Author Archive for McLing

Hadas Kotek in Amsterdam and Leiden

Hadas Kotek spent last week as a guest of the Institute for Logic, Language, and Computation (ILLC) at the University of Amsterdam. This week she is visiting the University of Leiden, where she will be giving a colloquium talk titled “Pervasive intervention and the architecture of grammar”.

Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron awarded CRBLM Graduate Scholar Stipend

Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron has been awarded a CRBLM Graduate Scholar Stipend of $6,000, based on her research proposal on “The effect of boundaries and locality on phonological variability in speech production”, supervised by Morgan Sonderegger and Michael Wagner. Congratulations, Oriana!


Erlewine at TEAL

Later this week, Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine will present at the 9th International Workshop on Theoretical East Asian Linguistics (TEAL-9), in Nantes, France.  His talk is “On the position of focus adverbs.”

Tokiko Okuma at EuroSLA 24

Tokiko Okuma presented a paper L2 acquisition of bound variable interpretation of Japanese demonstrative pronouns at the 24th annual conference of the European Second Language Association (EuroSLA) at University of York, UK, on September 3-6. She received CRBLM Graduate Travel Grant for this talk. Former PhD students, Roumyana Slabakova (1997) and Mari Umeda (2008) also presented their recent works at this conference. Information about the conference, including all programs, is available here.

Team McGill Linguistics and Friends at Terry Fox Run/Walk

11 McGill linguists and their friends participated in the Terry Fox Run/Walk for cancer research at the Old Port on Sunday, September 14, 2014. Special thanks to those who contributed very kindly to the $415 that the team has raised. The money goes to the Terry Fox Foundation for cancer research. Here are some of the team members before and during the run. We had a great time!

Terry Fox Run 2014 (2) Terry Fox Run 2014 (2)

Ling Tea, 9/10 – Gui Garcia and Natália Brambatti Guzzo

Just a reminder that the first LingTea of the semester is this week:

Who: Gui Garcia and Natália Brambatti Guzzo
What: “The status of neoclassical elements in Brazilian Portuguese: evidence from vowel reduction”
When/Where: room 117, 3:30-4:30

If you are interested in presenting at LingTea this semester, please email Gui or Yuliya to reserve a slot.

Colloquium, 9/12 – Anne-Michelle Tessier

Please join us for the first colloquium talk of our 2014/2015 series!

Speaker: Anne-Michelle Tessier (University of Alberta)
Date & Time: Friday, September 12, 3:30 pm
Place: Education Building Rm. 433
Title: Lexical Avoidance and Sources of Complexity in Phonological Acquisition


This talk is about the phenomenon of lexical avoidance in children’s early linguistic development, whereby a child avoids producing words which contain some complex (or marked?) phonological structure (as discussed in Ferguson and Farwell, 1975; Menn 1976, 1983; Schwarz and Leonard, 1982, Schwartz et al, 1987; Storkel 2004, 2006; Adam and Bat-El, 2009; interalia). This research’s basic question is to what extent a child’s developing grammar is responsible for lexical avoidance, and more specifically what kinds of linguistic complexity can drive this avoidance. The increase in complexity I will focus on is the transition from one word to two word utterances – which might be either driven or delayed by a child’s phonology – and I will assess the nature of lexical avoidance related to this transition in two case studies: one taken from Donahue (1986), and another in a novel corpus analysis. The central claim will be that phonological grammar is indeed crucial to explaining the kinds of lexical avoidance which are attested and unattested, illustrated using OT constraint interaction to yield typologically-reasonable patterns, and I will discuss some of the predictions, implications and open questions that emerge from this approach.

Faculty summer news round-up: addendum

Heather Goad went to China with Chen Qu (PhD 2013) in May. She gave talks at universities in Beijing, Ningbo and Harbin. In June, Heather taught at the Summer School of the Norwegian National Graduate School in Linguistics in Hamn i Senja. The rest of the summer was spent working on the status of /s/ in Blackfoot (thanks to Symon Stevens-Guille (BA in progress) for compiling a ton of Blackfoot data), on preparing the Spanish version of an experiment on parsing ambiguous relative clauses in L2 (on-going work with Lydia White and Moti Lieberman (PhD in progress); thanks to Ruth Martinez (BA 2013) for her work on the stimuli), and on the acquisition of subset grammars with Misha Schwartz (BA 2014) (thanks to Lauren Garfinkle (BA 2014) for her help with data collection and transcription).

Departmental picnic: St-Henri edition

McGill linguists took advantage of a glorious late summer day to mark the beginning of the year with delicious food and good conversation, at the department’s annual picnic.  The picnic was for the first time held in picturesque Square Sir-Georges-Étienne-Cartier in St. Henri.  Some documentation provided by attendees:


Summer news round-up, grad edition

Hyeyoung Bang had her first eval paper accepted as a talk at the BU conference on child language and as a poster at the Acoustical Society of America.  The title of her talk is: “A child-specific compensatory mechanism in the acquisition of English /s/”

Guilherme Garcia gave two presentations earlier this summer: a talk entitled Efeitos de onset em acento: um estudo piloto em aquisição de segunda língua at the 29th ENANPOLL* at Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Brazil and a poster entitled Syllables and intervals in Portuguese stress at the Workshop on Word Stress & Accent at Universiteit Leiden in the Netherlands.

*ENANPOLL is the Brazilian association of language-related fields

Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron presented a poster at LabPhon 14 called “The influence of prosodic boundaries on high vowel devoicing in Japanese”.

Mordecai Lieberman is starting a YouTube channel about linguistics called The Ling Space. Videos are scheduled to go up every Wednesday starting Sept. 3. In the mean time, the channel currently has a trailer available, which can be viewed by going to the following URL:

Yuliya Manyakina spent 6 weeks in Listuguj, Quebec working with community members and doing fieldwork on the Mi’gmaq language. This summer community members focused on developing new ways in making language learning more fun and accessible. One of the new developments is an app called Quizlet, which allows users to create sets of flashcards and test themselves by playing games. Quizlet has some amazing features, which you can read more about here.  It’s free for anyone, so even YOU can start learning Mi’gmaq (click here).
Yuliya’s fieldwork included collecting data on the diminutive in Mi’gmaq, as well as looking at the behaviour of subordinative clauses. This data will be used for her Eval papers. For more updates and travel stories, check out the Mi’gmaq Research Partnership blog

Ling Tea Fall 2014

LingTea will resume at the same time and place this semester: Wednesdays 3-4pm (or 4:30) in room 117. Yuliya and Gui will be co-organizing this semester.

For those that are not familiar with LingTea, it’s an informal meeting (with cookies!) where students and professors are welcome to present work in progress. Anyone and everyone is welcome to present, whether it just be an idea in its beginning stages, a paper that you find interesting, or the research you did this summer. LingTea is also often used for practice presentations if you are planning to present at a conference.

Please send Gui or Yuliya an email if you are interested in presenting. The following is a list of LingTea dates:


10 Gui Garcia and Natália Brambatti Guzzo: “The status of neoclassical elements in Brazilian Portuguese: evidence from vowel reduction”
24 Lisa Travis, Maire Noonan, Heather Newell, and Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron: “Phonological domains vs. root suppletion”


Colin Brown, title TBA


Jessica Coon and Lauren Clemens: “An initial inquiry into the relationship between syntax and prosody in Chol”


McGill Linguistics Colloquium Series 2014-2015

We are pleased to announce the schedule for our colloquium series this school year. As usual, talks are scheduled on Fridays at 3:30 pm. Titles and locations will be announced as the talks approach. We hope to see you there!

Anne-Michelle Tessier (U of Alberta) – Friday, September 12 at 3:30 pm

Kristine Onishi (McGill) – Friday, September 26 at 3:30 pm

Benjamin Bruening (U of Delaware) – Friday, October 3 at 3:30 pm

Hadas Kotek (McGill) – Friday, October 24 at 3:30 pm

Yoonjung Kang (U of Toronto) – Friday, November 14 at 3:30 pm

Florian Jaeger (U of Rochester) – Friday, February 20 at 3:30 pm

Meg Grant (McGill) – Friday, March 13 at 3:30 pm

Lisa Matthewson (UBC) – Friday, April 10 at 3:30 pm

Welcome new lecturer Peter Milne!

McLing would like to welcome Peter Milne, who is joining the department this year as a Faculty Lecturer in phonetics and phonology.  Welcome, Peter!

I have recently graduated from the UofO and spent last term teaching phonetics and phonology at Carleton. I enjoy getting my hands dirty building and evaluating speech recognition systems, such as my SPLaligner. My doctoral dissertation used the technique of forced alignment to investigate some dialectal differences between Québec and France in the pronunciation patterns of word-final consonant clusters.

I am currently exploring several lines of research – all of which seem to include a lot of technology that I am only beginning to understand. I want to know how the performance of automatic speech recognition systems can inform our understanding of the human perception of language. I also want to know if we can detect sound changes in their infancy and make accurate predictions about future sound patterns in a language. I am also interested in helping to develop technologies for lesser studied languages by co-opting existing tools for new uses.

I am looking forward to a great year at McGill meeting and learning from an amazing group of researchers!


Sonderegger presents at Workshop on Sound Change

Morgan Sonderegger was at the 3rd biennial Workshop on Sound Change, held at U.C. Berkeley May 28-31.  With James Kirby, he presented an invited talk titled “Actuation without production bias”. The full program can be found here.

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.


Another McGill ’12 graduate to graduate school

A follow-up to this recent announcement of next year’s plans for McGill Linguistics 2012 BAs: Thea Knowles will enter the combined MClSc/PhD program in Speech Pathology at Western University this fall. Thea has been working at McGill for the past two years as a Research Assistant.


Yuliya Manyakina receives Arts travel award

Yuliya Manyakina is a recipient of Arts Graduate Student Travel award. The awards are designed to support graduate student travel for research purposes, including fieldwork. Yuliya will travel to Listuguj on June 25th along with other Mi’gmaq Partnership members, Carol Little and Douglas Gordon, and will stay until mid-August. During her stay there Yuliya plans to continue learning Mi’gmaq, help promote its use within the community, as well as do some research on different types of embedded clauses.

Congratulations, Yuliya!

Ling Tea, 4/9 – TOM Practice Talks

This week’s Ling-Tea will feature three practice talks from our graduate students for their presentations at the upcoming TOM 7 workshop at the University of Toronto this coming Saturday.

When: Wednesday, April 9, 3:00 – 4:00 pm
Where: Room 117


  • Brian Buccola – A Blocking Solution to van Benthem’s Problem
  • Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron – Almost: Scope and Covert Exhaustification
  • Liz Smeets – The structure of the Italian Pseudo Relative: What we learn from constraints on island extraction

See you there!

Ling Tea, 3/26 – Jeesun Nam

After a brief hiatus, Ling Tea is back this week!

Who: Jeesun Nam (Hankuk University of Foreign Studies)
When: Wednesday, March 26, 3:00-4:00 pm, Rm. 117
Title: Linguistic Resource-based Approach to Automatic Annotation of Polarity-Shifted Expressions


Among a vast amount of work devoted to the analysis of subjective expressions that contain opinions, evaluations or sentiments, comparatively little work has been conducted in examining polarity shifting devices (PSDs) such as negation markers (Polanyi & Zaenen 2004, Kennedy & Inkpen 2006 and Li et al. 2010). PSDs make inappropriate the assumption that the sentimental orientation of the whole text depends on the simple sum of the prior polarities of content words. For example, in the sentence I was hardly satisfied that is comprised of a positive opinion word satisfied, the polarity of whole sentence is reversed because of a PSD hardly. PSDs should be taken into consideration to properly calculate the polarity of opinion sentences.

This study presents ongoing work on a linguistic resource-based approach to automatic annotation of polarity-shifted expressions. In the literature, given that lexicon- or rule-based approaches have shown serious shortcomings such as ‘performed-on-word-level’ problems or ‘poor-recall’ problems, statistical approaches have dominated the research in opinion classification and achieved the state-of-the-art performance. However, the latter approaches rely on the availability of a large amount of human-tagged training data, and the performance is hard to improve unless more reliable linguistic information is provided.

The linguistic resources I propose in this study essentially include two types: Korean electronic dictionary DECO (Nam 2010) conceptually corresponding to the French electronic dictionary DELA constructed in LADL at Paris 7 University, and local syntactic information represented by finite-state local graphs (i.e. Local Grammar Graphs (LGGs) (Gross 1997, 1999)). The lexicon DECO provides the information of inflectional classes, POS types, and morpho-semantic properties including polarity-orientation of opinion words. The LGGs graphically represent PSDs such as negation markers (e.g. ani ‘not’), polarity-reversing predicates (e.g. silphayha– ‘(to) fail’) or concessive connectors (e.g. –ciman ‘although’) occurring in online review texts. The lexicon DECO and LGGs are applied to the detection and automatic annotation of the polarity-shifted expressions through the multi-lingual text processing platform UNITEX, compatible with the above linguistic resources (Paumier 2003, University Paris-Est-Marne-la-Vallée:

In this talk, I will briefly introduce the organization of the electronic dictionary DECO as well as those of the DELA-French and DELA-English, and the LGG formalism by illustrating some examples of the LGGs on polarity-reversed expressions in Korean and in English. Finally, I will discuss how to recognize and annotate these expressions by applying the dictionaries and LGGs to online review corpora through a freeware platform UNITEX. If time permits, I will demonstrate how to process non-European languages such as Thai or Arabic by UNITEX.

Colloquium, 3/28 – Amy Rose Deal

Please join us for the final colloquium talk in our 2013/2014 colloquium series!

Speaker: Amy Rose Deal (UC Santa Cruz)
Date & Time: Friday, March 28, 3:30 pm
Place: Education Building Rm. 433
Title: Cyclicity and connectivity in Nez Perce relative clauses


This talk centers on two aspects of movement in relative clauses, focusing on evidence from Nez Perce.

First, I argue that relativization involves cyclic A’ movement, even in monoclausal relatives. Rather than moving directly to Spec,CP, the relative element moves there via an intermediate position in an A’ outer specifier of the TP immediately subjacent to relative C. Cyclicity of this type suggests that the TP sister of relative C constitutes a phase – a result whose implications extend to an ill-understood corner of the English that-trace effect.

Second, I argue that Nez Perce relativization provides new evidence for an ambiguity thesis for relative clauses, according to which some but not all relatives are derived by a head-raising analysis. The argument comes from connectivity and anticonnectivity in morphological case. These new data complement the range of standard arguments for head-raising, which draw primarily on connectivity effects at the syntax-semantics interface.

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