 2 pm)

We’ll be having P* Group on Wednesday the 5th at 2 pm in room 831 of SCSD (2001 McGill College, 8th floor), during which Jeff will lead a discussion of Schmitz et al.’s (2018) Exploring the relationship between speech perception and production across phonological processes, language familiarity, and sensory modalities. The paper is available at All are welcome to attend!

Syntax Reading Group, 1/17 – Matt Pearson

This semester, the Syntax Reading Group will be meeting on Thursdays 12-1pm in Linguistics room 117, with our first meeting this week (Jan 17).
For this meeting, Matt Pearson (Reed College) will be presenting work in progress on tense marking on spatial and instrumental modifiers in Malagasy.
We will also use some of the time for organization and planning for the rest of the semester.
As usual, all are welcome!

Moulton and Shimoyama in Glossa

A paper by Keir Moulton (U. Toronto, former McGill post-doc) and Junko Shimoyama just appeared in Glossa. The paper is titled “On the Inverse Trace Conversion and maximal informativeness analysis of Japanese internally-headed relative clauses: A reply to Erlewine and Gould 2016”, and can be found here.

Abstract: In this response to Erlewine & Gould (2016), we argue that an account of internally-headed relative clauses using Inverse Trace Conversion and the maximal informativeness semantics for definites of von Fintel et al. (2014) does not derive the observed interpretations when the internal head is quantified by certain downward entailing quantifiers and derives no interpretation at all for non-monotonic and some upward entailing quantifiers. We then argue that the cases that Erlewine & Gould (2016) claim to be a newly identified interpretation of internally-headed relatives are actually headless relatives.

Michael Wagner at MarantzFest

Michael Wagner attended MarantzFest at NYU last week, a workshop in honor of Alec Marantz.


Knowles, Clayards, and Sonderegger in Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

McGill Linguistics alum and current PhD candidate at Western, Thea Knowles, was the lead author on a paper published in the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research along with co-authors Meghan Clayards and Morgan Sonderegger. The paper is titled “Examining Factors Influencing the Viability of Automatic Acoustic Analysis of Child Speech” and is available online here and in preprint form here.

McGill at LSA 2019

The Annual Meeting of the Linguistics Society of America took place this past weekend in New York, and McGill linguists were there presenting. Presentations by current affiliates included:

  • Nico Baier – Anti-agreement in Selayarese
  • Aron Hirsch and Uli Sauerland (ZAS) – Adverbs in collective conjunctions
  • Jeffrey LaMontagne – Acoustic evidence of phonemicization: Lax high vowels in Quebec French

Coon in Journal of Linguistics

Jessica Coon’s article, “Building verbs in Chuj: Consequences for the nature of roots” was just published in the 2019 winter issue of Journal of Linguistics. A preprint is available here.


This paper offers an in-depth look at roots and verb stem morphology in Chuj (Mayan) in order to address a larger question: when it comes to the formation of verb stems, what information is contributed by the root, and what is contributed by the functional heads? I show first that roots in Chuj are not acategorical in the strict sense (cf. Borer 2005), but must be grouped into classes based on their stem-forming possibilities. Root class does not map directly to surface lexical category, but does determine which functional heads (i.e. valence morphology) may merge with the root. Second, I show that while the introduction of the external argument, along with clausal licensing and agreement generally, are all governed by higher functional heads, the presence or absence of an internal argument is dictated by the root. Specifically, I show that transitive roots in Chuj always combine with an internal argument, whether it be (i) a full DP, (ii) a bare pseudo-incorporated NP, or (iii) an implicit object in an antipassive. In the spirit of work such as Levinson (2007, 2014), I connect this to the semantic type of the root; root class reflects semantic type, and semantic type affects the root’s combinatorial properties. This work also contributes to the discussion of how valence morphology operates. In line with works such as Alexiadou, Anagnostopoulou & Schäfer (2006), I argue that valence morphology applies directly to roots, rather than to some ‘inherent valence’ of a verb.

M. Schwarz, Sonderegger, and Goad to appear in Journal of Phonetics

An article by Martha Schwarz (MA alum 2017), Morgan Sonderegger, and Heather Goad has just been accepted to Journal of Phonetics: “Realization and representation of Nepali laryngeal contrasts: Voiced aspirates and laryngeal realism”.

Theories of Laryngeal Realism argue for a tight correspondence between a segment’s phonetic cues and the (laryngeal) phonological features that represent it. As such, the ‘p’/’b’ contrast in French, expressed phonetically by vocal fold vibration during the stop closure, is represented by a [voice] feature while the ‘p’/’b’ contrast in English, expressed phonetically by contrasting long and short lag VOT, is represented by a [spread] feature. Laryngeal realist literature focuses on whether a given segment is best represented by [voice] or [spread], and proposes a set of criteria and tests by which to diagnose the representation. In this study we push laryngeal realist theory in a new direction — to segments proposed to be specified for both [voice] and [spread] features — a combination which poses challenges to the current diagnostics. To do so, we analyze acoustic data from Nepali, an Indo-Aryan language with a single class of stops described as both voiced and aspirated. We apply the same criteria and diagnostics used in laryngeal realism. We find support for the proposed representation, with a caveat that the [voice] feature appears stronger than [spread].

Happy break everyone!

This is McLing’s last newsletter of 2018. We hope you all enjoy the break, keep sending us your news in the new year!

Nico Baier at UofT

Postdoctoral researcher Nico Baier was at the University of Toronto last week where he gave an invited talk “Unifying anti-agreement and wh-agreement.”

McGill Linguists Save World

A number of us represented linguists at Marche Mondiale Climate Alarm/La Planete s’invite au Parlement last Saturday in Montreal. A report of the day can be found here.

Some pictures of the event were taken. Thanks Vanna and Michael!

In this photo (left to right) is Jason Borga, Emily KL, Tim O’Donnell, Jacob Hoover, and Mathieu Paillé.

In this pic, Michael’s kids have also something to say!




Syntax Reading Group, 12/5 – Aron Hirsch

This week, Aron Hirsch will discuss joint work in progress with Uli Sauerland on sentential structure in collective conjunction. There is no reading for this week.
We meet Wednesdays 1-2pm in Linguistics room 117. All are welcome!

MCQLL, 12/5

At next week’s meeting, Amy and Benji will both give a presentation. Amy is going to present her project “Inference and Learnability over Minimalist Grammars” (abstract below). Benji is going to present the paper Parsing as Deduction (Pereira &Warren, 1093) (paper attached).

(Working) Title: Inference and Learnability over Minimalist Grammars

Abstract: This is a draft presentation of some of my current PhD research, intended for a more computationally-oriented audience. It contains collaborative work done over the past year with Eva Portelance (Stanford), Daniel Harasim (EPFL), and Leon Bergen (UCSD). Minimalist Grammars are a lexicalied grammar formalism inspired by Chomsky’s (1994) Minimalist Program, and as such are well suited to formalize theories in contemporary syntactic theory. Our work formulate a learning model based on the technique of Variational Bayesian Inference and apply the model to pilot experiments. In this presentation, I focus on giving an introduction to the central issues in syntactic theory and motivating the problems we wish to address. I give an introduction to syntactic theory and formal grammars, and demonstrate why context free grammars are insufficient to adequately characterize natural language. Minimalist Grammars, a lexicalized mildly context-sensitive formalism are introduced as a more linguistically adequate formalism.

We will meet Wednesday at 5:30pm in room 117. Food will be provided.

P* Reading Group, 11/27

P* Reading Group (Tuesday, 11 am)
This week, Alvaro will be leading a discussion on Tremblay et al.’s (2017) The functional weight of a prosodic cue in the native language predicts the learning of speech segmentation in a second language. All are welcome to attend!

Syntax Reading Group, 11/28 – Junko Shimoyama on Bhatt and Dayal

This week, Junko Shimoyama will be leading a discussion on an under review manuscript by Rajesh Bhatt and Veneeta Dayal entitled “Polar Question Particles”, focusing in particular on implications for embedded root phenomena.
As usual, we meet Wednesday 1-2pm in Linguistics Room 117. All are welcome!

MCQLL, 11/28

At next week’s meeting, Yves will be presenting the family of stochastic processes known as Dirichlet processes.

The Dirichlet distribution, a generalization of the Beta distribution, is a probabilistic distribution over a finite-dimensional categorical distribution. The Dirichlet process can be seen as an infinite-dimensional generalization of this which balances the trade-off between partitioning random observations into fewer or additional categories. I will describe this through the metaphor of the “Chinese restaurant process” and talk about its use in the fragment grammar model of morphological productivity.

We will be meeting at 5:30pm Wednesday November 28th in room 117.

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