Monthly Archive for July, 2012

Syntax/Semantics Reading Group Schedule

Tuesday, July 31, 2012, 2:00-3:30 pm

Brian will continue his presentation from last time: “Some remarks on inference patterns involving epistemic modality”

Backround reading: sections 1 and 2 of Veltman 1996, “Defaults in update semantics”.

Friday, August 3, 2012, 2:00-3:30 pm

Edwin Howard (MIT, McGill BA 2009) will walk us through Fox and Katzir’s 2011 NALS article  “On the characterization of alternatives.”

Students and faculty represent at ALA, SLP

Tokiko Okuma recently presented a paper entitled “Language awareness in learning Japanese compound accents by second language learners” at ALA 2012 (Association for Language Awareness), Concordia University (July 8-12, 2012).

Tokiko also presented a poster entitled “L2 acquisition of prosodic structures of Japanese nouns by L1 English learners” at SLP 2012 (Second Language Acquisition of Phonology), University of York, UK (July 6, 2012). For this trip, Tokiko was given a CRBLM (Centre for Research on Brain, Language, and Music) Student Travel Award.

Also at SLP, former McGill PhD students Jennifer Mah (Mount Royal University) and Kathleen Brannen (Université du Québec à Montréal) and our faculty member Heather Goad presented posters. Jennifer Mah, Heather Goad and Karsten Steinhauer (McGill University) jointly presented a poster entitled “The (non-)representation of English /h/ by francophones”. Kathleen Brannen presented a poster entitled “Differential Substitution: Phonetic distance in the perception of interdental fricatives”.

Congratulations, everyone!

McGill linguist puts “and” and “or” under the microscope

Our very own Luis Alonso-Ovalle has written a short piece for the Summer 2012 issue of Arts Insights. Click here to download, and turn to p. 6 to read about Luis’s work on the role of “or” in meaning composition and in logic.

Two upcoming linguistics-related film screenings

In conjunction with the Montreal First Peoples’ Festival (Présence Autochtone), there will be a lecture by Daniel Everett (Bentley University), as well as a screening of his recent documentary:

Lecture title: Life and Language in the Amazon Jungle: The Difficult Task of Understanding Others
Wednesday August 1st, 10am-11:30am
At INRS-Urbanisation, Culture et Société, room 2109
385, Sherbrooke East St. (Métro Sherbrooke)

The related documentary film, The Grammar of Happiness, will be screened on the following day:
Thursday August 2nd at 6.30PM
At NFB (1564, Saint-Denis St. Métro Berri-UQAM)

Later the same day there will also be a screening of the documentary We Still Live Here – Âs Nutayuneân, about the revival of the Wampanoag language in Southeastern Massachusetts.

Wednesday August 1st at 8.30PM
At NFB (1564, Saint-Denis St. Métro Berri-UQAM)

The filmmaker Anne Makepeace will be participating in Revisioning the Americas through Indigenous Cinema 2012 symposium.

Special talks on pregroup grammars: Wednesday 7/18

This special Wednesday edition of McLing is to inform everyone that two visiting scholars will be giving informal talks this afternoon on Lambek’s pregroup grammars. Everyone is welcome.

Mehrnoosh Sadrzadeh (Oxford UK)
Cyclic pregroups: theoretical motivations and logic

Claudia Casadio (Chieti IT)
Cyclic pregroups: linguistic analysis of clitic patterns in different languages

When: Wednesday, July 18, at 4:30 PM

Where: Room 117 of the linguistics building


The calculus of pregroups has been introduced by J. Lambek as an algebraic computational system for the grammatical analysis of natural languages; it has been applied to a wide range of languages from English and German, to French and Italian (see Casadio and Lambek 2008). Pregroups are non commutative structures, but the syntax of natural languages shows a diffuse presence of cyclic patterns exhibited in word order combinations, e.g. in the the behaviour of clitic pronouns when they attach to their heads. In this paper we propose an extension of the calculus of pregroups by introducing certain cyclic rules that will allow the grammar to formally analyze and compute word order and movement phenomena in different languages such as Persian, French, and Italian, with particular attention to the sentential patterns involving clitic pronouns.

In the paper we discuss the logical and methodological motivations of this approach and its connections to Abrusci’s cyclic rules for Linear Logic. We conclude with the presentation of an alternative analysis of clitic patterns in terms of a Tupled Pregroup grammar recently developed by A. Kislak Malinowska.

Alex Drummond to Join Us Next Year

We are happy to report that Alex Drummond will join the department for the period of September 2012 to August 2013.

Alex received a PhD in linguistics from Maryland in 2011 and is currently a postdoc at University of Durham. He is scheduled to teach (or co-teach) LING 201, LING 440 (Morphology), LING 371 (Syntax 1), and LING 675 (Syntax 4).

Syntax-semantics group, 07/11: Brian Buccola

Who: Brian Buccola

What: Some remarks on inference patterns involving epistemic modality

When: Wednesday, July 11, 1:00 – 2:30 PM. (Note the unusual day/time!)

Where: Room 117


In this talk we identify and resolve a previously unnoticed puzzle emerging from recent literature on quantifiers and epistemic modality. We look at inference patterns involving superlative quantifiers (“at least m“, “at most m“), which give rise to ignorance implications (Geurts and Nouwen 2007; Büring 2008), and comparative quantifiers (“more than n“, “fewer than n“), which do not. We identify an asymmetry in inference patterns with superlative quantifiers which we show is the result of a nonmonotonic, or defeasible, reasoning strategy: anything not known to be false is assumed to possibly be true. We sketch a formalization of this reasoning and show that it also makes correct predictions about inference patterns with overt epistemic modals (“may”, “might”). The end result suggests a new point of divergence between the notion of logical consequence, on the one hand, and that of intuitively valid inference, on the other.

McGWPL: Call for papers

McGill Working Papers in Linguistics (McGWPL) is pleased to invite submissions for issue 22.2. Papers from all fields of linguistics are welcome. Submissions are not restricted to members of the McGill community and submissions from outside the university are encouraged, as well as submissions from both students and professors. Papers can be submitted in French or English and should not exceed 20 pages, single spaced, excluding references and appendices, although exceptions can be made under some circumstances.

For further information and detailed submission guidelines, please see our website:

Deadline for submissions is September 15, 2012.

Upcoming presentations from the Speech Learning Lab and prosody.lab

McGill linguistics will be well-represented at two upcoming conferences. Recent McGill post-doc Sara Mackenzie (MUN), recent BA Erin Olson, together with faculty members Meghan Clayards and Michael Wagner, will jointly present a poster titled “The role of allophonic variation in speech segmentation” at LabPhon later this month at the University of Stuttgart in Germany.

Then, at  AMLaP (Architecture and Mechanisms for Language Processing) 2012, to take place in Italy in September, there will be two more presentations involving McGill lab members. Meghan Clayards, Sarah Hawkins and Gareth Gaskell will give a talk: “Listeners decode acoustic-phonetic cues to morphological structure”. David Fleischer, Thea Knowles, Jacks Cheng, Michael Wagner and Meghan Clayards will also present a poster: “Syntactic Effects on Compensation for Assimilation”.

Happy travels!


TOM 6 coming to McGill: March 23

TOM (the Toronto-Ottawa-Montréal Semantics Conference) will be held next academic year at McGill on March 23. Mark your calendars and stay tuned!

Update on Sinn und Bedeutung 17

We reported here that David-Étienne Bouchard is presenting at Sinn und Bedeutung 17. There are other McGill people, too: Walter Pedersen (‘Again and Measures-of-Change: A Unified Account of Again-Ambiguities’), Anna Howell (BA, McGill 2009) (‘Abstracting over Degrees in Yoruba Comparison Constructions’), and Luis Alonso-Ovalle (`Expressing Random Choice: the Case of Spanish Uno Cualquiera‘, joint work with Paula Menéndez-Benito, poster session.)

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