Monthly Archive for November, 2013

Addendum: time and location change for Richard Compton’s colloquium talk this Friday

Please note that the time and location of Richard Compton‘s colloquium talk at Concordia this Friday has changed. New coordinates are as follows. The talk will be immediately followed by a wine and cheese reception.

When: Friday, 11/29 4:30pm

Where: Concordia University, H-565 (Henry F. Hall Building, 1455 de Mainsonneuve)


Syntax-Semantics Reading Group, 11/24 — Eliot Michaelson.

Who: Eliot Michaelson (Philosophy. McGill)

What: “Against Salientism”.

Both philosophers of language and linguists commonly appeal to salience in order to fix the meanings of context-sensitive terms in context.  By considering the particular case of demonstratives, I will argue that the claim that salience fixes meaning in context is either trivial and uninformative, or else it is false.  To show this, it will prove necessary to distinguish between four different types of salience: objective, speaker-oriented, listener-oriented, and coordinative.  Objective salience, I argue, is in fact conceptually incoherent.  The other three notions, on the other hand, make bad predictions in a number of cases.  On this basis, I suggest that salience-based theories ought to be dispreferred to the alternative hypothesis —that speakers’ intentions are in fact responsible for fixing meaning in context.

When:  Friday, November 29, 2013, 3:00-4:30 pm. (Room 117)

Richard Compton colloquium at Concordia, 11/29

McGill post-doc Richard Compton will give a colloquium talk at Concordia this Friday: “Two types of adjectives hiding in Inuit.” The talk will be on November 29th at 4:15 PM in H415 and will be followed by a wine and cheese reception. You can find more details on the Concordia LSA’s website.

Tokiko Okuma presents in Tübingen and UQAM

Tokiko Okuma has just returned from the workshop, Pronouns@Tübingen, held at the University of Tübingen in Germany from November 15-17. She presented a paper, titled “Empirical evidence for the coreferential reading of Japanese overt pronouns.” She received the Arts Graduate Students Travel Award for this trip. The full program can be found here.

She also presented a poster, titled “Three factors affecting the coreferential interpretation of Japanese pronouns” at the CRBLM Scientific Day, held at UQAM on November 22. The full program can be found here. Nice work Toki!

MO{L}T{H} 2014 at McGill

Mark your calendars!  On Sat-Sun March 22-23, 2014, McGill Linguistics will host a joint meeting of two regional conferences: MOLT (phonology — formerly “MOT”) and MOTH (syntax).  Students are especially encouraged to submit work!  The call is below.

The Department of Linguistics at McGill University is pleased to announce the call for a joint meeting of MOLT (Montreal-Ottawa-Laval-Toronto) Phonology Workshop (formerly MOT), and MOTH (Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Hamilton) Syntax Workshop.

The workshop will take place Saturday and Sunday March 22nd and 23rd at McGill, and will involve parallel phonology and syntax sessions, as well as a poster session and a joint session for work at the phonology-syntax interface. The workshop will also include an invited talk on work at the syntax–phonology interface by Glyne Piggott.

Anonymous abstracts on any topic in phonology or syntax (along with their interfaces) should be submitted electronically as PDFs. Abstracts should not exceed 500 words, including examples and references. Graduate students are especially encouraged to submit work. Work may be presented in French or English.

Deadline for receipt of abstracts: Monday, January 20th, 2014. Abstracts should be submitted using EasyChair, at

Please circulate this call for papers among your colleagues and students.

Hope to see you in Montreal!

Jessica Coon (MOTH) and Morgan Sonderegger (MOLT), on behalf of the organizing committee


Le département de linguistique de l’université McGill a le plaisir de lancer l’appel de propositions conjoint de l’atelier de phonologie MOLT (Montréal-Ottawa-Laval-Toronto), anciennement MOT, ainsi que de l’atelier de syntaxe MOTH (Montréal-Ottawa-Toronto-Hamilton).

L’atelier aura lieu samedi et dimanche les 22 et 23 mars à McGill et sera constitué de sessions parallèles de phonologie et de syntaxe, en plus en plus d’une session de présentations par affiche et d’un atelier conjoint pour les travaux se trouvant à l’interface de la phonologie et la syntaxe. Nous aurons le plaisir de recevoir Glyne Piggott en tant que conférencier invité, qui nous présentera ses travaux à l’interface de la syntaxe de de la phonologie.

Les résumés anonymes portant sur tout sujet en syntaxe ou en phonologie (ainsi que leurs interfaces) doivent être soumis électroniquement en format PDF. Les résumés ne doivent pas dépasser 500 mots, incluant les exemples et les références. Les étudiants gradués sont particulièrement encouragés à soumettre leur travaux. Les présentations pourront avoir lieu en français ou en anglais.

Date limite de soumission pour les résumés : lundi le 20 janvier 2014. Les résumés doivent être soumis à l’aide de EasyChair, à l’adresse suivante:

Veuillez s’il-vous-plaît faire circuler cet appel de propositions à vos collègues et étudiants.

Au plaisir de vous voir à Montréal!

Jessica Coon (MOTH) et Morgan Sonderegger (MOLT), au nom du comité organisateur

Ling-Tea, 11/20 – Jeremy Day-O’Connell (Knox College/McGill)

Who: Jeremy Day-O’Connell (Associate Professor, Knox College & Visiting Researcher, CIRMMT)
When: Wednesday, 11/20, 3pm in room 117
Title: “Speech, Song, and the Minor Third”


This paper reports on the first laboratory study of an idiosyncratic linguistic phenomenon: the “stylized interjection,” which is most recognizable to English speakers in the vocative expression, “Yoo-hoo!”  The stylized interjection, as described throughout the musicological and linguistic literature, is associated with a particular intonational formula (the “calling contour”) and intriguingly, with a purportedly cross-cultural musical fingerprint: the interval of the minor third.

In this paper, I will present the results from an elicitation study which systematically compared the stylized interjection to four other linguistic forms along a number of acoustic dimensions.  Results establish the characteristics of the English stylized interjection, suggesting its interpretation as “sung speech,” and thereby elucidating its unique sound-meaning correspondence.  Implications for music anthropology and music-language studies, especially vis-a-vis scales and intervals, are also discussed.

In addition, I will describe an ambitious cross-linguistic study (including early data) concerning the form of the stylized interjection in ten languages.

Moulton and Grillo in LING 417

As we previously announced, Keir Moulton gave a guest talk in LING 417 on Monday November 11, with Nino Grillo. Keir and Nino, who is currently in London, presented some joint work on pseudo relatives. The presentation was very well received.

Agreement Reading Group, 11/22 – Bale and Wagner present

This week’s Agreement Reading Group we will be reading two papers:

  • Alan Bale will be presenting Heim’s (2008) Features on Bound Pronouns.
  • Michael Wagner will be presenting Kratzer’s (2009) Making a Pronoun: Fake Indexicals as Windows into the Properties of Pronouns.

Time: Friday, Nov. 22nd, at 1pm
Location: room 117

All are welcome!

Colloquium, 11/22 – Laurent Dekydtspotter

Who: Laurent Dekydtspotter (Indiana University)
When: Friday 11/22 at 3:30pm
Where: Education Building room 216
Title: “Parsing second languages: Anaphora in real time cycles of computations

A body of research proposes that second language (L2) sentence processing is strongly semantically guided as a result of shallow structures lacking syntactic details in real time (Clahsen & Felser, 2006a, b; Felser & Roberts, 2007; Felser, Cunnings, Batterham, & Clahsen, 2012; Felser, Roberts, Gross, & Marinis, 2003; Felser, Sato, & Bertenshaw, 2009; Marinis, Roberts, Felser, & Clahsen, 2005; Papadopoulou & Clahsen, 2003). A second body of research argues for a strong structural reflex (Dekydtspotter & Miller, 2012; Juffs, 2005; Juffs & Harrington, 1995; Hopp, 2006; Williams, Möbius & Kim, 2001; Williams, 2006; inter alia). In this case, working memory capacity, proficiency, lexical access, etc. qualify the manner in which such information is acted upon in the conceptual-intentional and in sensory-motor systems in a L2 (Dekydtspotter & Miller, 2012; Dekydtspotter & Renaud, 2009; Dekydtspotter, Schwartz, & Sprouse, 2006; Hopp, 2012; Miller, 2011; Williams, 2006).

The talk addresses the etiology of L2 sentence processing in a modular system consisting of autonomous components in view of new experimental evidence. The empirical focus is on anaphora under reconstruction as in (1) for instance.

(1) Which story about him(self) did Ben say that Anna told?

New evidence from reading experiments strongly suggests that L2 sentence processing includes an incremental syntactic analysis according to cycles of computations. Specifically, I argue that such L2 parsing follows default structural computations that select specified information and guide aspects of the deployment of semantic processes in real time. Hence, to the extent that minimality, locality and chains supporting binding constitute good-design signatures of language architecture given limited processing resources (Chomsky, 2005; Reuland, 2001, 2011; Rizzi 2013), these design features seem available in L2 sentence processing. A path of research in view of these findings will be charted.

Alyona Belikova defends PhD

Alyona Belikova successfully defended her PhD thesis on Friday, November 1st. Congratulations Dr. Belikova!


New PhD Alyona Belikova with her supervisor, Lydia White




Pictures from the post-colloquium dinner

After Alan Yu’s colloquium on Friday, students, faculty, and alums made the trek to Petite Patrie for Indian food and homemade dessert, courtesy of Dan, Maayan, and Morgan.  A good time was had by all. Some pictures, from Dan :

Linguists and a moose

Linguists and a moose

Linguists and maps

Linguists and maps

Alan Yu and Morgan eyeing Indian food

Alan Yu and Morgan eyeing Indian food




Heather Goad presents in Utah

Heather Goad returned last week from the Second Language Research Forum in Utah where she was an invited panelist in a colloquium on the nature of learners’ lexical representations. The title of her talk was: Target-like segments aren’t enough for target-like production–Prosodic constraints on the realization of functional morphology in L2 acquisition.

Malagasy Dialect team meeting

Ed Keenan‘s talk last Friday kicked off a two-day meeting (Sat and Sun) of the Malagasy Dialect team.  Attending were Ileana Paul (PI: Western University), Eric Potsdam (University of Florida), Baholy Ralalaoherivony (Université d’Antananarivo), and Lisa Travis (McGill).

McGill presenters at Phonology 2013

Several current and former McGillians presented posters at Phonology 2013 at UMass Amherst this past weekend.

  • Brian Buccola & Morgan Sonderegger: On the expressivity of Optimality Theory versus rules: An application to opaque patterns.
  • Emily Elfner: Prosodic boundary strength in verb-initial structures: Evidence from English and Irish.
  • Heather Goad & Akiko Shimada: In some languages, /s/ is a vowel.

In addition to these current McGill affiliates, a number of former McGill linguists presented as well:

  • Aron Hirsch (MIT, McGill BA ’12): Is the domain for weight computation the syllable or the interval?
  • Sara Mackenzie (MUN, Post-doc 2010–12): Consonant harmony in Nilotic: Contrastive specifications and Stratal OT.
  • Tara McAllister Byun, Sharon Inkelas & Yvan Rose (MUN, PhD ’00): Explaining child-specific phonology with a grammar of articulatory reliability: The A-map model.

The full program can be found here:

Ling-Tea, 11/13 – Gretchen McCulloch

This week at Ling-Tea Gretchen McCulloch will lead a discussion of Phil Branigan’s paper, “Macroparameter Learnability: An Algonquian Case Study”  which can be found on his website: Ling-Tea meets Wednesday afternoons from 3–4 in room 117.

Language Exchange: Russian, 11/14 – RUSS and SLUM

Thursday, Nov. 14, 5:30-7:00
688 Sherbrooke, Room 495

SLUM’s second Language Exchange event will be happening this Thursday. This time we will be joined by the Russian Undergraduate Students’ Society, who will be talking a bit about the Russian language, Old Church Slavonic, the Cyrillic alphabet, and more. All are welcome and Russian-themed snacks will be provided.

McGill Canadian Conference for Linguistics Undergraduates

March 14-16, 2014

SLUM is looking for speakers for the next McCCLU – a three-day conference held in the spring each year. Undergraduate Linguistics students will be coming from all over the Northeastern U.S., Ontario, and Quebec to give talks about their research. For more information, or to submit an abstract, please see our post on the Linguist List:
All are welcome (and encouraged) to attend.

Rajesh Bhatt’s visit

As we previously announced, Rajesh Bhatt visited the department to give a talk at the Syntax/Semantics Reading Group and a presentation in LING 417.  McLing reporters attended both events and brought with them some pictures to share with you.


Rajesh Bhatt talking about relatives in LING 417


Rajesh Bhatt talking to students about computational linguistics.


Rajesh Bhatt having dinner at an undisclosed location


Moulton’s Guest Lecture in LING 417: Today at 2:35

Friendly reminder:
Today, Monday, Nov. 11, 2:35-3:55
Keir Moulton is giving a guest lecture in LING 417 Topics at the interfaces.
1085 Penfield Room 002
“Compositionality of Pseudo-relatives”
Everybody is welcome to attend!

Colloquium, 11/15 – Alan Yu

We are pleased to announce that the next talk in our 2013-14 McGill Linguistics Colloquium Series, coordinated with McGill’s CRBLM
Who: Alan Yu (University of Chicago)
When: Friday, November 15th at 3:30 pm
Where: Education Building room 433. 
Title:  “Individual differences in speech perception and production”
Linguists often discuss language in terms of groups of speakers, even though it is also acknowledged that no two individuals speak alike. The focus on language as a group-level phenomenon can obscure important insights that are only apparent when systematic individual variation is taken into account. In this talk, I offer cross-linguistic experimental evidence, showing that speakers vary significantly and systematically along certain individual-difference dimensions, including autistic-like traits, in their responses to the effects of the lexicon and coarticulation in speech perception and production. I will argue that understanding the nature of such individual linguistic differences is crucial for the understanding the inception (and possibly the propagation) of sound change, the primary source of sound patterns in language.
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