Monthly Archive for January, 2014

McGill Canadian Conference for Linguistics Undergraduates (McCCLU)

March 14-16, 2014

SLUM is looking for speakers for the upcoming 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!

Ling-Tea, 1/22 – Mike Hamilton

This week’s Ling-Tea is rescheduled from last week’s.

When: Wednesday January 22nd, 3-4 pm in room 117
Who: Mike Hamilton
What: Mi’gmaq as a discourse configurational language: A dissertation proposal

As always, if you’d like to present something at Ling-Tea, please contact Yuliya Manyakina at or Nina Umont at

Syntax-Phonology Reading Group, 1/24

The Syntax-Phonology Reading Group will resume this Friday, January 24, 11:30-1pm, in room 117 (note change in time from last semester). We will discuss a draft of Lauren Eby Clemens’ paper “The prosody of Niuean Pseudo Noun Incorporation”, which will be circulated via the group’s listserv (please contact Emily Elfner if you would like to be added to the list). In addition, this meeting will serve as an organizational meeting for the semester. All are welcome to attend, and we hope to see you there!

Exploring the Interfaces 3: Prosody and Constituent Structure

McLing is pleased to announce that the call for the third Exploring the Interfaces workshop has just been posted! Here are the details:

Exploring the Interfaces (ETI) 3 will take place at McGill University from May 8–10, 2014. This workshop will be the last of three workshops organized by the McGill Syntactic Interfaces Research Group (McSIRG) as part of a multi-year grant to study linguistic interfaces. Following ETI 1 (Word structure) and ETI 2 (Implicatures, alternatives and the semantics/pragmatics interface), the topic of ETI 3 will be Prosody and Constituent Structure.

In particular, ETI 3 will deal with issues surrounding prosodic and phonological evidence for syntactic constituent structure, with a focus on verb-initial languages.

Goals of the Workshop:

  • To bring together researchers working on issues at the syntax-phonology interface (e.g. syntactic constituency, prosodic effects on word order) from the perspectives of syntax, prosody, and phonology/phonetics
  • To bring together researchers working on a variety of different languages, with an emphasis on languages with default verb-initial word order
  • To encourage communication and discussion about methodologies that can be used for the empirical study of prosody and the syntax-phonology interface

Invited Speakers:

Judith Aissen (UC Santa Cruz)
Sasha Calhoun (Victoria University of Wellington)
Lauren Eby Clemens (Harvard)
Emily Elfner (McGill)
Jim McCloskey (UC Santa Cruz)
Norvin Richards (MIT)
Joey Sabbagh (UT Arlington)
Kristine Yu (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Methods Tutorials:

In addition to the regular session, we will have two tutorials on local technological tools for fieldwork, with special reference to fieldwork on prosody:

  • Tutorial 1: Automatic Acoustic Alignment in Underdocumented Languages
  • Tutorial 2: LingSync: An Online Tool for Field Work

This conference is supported through an FQRSC team grant on Linguistic Interfaces and funding from a SSHRC Grant on Prosody and Constituent Structure.

Organizing Team:

Emily Elfner, Jessica Coon, Lisa Travis, Michael Wagner

Student Organizers:

Michael Hamilton, Henrison Hsieh, Yuliya Manyakina

Call for Papers:

Abstract submission deadline: February 28, 2014
Notification of acceptance: March 10, 2014
Conference: May 8-10, 2014

In addition to eight invited speakers, we are accepting abstracts for a limited number of additional talks (30 minutes + 10 minutes discussion) and posters. We particularly welcome papers which address the following questions:

  • What can prosodic and phonological evidence tell us about syntactic constituent structure?
  • To what extent do syntactic, phonological and prosodic evidence agree with one another regarding constituent structure?
  • What is the role of prosody in determining word order?
  • Can prosodic and phonological evidence be used to help distinguish between competing syntactic accounts of how word order is derived?

We welcome abstracts dealing with these topics in any language, but would particularly welcome abstracts on verb-initial languages in keeping with the theme of the conference.

Abstracts should be anonymous and no longer than 500 words (including examples, but not counting title or references), and should be submitted in PDF format on the following easychair site:

Please indicate on the form whether you would prefer an oral presentation, a poster presentation, or whether either would be acceptable. By default, we will first consider you for an oral presentation. Additionally, we hope to have some funding available to supplement travel costs for student presenters.

Contact with questions.

Gretchen McCulloch finishes her MA

Congratulations to Gretchen McCulloch, who has completed her MA with a thesis titled “Verb Stem Composition in Mi’gmaq.” You can find this and her other work on her website. Congratulations Gretchen!

Ling-Tea, 1/15 – Mike Hamilton

Please join us this Wednesday for our first Ling-Tea of the semester!

When: Wednesday January 15th, 3-4 pm in room 117
Who: Mike Hamilton
What: Mi’gmaq as a discourse configurational language: A dissertation proposal

If you’d like to present something at Ling-Tea, please contact Yuliya Manyakina at or Nina Umont at


The McGill/MIT Workshop on Gradability and Quantity in Language and the Brain

The ‘McGill/MIT Workshop on Gradability and Quantity in Language and the Brain’, will take place at MIT from Jan. 31 to Feb. 1, 2014.

The workshop description reads as follows:

[This workshop] is bringing together a group of neuroscientists with an interest in language and a group of experimental and formal linguists interested in the brain, in an attempt to enhance the dialogue between the linguistic and the neurophysiological cultures, and help to close the gap between these two growing groups of researchers. The theme of the workshop is centered on aspects of gradability and quantity as it pertains to the cognitive domains of Number, Space, and Time.

You can check the program here. Yosef Grodzinsky and Bernhard Schwarz are presenting.

The workshop is partially funded by Yosef Grodzinsky’s Canada Research Chair.

AGReading group, 1/17

AGReement Reading Group will resume on Friday, January 17th, 11:30am-1pm, in room 117. For this week, we’ll read and discuss Andrew Nevins’ 2011 paper, ‘Multiple Agree with Clitics: Person Complementarity vs. Omnivorous Number.” This meeting will also serve as an organizational meeting to choose readings for the rest of the semester. As always, all are welcome to attend.

McGill at LSA and SSILA 2014

McGill linguists past and present were well represented at the 2014 annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA), and the co-located annual meeting of the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA), both held Jan 2-5 in tropical Minneapolis.


  • Brian Buccola and Morgan Sonderegger: On the expressivity of Optimality Theory vs. rules: An application to opacity
  • Emily Elfner: Prosodic boundary strength in verb-initial structures: Evidence from English and Irish
  • Aron Hirsch (BA ’11) and Martin Hackl: Presupposition projection and incremental processing in disjunction
  • Thomas Kettig (BA ’13): The Canadian Shift: Its acoustic trajectory and consequences for vowel categorization
  • Alanah McKillen: The role of focus in determining exceptional coreference
  • Sasha Simonenko: Semantics of the DP wh-island
  • Jozina Vander Klok (PhD ’12): Yes-no question and fieldwork strategies: A case study on Paciran Javanese


  • Mike Hamilton: Deriving overt nominals in Mi’gmaq
  • Gretchen McCulloch: Mi’gmaq -asi as a middle voice marker

The full programs for LSA and SSILA can be found here and here.

2014-01-04 12.19.32

Colloquium, 1/10 – Julie Legate

Please join us for the first colloquium of the winter semester!

Speaker: Julie Legate (University of Pennsylvania)
Date & Time: Friday, January 10, 3:30 pm
Place: Education Building Rm. 433
Title: Acehnese causatives and the structure of the verb phrase

Sonderegger presents at MIT

Morgan Sonderegger visited MIT on Dec 9.  He gave a talk in the Phonology Circle, entitled “Phonetic and phonological variation on reality television: dynamics and interspeaker variation”.

Course announcement: Phonology 4 / Seminar in Phonology

LING 635/735
Current topics in phonology: a computational approach
Tuesday, 2:35-5:25

Instructor: Morgan Sonderegger

Course description
This course will address several topics of current interest in phonology, united by the theme of variability in sound systems, using a hands-on approach.  Students will first learn to program in Python, with a focus on tools needed to extract information from corpora which can be used to test research questions about phonological variability — though these tools are useful for experimental and theoretical studies more generally.*  We will then cover several topics related to variability, for two weeks each, including (preliminary list):

  • Sources of variability
    Explanations which have been proposed for the structure of phonologicalvariability, such as Steriade’s influential P-map hypothesis, which links the perceptibility of phonological contrasts to their likelihood of being used in a language.
  • Variability in the lexicon
    Within a given language, some unattested/attested sound sequences are judged worse/better than others by native speakers, and certain sound sequences are heavily overrepresented across the lexicon (the most famous example being co-occurrence asymmetries among consonants in Arabic).  Much recent work explores how to account for such “probabilistic phonotactics”  in terms of some type(s) of similarity between segments (e.g. perceptual distinctiveness, number of shared features).
  • Variability in realization
    Phonological variation — any situation where the same underlying morpheme can be realized as different surface forms in a given environment — has gained extensive attention in phonological theory over the past 15 years. Phenomena such as English t/d deletion (e.g. realization of “went” with or without the final [t]) are increasingly, though not uncontroversially, seen as part of phonology proper, rather than simply “phonetic implementation”.
  • Variability in grammar:
    Classic optimality theory (OT) can only account for categorical phonologicalpatterns.  The increasing interest in gradient patterns (such as probabilistic phonotactics and phonological variation) in phonology has gone hand-in-hand with the adoption of theoretical frameworks which can account for both categorical and gradient patterns, most notably Maximum Entropy grammars and Stochastic OT.

For each topic, we will alternate theoretical and practical weeks: in the first week we will discuss 1-2 key papers and formulate research questions which build on them; in the second week (and a subsequent homework assignment),  we will write and deploy Python scripts to test these questions, by extracting relevant data from corpora or running simulations.  For example, after reading Frisch et al.’s influential paper on gradient consonant co-occurrence patterns in Arabic, which explains them in terms of similarity between segments, we might write scripts to extract consonant co-occurrence data from a pronunciation lexicon of a different language, and see whether Frisch et al’s account works for it as well.

Because of the hands-on nature of the course, most evaluation will be via frequent homework assignments, which will combine programming and brief write-ups. There may also be a short final paper for students in Phonology 4, which can either build on one of the homework assignments or continue an existing research project.

Course announcement: Syntax 4 / Seminar in syntax

LING 675 Syntax 4
LING 775 Seminar in Syntax
Monday 11:35-14:25, Prof. Junko Shimoyama
Course Description
The course explores current cross-linguistic issues in syntax and its interfaces. Through in-depth investigations of particular issues, students will learn skills necessary to do independent research, such as (i) constructing arguments by carefully following logical steps, (ii) formulating hypotheses and exploring their consequences, (iii) finding an empirical puzzle and developing it into research questions for a project.
This year, we will explore selected topics in the `peripheries’ in the DP and CP domains. In particular, we will examine language-internal and cross-linguistic variations in (i) modification structure within DP (e.g., externally vs. internally headed relatives, integrated vs. non-integrated appositives, modifier order and size) and (ii) expressions of evidentiality (possible connection to Luis’ course), after thought, and so forth in the CP domain.
All are welcome!
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