Monthly Archive for September, 2012

Colloquium: Alex Drummond’s talk rescheduled for Oct 5

Alex Drummond’s Colloquium talk has been moved from Friday Sept 28th to Friday Oct 5th at 3:30 pm. The location is TBA.

Title: Parallelism and Dahl’s Paradigm 
Abstract: I will attempt to defend the following two hypotheses: (i) that the binding constraints are stated in terms of a general notion of covaluation which subsumes binding and coreference; and (ii) that VP ellipsis is constrained by a strict parallelism requirement. My starting point is a 2007 paper by Irene Heim, which sketches a formulation of the binding theory consistent with hypothesis (i). The primary empirical problem for Heim’s theory is Dahl’s paradigm, which appears to necessitate the rejection of hypothesis (ii). I will argue that certain proposals in Tanya Reinhart’s 2006 monograph can be adapted to overcome this problem.

Ling-Lunch, 9/26 – Elise McClay

At the first Ling Lunch session of the year, Elise McClay (BA ’12) will present on the iLanguage App for linguists, being developed in collaboration with iLanguage Labs and the Mi’gmaq Research Project.  Also, there will be an opportunity to sign up to present at future Ling Lunch sessions.  Cookies are provided.


Time: Wednesday, 12:35pm – 1:25pm
Presenter: Elise McClay
Title: The beginning stages of building a language-teaching app: pooling the resources of field linguists, programmers, and language teachers/speakers.

Syntax-Phonology Research group, 9/27

The next Syntax-Phonology Research Group meets on Thursday, Sept 27, at 11:35am in room 117.

Topic: Back to the basics with a mini course on DM.

  • Alec Marantz.  No escape from syntax. Don’t Try Morphological Analysis in the Privacy of Your Own Lexicon. In “Proceedings of the 1998 Penn Linguistics Colloquium”, ed. by Alexis Dimitriadis, available from Penn Working Papers in Linguistics. (or from web if you click on link)
  • Heidi Harley and Rolf Noyer. State-of-the-Article: Distributed Morphology, appeared in GLOT 4.4, April 1999, pp. 3-9 (the published GLOT version is available online here)

All are welcome!

Syntax-Semantics reading group schedule change

There have been some changes to the upcoming presentation schedule. Students who
work or wish to work in the areas of syntax and semantics are expected to

Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, 3:00-4:30 pm, Room 117
2 practice talks NELS
Sasha Simonenko: Microvariation in head-exponent alignment: Finno-Ugric possessives.
Jessica Coon: Predication, predicate fronting, and what it takes to be a verb.

Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, 3:00-4:30 pm, Room 117
Galit Agmon: On Heim, Irene (1999) Notes on superlatives




Algonquian reading group, 9/28 – Mike Hamilton and Erin Olson

In this week’s  reading group will see the next round of practice presentations from students attending the upcoming 44th Algonquian Conference, in Chicago. For this week we’ll have…

Mike Hamilton: “(Non-)Configurationality in Mi’gmaq”
Erin Olson:  “Describing the accent system of Mi’gmaq”

When/Where: Friday 9/28, 1:00–2:00
Where: room 117


Apple Picking Sunday September 30th

This year’s apple picking excursion will take place on Sunday, September 30th at Parc National Du Mont-Saint-Bruno (; the cost per adult is $6.00,children from 6 to 17 yrs is $2.75 and  under 6 yrs are free. This park offers apple picking, picnic tables (if anyone is interested) as well as a hiking trail.

Everyone attending will meet in the parking lot behind the Linguistics Building at 10:00 am on Sunday the 30th. There is a ign-up sheet in the photocopy room (109); if you are interested in attending please sign-up by Wednesday, September 26th at 12:00 noon.  If you are planning on taking your car and have space for others please indicate this on the sign-up sheet. If you have any questions please, contact Andria.

All are welcome to attend!

Department Picnic

A couple of weekends ago, the department kicked off the academic year with a picnic in Parc La Fontaine. It was a bit chilly, but good food, good friends and good frisbee kept us warm. Check out the pictures below!

First meeting of Syntax-Phonology Research Group, 9/20

The Syntax-Phonology research group focuses on syntax/morphology and issues arising at the PF interface. This term we will meet on Thursdays 11:35-12:55 in room 117. The first introductory and organisational meeting will be this week, Thursday Sept 20 11:35 am. More information will be provided during the first meeting. All are most welcome!

You can learn more on the group’s website.


Algonquian reading group (now Fridays), 9/21

Contra to last week’s message, the Algonquian group will meet this semester Fridays from 1–2:45. Again, the first hour will be devoted to reading group. The second 45 minutes will be more of a lab meeting, led by Mi’gmaq Project Manager Elise McClay (McGill BA 2012). All are welcome to attend either or both parts.

In the coming weeks, the reading group will see practice presentations from students attending the upcoming 44th Algonquian Conference, in Chicago. First up, we have…

Elise McClay: “Possessive paradigms in Mi’gmaq: alienability as syntactic proximity”
Gretchen McCulloch: “Slots or scope? Preverb ordering in Mi’gmaq”

First meeting of the Syntax-Semantics reading group, 9/21 – Mike Hamilton

This semester, the syntax-semantics research group will meet at 3:00-4:30 pm on Fridays in room 117 (on weeks when no colloquium talks are scheduled). This is an informal venue where people interested in syntax and semantics gather to present their work in progress or discuss articles. Graduate students are particularly encouraged to present articles of their interest, get feedback by presenting various stages of their projects for term papers, evaluation papers or dissertations, or try out with practice talks for conferences. Please let Junko know if you want to present something.

The schedule for the coming few weeks are as follows:

Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, 3:00-4:30 pm
Mike Hamilton: (Non-)configurationality and scope in Mi’gmaq

Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, 3:00-4:30 pm
Galit Agmon: On Heim, Irene (1999) Notes on superlatives, Ms. MIT [download]

Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, 3:00-4:30 pm
Sasha Simonenko: Microvariation in head-exponent alignment: Finno-Ugric possessives. Practice talk for NELS.

Visiting professor Bryan Gick featured on CRBLM website

McGill linguistics visiting professor Bryan Gick was featured on the Centre for Research on Brain, Language, and Music (CRBLM)’s webpage. CRBLM is an interdisciplinary research group at McGill investigating the social and neurobiological foundations of language and music. You can learn more about CRBLM here.

Algonquian reading group – 9/10

The Algonquian group will meet this semester on Mondays 3:30–5:00 in room 117, starting today, 9/10. In general we’ll spend the first hour discussing reading or having short presentations. The final half hour will be more of a lab meeting and devoted to discussion of anything related to the Mi’gmaq language project in Listuguj (for details, see People not directly involved in this are welcome to attend the first hour without staying for the final part.

This first week in reading group postdoc Tanya Slavin will lead discussion on two papers which pick up where the Bruening paper we read at the end of the spring left off: Ritter & Rosen’s (2005) “Agreement without A-positions”, and Bruening’s (2009) response “Algonquian languages have A-movement and A-agreement”.

Colloquium: Bryan Gick – 9/14

Speaker: Bryan Gick
When: Friday, 09/14 at 3:30pm
Where: Education 211
Title: How humans don’t have lips

Researchers concerned with speech and related functions of the vocal tract have long relied on lay conceptions of terms like “lips” and “tongue” to describe ostensible parts of the anatomy. Close examination of these and other vocal tract structures strongly suggests that they are anatomically ill-defined, culture-specific concepts (which partly explains why researchers have never agreed on how to describe them). Nevertheless, they remain fundamental building blocks in our otherwise highly formalized theories of phonology, phonetics, sound change, language acquisition, and so on. Biomechanical modeling and production experiments will be used to show that, in addition to being anatomically indistinct, these structures are not straightforwardly definable in terms of their mechanical or articulatory function. So, how DO humans have lips? It will be argued that cultural concepts like “lips” (and concomitant phonological categories like [labial]) are indeed useful and relevant, but only in a robust, mulitdimensional, real-world setting – the setting where language happens. Implications for sound change, language acquisition, and the emergence of phonological categories will be discussed.

McGWPL: call for papers (deadline extended!)

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:

The deadline for submissions has been extended from September 15, 2012 to October 31, 2012.

Moti Lieberman presents at EuroSLA22

Moti Lieberman gave a paper presentation this past Friday on the topic of “Prosodic moderation of L2 comprehension of English plural and agreement morphology” at EuroSLA22 – the 22nd Annual Conference of the European Second Language Association. Moti reported on a study of the efficacy of the Prosodic Transfer Hypothesis in prediction error patterns in the production and comprehension of Spanish and French learners of English with plural and agreement morphology. The abstract is available here (pdf; ~1.5MB). Good job, Moti!

Welcome new McLing grad editor Dan Goodhue

Though we are sad to say goodbye to last year’s grad editor Brian Buccola (who is moving on to become a McGWPL editor), we are pleased to welcome Dan Goodhue to the McLing editorial team. To post something to McLing please send your good news, conference presentations, linguistics-related travel, announcements, and events to one of the editors listed in the sidebar at the bottom right of the blog, or reach the entire group at: To ensure that your posts make it into the Monday morning issue, please send by Sunday afternoon.

Stay tuned for your new undergrad SLUM editor!

Welcome everybody!

Hello, world. Here we are again. McLing welcomes the new academic year, and, with it, a number of new people joining the department. Besides the new class of students (see this post), we would like to give our warmest welcome to:

Morgan Sonderegger, a new permanent faculty member.

Morgan has completed a joint PhD in Linguistics and Computer Science at the University of Chicago, his dissertation is titled “Phonetic and phonological dynamics on reality television”. Morgan’s research focuses on the dynamics of phonetic and phonological patterns over time, both within individuals and within a speech community, using a range of computational, statistical, and experimental methods.

Alex Drummond, one-year faculty lecturer.

Alex is joining us from Durham University, where he was a postdoc in the Department of Philosophy, working on the Un-Cartesian Linguistics project with Wolfram Hinzen. Prior to that,  Alex completed his PhD in syntax at the University of Maryland in 2011. His research is currently focusing on binding theory, and in particular on the division of labor between the syntax and the interfaces. Previously, he has worked on extraposition, pseudopassivization, and preposition stranding. He also develops and maintains the Ibex software for performing psycholinguistic experiments online.

Tanya Slavin, postdoctoral researcher.

Tanya will be continuing her SSHRC-funded postdoc in the Department this year, working with Glyne Piggott. Her project focuses on investigating the interaction of syntax and phonology in word formation processes in Ojibwe (a Central Algonquian language).

Robert Henderson, postdoctoral researcher.

Robert will be working with Lisa Travis and Jessica Coon on the grant, “The mental representation of language variation: macro- and micro- parameters”, which focuses on ergative patterns in grammar from a crosslinguistic perspective. Robert’s dissertation is on pluractional affixes, which often generate entailments about arguments following an ergative pattern. He will be working to understand the source of these patterns and how pluractional affixes can shape clausal morphosyntax more generally.

Emily Elfner, postdoctoral researcher.

Emily will be continuing her SSHRC-funded postdoc in the Department this Winter term, working with Michael Wagner. Her current research interests include prosody, the syntax-phonology interface, and  phonological theory, with particular reference to Irish.

Professor Bryan Gick, Department of Linguistics, University of British Columbia

Professor Gick will be visiting the Department during Fall 2012. He is currently working on a new model for speech/phonetics/phonology, and looks forward to talking with Morgan Sonderegger on computational modeling, Charles Boberg on sound change, and Heather Goad on phonological acquisition.

Professor Jakob Leimgruber, Department of English, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg

Professor Leimgruber will be visiting the Department from September 12-25 for the purpose of working with Professor Charles Boberg indiscussing his research on language policies and sociolinguistics in Quebec.

Professor Kevin Russell, Department of Linguistics, University of Manitoba

Professor Russell will be visiting the Department during Fall 2012 and Winter 2013. He looks forward to discussing his research with Heather Goad. He is working on a  book that outlinethe findingfrom psycholinguisticssociolinguistics and phonetics that are relevant for phonological theory. He also plans to begin work on a Guarani reference grammar.

Colloquium: Robert Henderson – 9/07

Speaker: Robert Henderson
When: Friday, 09/07 at 3:30pm
Where: Education 211
Title: The Morphosemantics of Mayan Positional Derivation

This talk investigates an enigmatic root class in Mayan languages, called positional in the descriptive literature, and argues that these roots should receive a scalar semantics. Example (1) presents some instances of positional roots in Kaqchikel, while (2) shows a few of their canonical derivations.
(1) Positionals
a. köt ‘twisted’
b. ch’eq ‘wet’
c. sët ‘circular’

(2) Derived Positional
a. x-kot-e’ ‘It twisted.’
b. ri ch’eq-ech’ïk che’ ‘the very wet tree’
c. set-ël ‘It’s circular.’

Core Proposal: Positional roots denote measure functions of type (from individuals to degrees on a scale)

After mustering distributional arguments for a degree-based account of positional roots, I then expand the analysis along three routes. First, I show how a series of positional-specific morphological facts can be explained when positional derivations are reanalyzed as degree morphology. Second, given the cross-categorial distribution of scalar items, I show how the analysis lets us understand why positionals are so category neutral: They lexicalize the scalar core underlying gradable predicates across categories. Finally, I consider how to integrate derived positionals into clause-level degree constructions like the comparative. All along the way there will be tension between giving positionals a scalar semantics and preventing them from collapsing on bona fide root adjectives. This will open up a way to think about different sources of gradability.

Michael Wagner on sabbatical

Michael Wagner will be on sabbatical for the coming academic year. During the fall term, he will be visiting at the Institute for Linguistics at Goethe Universität Frankfurt, a visit supported by a Research Fellowships for Experienced Researchers of the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung. Soon he will be teaching a class on Focus and Prosody at this year’s EALING fall school in Paris. Michael will be physically back in Montreal for the winter term.

Have a great sabbatical Michael!

The incoming class

McLing is very happy to welcome and introduce to you the new (very impressive!) cohort of graduate students:

Maayan Adar is interested theoretical syntax, Tagalog, Austronesian languages, and ergativity. He completed his BA at the University of Toronto, specializing in linguistics with a minor in Latin.

Hye-young Bang is interested in phonetics. She comes from the University of Queensland, Australia

Guilherme Duarte Garcia wants to work on phonology (and its interfaces) and second language acquisition. He is particularly interested in stress (and its interaction with morphology) and how it is acquired in first and second language contexts. He has a BA in English/Portuguese translation and an MSc in Linguistics from UFRGS, Brazil.

Dan Goodhue‘s interests lie in the intersection of language, logic and thought. He earned his B.A. at the University of Vermont in political science and spent the past year in Montreal studying linguistics full time in our department.

Jiajia Su wants to work in second language acquisition. She has a BA in English from Xinyang Normal University (China) and an MA in Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics from Ningbo University.

Nina Umont is interested in prosody and its intersections with semantics and syntax. She majored in linguistics at Reed College in Portland, OR, USA.

Welcome! We would like to wish you all the best in your new careers. We are all very excited to have you here.


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