Monthly Archive for March, 2014

Syntax-Phonology Reading group, 4/4

The Syntax-Phonology reading group will meet this Friday, April 4 from 11:30-1pm in room 117 for our last scheduled meeting of the semester. We will be reading two papers by Judith Aissen in preparation for ETI3. Jessica will present Aissen 1992 “Topic and focus in Mayan” and Michael will present Aissen 2000 “Prosodic conditions on anaphora and clitics in Jakeltek”. All are welcome!

Dissertation defense, 4/4 – Sasha Simonenko

Sasha Simonenko will be defending her PhD dissertation this week, details are below. All are invited to the defense.

Title:  Grammatical ingredients of definiteness

Time: Friday, April 4th at 3:00pm

Location: Education building, room 338


This dissertation presents arguments in favour of explicit Logical Form representation of components responsible for direct referentiality and domain restriction in definites, with focus on Autro-Bavarian German, Standard Swedish, and Standard Canadian English. It provides a semantico-pragmatic analysis of the ban on wh-subextraction out of DPs with the “strong” articles in Austro-Bavarian and demonstratives in English which assumes their direct referentiality. The ungrammaticality of question formation is proposed to result from the pathological uninformativeness of possible answers. The ban on wh-subextraction thus emerges as a new testing tool for direct referentiality.

I further propose an analysis of the cases where strong articles and demonstratives do not to behave directly referentially. Assuming structural decomposition of strong articles and demonstratives into a determiner head and a relational head, I propose that directly referential interpretation results from a silent individual pronoun occupying the specifier of the relational head, whereas covarying interpretations arise as a result of either a restrictive relative clause occupying this position, or else a relational noun functioning as the relational component itself. I proceed to extend this approach to account for the distribution of strong and weak definite articles in DPs with restrictive relative clauses.

In the second part I analyze the pattern of the free-standing article omission in Swedish. I identify the omission with the use of a covert restrictor-less definite article, which accounts for why it is easily available with context-sensitive modifiers whose semantics has to make reference to a domain restrictor, but is limited to the cases of “global uniqueness” with context-insensitive ones. Thus Swedish, I propose, illustrates the case of a “rudimentary” article which, if the only one available, would make the problem of incomplete descriptions unsurmountable. This conclusion relies on, and thus provides evidence for, the unavailability of either domain restriction at the NP-level or implicit global restriction of the domain of individuals as means of modelling the behaviour of Swedish definites.

McGill at TOM 7

The 7th Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal (TOM) workshop will take place this year on Saturday April 12 at the University of Toronto.

Three of our students have been accepted: Brian Buccola (“A Blocking Solution to van Benthem’s Problem”), Oriana Kilbourn-Cerón (“Almost: Scope and Covert Exhaustification”), and Liz Smeets (“The Structure of Italian Pseudo Relatives: What We Learn from Scope Judgments”, poster session.) Congratulations to them!

You can read more about TOM 7 here:

Notice that the organizers have asked those attending the conference to register before April 1st.


Ling Tea, 3/26 – Jeesun Nam

After a brief hiatus, Ling Tea is back this week!

Who: Jeesun Nam (Hankuk University of Foreign Studies)
When: Wednesday, March 26, 3:00-4:00 pm, Rm. 117
Title: Linguistic Resource-based Approach to Automatic Annotation of Polarity-Shifted Expressions


Among a vast amount of work devoted to the analysis of subjective expressions that contain opinions, evaluations or sentiments, comparatively little work has been conducted in examining polarity shifting devices (PSDs) such as negation markers (Polanyi & Zaenen 2004, Kennedy & Inkpen 2006 and Li et al. 2010). PSDs make inappropriate the assumption that the sentimental orientation of the whole text depends on the simple sum of the prior polarities of content words. For example, in the sentence I was hardly satisfied that is comprised of a positive opinion word satisfied, the polarity of whole sentence is reversed because of a PSD hardly. PSDs should be taken into consideration to properly calculate the polarity of opinion sentences.

This study presents ongoing work on a linguistic resource-based approach to automatic annotation of polarity-shifted expressions. In the literature, given that lexicon- or rule-based approaches have shown serious shortcomings such as ‘performed-on-word-level’ problems or ‘poor-recall’ problems, statistical approaches have dominated the research in opinion classification and achieved the state-of-the-art performance. However, the latter approaches rely on the availability of a large amount of human-tagged training data, and the performance is hard to improve unless more reliable linguistic information is provided.

The linguistic resources I propose in this study essentially include two types: Korean electronic dictionary DECO (Nam 2010) conceptually corresponding to the French electronic dictionary DELA constructed in LADL at Paris 7 University, and local syntactic information represented by finite-state local graphs (i.e. Local Grammar Graphs (LGGs) (Gross 1997, 1999)). The lexicon DECO provides the information of inflectional classes, POS types, and morpho-semantic properties including polarity-orientation of opinion words. The LGGs graphically represent PSDs such as negation markers (e.g. ani ‘not’), polarity-reversing predicates (e.g. silphayha– ‘(to) fail’) or concessive connectors (e.g. –ciman ‘although’) occurring in online review texts. The lexicon DECO and LGGs are applied to the detection and automatic annotation of the polarity-shifted expressions through the multi-lingual text processing platform UNITEX, compatible with the above linguistic resources (Paumier 2003, University Paris-Est-Marne-la-Vallée:

In this talk, I will briefly introduce the organization of the electronic dictionary DECO as well as those of the DELA-French and DELA-English, and the LGG formalism by illustrating some examples of the LGGs on polarity-reversed expressions in Korean and in English. Finally, I will discuss how to recognize and annotate these expressions by applying the dictionaries and LGGs to online review corpora through a freeware platform UNITEX. If time permits, I will demonstrate how to process non-European languages such as Thai or Arabic by UNITEX.

Colloquium, 3/28 – Amy Rose Deal

Please join us for the final colloquium talk in our 2013/2014 colloquium series!

Speaker: Amy Rose Deal (UC Santa Cruz)
Date & Time: Friday, March 28, 3:30 pm
Place: Education Building Rm. 433
Title: Cyclicity and connectivity in Nez Perce relative clauses


This talk centers on two aspects of movement in relative clauses, focusing on evidence from Nez Perce.

First, I argue that relativization involves cyclic A’ movement, even in monoclausal relatives. Rather than moving directly to Spec,CP, the relative element moves there via an intermediate position in an A’ outer specifier of the TP immediately subjacent to relative C. Cyclicity of this type suggests that the TP sister of relative C constitutes a phase – a result whose implications extend to an ill-understood corner of the English that-trace effect.

Second, I argue that Nez Perce relativization provides new evidence for an ambiguity thesis for relative clauses, according to which some but not all relatives are derived by a head-raising analysis. The argument comes from connectivity and anticonnectivity in morphological case. These new data complement the range of standard arguments for head-raising, which draw primarily on connectivity effects at the syntax-semantics interface.

Future Week – 3/25-3/28

SLUM’s Future Week is this week. There are a few events that may be of interest to graduate students (and others):

Tuesday, March 25th – Panel of Professionals, 2:30-4:30pm, Room 002 (Ling Building).
A panel of linguistics professionals from several fields and backgrounds will be explaining how they got to where they are today and how you can get there too. They’ll share their professional and education stories, but will also be open to questions.

Wednesday, March 26th – Speech Pathology Info Session, 11:00-12:00pm, Room 002 (Ling Building).
Two speech pathologists from the HSCD department will be discussing the field of speech pathology with us. They’ll be talking about the program here at McGill and might even give out some tips for future applicants. If you’re interested in speech pathology as a potential future career, this will be a very informative event.

Friday, March 28th

– Sociolinguistics Info Session, 2:00-4:00pm, Room 117 (Ling Building).
Anne Marie Trester, a sociolinguist from Georgetown University, will be giving a talk about life as a sociolinguist, how she got her start in the field, and how you can pursue a career in sociolinguistics too. We are very lucky to have this special guest join us this year, so don’t miss out! Especially if you’re interested in sociolinguistics and related fields, this will be a very interesting talk.

– Sociolinguist Wine & Cheese, 4:00-6:30pm
To wrap up the week and thank our special guest, there will be a wine & cheese directly following the info session.

TOM 6 Proceedings

The latest issue of McGWPL is now available online:

This volume, edited by Brian Buccola, Michael Hamilton, Alanah McKillen, and James Tanner, is a
collection of papers presented at the sixth Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal (TOM)
workshop in semantics, held at McGill University on March 23, 2013.

Congratulations to the contributors and the editors!

MO{L}T{H} a success

This past weekend McGill linguistics hosted the first joint meeting of the MOTH and MOLT regional syntax and phonology workshops, with a keynote talk by Glyne Piggott. Thanks to hard work by undergraduate and graduate student volunteers, everything went off without a hitch. Talks by locals included:

  • Elise Mcclay & Michael Wagner
    Accented unambiguous English pronouns: Parallel function, or topicality and focus?
  • Michael David Hamilton
    The prosody and syntax of focus in Mi’gmaq
  • Guilherme Garcia
    Weight and stress in Brazilian Portuguese
  • Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron
    Vowel devoicing in spontaneous Japanese
  • Morgan Sonderegger and James Kirby
    Actuation without production bias
  • Michael David Hamilton and Brandon J
    Accounting for patterns of long-distance
    agreement in Algonquian



AGReading Group, 3/28

In this week’s Agreement Reading Group, Jessica Coon will talk about little-v agreement in Mayan, in preparation for her upcoming talk at the Chicago Linguistics Society. As always, we meet in room 117 at 11:30am.

Michael Hamilton receives CLA distinction

Congratulations to Michael Hamilton who received “honourable mention” for the Canadian Linguistics Associations Best Student Paper award. His paper at the 2013 CLA in Victoria was “Wh movement in Mi’gmaq”. Good work Michael!

Syntax/Semantics Reading Group Tutorial! David-Etienne on Degrees, 3/21

As mentioned before, starting this semester, the Syntax/Semantics Reading Group will feature a series of informal tutorials on semantic/pragmatic topics that have not been taught in regular courses for a while. These mini ‘crash courses’ do not presuppose any background in semantics. Every curious person is welcome to attend.

Our very own David-Étienne Bouchard will be in charge of the first of our tutorials. He will be introducing us to the use of degrees in semantics:

The purpose of this tutorial will be to provide a semantics to sentences containing a degree operator, in particular the comparative morpheme ‘more¹. In order to do this we will introduce degrees in our semantic ontology and enrich the denotations of gradable adjectives like tall and heavy. Degree operators will be treated as quantifiers over degrees and shown to have some flexibility in scope, albeit in a limited manner.

Date Presentation Background reading(s)
Friday, March 21, 2014
3:00-4:30 pm
David-Étienne Bouchard on degrees. Kennedy (1999), Projecting the Adjective, chapter 1. Heim (2001). Degree Operators and Scope.

MO{L}T{H} phonology/syntax conference this weekend

This weekend McGill Linguistics will be hosting a joint meeting of two annual regional workshops: MOLT (phonology) and MOTH (syntax). The combined two-day MO{L}T{H} conference will include a joint session on the syntax–phonology interface, as well as a keynote talk by Glyne Piggott. The full program can be found here.

Things will get started Saturday morning at 9:00 in Leacock 232. If you plan to attend, please take a moment to register here so we can get an accurate head-count for catering.



Following Thomas Ede Zimmermann’s colloquium talk last Friday, there was a party at Junko and Bernhard’s place. In the interest of our readership, McLing reporters rushed to the scene and came back with some pictures proving that, once more, good food, good company and interesting conversations go together.

Hadas Kotek (MIT) receives Mellon post-doc at McGill

Hadas Kotek will be joining our department next fall as a Mellon post-doctoral fellow, supervised by Junko Shimoyama.

Hadas is currently a PhD student in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT. She completed her undergraduate studies in linguistics at Tel-Aviv University. Her research focuses on the syntax-semantics interface, and utilizes experimental and quantitative tools alongside traditional methods. More specifically, her work examines the interaction between competing operations in syntax and semantics, focusing on the domains of wh-questions, focus constructions, quantification, and degree semantics. Her dissertation studies the syntax, semantics, and processing of multiple wh-questions. She welcomes your recommendations for good middle-eastern grocery stores and Jewish delis in Montreal.


Congratulations Hadas and Junko!

Agreement Reading Group, 3/14

This week’s AGR Group will be a presentation via Skype by Will Oxford, University of Manitoba/University of Toronto. He’ll be presenting “Intralanguage variation in multiple person agreement”.
Who: Will Oxford (UManitoba, UToronto)
When: Friday 11:30am
Where: Room 117
Title: Intralanguage variation in multiple person agreement
Abstract Excerpt:
The status of portmanteau person agreement is controversial: is it simply a matter of fusion (Noyer 1992) or contextual allomorphy at PF (Trommer 2007), or does it reflect true multiple agreement in the narrow syntax (Georgi 2011)? Alternatively, are both of these possibilities attested (Woolford 2012)? This paper presents evidence that portmanteau agreement is determined by the narrow syntax in several Algonquian languages. The evidence involves a correlation between portmanteau agreement and the system of direct/inverse marking. Each of the languages displays two different patterns of portmanteau person agreement (patterns A and B) as well as two different patterns of direct/inverse marking (patterns A and B). Interestingly, these phenomena correlate: clauses with portmanteau pattern A also display direct/inverse pattern A, and likewise for pattern B. I will show that the portmanteau and direct/inverse patterns can be analyzed as sharing the same underlying source: variation in the articulation of the person probe, which is specified as [uPerson, uProximate, uParticipant] in the A contexts and as [uPerson, uProximate] in the B contexts. Since the direct/inverse system has effects on quantifier scope and binding, the agreement and movement operations triggered by this probe must take place in the narrow syntax. Since portmanteau agreement follows from the same source, its origin is thus syntactic as well.
The full abstract can be found from the WCCFL 32 program here.

McGill Canadian Conference for Linguistics Undergraduates, 3/14-3/16

This weekend (March 14th-16th), SLUM will be holding its annual undergraduate conference, McCCLU. The Conference starts on Friday evening with a Wine & Cheese, as well as a keynote address by Matthew Masapollo, continues on Saturday and Sunday with a series of ten presentations given by undergraduate students from Ontario, Quebec, and the Northeastern U.S., and concludes on Sunday afternoon with a keynote address by Gretchen McCulloch.

You are all, of course, invited to attend McCCLU and we would be very happy to see you there!

For a more detailed schedule and information about the venues, please see our webpage, Facebook, or Twitter:

Mayan documentary screening, 3/12

In connection with this semester’s Linguistics 410 Structure of Mayan class, there will be a screening of “Haunted Land“, a documentary film produced here in Montreal about Mateo Pablo, a Chuj-speaker who returns to his village in Guatemala, the site of a massacre during the Guatemalan Civil War. Mateo Pablo and director Mary Ellen Davis will both be present for discussion. All are invited to attend.

When: Wednesday March 12th 6pm

Where: Arts W-215

Colloquium, 3/14 – Thomas Ede Zimmerman

Please join us for the next colloquium in our 2013/14 colloquium series:

Speaker: Thomas Ede Zimmerman (University of Frankfurt)
Date & Time: Friday, March 14, 3:30 pm
Place: Education Building Rm. 433
Title: On the ontological status of semantic values

The following three theses will be defended, and connections between them will be established:
1. Model-theoretic natural language semantics is not a theory of meaning.
2. Extensions (“generalized” quantifiers, truth values, …) must be distinguished from referents.
3. Intension must be distinguished from content.

Dan Goodhue awarded CRBLM Graduate Scholar Stipend

Dan Goodhue has been awarded a CRBLM Graduate Scholar Stipend of $3,000, based on his academic achievement and his research proposal on “Intonational contours and their interpretation in dialogue” supervised by Michael Wagner.  You can read more here.

Congratulations, Dan!

McGill Canadian Conference for Linguistics Undergraduates (McCCLU)

March 14-16, 2014

SLUM would like to cordially invite you to attend 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 (including McGill, of course) to give talks about their research.

For more information, please see our post on the Linguist List: More Information

Volunteers for Saturday’s talks are also needed, so please contact SLUM at if you are interested in getting involved.

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