Monthly Archive for May, 2015

Lydia White at FLTAL

Lydia White has recently returned from Sarajevo where she was a plenary speaker at the 5th International Conference on Foreign Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics (May 7-9), a conference which has achieved considerable success in bringing together researchers from the different communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and surrounding regions. The title of her talk was ‘Linguistic theory, generative L2 research and language pedagogy: from theory to practice (or maybe not)’. McGill grad Martyna Kozlowska also presented a paper at the conference.

Congratulations MA graduates!

Congratulations to this year’s MA program graduates, Yuliya Manyakina and James Tanner!

Yuliya has a job as the Communications and Events Manager at The Language Conservancy, a non-profit organization that provides support to endangered languages. As a PR manager, Yuliya will be responsible for maintaining all communications within the organization, as well as with the public, to advance awareness of language revitalization and the goals of The Language Conservancy.
Yuliya’s first project will be promoting an upcoming documentary, calling Rising Voices/Hótȟaŋiŋpi. Her MA thesis is “Two types of ‘incorporation’ in Mi’gmaq”, supervised by Jessica Coon and Lisa Travis.

James‘ MA thesis title is “The Representation and Processing of Inflectional Morphology: The Prosodic Dual-Route Hypothesis”, supervised by Heather Goad. He will be working as an RA/TA at the University of Kent and is interested in pursuing a career in computational linguistics.

Riente Award to Dan Goodhue

Congratulations to PhD student Dan Goodhue, this year’s recipient of the Lara Riente Memorial Prize in Linguistics. This award was established in 2002 by family, friends, fellow students, professors and the Jewish Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation in memory of Lara Riente, B.A. 1992, M.A. 2001. More about the award can be found here.

Kotek, Sudo, and Hackl in Natural Language Semantics

Postdoc Hadas Kotek‘s paper “Experimental investigations of ambiguity: the case of most” just appeared online in Natural Language Semantics. The paper is joint work with Yasutada Sudo and Martin Hackl and can be found here.

Jessica Coon at MIT

Jessica Coon gave a colloquium talk at MIT last week. The title of her talk was “Two types of ergative agreement: Implications for Dependent Case Theory.” Abstract is below.

A range of literature has shown that agreement is sensitive to morphological case (e.g. Bobaljik 2008, et seq). While the dependence of agreement on case has been robustly demonstrated, the source of morphological case remains controversial. This talk focuses on the assignment of ergative case. Under one line of approach, ergative is an inherent case, assigned by a functional head to external arguments in their thematic position (Woolford 1997; Legate 2008). On another approach, ergative is the mirror image of accusative, assigned configurationally to the higher of two arguments in some local domain (Marantz 1991; Baker & Bobaljik to appear). Through an investigation of ergative agreement systems, I argue that a Dependent Case approach is not only unmotivated for a less-studied type of ergative agreement, but also runs the risk of over-generating.

I argue that ergative-absolutive agreement patterns have two different sources. Type 1: In languages like Hindi-Urdu, agreement comes from T; morphologically case-marked ergative subjects are inaccessible for agreement, resulting in an “ergative” agreement pattern (i.e. absolutive arguments agree; see Bobaljik 2008). Type 2: In languages like Chol and Halkomelem, transitive subjects (i.e. ergative arguments) agree, and the source of this agreement is low: v (Coon to appear; Wiltschko 2006).

This talk has two main goals. First, I provide morphophonological and syntactic evidence for the existence of the less-discussed Type 2 system; specifically, I argue that ergative agreement in Chol has a low source and is the result of a direct relationship between v and the ergative subject. Second, I argue that a Dependent Case analysis––while easily able to handle the Hindi-Urdu-type agreement system––faces problems with the Chol-type agreement system. Not only must the language keep track of two different types of null case, but we are left without a way to rule out languages with nominative-accusative case and ergative-absolutive agreement, a well-known typological gap.

While Dependent Case has achieved a range of empirical coverage (e.g. Baker & Vinokurova 2010; Levin & Preminger 2015; Baker & Bobaljik to appear), the end result is one in which the mechanism of ergative case assignment––inherent or dependent––must minimally be parameterized. Given that Type 2 ergative languages lack morphological case altogether, I suggest that this may not be a bad result.

Summer plans, round 2

McLing continues its end-of-year reporting on local linguists’ summer plans:

BA students

  • Second-year Linguistics major Stephanie Gervais will be interning this summer at the Technical University of Berlin as a research assistant in Cognitive Linguistics, while also learning German.
  • Cora Lesure received an ARIA summer research internship for her Honours Thesis work on Chol phonetics and prosody. She will travel to Chiapas, Mexico in July with supervisors Lauren Clemens and Jessica Coon.

Graduate students

  • Colin Brown heads to British Columbia where he’ll be doing fieldwork this summer on Gitskan, in preparation for his MA thesis.
  • In August, Francesco Gentile is planning to head to the European Summer School in Logic, Language and Information (ESSLLI 2015), held this year at his alma mater, the Universitat Pompeu Fabra
  • Donghyun Kim will be presenting at the Korean Society of Speech Sciences Conference and also at the Linguistic Society of Korea Conference during his summer visit to Korea.


Epistemic Indefinites

Epistemic IndefinitesEpistemic Indefinites: Exploring Modality Beyond the Verbal Domain, a collected volume edited by Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Paula Menéndez-Benito has just been published by Oxford University Press. Congratulations to all contributing authors and to the editors!


Louisa Bielig at Harvard

Louisa Bielig traveled to present her Honours thesis work at the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Colloquium last week. Her talk was titled “Resumptive classifiers in Chuj high topic constructions”. The full program is available here.

Erlewine and Kotek at CLS

Postdoctoral fellows Michael Erlewine and Hadas Kotek presented at the 51st meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society last week. The title of their joint talk was “Relative pronoun pied-piping, the structure of which informs the analysis of relative clauses”. The full program can be found here.

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