Author Archive for McLing

McGill Linguists Save World

A number of us represented linguists at Marche Mondiale Climate Alarm/La Planete s’invite au Parlement last Saturday in Montreal. A report of the day can be found here.

Some pictures of the event were taken. Thanks Vanna and Michael!

In this photo (left to right) is Jason Borga, Emily KL, Tim O’Donnell, Jacob Hoover, and Mathieu Paillé.

In this pic, Michael’s kids have also something to say!

 

 

 

MCQLL, 12/5

At next week’s meeting, Amy and Benji will both give a presentation. Amy is going to present her project “Inference and Learnability over Minimalist Grammars” (abstract below). Benji is going to present the paper Parsing as Deduction (Pereira &Warren, 1093) (paper attached).

(Working) Title: Inference and Learnability over Minimalist Grammars

Abstract: This is a draft presentation of some of my current PhD research, intended for a more computationally-oriented audience. It contains collaborative work done over the past year with Eva Portelance (Stanford), Daniel Harasim (EPFL), and Leon Bergen (UCSD). Minimalist Grammars are a lexicalied grammar formalism inspired by Chomsky’s (1994) Minimalist Program, and as such are well suited to formalize theories in contemporary syntactic theory. Our work formulate a learning model based on the technique of Variational Bayesian Inference and apply the model to pilot experiments. In this presentation, I focus on giving an introduction to the central issues in syntactic theory and motivating the problems we wish to address. I give an introduction to syntactic theory and formal grammars, and demonstrate why context free grammars are insufficient to adequately characterize natural language. Minimalist Grammars, a lexicalized mildly context-sensitive formalism are introduced as a more linguistically adequate formalism.

We will meet Wednesday at 5:30pm in room 117. Food will be provided.

P* Reading Group, 11/27

P* Reading Group (Tuesday, 11 am)
This week, Alvaro will be leading a discussion on Tremblay et al.’s (2017) The functional weight of a prosodic cue in the native language predicts the learning of speech segmentation in a second language. All are welcome to attend!

MCQLL, 11/28

At next week’s meeting, Yves will be presenting the family of stochastic processes known as Dirichlet processes.

The Dirichlet distribution, a generalization of the Beta distribution, is a probabilistic distribution over a finite-dimensional categorical distribution. The Dirichlet process can be seen as an infinite-dimensional generalization of this which balances the trade-off between partitioning random observations into fewer or additional categories. I will describe this through the metaphor of the “Chinese restaurant process” and talk about its use in the fragment grammar model of morphological productivity.

We will be meeting at 5:30pm Wednesday November 28th in room 117.

Semantics Group, 30/11

In this week’s meeting, Masashi Harada will give a talk titled “Contextual effects on case in Japanese copular constructions: A solution by ellipsis.” Abstract below. As usual, the meeting will take place on Friday at 3pm in Room 117. All are welcome to attend!

Abstract: I discuss a new type of case connectivity effects in copular constructions, based on Japanese data. I show that the availability of accusative case on the predicate nominal in Japanese copular sentences depends on the context where the sentence occurs. This contextual effect is surprising because case assignment is generally considered to be a purely morpho-syntactic phenomenon. However, I reconcile the contextual variability in case with morpho-syntactic case licensing theory. Specifically, I propose that the copular sentences in question involve ellipsis taking as its antecedent pro that has its value  determined contextually. The proposed analysis yields a new insight into the mechanism of ellipsis seemingly without a linguistic antecedent, and advance analysis of connectivity effects.

P* Reading Group, 11/20

P* Reading Group (Tuesday, 11 am)
This week, Bing’er will be leading a discussion on  Feldman et al.’s (2013) “A Role for the Developing Lexicon in Phonetic Category Acquisition”. P* Group will take place in room 002 of the Linguistics Building, from 11 am until noon. All are welcome to attend!

Semantics Group, 11/23

In this week’s meeting, Francesco Gentile and Bernhard Schwarz will present their joint work on how many-questions. Below is the abstract of their Sinn und Bedeutung’s paper “A uniqueness puzzle: how many-questions and non-distributive predication.”

We discuss a novel observation about the meaning of how many-questions, viz. a uniqueness implication that arises in cases that feature non-distributive predicates, such as How many students solved this problem together?. We attempt an analysis of this effect in terms of Dayal’s (1996) Maximal Informativity Presupposition for questions. We observe that such an analysis must be reconciled with the unexpected absence of uniqueness implications in cases where the non-distributive predicate appears under a possibility modal. We explore two possible solutions: (i) the postulation of a scopally mobile maximality operator in degree questions of the sort proposed in Abrusán and Spector (2011); (ii) the proposal that the informativity to be maximized is based on pragmatic, contextual, entailment rather than semantic entailment. We explain why neither solution is satisfactory. We also observe that a Maximal Informativity Presupposition fails to capture uniqueness implications in how many-questions with predicates that are weakly distributive in the sense of Buccola and Spector (2016), such as How many students in the seminar have the same first name?. We conclude that uniqueness implications in how many-questions have must have a source that is independent of Dayal’s (1996) Maximal Informativity Presupposition.
As usual, we will meet on Friday in Room 117, starting at 3pm.

P* Reading Group, 11/13

P* Reading Group (Tuesday, 11 am)
This week, Bing’er will be leading a discussion on  Feldman et al.’s (2013) A Role for the Developing Lexicon in Phonetic Category Acquisition. P* Group will take place in room 002 of the Linguistics Building, from 11 am until noon. All are welcome to attend!

Semantics Group

This Friday, Jason Borga will be leading a discussion on Rudin’s (2018) “Head-Based Syntactic Identity in Sluicing”. As usual, the meeting will take place in Room 117, from 3pm to 4:30pm. All are welcome to attend!

Semantics Group, 11/9

In this week’s meeting, Jessica Coon will be giving a talk titled “Headless relative clauses and (possible?) free-choice free relatives in Ch’ol”. Jessica will present new work on Ch’ol headless relatives (collaborative with Juan Jesús Vázquez Álvarez, CIMSUR-UNAM), arguing that maximal and existential free relatives share an identical core structure, and receive different interpretations based on the environments in which they appear. Jessica will also present some puzzling data on a possible free-choice morpheme. As usual, the meeting will take place in Room 117 from 3pm to 4:30pm. All are welcome to attend!

P* Reading Group, 10/30

P* Reading Group (Tuesday, 11 am)
This week, Natalia will be leading a discussion on Bosworth’s (2017) “High vowel distribution and trochaic markedness in Québécois”. P* Group will take place in room 002 of the Linguistics Building, from 11 am until noon. All are welcome to attend!

Semantics Group, 11/2

This week the Semantics Group won’t meet at the usual time on Friday, because the department’s colloquium is taking place at the same time. However, we just started a reading group on Keenan’s book “Logical Properties of Natural Language: Eliminating the Universe”. We shall be meeting on Friday at 2pm (Room: TBC). We will discuss Chapter 3. All are welcome to join the reading group! For more details, email Brendan, Justin or Francesco.

P* Reading Group, 10/23

P* Reading Group (Tuesday, 11 am)
This week, Yeong will be leading a discussion on Garellek et al.’s (2013) “Voice quality and tone identification in White Hmong”. P* Group will take place in room 002 of the Linguistics Building, from 11 am until noon. All are welcome to attend!

MQLL Meeting, 10/24

At next week’s meeting, Seara will present her project on the inverse relation between size of inflectional classes and word frequency. Here is the abstract:

In this project, we attempt to quantitatively demonstrate the the inverse relation between size of inflectional classes and word frequency. I will go over the background behind productivity in inflections and word frequency, the stages in quantitatively demonstrating the relationship between word frequency and size of inflectional class. Then finally the next step of the project moving forward.

The meeting will be next Wednesday from 5:30pm to 7:30pm at room 117.

P* Reading Group, 10/16

P* Reading Group (Tuesday, 11 am)
This week, Jeff will be leading a discussion on Baumann and Winter’s (2018) “What makes a word prominent? Predicting untrained German listeners’ perceptual judgments”. P* Group will take place in room 002 of the Linguistics Building, from 11 am until noon. All are welcome to attend!

MQLL Meeting, 10/17

At next week’s meeting, Wilfred will be presenting the following paper: “Learning Semantic Correspondence with Less Supervision” by Liang et al. (2009). Please find the abstract below:

A central problem in grounded language acquisition is learning the correspondences between a rich world state and a stream of text which references that world state. To deal with the high de- gree of ambiguity present in this setting, we present a generative model that simultaneously segments the text into utterances and maps each utterance to a meaning representation grounded in the world state. We show that our model generalizes across three domains of increasing difficulty—Robocup sportscasting, weather forecasts (a new domain), and NFL recaps.

Meeting will be Wednesday Oct 17 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm at room 117.

Semantics Group, 10/19

The Semantics Group will exceptionally meet this Friday from 2:30pm until 4:00pm in room 117, in order for a midterm to take place at 4:00pm in the same room. In this week’s meeting, Francesco Gentile will present his ongoing research on modal adjectives and non-local modification. All are welcome to attend!

McGill at Annual Meeting on Phonology

McGill linguists attended the Annual Meeting on Phonology that took place at UC San Diego on October 5-7. The following posters were presented by current members of the department:
  • “Native and non-native patterns in conflict: Lexicon vs. grammar in loanword adaptation in Brazilian Portuguese” — Natália Brambatti Guzzo
  • “Evidence for a pitch accent in Saguenay French” — Jeffrey Lamontagne, Heather Goad and Morgan Sonderegger
  • “Evidence of phonemicization: Lax vowels in Canadian French” — Jeffrey Lamontagne
In the picture, from left to right:
Natália Guzzo, Marc Garellek (BA 2008), Sara Mackenzie (post-doc 2010-2011), Jeff Lamontagne, Erin Olson (BA 2012), Joe Pater (PhD 1997), Sharon Rose (PhD 1997)

P* Reading Group, 10/9

P* Reading Group (Tuesday, 11 am)
This week, James will be leading a discussion on Rathke and Stuart-Smith’s (2016) “On the Tail of the Scottish Vowel Length Rule in Glasgow” ahead of Jane Stuart-Smith’s colloquium. P* Group will take place in room 002 of the Linguistics Building, from 11 am until noon. All are welcome to attend!

Semantics Group, 10/5

The Semantics Group will be meeting on Friday from 3pm until 4:30pm in room 117. In this week’s meeting, Junko Shimoyama will give a practice talk titled “On apparent embedding of positively biased negative polar questions in Japanese”. All are welcome to attend!

 

 

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