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Syntax Reading Group, 2/21 – Nico Baier and Jessica Coon

This week in Syntax Reading Group, Nico Baier and Jessica Coon will be presenting new work on Mayan Agent Focus constructions and A’-extraction restrictions (collaborative work with Ted Levin). There is no reading for this week.
Our meeting times this semester are Thursdays 12-1pm in Linguistics room 117. All are welcome!

Word Structure Research Group 2/22 – Ben Oldham:

Next meeting: Friday 22 February 2019, 1h30-3 PM, room DS-3470, UQAM, Pavillon J.-A.-DeSève, 320, rue Sainte-Catherine Est.

Topic: Bantu reduplication. Presented by Ben Oldham.


  • Skinner 2009: Investigations of downward movement, Section 2.2: Reduplication in Ndebele (pg. 71-95) (in Dropbox folder)
  • Myler 2017: Exceptions to the mirror principle and morphophonological “action at a distance”: The role of “word”-internal phrasal movement and spell out (pg. 18-34): prepublication

All are welcome!

Michael at UofT

Michael Wagner presented a keynote talk titled “Toward a Bestiary of the Intonational Tunes of English” at the 4th Intonation Workshop at University of Toronto last Friday, reporting on joint work with McGill PhD alum Dan Goodhue on the on the intonational bestiary.

Special edition syntax reading group, 2/11

Please join us for another reading group meetings this week in preparation for an upcoming syntax talk in the department.

Monday February 11th, 3:00 in 117
Michael will lead a discussion of Zheng Shen’s paper, “The multi-valuation agreement hierarchy”, to appear in Glossa. Please email Jessica if you need access to a copy.

Departmental talk, 2/12 – Michelle Yuan

Please join us for a talk by Michelle Yuan (University of Chicago).
Coordinates: Tuesday 2/12 at 3:30pm in Wilson Hall WPRoom (room 118)
Title: Pronoun movement and doubling in Inuktitut (and beyond)

A key working hypothesis in generative linguistic research is that the syntax of natural language is organized by a finite set of abstract principles with a constrained space for potential variation. A natural consequence of this view is that linguistic phenomena that appear unrelated on the surface may in fact be underlyingly linked—and, as such, are expected to interact in systematic ways. This talk offers a case study of this idea from Inuktitut (part of the Inuit dialect continuum), in which the underlying status of the object agreement morphemes predicts properties of seemingly independent aspects of the grammar, such as ergativity and the spell-out of movement copies.
I begin by establishing that the object agreement morphemes in Inuktitut are morphologically reduced pronouns doubling full DPs, rather than exponents of phi-agreement, and that the pronominal nature of these morphemes interacts fundamentally with other properties of Inuktitut syntax. First, I show that this idea may be subsumed within previously-noticed differences in the distribution of ergative case morphology across the Inuit dialect continuum (e.g. Johns 2001, Carrier 2017). From there, I present a novel analysis that links variation in ergative alignment in Inuit to variation in object movement. Second, the proposal that these object agreement forms are syntactically pronouns offers a new window into Cardinaletti & Starke’s (1994) strong vs. deficient pronoun distinction. I recast this well-known contrast as following from a small set of morphological conditions on chain pronunciation and copy spell-out (Landau 2006). As independent evidence for this approach, these conditions are shown in Inuktitut to both constrain the distribution of strong pronouns and extend straightforwardly to certain recalcitrant aspects of noun incorporation.

Departmental talk, 2/14 – Zheng Shen

Please join us for a talk by Zheng Shen (Goethe University Frankfurt).
Coordinates: Thursday 2/14 at 3:30pm in Peterson Hall, room 116
Title: What we can learn from Multi-valuation

Abstract: One of the major goals of syntax is to understand its basic building blocks and how they interact. Taking features to constitute one of these basic building blocks of syntax, I investigate how different agreement patterns can be derived from the nature of different types of features.

In this talk I use Multi-valuation as a tool to address such issues. Multi-valuation involves a probe acquiring multiple values. I will argue that multi-valued Ns can be observed in nominal Right Node Raising constructions (1), and multi-valued Ts in TP Right Node Raising constructions (2). In English, the noun valued by two singular features must be singular while the T head valued by two singular subjects can be singular or plural.
(1) This tall and that short student/*students are a couple.
(2) Sue’s proud that Bill, and Mary’s glad that John, has/have traveled to Cameroon.
A cross-linguistic survey reveals that three out of the four logically possible patterns of multi-valued Ns and Ts are attested as in (3), parallel to the Agreement Hierarchy observed for hybrid noun agreement (Corbett 1979). I argue that this pattern in Multi-valuation is also an instantiation of the Agreement Hierarchy.
a. Multi-valued Ns – singular, Multi-valued Ts – singular: Slovenian.
b. Multi-valued Ns – plural, Multi-valued Ts – plural: Russian.
c. Multi-valued Ns – singular, Multi-valued Ts – plural: English.
d. Multi-valued Ns – plural, Multi-valued Ts – singular: unattested.
Furthermore, I argue that the plural pattern in Multi-valuation results from agreeing with semantic features while the singular pattern results from agreeing with morphological features. I show that this mapping falls out naturally if we assume a referential index theory of semantic features (Grosz 2015). Multi-valuation thus motivates two types of number features with distinct properties, shedding light on the inventory of the basic building blocks of syntax.

Word Structure Research Group 2/15 – Richard Compton (UQAM)

Next meeting: Friday 15 February 2019, 1h30-3 PM, room DS-3470, UQAM, Pavillon J.-A.-DeSève, 320, rue Sainte-Catherine Est.

Topic: Locality. Presented by Richard Compton.

Readings: Embick, D. (2010). Localism versus globalism in morphology and phonology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Chapters 1 and 2.

All are welcome!

TOM 12 at McGill/Concordia – Call for abstracts

The 12th annual Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal Semantics Workshop (TOM 12) will be co-hosted by the Department of Classics, Modern Languages and Linguistics at Concordia University and the Department of Linguistics at McGill University on Saturday, March 30, 2018. TOM is an informal workshop aiming to bring together semanticists working at universities in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. It is a great opportunity for graduate students to present work in progress and obtain feedback from colleagues.

Invited speaker: Grégoire Winterstein (UQAM)

We invite the submission of anonymous abstracts for talks and posters. Abstracts should be at most one page in length, with one-inch margins and a 12 point font (Times or similar). Please indicate whether you wish the abstract to be considered for a talk, poster, or both. Talks will be 20 minutes long with 10 minutes for questions. Please send your abstract by email attachment to tom12abstracts@gmail.com

Deadline for abstract submission: Sunday, February 24, 2019, 11:59pm.

Contact person at the Concordia University: Alan Bale (alancbale@gmail.com)
Contact person at the McGill University: Bernhard Schwarz (bernhard.schwarz@mcgill.ca)

Clint Parker receives American Councils award

Third year PhD student Clint Parker has been awarded a grant through American Councils for International Education to carry out a nine-month research project titled Effects of Language Contact on Spoken Shughni: Analysis through Documentation. He will complete this project in Khorugh, Tajikistan, a small town in the mountainous region where Shughni is spoken, from October 2019 to June 2020. This work will form the basis of his dissertation on Shughni. Congratulations Clint!

Special-edition syntax reading group, 2/4

Please join us for another reading group meetings this week in preparation for an upcoming syntax talk in the department.

Monday February 4th, 3:00 in 117
Jessica will lead a discussion of chapter 3 of Michelle Yuan’s dissertation, “Pronominal clitic doubling in Inuktitut and syntactic microvariation”. The full dissertation is available online here, or please email Jessica if you’d like a copy of just chapter 3.

Departmental talk, 2/5 – Martina Martinović

Please join us for a talk by Martina Martinović (University of Florida).
Coordinates: Tuesday 2/5 at 3:30pm in Arts 160
Title: From syntax to postsyntax and back again
Abstract: A fairly widely adopted view of the syntax-postsyntax(PF) interface is that narrow syntactic processes precede any PF processes (Spell-out), meaning that, once a particular domain (commonly called a phase) is spelled out, it is no longer accessible to syntax (Chomsky 2000, 2001, 2004, etc.). This talk presents ongoing research of the interaction between these two modules of the grammar, and proposes that the boundary between them is much more permeable than traditionally assumed. Specifically, I argue that syntax and PF (postsyntax) can be interleaved in such a way that a syntactic phase first undergoes Spell-out, and then participates in further narrow syntactic computation. I provide two pieces of evidence for this claim from the Niger-Congo language Wolof. The first one addresses a phenomenon in which elements that are in the final structure separated by intervening syntactic material undergo vowel harmony (Ultra Long-distance Vowel Harmony; Sy 2005). I show that at the moment of Spell-out the harmonizing elements are in a local configuration, only to be separated by syntactic movement in a later step in the derivation, resulting in a surface opacity effect. The second argument comes from the behavior of the past tense morpheme, which is in one configuration affixed onto the verb and carried along with it up the clausal spine, and in another stranded by the moving verb, exhibiting a Mirror Principle violation. I show that the past tense morpheme is affixed onto the verb in postsyntax (Marantz 1988, Embick & Noyer 2001), and that the syntax/postsyntax interleaving explains its variable position. The architecture of the grammar in which the syntax and postsyntax interact in a way proposed in this talk predicts precisely these types of surface opacity effects and removes the burden of accounting for them from narrow syntax. This spares us from positing idiosyncratic syntactic operations to account for anomalous phenomena that are in fact the domain of morphology or phonology, and allows us to maintain a view of syntax as cross-linguistically relatively uniform.

Departmental talk, 2/7 – Emily Clem

Please join us for a talk by Emily Clem (UC Berkeley).
Coordinates: Thursday, 2/7 at 3:30pm in WILSON WPROOM (room 118)
Title: Cyclicity in Agree: Maximal projections as probes
The relationships between arguments that are morphologically tracked in switch-reference systems look challenging from the perspective of a constrained theory of syntactic dependency formation. In this talk, I argue that the challenge is only apparent. In particular, I propose that the adoption of Cyclic Agree (Rezac, 2003; Béjar and Rezac, 2009) provides the tools needed to handle the relevant syntactic dependencies in a strictly local way. Drawing on data from original fieldwork, the talk centers on a pattern of switch-reference in Amahuaca (Panoan; Peru), which is typologically unusual (and especially striking from a locality perspective) in that the reference of both objects and subjects in both matrix and dependent clauses is tracked. I argue that Amahuaca adjunct C, which is spelled out as a switch-reference marker, agrees directly with DPs in its own complement and with matrix DPs. This is possible because the maximal projection of this high adjunct C can probe its c-command domain––the matrix TP. I argue that this happens through cyclic expansion of C’s probe in a manner consistent with the predictions of Cyclic Agree and Bare Phrase Structure (Chomsky, 1995). Not only is this account based on cyclic expansion able to accommodate object tracking in switch-reference, but it also provides a straightforward way to capture this apparently non-local pattern of agreement without loosening the conditions on locality in Agree. I conclude with a look at the typology of switch-reference systems and the syntactic and morphological sources of diversity in this domain.

Word Structure Research Group 2/8 – Lisa Travis and Nico Baier

Next meeting: Friday 8 February 2019, 1h30-3 PM, room DS-3470, UQAM, Pavillon J.-A.-DeSève, 320, rue Sainte-Catherine Est.

Topic: Morphology before phonology (and infixation). Presented by Lisa Travis and Nico Baier.

Reading: Kalin, Laura. Morphology before phonology: A case study of Turoyo (Neo-Aramaic) (https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/004258)

All are welcome!

Special-edition syntax reading groups, 1/28 and 1/30

Please join us for two reading group meetings this week in preparation for upcoming talks in the department.

Monday January 28th, 3:00 in 117
Junko will lead a discussion of Martina Martinović’s paper “Interleaving syntax and postsyntax: Spellout before syntactic movement”, to appear in Syntax. The most recent version is available online here.

Wednesday January 30th, 3:00 in 117
Jessica will lead a discussion of Emily Clem’s paper “Amahuaca ergative as agreement with multiple heads”, which appeared last year in NLLT(Please email Jessica if you need access to a copy.)

Syntax Reading Group, 1/31 – Henrison Hsieh

This week in Syntax Reading Group, Henrison Hsieh will be presenting work in progress on Tagalog focus constructions and multiple extraction. There is no reading for this week.
Our meeting times this semester are Thursdays 12-1pm in Linguistics room 117. All are welcome!

Word Structure Research Group, 2/1 – Emmanuel Parenteau

Next meeting: Friday 1 February 2019, 1h30-3 PM, room DS-3470, UQAM, Pavillon J.-A.-DeSève, 320, rue Sainte-Catherine Est.

Topic: DM vs. Nano

Presented by Emmanuel Parenteau, UQAM


Exploring Nanosyntax, Michael Starke (In Dropbox; contact Lisa if you want access to the file)

Notes on insertion in Distributed Morphology and Nanosyntax, Pavel Caha: https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/002855

Syntax Reading Group, 1/24 – Nico Baier

This week in Syntax Reading Group, Nico Baier will be leading a discussion on extraction of/from PPs in Kabyle. There is no reading for this week.
Our meeting times this semester are Thursdays 12-1pm in Linguistics room 117. All are welcome!

Words Research Group, 1/25 – Vanna Willerton on Bobaljik 1994

This semester, the Words Research Group will be meeting on Fridays 1:30-3pm at UQAM, DS-3470 (Pavillon J.-A.-DeSève, 320, rue Sainte-Catherine Est) and the topic of discussion is irregularities in word formation (problems with regards to locality, readjustment rules, blocking, etc…).  At this week’s meeting, Vanna Willerton will present Bobaljik, J. (1994) The Morphology-Syntax Connection. MITWPL 22. H. Harley & C. Phillips (eds.).

All are welcome!  For more information, go to https://wordstructure.org/meetings/

Workshop on Amazigh Languages, 3/21 – Save the date!

McGill linguistics will host a Workshop on Amazigh languages on March 21st. The workshop will have invited talks by Karim Achab (University of Ottawa), Hamid Ouali (University of Wisconsin, Madison), and Khokha Fahloune (UQAM), as well as short presentations on Kabyle by the students in this semester’s Field Methods course. A full schedule will be released soon. Attendance is free and all are welcome! For more information, contact organizer Nico Baier.

McGill Undergraduate Research Event, 1/14

The Annual Faculty of Arts Undergraduate Research Event will take place this evening, January 14th at 5pm in Leacock room 232. Students who conducted research support by Arts Research Internship Awards (ARIAs) last summer will present their work. From linguistics, these projects include:

“Long Distance relationships in Urdu-Hindi: phases or horizons”
Madelaine O’Reilley Brown, Linguistics
Prof. Lisa de Mena Travis, Linguistics

“Prosodic Transfer and the L2 acquisition of Hindi”
Avleen Mokha, Linguistics
Prof. Lydia White, Linguistics

“Intonational Tunes in English: Corpus and Experiment”
Emma Gibson, Linguistics
Prof. Micheal Wagner, Linguistics

“Enabling large-scale analysis of stop consonants across English dialects”
Micheal Goodale, Cognitive Science
Prof. Morgan Sonderegger, Linguistics

“Neural Networks, compositionality, and linguistic representation: evidence from monotonicity”
Emily Goodwin, Linguistics
Prof. Timothy O’Donnell, Linguistics

“Storage and Computation of morphology: Evidence from English”
Gregory Theos, Linguistics
Prof. Timothy O’Donnell, Linguistics

“Gender Bias in Book Reviews”
Isabella Nikolaidis, Linguistics
Prof. Andrew Piper, Linguistics

“Linguistic Fieldwork Research”
Benjamin Oldham, Linguistics
Prof. Jessica Coon, Linguistics

Benjamin Oldham’s work was also showcased on the Faculty’s webpage. Congratulations all!

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