Monthly Archive for October, 2015

Ling-Tea, 10/27 – Jessica Coon

Please join us this week for Ling-Tea at its usual time and place: Tuesday at 1:00 in Linguistics room 117.
Presenter: Jessica Coon
Title: Unergatives, antipassives, and the underspecification of roots: Evidence from Chuj (a practice talk for CILLA XII)
Abstract: The suffix -w in Chuj (Q’anjob’alan) is found in two different environments: (i) “incorporation antipassives”, and (ii) certain denominal intransitive verbs (unergatives). In both, the result is an intransitive verb stem. In this talk, I propose that these two uses of the suffix -w can be unified under an account in which -w is a verbal suffix (i.e. a Voice head) which combines with a root to form an intransitive verbal stem with a single agentive external argument. Crucially, this unification relies on the ability for -w to combine with apparently different types of roots: transitive verb roots which have incorporated bare NP objects, nominal roots, as well as “positional” roots. I argue that the most elegant account of these facts is one in which roots are underspecified for lexical category (see e.g. Halle and Marantz 1993; Arad 2003 in general, and Lois 2011 on Mayan). This analysis also has implications for the status of antipassives. Under this view, the Chuj antipassive is not derived from a transitive. Rather, both transitive and antipassive stems are formed directly from a root.

WSRG group, 10/30

The next WSRG meeting is on Friday, October 30th, at 12 p.m. in room 117.

Reading: Grandi, Nicola and Fabio Montermini. 2005.  Prefix-Suffix Neutrality In Evaluative Morphology In G. Booij, E. Guevara, A. Ralli, S. Sgroi & S. Scalise (eds.), Morphology and Linguistic Typology, On-line Proceedings of the Fourth Mediterranean Morphology Meeting (MMM4) Catania 21-23 September 2003, University of Bologna, 2005.

Presenter: Francesco Gentile

McGill at NWAV 44

McGill was well-represented in talks and posters presented at the 44th New Ways of Analyzing Variation conference held at the University of Toronto October 22-25:

  • Liam Bassford (BA ’15), Peter Milne, & Morgan Sonderegger : “Attentive speech and clear speech in Quebec French diphthongization”
  • Charles Boberg: “Internal relations among the short vowels of Canadian English”
  • Natalia Brambatti Guzzo & Guilherme Garcia: “When phonological variation tells us about prosody”
  • Thomas Kettig (BA ’13) and Bodo Winter: “The Canadian Shift in production and perception: New evidence from Montreal”
  • Donghyun Kim, Louisa Bielig (BA ’15), Amanda McConnell, Ryan Kazma (BA ’15): “Variation in /AE/ in Montreal and New Brunswick English: With reference to the Canadian Shift”
  • Jeffrey Lamontagne & Jeff Mielke: “Perceptual salience of vowel rhoticity in Canadian French”
  • Morgan Sonderegger, Jane Stuart-Smith, Rachel Macdonald, Thea Knowles (BA ’12), & Tamara Rathcke : “Stability and change in Scottish stops: a real-time study of three acoustic cues in Glasgwegian vernacular”

Gretchen McCullouch (MA ’14) also led a Wikipedia Editathon.

Here are some of them, under the McGill crest (in the Great Hall of Hart House):


Jessica Coon and Cora Lesure at CILLA

Jessica Coon and BA Honours student Cora Lesure are at the University of Texas at Austin this week for the 7th Conference on Indigenous Languages of Latin America (CILLA). The title of Jessica’s talk is “Inergativos, antipasivos y la categorización de raíces: Evidencia en Chuj.” Cora is presenting collaborative research with recent Postdoc Lauren Clemens (SUNY Albany): “An investigation of the acoustic correlates of prosodic phrasing in Chol.”

Stuart-Smith, Sonderegger et al. in Laboratory Phonology

An article co-authored by Morgan Sonderegger has appeared in Laboratory Phonology — congratulations!

Stuart-Smith, Jane, Morgan Sonderegger, Tamara Rathcke, and Rachel Macdonald. (2015) “The private life of stops: VOT in a real-time corpus of spontaneous Glaswegian.” Laboratory Phonology 6(3-4): 505–549.

While voice onset time (VOT) is known to be sensitive to a range of phonetic and linguistic factors, much less is known about VOT in spontaneous speech, since most studies consider stops in single words, in sentences, and/or in read speech. Scottish English is typically said to show less aspirated voiceless stops than other varieties of English, but there is also variation, ranging from unaspirated stops in vernacular speakers to more aspirated stops in Scottish Standard English; change in the vernacular has also been suggested. This paper presents results from a study which used a fast, semi-automated procedure for analyzing positive VOT, and applied it to stressed syllable-initial stops from a real- and apparent-time corpus of naturally-occurring spontaneous Glaswegian vernacular speech. We confirm significant effects on VOT for place of articulation and local speaking rate, and trends for vowel height and lexical frequency. With respect to time, our results are not consistent with previous work reporting generally shorter VOT in elderly speakers, since our results from models which control for local speech rate show lengthening over real-time in the elderly speakers in our sample. Overall, our findings suggest that VOT in both voiceless and voiced stops is lengthening over the course of the twentieth century in this variety of Scottish English. They also support observations from other studies, both from Scotland and beyond, indicating that gradient shifts along the VOT continuum reflect subtle sociolinguistic control.


Ling-Tea, 10/20 – Aron Hirsch

Aron Hirsch (MIT, McGill BA) will be presenting at Ling-Tea this week.

Coordinates: Tuesday 10/20, 1:00pm–2:00pm in Linguistics 117

Title: A compositional semantics for wh-ever free relatives

The abstract can be found here.

Colloquium, 10/23 – Danny Fox

Speaker: Danny Fox (MIT), presenting joint work with Kyle Johnson (UMass)
Date & Time: Friday, October 23rd at 3:30 pm
Place: ARTS Bldg. room 260
Title: Quantifier Raising as Restrictor Sharing – Evidence from Hydra and Extaposition with Split Antecedents


The goals of this talk are the following:

  • To provide an account of Hydra (Every boy and (every) girl who like each other should have a play date) and Extraposition with Split Antecedents (ESA, A boy came in and a girl left who like each other), along the lines of Zhang 2007.
  • To explain how the account argues for the following conclusions (Johnson 2011):

a.     Quantifier Raising involves movement not of a QP but of the quantifiers restrictor. More specifically:

1.     Quantifier words are covert and “late merged” in the QPs scope position

2.     Quantifier words are morphologically realized on lower heads in the QP.

b.     This should be embedded in a theory in which a moved constituent has more than one mother (multi-dominance).

  • To provide a semantics for the lower hosting head (inspired by Champollion 2015).

Simonenko in Journal of Semantics

Recent McGill PhD Sasha Simonenko’s paper “Semantics of DP Islands: The Case of Questions” has just appeared online in Journal of Semantics, and can be found here. This work grew out of her dissertation, defended in 2014. Congratulations, Sasha!

This article provides a semantic–pragmatic answer to the question of why some definite DPs are islands for wh-subextraction while others are not. While it was suggested as early as in Chomsky (1973) that the key to the problem are differences between determiners involved, there has been no analysis which would be based on independently attested properties of the determiners. This article focuses on the contrast in wh-subextraction between DPs with two kinds of definite articles, the so-called weak and strong ones, in Austro-Bavarian German, recorded in Brugger and Prinzhorn (1996). The analysis I offer makes use of the recent works showing that weak and strong definite articles can have different semantics. In particular, to account for the use and distribution of German strong articles, Schwarz (2009) assumes a semantics which routinely results in directly referential readings of the DPs headed by such articles. I show that, assuming a classic Hamblin/Karttunen semantics for questions, cases of wh-subextraction out of directly referential DPs would result in a trivial question which presupposes the asserted content of its possible answers. More broadly, this work aligns with a series of semantic–pragmatic analyses of constraints on island formation (Szabolcsi & Zwarts 1993; Fox & Hackl 2006; Oshima 2007; Abrusán 2008; Abrusán & Spector 2011; B. Schwarz & Shimoyama 2011; Mayr 2013).


Meaghan Fowlie at Workshop on Minimalist Parsing

Postdoctoral fellow Meaghan Fowlie gave an invited talk at Computation, Language, Biology: Workshop on Minimalist Parsing held at MIT October 10th and 11th. The title of her talk was “Parsing Adjuncts”, and the slides can be found on her website.

Ling-Tea, 10/13 – Dan Goodhue

Dan Goodhue will be presenting at Ling-Tea this week.

Coordinates: Tuesday 10/13, 1:00pm–2:00pm in Linguistics 117

Title: Epistemic must is not evidential, it’s epistemic

This paper discusses the felicity conditions that hold on must p utterances. von Fintel (2010) argue that must p entails p, and that intuitions that must p expresses a lack of confidence can be explained as an indirect evidential signal. I offer new empirical data that shows that evidentiality does not explain felicity judgments for epistemic must utterances. To account for the new data, I propose a different generalization which so far has not been systematically compared to the evidential account: must p is felicitous only if the speaker’s knowledge does not entail p. I suggest that this proposal paves the way for the felicity conditions of epistemic $must$ to be derived as a conversational

Hadas Kotek at IATL

This week postdoctoral fellow Hadas Kotek will be presenting a talk at the Israeli Association for Theoretical Linguistics (IATL). The title of her talk is: “On the semantics of wh-questions”.


Bernhard Schwarz at CSSP

Bernhard Schwarz was in Paris, presenting collaborative work with Sasha Simonenko (McGill PhD 2014) at CSSP, the Colloque de Syntaxe et Sémantique à Paris. The title of their presentation was “Two pragmatic accounts of factive islands” and the rest of the program can be found here.

McGill at NELS 46

Later this week Concordia University will host the 46th Northeast Linguistics Society annual meeting. McGill linguists will be presenting a number of talks and posters. Hope to see you there!

Amanda Rizun at the Workshop on Linguistic and Cognitive Aspects of Quantification

First-year PhD student Amanda Rizun will travel to Hungary later this week to present at the Workshop on Linguistic and Cognitive Aspects of Quantification. She will be presenting collaborative work with Jeremy Hartman (UMass Amherst). The title of their talk is “Acquisition of Exceptives in Quantified Sentences.”

Ling-Tea, 10/6 – Dejan Milacic

Dejan Milacic will be presenting at Ling-Tea this week.

Coordinates: Tuesday 10/6, 1:00pm–2:00pm in Linguistics 117

Title: Is dual still more marked than plural?

In this talk I use data from Mi’gmaq (Coon & Bale 2014) to argue that in a singular~dual~plural number system it is possible for plural to be expressed by more morphemes than dual, but not the reverse. This claim goes against data from Manam used by Nevins (2011) as evidence that dual is composed of two marked features and is more marked than plural. This markedness of dual crucially appeals to context-sensitive markedness. To Nevins’s theory, I add only one markedness fact, well motivated by an observation from Harbour (2011), and the claim that only marked features can be referenced by grammatical rules (Bale et al. 2011; Noyer 1998). Given these ingredients, the interaction between context-sensitive markedness and Vocabulary Insertion generates the Mi’gmaq pattern and excludes the Manam pattern, which I will give an alternate analysis, while preserving Nevins’s dual Impoverishment claims.

Words Group, 10/9

The next meeting of the Words Group is on Friday, October 9th at 12 pm in room 117.

We will discuss questions concerning the concept of ‘spanning’. Reading: Merchant, Jason. (2015).How much context is enough? Two cases of span-conditioned stem allomorphy. Linguistic Inquiry, Vol. 46.2, pp. 273-303 . (article in the shared dropbox folder)

The Meaning Group, 10/9

The meaning group is meeting this Friday the 9th at 3 pm in 117. Henrison Hsieh will present a manuscript titled “Subject choice in copular clauses” by Line Mikkelsen. All are welcome to attend!


This paper offers a unified analysis of predicational and specificational copular clauses in Danish and English. Building on Moro (1997), I propose that specificational clauses involve the same core predication structure as predicational clauses—one which combines a referential and a predicative expression to form a minimal predicational unit—but differ from them in how the predicational core is realized syntactically. Predicational copular clauses represent the canonical realization, where the referential expression is aligned with the most prominent syntactic position, the subject position. Specificational clauses involve an unusual alignment of the predicative expression with subject position. Following a suggestion in Partee (2000), I further argue that this unusual alignment is grounded in information structure, specifically the desire to align the topic with the subject position, which allows us to understand why specificational clauses exhibit a fixed topic–focus structure. I develop an Minimalist analysis of predicational and specificational clauses that implements these ideas. The central syntactic mechanism that governs the derivation of the two kinds of clauses is the featural interaction between the two DPs and T, the host of the subject position. I further show that the analysis correctly accounts for the distribution of predicational and specificational word orders in certain embedded contexts

Lisa Travis at Cornell Workshop on Aspect

Lisa Travis was one of the invited speakers at last weekend’s Cornell Workshop on Aspect. The title of her talk was: “Using morphophonological evidence to determine the position of aspectual related heads”.


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