Monthly Archive for December, 2012

Two new papers by Michael

Two new papers by Michael Wagner have appeared.  Congratulations!

Contrastive topics decomposed. Semantics & Pragmatics 5.8 (2012): 1–54.
The analysis of contrastive topics introduced in Büring 1997b and further developed in Büring 2003 relies on distinguishing two types of constituents that introduce alternatives: the sentence focus, which is marked by a FOC feature, and the contrastive topic, which is marked by a CT feature. A non-compositional rule of interpretation that refers to these features is used to derive a topic semantic value, a nested set of sets of propositions. This paper presents evidence for a correlation between the restrictive syntax of nested focus operators and the syntax of contrastive topics, a correlation which is unexpected under this analysis. A compositional analysis is proposed that only makes use of the flatter focus semantic values introduced by focus operators. The analysis aims at integrating insights from the original analysis while at the same time capturing the observed  syntactic restrictions.
A givenness illusion. Language and Cognitive Processes 27.10 (2012): 1433–1458.
Constituents that encode information that is salient in the discourse or ‘given’ are oftenprosodically reduced and remain unaccented. What is given and new is usually defined at the level of meaning: given expressions are those that refer to salient referents or predicates that have been made salient by the previous discourse. This paper presents evidence from two production studies that sometimes, a constituent that semantically should be contrastive, and hence accentable, is treated prosodically as if it was given, and placing an accent on it is consistently avoided–an illusory case of givenness. This effect can be explained by assuming that givenness is not only evaluated in terms of semantic content, but also at the phonological level. Prosodically marking a semantic contrast requires the presence of a phonological contrast. This effect thus provides evidence that the notion of ‘‘antecedent’’ relevant for prosodic givenness-marking needs to include reference to linguistic form, and not just to referential meaning.

Syntax-Phonology Research Group

We will hold a long meeting this week, as follows:

When: Thursday, December 20, 11 am – 2pm in room 117.

Topic: Universals in Comparative Morphology by Jonathan Bobaljik, chapters 4-7.

Holiday Party 2012

McGill linguists gathered last Friday for the department’s annual Holiday Party, hosted in Lydia White and James White’s beautiful home.  Students, faculty, and staff joined forces to dispatch a diverse spread of dishes.  These pictures just in — send more!


Call for papers: MOTH syntax workshop


The 1st Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Hamilton graduate syntax workshop (MOTH) will take place on March 2nd 2013 at McMaster University.  We invite graduate students to submit abstracts for 20-minute presentations on any area of syntactic theory, to The workshop is open to undergraduate students and faculty as well. Additional information is available on the website.

Abstracts should be limited to 1 side of A4 or letter paper, with 2.5cm margins, in 12pt Times New Roman.

Important dates:
Deadline for submission of abstracts: January 21
Notification of acceptance: February 9
Workshop: March 2

Invited speaker: Éric Mathieu (University of Ottawa).

Henderson presents at University of Oslo

Earlier this month, Robert Henderson was in Norway to give a pair of lectures at
the University of Olso on using corpora to investigate quantification.
It was part of a week long mini-course on using corpora in theoretical

Syntax-Phonology Research Group 12/6, 12/13, 12/20

The Syntax-Phonology group will have three more meetings in December:

When: Thursdays December 6/13/20, 11:40-13h in room 117.

Topic: Chapters 4-7 of Universals in Comparative Morphology by Jonathan Bobaljik.

Discussion leaders: various


Syntax-Semantics Research Group – 12/7

The next syntax-semantics research group meets on Friday 12/7 at 3:00 pm in room 117.

Speaker: Luis Alonso-Ovalle

Title: Epistemic indefinites and identification methods: Evaluating two recent approaches (Joint work with Paula Menéndez-Benito)

Background reading: Alonso-Ovalle, Luis and Paula Menéndez-Benito (To appear). Two views on epistemic indefinites

Three New PhDs! (and a Food Festival)

As readers of McLing may know, Bethany Lochbihler (‘Aspects of Argument Licensing’), Jozina van der Klok (‘TAM Markers in Paciran Javanese’), and David-Etienne Bouchard (‘Long-Distance Degree Quantification and the Grammar of Subjectivity’) have successfully defended their Ph.D dissertations in the past two weeks. Congratulations again!
McLing reporters managed to send some pictures to the newsroom documenting the happy lives of the new doctors. The graphic documentation also includes proof of the food festival prepared by Marzieh Mortazavinia (here seen cooking) and her team, after Martina Wiltschko’s colloquium last Friday.
Life is good around the McLing headquarters.

More pictures from Friday night’s dinner

Thanks to everyone who made this party happen, and especially to our host and chefs, Sepideh, Oriana and Jeff.

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