Monthly Archive for June, 2014

Carlson, Sonderegger, and Bane (2014) on phonological networks

An article co-authored by Morgan Sonderegger has appeared.  Congratulations!

Carlson, Matthew, Morgan Sonderegger, and Max Bane. (2014) “How children explore the phonological network in child-directed speech: A survival analysis of children’s first word productions.”  Journal of Memory and Language 75: 159–180.

We explored how phonological network structure influences the age of words’ first appearance in children’s (14–50 months) speech, using a large, longitudinal corpus of spontaneous child–caregiver interactions. We represent the caregiver lexicon as a network in which each word is connected to all of its phonological neighbors, and consider both words’ local neighborhood density (degree), and also their embeddedness among interconnected neighborhoods (clustering coefficient and coreness). The larger-scale structure reflected in the latter two measures is implicated in current theories of lexical development and processing, but its role in lexical development has not yet been explored. Multilevel discrete-time survival analysis revealed that children are more likely to produce new words whose network properties support lexical access for production: high degree, but low clustering coefficient and coreness. These effects appear to be strongest at earlier ages and largely absent from 30 months on. These results suggest that both a word’s local connectivity in the lexicon and its position in the lexicon as a whole influences when it is learned, and they underscore how general lexical processing mechanisms contribute to productive vocabulary development.


Postdoc for Sasha Simonenko in Paris

Congratulations to recent McGill PhD Sasha Simonenko, who has been hired for a one-year postdoctoral position at LaTTiCe (Laboratoire Langues, Textes, Traitements Informatiques, Cognition) in Paris. LaTTiCe is affiliated with CNRS, Ecole Normale Supérieure and Université Paris 3, and Sasha will work under the supervision of Sophie Prévost and Benoit Crabbé. She will be doing historical corpus research on the syntax of French starting October 1st.

Félicitations Sasha!

Welcome new postdoc Lauren Clemens!

Please join us in welcoming new postdoc Lauren Eby Clemens, who will be joining the department this summer working on a SSHRC-funded ergativity project with Lisa Travis and Jessica Coon.

Lauren graduated from Harvard in May of this year and is excited to be
joining McGill’s department. Her research focuses on prosody and the
syntax-phonology interface at the sentential level. She works
primarily with data from Austronesian and Mayan languages. Her
specific research interests include prosodic diagnostics for syntactic
structure; the effect of prosodic constraints on word order variation;
and the representation of prosodic structure in the grammar. Her
dissertation “Prosodic Noun Incorporation and Verb-Initial Syntax”
develops a prosodically motivated account of pseudo-noun incorporation
with specific reference to Niuean. Although Lauren is a Hawks fan by
birth, she is glad to have a team to cheer for in the Eastern

Welcome Lauren!

picture for mcling


Junko Shimoyama heads to FAJL

Junko Shimoyama is off to Formal Approaches to Japanese Linguistics (FAJL) in Tokyo this weekend, for a poster presentation on ongoing joint work with Alex Drummond, Bernhard Schwarz and Michael Wagner on dislocation and clausal ellipsis. She will also present the work at Okayama University (in her home town), where Hidekazu Tanaka (McGill PhD 1998) recently joined the faculty after many years of being at the University of York (UK). Junko looks forward to benefitting from Hidekazu’s expertise in right dislocation, as well as Mika Kizu’s (McGill PhD 1999) expertise in cleft constructions.

Syntax-Semantics Reading Group: Buccola on Al-Khatib, part II – 06/27

Brian Buccola made a presentation last Friday on Al-Khathib (2013) ‘Only’ and Association with Negative Antonyms. Ph. Diss. MIT. He will continue the presentation on Friday 27 at the Syntax-Semantics Reading Group (room 117, from 3:00 to 4:30).

Richard Compton accepts job at UQAM

Congratulations to postdoc Richard Compton, who has just officially accepted a tenure-track position in the Department of Linguistics at Université du Québec à Montréal, to begin July 1st. Richard completed his PhD in 2012 at University of Toronto, and spent the past year as a postdoc with Jessica Coon and Lisa Travis.

Richard was also just awarded a SSHRC Insight Development Grant to continue his work on Inuit. The title is “Nominal and verbal incorporation in Inuit”.

Congratulations Richard!

Welcome back, Heather!

Heather Goad just returned from two weeks in China followed by one week in Norway. She gave four talks at universities in Beijing, Ningbo and Harbin, then taught at the Norwegian National Graduate School in Linguistics in beautiful Hamn i Senja.

Welcome back, Heather!

Syntax-Semantics Reading Group: Buccola on Al-Khatib (2013) – 06/20.

Brian Buccola will lead a discussion of Al-Khathib (2013) ‘Only’ and Association with Negative Antonyms. Ph. Diss. MIT on Friday 20 at the Syntax-Semantics Reading Group (room 117, from 3:00 to 4:30). The discussion will continue on Friday 27, at the same place and time.

Congratulations graduates

Congratulations to this year’s BA Linguistics concentrators who graduated before the storm hit Tuesday! Among the graduates were this year’s award recipients. More information on the awards can be found here.

  • Cremona Memorial Prize in Linguistics – Misha Schwartz
  • Academic Leadership Award – Lauren Garfinkle
  • U2 Academic Achievement Award – Elena Russo
  • Department Citizenship Award – Andrew MacLachlan
  • Excellence in Research Award – Louisa Bielig

News is still trickling in about what this year’s graduates will be up to next year, but we can tell you that linguistics major Jason Kobelski Olszewski will be joining the Masters in Multilingualism program offered by the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and neuroscience major Yan Jun Chen will be staying at McGill to study Speech Pathology. Lizzie Carolan has just returned from a trip to Guatemala researching Mayan languages and will work part-time next year as an RA for Jessica Coon. Andrew MacLachlan will head to University of Toronto in August to study Law and Kaylee Avrashi will head to graduate school for Speech Language Pathology at University of Ottawa.

We also have news of graduates from previous years. Liwen Hou (’13) will begin a PhD program in Computer Science at Northeastern University this fall where she plans to study Natural Language Processing. Ruth María Martínez (’13) is enrolled in the MA program at UdeM.

MA graduates

Congratulations to this year’s linguistics students graduating with MA degrees, Maayan Adar, Gretchen McCulloch, and Nina Umont. Good work all!


Masters Gretchen McCulloch and Maayan Adar


Gretchen has a new job as the editor of’s Lexicon Valley blog. Maayan will join UCLA’s PhD program in the fall. Nina has just started work at iPerceptions where she is putting her stats skills to work.

Fall course announcement: LING 721 “Questions, focus, and friends”

LING 721 Advanced Seminar 1
“Questions, focus, and friends”
Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine and Hadas Kotek

Monday & Wednesday, 1:30–3:00pm

In this seminar we will explore the syntax and semantics of questions and focus constructions. From a theoretical point of view, we will discuss in detail two technologies used for scope taking—(covert) movement and focus alternative computation—which are commonly employed in the analysis of both questions and focus constructions. From a more typological perspective, we will explore the shared overt morphosyntactic strategies some languages use in the expression of both kinds of constructions.

Phenomena to be discussed include in-situ and ex-situ wh-questions and Association with Focus constructions, pied-piping, movement asymmetries and islands, intervention effects, and alternative questions. Time permitting, we may discuss other phenomena for which both (covert) movement and alternative computation have been (or could be) employed, such as disjunction, NPIs, universal quantification, and head-internal relatives.

Requirements for registered students will include infrequent homework assignments and two language journals, which report on the investigation of wh-questions and focus constructions in a particular language, based on elicitation with a native speaker. We will assume some familiarity with properties of A’ (wh) movement and (extensional) compositional semantics as in Heim & Kratzer (1998), but important parts of the theory will be reviewed in class.

The course will be graded Pass/fail.

Charles Boberg’s research in Metro news

Charles Boberg‘s research on Canadian English was prominently featured in Metro news last week, online, and in print across Canada… except here in Quebec! You can read the piece on Canadian English here.

Syntax/Semantics Reading Group – Shimoyama, Drummond, Schwarz and Wagner on Dislocation, 6/6

Date Presentation Background reading(s)
Friday, June 6, 2014
10:00 – 11:30 am(Room 117)
Shimoyama, Drummond, Schwarz and Wagner, “Dislocation, fragments, and ellipsis” Ott, Dennis and Mark de Vries (2013) Right-dislocation as deletion. Ms. Univ. of Groningen.
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