Monthly Archive for September, 2016

Ergativity Lab/Fieldwork Lab organizational meeting, 9/26

This semester, Ergativity Lab and Fieldwork Lab will have alternating meetings on Mondays from 12:00–1:00 in room 002 (lunch welcome). Ergativity Lab will continue discussion relating to ergativity, case, and agreement from last semester, and welcomes new participants. Fieldwork Lab meetings will be a mix of focussed practical meetings related to fieldwork, perhaps with some guest presenters (e.g. “how to use ELAN”, “semantic fieldwork”, “navigating REB”…), along with discussions of ongoing research and trouble-shooting.

The first organizational meeting takes place today at noon, and anyone is welcome to attend.

LingTea, 9/29 – Mikael Vinka

In this week’s LingTea, on Thursday (Sept. 29th) 12-1pm in room 117, Mikael Vinka will give a talk with the title “Aspects of VP Ellipsis in South Saami“.


This talk will an an overview of VP ellipsis in South Saami, its basic distribution and properties. In this language, modals and sentential negation may host the Merchantonian [E]-feature, whereas the aspectual auxiliary may not.   I claim that the dichotomy between modal and aspectual auxiliaries follows from Bjorkman’s (2011) Agree-based theory of the T-V relation: the aspectual auxiliary is a default element which is inserted to realize tense and phi-features. Modals and the negation, on the other hand, project, and therefore they may host the [E]-feature.   In order to bring clarity to these properties, it is necessary to pay attention to some of the finer details of the relation between the inflectional and verbal domains.

Semantics Research Group, 9/30

The Semantics Research Group will meet this Friday the 30th at 3 pm in room 117. Henrison, Chris and Dan will present on Bayesian probability and its use in pragmatics, in particular its application to Gricean implicatures.

There are two short readings. The first is a short introduction to Bayesian probability, pages 5-7 of “Griffiths et al._bayes_2008.pdf” in the group’s shared Dropbox folder. This gives a quick and clear introduction to Bayesian probability. (If you don’t have access to this folder, but would like to, please get in touch with Daniel (dot) Goodhue (at)

The second paper, by Franke and Jäger, presents a nice overview of the state of the art in probabilistic pragmatics. We will focus on section 4, pages  9-13, however, if you would like some background and motivation, we suggest reading the first 9 pages as well. You can find the article here.

WORDS Group, 9/30

The WORDS Group will be meeting on Friday 30th September, at UQAM (room tba). Lydia Felice and Lisa deMena Travis will give a presentation with the title “The realization of gender morphemes in Kabyle and the Syntax/PF interface“.


We will be proposing an analysis of the position and realization of the gender morpheme in Kabyle and setting this analysis within the context of prefix-suffix asymmetries and a nanosyntax account of Case (Caha 2009).
Caha, P. (2009). The Nanosyntax of Case. PhD thesis, University of Tromsø.

Welcome new grad student editor, Jurij Božič

McLing welcomes incoming graduate student editor, Jurij Bočič, and thanks outgoing editor Dejan Milačić for his year of editing!

LingTea, 9/22 – Francesco Gentile

In this week’s LingTea, on Thursday (Sept. 22nd) 12-1pm in room 117, Francesco Gentile will give a talk with the title “The Virtues and Limits of the Maximal Informativity Presupposition“. 


Assuming a Hamblin/Karttunen semantics for questions (Hamblin 1973, Karttunen 1977), recent work (Fox and Hackl 2006, Abrusán and Spector 2011, Abrusán 2014) posits that questions carry a Maximal Informativity Presupposition (MIP), namely, the requirement that there is a true Hamblin answer that semantically  entails all the true Hamblin answers in a question’s denotation. In this talk, I investigate how ‘how many’ questions with certain non-distributive predicates (e.g., ‘How many students solved this problem together?’)  bear on the status of the MIP. On the one hand, I argue that this type of questions are best understood when we relativise the notion of entailment inherent in the MIP to pragmatic entailment. On the other hand, I start investigating the consequences of this move, also in the light of evidence from possibility modals and weakly distributive predicates (Buccola 2015).

Colloquium, 9/23 – Michael McAuliffe

We are pleased to announce that the first talk in our 2016-2017 McGill Linguistics Colloquium Series will be given by our own Michael McAuliffe. For more information on upcoming events in the McGill Linguistics department, please see our website (

Who: Michael McAuliffe

When: Friday 9/23 at 3:30pm

Where: Education room 433

Title: “Dual nature of perceptual learning: Robustness and specificity”

Abstract: “In perceiving speech and language, listeners need to both perceive specific, highly variable utterances, and generalize to larger linguistic categories. One large source of the variability is in how individual speakers produce sounds, but another source of variation is the way in which speech and language are used in a particular task to accomplish a goal. Perceptual learning is a phenomenon in which listeners update their perceptual sound categories when exposed to a novel speaker. Perceptual learning is robust in the sense that most listeners show perceptual learning effects, most sound categories can be easily updated, and most tasks involving speech facilitate perceptual learning. In this talk, I focus more on the ways that perceptual learning can be task-specific. I present a series of perceptual learning experiments for exposing listeners to a novel talker through single words or longer sentences, varying tasks and the linguistic context. The instructions and goals of the task exert a size-able influence over the amount of perceptual learning that listeners exhibit. In general, listeners adapt less in the course of an experiment if they do not have to rely on the acoustic signal as much. For instance, if listeners are presented the orthography of the word along with the audio, they will not learn as much as if they had heard the audio alone. In sentence tasks, listeners matching pictures to a word at the end of a predictable sentence (i.e., A deep moat protected the old castle) will not learn as much from the final word as from an unpredictable sentence (i.e., He dreaded the long walk to the castle). However, the inverse is true for sentence transcription tasks, with larger perceptual learning effects from predictable sentences than unpredictable. Perceptual learning effects can generally be seen for all listeners and all tasks, but the size of the effects are dependent on the exposure task and how the linguistic system is engaged.”

Semantics Research Group, 9/23

The Semantics Research Group will not be meeting this Friday as there is a departmental colloquium taking place at 3:30.

Hsieh, Travis and Paul in BLS 42 proceedings

Papers by Henrison Hsieh (Distinguishing nouns and verbs: Against nominalism for Tagalog), Lisa deMena Travis (The what and where of Out of Control morphemes in Tagalog and Malagasy), and Ileana Paul (PhD 2000) (with Baholisoa Simone Ralalaoherivony and Henriette de Swart: Malagasy maha at the crossroads of voice, causation, and modality) have appeared in the BLS 42 proceedings, which are available online.

Meaghan Fowlie to Saarbrücken

Congratulations to recent McGill research fellow (and ’07 BA alumna) Meaghan Fowlie, who has accepted a post-doctoral position this fall at Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany. There she will continue her work on computational syntax and semantics with Professor Alexander Koller in the department of Computational Linguistics and Phonetics. Congratulations Meaghan!

McGill at GALANA-7

GALANA-7 took place last week at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Guilherme Garcia presented a talk titled “Second Language Acquisition of Stress in Second Language Portuguese: Extrametricality and Default Stress.” Roumyana Slabakova (PhD ’97), Öner Özçelik (PhD ’12), and Silvina Montrul (’97) also presented.

Roumyana Slabakova (PhD, 1997), Guilherme Garcia, Öner Özçelik (PhD, 2012) and Silvina Montrul (PhD, 1997)

Roumyana Slabakova (PhD, 1997), Guilherme Garcia, Öner Özçelik (PhD, 2012) and Silvina Montrul (PhD, 1997)


Yosef Grodzinsky talk, 9/16

Yosef Grodzinsky (Hebrew University Jerusalem) will be giving a talk this Friday, 3:30-5 in EDUC 434. Title and abstract below. All are welcome!

The neural dynamics of Verification Procedures: neurological and linguistic implications

Yosef Grodzinsky HUJI, FZ Jülich

At the heart of this talk will be results from a set of complex, multi-modal, Reaction Time and fMRI experiments in healthy adult subjects and in patients with Broca’s aphasia, that deployed a verification task with quantificational sentences and quantity-containing scenarios. I will report recent work that had 2 goals:

1. to study the relation between linguistic and numerical processes in the brain (anatomical localization, and the neural dynamics of verification).

2. to distinguish between semantic analyses (theoretical adjudication). This was made possible as among other things, we studied the temporal and neural dynamics of the verification of comparatives, with the hope of distinguishing between different analyses of less-comparatives.

Relevant reading:

Deschamps, I, Agmon G, Loewenstein Y, Grodzinsky Y.  2015.  The Processing of Polar Quantifiers, and Numerosity Perception. Cognition. 143:115-128

Semantics Research Group, 9/16

The Semantics Research Group is having an organizational meeting this Friday the 16th at 3 pm 2:45 pm in room 117. The goal is to make a rough schedule of meetings. The meetings can be used to present and discuss someone else’s paper, to present work in progress, to give a practice talk, etc. Anyone who is interested is invited to attend. If possible, please come with an idea for a topic you might be willing to lead the group on, but even if you’re not sure what/whether you’ll present, we still hope you’ll come!

Departmental Picnic: return to Parc Lafontaine

The rain stopped just in time for linguists to enjoy a beginning-of-the-year departmental picnic in perfect weather in Parc LaFontaine. Delicious food and good conversation were had by all.  Here are some pictures of linguists, and a white squirrel who joined us:

DSC_0160 DSC_0159 DSC_0189

McGill at Sinn und Bedeutung

McGill linguists of past and present were well represented at Sinn und Bedeutung 21, which took place this past weekend in Edinburgh. Presentations and posters included:

Latex Tutorial announcement

Chris, Gui, and Henrison are hosting a series of informal LaTeX tutorials for the department. These tutorials will be appropriate for those with little to no experience, but they are also planning on covering some non-introductory topics, for those who want to supplement their current knowledge. If you are interested in attending, please email Henrison for any future news.
Sessions will be every Thursday over 4 weeks starting next week (September 15, 22, 29, and October 6) in Room 002 from 2:00 to 3:30. Here’s roughly what each session will cover:
  1. LaTeX basics and getting started, document structure, common formatting
  2. In-depth topics useful for managing larger/multiple projects: bibliographies, custom commands and environments, custom packages and class files, handling larger projects
  3. Creating presentations
  4. Linguistics-specific: Example sentences, trees and tree-like figures, tableaux, mathematical/semantics formulae

Welcome back!

McLing hopes everyone had a great summer! As always, we invite you to send us your news: presentations, publications, fieldwork, courses, workshops, departmental events, student projects, jobs, etc., for presentation in upcoming newsletters. Know of a friend, colleague, or student who did something newsworthy? Send us a report and we will follow up.

Semantics Reading Group: Friday 9, Maayan Adar

The Semantics Research Group will meet this year on Friday’s from 3-4:30 in room 117 on days when we do not have colloquia scheduled. If your are interested in presenting any research (original or someone else’s) on anything related to semantics or one of its interfaces, please send Dan Goodhue an e-mail.

To kick off this semester (and building on our discussions about questions over the summer), Maayan Adar (MA McGill ’14) is visiting from UCLA on Friday the 9th to tell us about his research on NPI licensing in embedded questions (see abstract below). All are welcome to attend!


Welcome new graduate students!

Welcome to this year’s incoming class of graduate students!

Emily Kellison-Linn is interested in phonology, historical linguistics, and language change, and computational methods of studying these. She completed her B.A. in computer science at MIT.

Gouming Martens received his bachelor and master’s degree in Linguistics at Leiden University. For his master’s thesis he examined Dutch exclamative constructions and its relationship to ego-evidentiality. His main interests lie in the syntax-phonology interface and more specifically the interaction between syntax and prosody, and exclamative constructions across languages. Besides that, he is very interested in many other fields of linguistics, such as, the connection between music and language, the diachronic development of the Sino-Tibetan languages and the tonal system of Limburgish (Dutch/German dialect).

Yeong Woo Park‘s main interests lie in prosody and phonetics-phonology interface. He completed his B.A. in Linguistics at University of California, Los Angeles.

Clint Parker‘s research interests include syntax, morphosyntactic alignment systems, fieldwork, and endangered languages.  He completed a B.A. in linguistics and Chinese at the University of Kentucky.

James Tanner is interested in phonological and phonetic variation, sociophonetics, and psycholinguistics. He completed his B.A. in linguistics at the University of Kent, and his M.A. in linguistics at McGill University.

Jiaer Tao’s main research interests lie in phonetics. Particularly interested in the phonetic implementation of phonological patterns, Jiaer is mostly familiar with the acoustics and production aspects. But she also wants to discover more in her graduate study. Jiaer completed her B.A. in Chinese linguistics at Fudan University. She is looking forward to a lively research life in McGill.


Back: James Tanner, Yeong Woo Park, Clint Parker,
Front: Guoming Martens, Emily Kellison-Linn, Jiaer Tao

McLing summer news

What did McGill linguists do this summer? Some answers can be found below. If you didn’t get your post in on time, email the editors for round two.

Meghan Clayards co-organized a satellite workshop at LabPhon 15 on “Higher-order structure in speech variability: phonetic/phonological covariation and talker adaptation”. She also presented a poster with Hye-Young Bang as the first author titled “Structured Variation across Sound Contrasts, Talkers, and Speech Styles”.

Many more McGill linguists presented at LabPhon, held this year at Cornell University, as seen below:
McGill faculty, students, alums at LabPhon 15 banquet

McGill faculty, students, alums at LabPhon 15 banquet

Jessica Coon spent two weeks in June at CoLang (the Institute on Collaborative Language Research) at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and in July she participated in the ANVILS (A National Vision for Indigenous Languages Sustainability) workshop at the University of Alberta.
rainbow from UAF campus, taken at midnight

rainbow from UAF campus, taken at midnight

Guilherme Garcia gave two talks at the 24th Manchester Phonology Meeting (one of which he co-authored with Natália Guzzo and Heather Goad). He then attended a workshop on Bayesian Data Analysis at the University of St. Gallen in June, and presented a poster at LabPhon 15. He also wrote the second chapter of his dissertation, which proposes a probabilistic representation of weight effects on stress—he will be presenting this at NELS and AMP later this year. In addition, he worked with Heather Goad and Natália Guzzo on a project about footing and stress in Québec French, which will also be presented at AMP. Finally, he finished writing a proceedings paper (46th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages), and prepared a workshop on data analysis using R, which he will teach in September.
Brendan Gillon spent the first three weeks of May lecturing on semantics at the Nanjing University of Science and Technology. At the end of June, he participated in a workshop on Buddhist Logic (hetuvidyā / yinming / inmyō) and its Applications in East Asia sponsored by the Austrian Academy of Sciences’  Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia.
Henrison Hsieh presented talks at the 26th Southeast Asian Linguistics Society and the 23rd Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association meetings entitled “An argument for the noun-verb distinction in Tagalog” and “Prosodic indicators of phrase structure in Tagalog transitive sentences”, respectively.
Henrison presenting at SEALS

Henrison presenting at SEALS

Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron, Donghyun Kim, and Jeff Lamontagne, and Michael McAuliffe also presented posters at LabPhon 15.
In July, Bernhard Schwarz visited the University of Tübingen (Collaborative Research Centre 833) and presented joint work with Sasha Simonenko (PhD McGill 2015); in August, he traveled to Tokyo to present joint work with Francesco Gentile at  “Theoretical Linguistics at Keio” (TaLK).
Junko Shimoyama gave an invited talk titled ‘Connectivity effects in dislocated phrases and fragments’ at TaLK 2016 (Theoretical Linguistics at Keio) in August in Tokyo. Her joint work with Elizabeth Bogal-Allbritten and Keir Moulton (postdoc 2009-2011), ‘Stay inside: the interpretation of internally-headed relative clauses in Navajo’, was presented by the co-authors at the CLA meeting in Calgary. Her joint work with Alex Drummond (postdoc 2012-2014), ‘Complex degrees and an unexpected comparative interpretation’, will be presented by Alex at the annual meeting of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB) this week. Earlier in the summer, Junko co-presented with Christopher Fuhrman (ÉTS) and Maria Orjuela-Laverde (McGill TLS) at the annual SALTISE conference, sharing her experience with a new activity in Syntax 2 last year, called ‘Would you publish it?’, where the students participated in a process modelled after journal article reviewing. Many thanks to the students for trying it out!
Liz Smeets presented at the EuroSLA conference in Jyvaskyla, Finland this August and in June she collected data on the acquisition of object movement on Dutch in The Netherlands. Her proceedings paper from WCCFL34 “The Syntax of Focus Association in Dutch and German; Evidence from Scope Reconstruction”, joint work with Michael Wagner, is now available online:
Liz's view from the conference dinner

Liz’s view from the conference dinner

Morgan Sonderegger went to Scotland, where he co-organized a workshop and gave talks at U. Glasgow and U. Edinburgh. He co-organized the BigPhon workshop (including with Michael McAuliffe) and gave a poster at LabPhon 15 at Cornell.
Michael Wagner presented a paper with Jeff Klassen (PhD ’16), Heather Goad, and Annie Tremblay — ‘Prominence Shifts in English and Spanish Parallel Constructions’ — at SemDial. (Proceedings here)
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