Monthly Archive for October, 2012

Ling Lunch 10/31 – Jeffrey Klassen (McGill)

Speaker: Jeffrey Klassen

When: Wednesday 10/31 from 12:35 to 1:25

Title: Acquisition of focus prosody in English: evidence from native speakers of Spanish

Abstract: Adult learners of a second language (L2) show difficulties in learning pragmatic aspects of their L2.  This fact has lead to a proposal within the field of generative language acquisition which states that grammatical structures at the external interfaces (e.g. syntax-discourse) pose considerably more problems for learners than the internal interfaces (e.g. syntax-phonology).  This proposal is known as the Interface Hypothesis (IH) (Sorace 2011).  My study tests the IH with respect to the prosodic marking of focus in English, looking at how it is perceived and produced by intermediate L2 learners whose first language (L1) is Spanish.  I report on a perception study which provides evidence that the grammar of native Spanish speakers is not convergent with L1 English grammar with respect to focus marking, thereby offering support to the IH.

Schedule for the rest of the semester*:

November 7: Matthew Masapollo (McGill), Infants’ processing of vowels with infant vocal tract parameters
November 14: Robert Henderson & Jessica Coon (McGill), Agent focus in Mayan
November 21: Omer Preminger (Syracuse U), Topic TBA
November 28: Tanya Slavin (McGill), Topic TBA

*Contact us at if you’d like to present next semester.


Ergativity Lab 11/1

Having moved on from broad language family overviews, ErgLab will be starting its discussion of theoretical approaches to ergativity. Robert will present Johns 2000, which surveys a variety of theoretical approaches to ergativity (email Robert for a copy). Jessica will be contextualizing the discussion by giving a few more examples of canonically ergative languages and discussing some of the big questions they raise. As always, ErgLab will meet on Thursday at 1:30 in room 117.

Syntax-Semantics Research Group 11/2

The next syntax-semantics research group meets on Friday 11/2 at 3:00 pm in room 117.

Speaker: Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Bernhard Schwarz

Title: Paths to ignorance

Info: Luis and Bernhard will compare the derivations of ignorance implications under two theories of scalar implicatures: (i) the so-called neo-Gricean approach and (ii) the so-called grammatical theory of scalar implicature.

Background reading: Fox, Danny (2006) Free choice and the theory of scalar implicatures, Ms. MIT.  pp. 1-9 (up to section 2)

Gillon invited to attend Heidelberg workshop on Indian logic

Brendan Gillon has attended a workshop at Heidelberg on Indian Logic.  A group of experts in argumentation theory and Sanskritists were invited to discuss the use of mathematical logic and computer science to approach classical Indian argumentation. Sections from Ratnakīrti’s “Refutation of the Proof of God” (Īśvarasādhanadūṣaṇa) were approached as a case-study.



Okuma presents at two conferences

4th year PhD student Tokiko Okuma gave a paper presentation on the topic of “The acquisition of Japanese pitch accent by native English speakers” at the 31st Second Language Research Forum (SLRF). The conference took place on October 18-21 at University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. She also gave a paper presentation “L2 acquisition of Japanese pronouns at syntax-discourse interface” at Workshop: Acquisition at the Interface (WAI). The conference was held on October 22-23 at University of Tromso, Norway. She received a travel grant from the WAI organizing committee.

Report from Chicago Algonquian Conference

In last week’s edition of McLing we accidentally omitted one additional McGill affiliate who presented at the Algonquian Conference this past weekend: Erin Olson (BA ’12) presented a paper titled “Describing the accent system of Mi’gmaq”.

McGill linguistics Movember team looking for participants

Movember is coming up soon! Movember is an event where men grow moustaches for the entire month of November to raise money for prostate cancer research. The rules are simple, just shave on November 1st and then do not shave above you lip for the rest of the month. While rocking your ‘stache, you can collect money from friends, family & colleagues that will be donated to Prostate Cancer Canada. This year will be the 3rd year that the Linguistics department has taken part. Check out our team page if you would like to join the team, or donate money during Movember (to the team or a team member). Women are welcome to join the team & help with raising donations. Check out the Movember webpage for more information.

Ling Lunch 10/24 – Brandon Fry (U of Ottawa)

Speaker: Brandon Fry (U of Ottawa)

When: Wednesday 10/24 from 12:35 to 1:25 pm

Title: Particle verbs, principled explanation and PF

Abstract: Particle verbs have been a source of inspiration and frustration in Generative Grammar since the inception of the field. Certain descriptive generalizations suggest that these constructions are morphological objects, while others seem to require a syntactic explanation. Within the generative enterprise, these constructions have been the focus of inquiry of a large body of work inspired by several theoretical approaches. Many of these analyses have been motivated by the attempt to remedy apparent morphosyntactic mismatches. In this presentation, I will provide a critical review of some recent analyses of particle verb constructions proposed within a Principles-and-Parameters-Theoretic framework, especially in light of the latest developments concerning the Minimalist Program. I will evaluate the analyses on the basis of their coherence when considered in conjunction with this attempt at principled explanation and with other recent work concerning the architecture of the grammar, especially the PF component. I will also consider the ability of the resulting grammatical architecture to account for certain morphosyntactic and prosodic properties of particle verbs exemplified by an empirical paradigm.

Schedule for the rest of the semester*:

October 31: Jeffrey Klassen (McGill), Acquisition of focus prosody in English: evidence from native speakers of Spanish
November 7: Matthew Masapollo (McGill), Infants’ processing of vowels with infant vocal tract parameters
November 14: Robert Henderson & Jessica Coon (McGill), Agent focus in Mayan
November 21: Omer Preminger (Syracuse U), Topic TBA
November 28: Tanya Slavin (McGill), Topic TBA

*Contact us at if you’d like to present next semester.




Syntax-Phonology Research Group, 11/1

***The syntax-phonology research group is off this week, but will be back next week on Nov. 1***

What: Syntax-phonology research group

When: Thursday 11/1 at 11:35 in 117

Topic: On the identity of roots by Heidi Harley (to appear in Theoretical Linguistics). Tanya Slavin will lead the discussion.
The paper can be downloaded here:

Syntax-Semantics Research Group, 10/26

The next syntax-semantics research group meets on Friday 10/26 at 3:00 pm in room 117.

Speaker: Galit Agmon (continued from last time)

Title: Irene Heim, “Notes on superlatives” (1999)

“John wants to climb the high-est mountain.”

McGill at the Algonquian Conference

Later this week a number of McGill linguists, present and past, will travel to the University of Chicago for the 44th Algonquian Conference. Presentations include:

  • Michael David Hamilton (current PhD) – (Non-)configurationality in Mi’gmaq
  • Elise McClay (BA ’12) – Possessive paradigms in Mi’gmaq: Alienability as syntactic proximity
  • Elise McClay (BA ’12), Carol Little (BA ’12), Madelaine Metallic, Travis Wysote, Mary Beth Wysote, Sarah Vicaire, Janine Metallic (current PhD), and Jessica Coon – Student perspectives on Mi’gmaq language-learning through multi-modal teaching: A community-linguistics partnership
  • Gretchen McCulloch (current PhD) – Slots or scope? Preverb ordering in Mi’gmaq
  • Conor McDonough Quinn (recent visiting scholar)  – Listuguj Mi’gmaq: variation and distinctive dialectal features
  • Erin Olson (BA ’12) – Describing the accent system of Mi’gmaq
  • Tanya Slavin (current postdoc) – The semantics of verb stem composition in Ojicree

The full program, which does include talks by non-McGill affiliates, can be found here. Good luck everyone!

Ling Lunch 10/17 – E. Allyn Smith

Speaker: E. Allyn Smith

When: Wednesday, 10/17, 12:35 – 1:25

Title: What you cannot deny

Abstract: Presuppositions, Conventional Implicatures, ‘not-at-issue’ meanings and meanings explicitly relativized to the speaker are all thought to be infelicitous with direct denial, here defined as the ability to say “No,…” in response to a statement.  I will talk about some recent results from an experiment testing the direct deniability of all of these meaning types and some subtypes thereof.  I will also talk about some interesting findings related to the kind of denial preferred with various meaning types.

Schedule for the rest of the semester:
October 24: Brandon Fry (U of Ottawa), Particle verbs, principled explanation and PF
October 31: Jeffrey Klassen (McGill), Acquisition of focus prosody
November 7: Matthew Masapollo (McGill), Infants’ processing of vowels with infant vocal tract parameters
November 21: Tanya Slavin (McGill), Topic TBA
November 28: Robert Henderson & Jessica Coon (McGill), Agent focus in Mayan

*Contact us at if you’d like to present.

Ergativity Lab 10/18 – Austronesian

Last week ErgLab introduced Mayan languages and some of the problems they raise for a unified theory of ergativity. This week, we move on to a new language family. Maayan and Lisa will be introducing Austronesian languages, which will provide the second empirical fount for our investigation of ergativity over the course of the project.

We’ll be meeting from 1:30–2:30 in room 117, all are welcome!

Syntax-Semantics Research Group, 10/19

The next syntax-semantics research group meets on Friday, 10/19 at 3 pm in room 117.

Speaker: Galit Agmon

Topic: Irene Heim’s “Notes on superlatives” (1999)

Schwarz Invited Speaker at Konstanz Workshop

Bernhard Schwarz was one of the invited speakers at an international workshop on quantity expressions, held at the University of Konstanz, Germany, from October 12 to 13, where he argued in favour of a Neo-Gricean approach to the ignorance implications of numerals modified by at least.

McGill at GALANA

McGill was well represented at this year’s GALANA (Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition-North America) conference in Kansas, with three oral presentations and one poster presentation:

  • Tokiko Okuma: Asymmetry in acquisition of prosodic structures: Evidence from L2 Japanese
  • Chen Qu: Prosodic licensing and children’s acquisition of place contrast system in consonants
  • Lydia White, Heather Goad, Hyekyung Hwang (former McGill post-doctoral fellow) and Moti Lieberman: Effects of prosody and constituent length on L2 parsing
  • Larissa Nossalik (recent McGill PhD graduate): L1 effects in L2 acquisition of English progressive (poster)

Details on the conference can be found here:

Congratulations to Toki and Chen who also received travel grants from the GALANA Organizing Committee!

Ling Lunch, 10/10 – Gretchen McCulloch

Speaker: Gretchen McCulloch

When: Wednesday, 10/10, 12:35 – 1:25 pm

Where: room 117

Title: Mi’gmaq Preverbs

Schedule for the rest of the semester:

October 17: E. Allyn Smith, Experimental pragmatics
October 31: Jeffrey Klassen, Acquisition of focus prosody
November 7: Matthew Masapollo, Development of infant vowel perception
November 21: Tanya Slavin, Topic TBA
November 28: Robert Henderson & Jessica Coon, Agent focus in Mayan

*Contact us at if you’d like to present.

Syntax-Phonology Research Group, 10/11

What: Syntax-Phonology Research Group

When: October 11, 11:40 a.m. in room 117

What: Continue the discussion of DM issues covered in the overview article by Heidi Harley and Rolf Noyer: State-of-the-Article: Distributed Morphology, in GLOT 4.4, April 1999, pp. 3-9 (the published GLOT version is available online here)

Ergativity Lab, 10/11

The Ergativity Lab will have its first meeting tomorrow, Thursday, Oct 11th, in room 117 at 1:30pm. Robert and Jessica will be presenting a descriptive introduction to ergativity in Mayan languages. We’ll also discuss some of the theoretical questions ergative patterns raise. Looking forward to seeing you all there.

Algonquian Reading Group, 10/12 – Bale and Coon, Little et al.

What: Algonquian Reading Group

When: Friday, 10/12 1:00pm, room 117

This week we will have two more practice talks:

  • Alan Bale & Jessica Coon: “Classifiers are for Numerals, Not for Nouns: Evidence from Mi’gmaq and Chol” (Practice talk for NELS 43)
  • Carol Little, Elise McClay, Mary-Beth Wysote, Madelaine Metallic, Sarah Vicaire, Travis Wysote, Janine Metallic and Jessica Coon: “Student Perspectives on Mi’gmaq Language-Learning through Multi-Modal Teaching: A Community-Linguistics Partnership” (Practice talk for the Algonquian Conference)

We hope you can make it!

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