Author Archive for McLing

Departmental Picnic: Laurier edition

McGill linguists made the most of a hot and sunny late summer day to mark the beginning of the Fall term, with good and plentiful food and conversation, at the department’s annual picnic.  The picnic was held in the picturesque Parc Laurier in Le Plateau.  Some pictures:

McGill at Sinn und Bedeutung 20

McGill is well-represented at Sinn und Bedeutung (SuB) 20 at the University of Tübingen, Germany, this week (Sept. 9-12, 2015).
  • Elizabeth Bogal-Allbritten (UMass, postdoc-to-be with Junko Shimoyama and Keir Moulton (SFU, former postdoc)): Constructing beliefs and desires (talk)
  • Brian Buccola: Severing maximality from ‘fewer than’: evidence from genericity (talk)
  • Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine (NUS, recent postdoc) and Hadas Kotek : Relative pronoun pied-piping, the structure of which informs the analysis of relative clauses (talk)
  • Aron Hirsch (MIT, McGill BA) : A compositional semantics for wh-ever free relatives (poster)
  • Edwin Howard (MIT, McGill BA) : The pragmatics of verb-initial conditional antecedents in English (poster)
  • Anna Howell (Tübingen, McGill BA) : A Hamblin semantics for alternative questions in Yoruba (poster)
  • Hadas Kotek : On the semantics of wh-questions (poster)
  • Junko Shimoyama: Syntactic and semantic connectivity in afterthought right dislocation, sluicing and fragments (invited talk) joint work with Alex Drummond (Queen Mary Univ. of London, recent postdoc), Bernhard Schwarz and Michael Wagner

McGill at ICPhS 2015

McGill linguists present and past gave a number of talks and posters at the 18th International Conference of Phonetic Sciences, held in August 2015 in Glasgow, all with associated proceedings papers:

Oriana, Hye-Young, and James all received IPA Student Awards to attend the conference.

Here are some pictures of us at ICPhS, and friends:


McGill linguists (Meghan, Oriana, Morgan, James, Hye-Young) with postdoc alumna Sara MacKenzie, McGill Psych alum Doug Schiller



Linguists walking towards the Science Centre: Oriana, James, Michael M


McGill linguists present and future (Michael, Mehgan, Gustav, Francisco, Morgan) with Linda Polka and A.J. Orena from McGill SCSD

Beginning-of-year picnic

All McGill linguists, plus family and friends, are invited to our annual Beginning-of-Year picnic, to be held this year Sunday September 6th at noon at Parc Laurier in the Plateau. The picnic will be potluck style: please bring some some kind of dish and perhaps something to drink.  Hope to see you all there!

lalala meeting

A couple weeks ago, some of us went to McGill’s gorgeous Gault nature reserve for a language labs lab meeting (lalala).

Students from Meghan Clayards‘s Speech Learning Lab, Florian Jaeger‘s HLP lab, Chigusa Kurumada‘s Kinder Lab, Morgan Sonderegger‘s Montreal Language Modeling Lab, and Michael Wagner‘s prosody.lab presented on current projects.

gault2[photo: gui garcia]

Research presentations:

  • Esteban Buz: Contextual confusability, feedback and their effects on speech production
  • Guilherme Garcia: Stress and gradient weight in Portuguese
  • Dan Goodhue: It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it: Intonation, yes, and no
  • Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron: Phrasing and phonological variability
  • Linda Liu: Learning under causal uncertainty in speech perception
  • Amanda Pogue: Exploring expectations based on speaker-specific variation in informativity

Idea talks:

  • Zach Burchill: Are accents hard to learn?
  • Guilherme Garcia: Second language acquisition of English stress by Québec French speakers
  • Sarah Colby: Effects of normal aging on perceptual flexibility for speech
  • Dan Goodhue: Towards a probabilistic explanation of contextual evidence
  • Dave Kleinschmidt: Learning to adapt
  • Maryam Seifeldin: Adaptation to and generalization of unfamiliar phonetic features

Gui Garcia receives Arts Travel Award

Gui Garcia has received an Arts Graduate Student Travel award, which he will use to attend the 2015 Linguistic Society of America Summer Institute in Chicago this July.

Congratulations, Gui!




McLing summer vacation

McLing would like to wish you all a great summer vacation! Please continue to send us your news and events, and we will post them in our next issue on September 8th.

McGill at ETAP 3

McGill linguists present and past presented a number of talks at the third Experimental and Theoretical Advances in Prosody conference (ETAP3), held May 28-30 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:

  • Emily Elfner (postdoc 2012-14): Prosodic juncture strength and syntactic constituency in Connemara Irish
  • Aron Hirsch (BA 2011) and Michael Wagner: Syntactic constraints on the variability of prosodic phrasing and parenthetical placement
  • Morgan SondereggerThe role of prosodic variability in explaining segmental variability: Two corpus studies


LingTea, 4/15 – Michael Wagner

Our last LingTea of the semester will be this week:

Who: Michael Wagner
When: Wednesday, Apr. 153:00-4:00 in room 117
What: “Additivity and the syntax of ‘even’ ”

Beaver & Clark (2003, 2010) observe that certain focus operators such as ‘only’ and ‘even’ differ in various ways from focus sensitive operators such as ‘always’. This talk presents analysis that derives at least some of these differences from a difference in their syntax: ‘only’ takes two syntactic arguments, a focus constituent which can be of any type,  and a second argument, which has to compose with the first to form a proposition (following similar syntactic proposals in Rooth 1985, Mccawley 1995, Krifka 1996). The distribution of ‘only’ is further constrained by a constraint that assures that the size of the focus constituent must minimized (potentially motivated semantically, as proposed in Wagner 2006). Adverbs like ‘always’, by contrast, operate over a single argument.

A challenges to this view is the syntax of ‘even’, which seem to place it between the two categories of focus operators. We can get a better understanding of the syntax of ‘even’ once we control for whether ‘even’ is used additively or not. Whether ‘even’ carries an additive presupposition remains controversial. While Horn (1969), Karttunen and Peters (1979), Wilkinson (1996) and many others have argued that it does, Stechow (1991), Krifka (1992) and Rullmann (1997) reached the opposite conclusion. This talk identifi es a new syntactic generalization about when ‘even’ triggers an additive presupposition, which provides further evidence for the analysis of the syntax of focus operators advocated here. It also reconciles the contradictory findings about additivity in the earlier literature.  The analysis offers a new perspective on syntactic constraints on the distribution of related focus operators in German noted in Jacobs (1983) and Büring & Hartmann (2001).

LingTea, 4/8 – Hadas Kotek

Who: Hadas Kotek

When: Wednesday, Apr. 83:00-4:00 in room 117

What: “Intervention everywhere!” (GLOW practice talk)

Colloquium, 4/10 – Lisa Matthewson

This week we welcome the next speaker in our 2015 McGill Linguistics Colloquium Series:
Speaker: Lisa Matthewson (UBC)
Date & Time: Friday, April 10, 3:30 pm
Place: Education Building Rm. 433
Title: “Adventures with discourse management in Gitksan”

Discourse particles such as German ja or doch have a rich tradition of investigation (see Zimmermann 2011, Grosz 2014 for recent overviews), and continue to intrigue researchers due to the analytical challenges they pose. While discourse particles are common cross-linguistically, they are notoriously difficult even to describe accurately – let alone analyze – in a language the researcher does not speak natively. Consequently, they often remain in the ‘too difficult basket’ long after a language has undergone extensive semantic analysis. In this talk I attempt to shrink the ‘too difficult basket’ by analyzing two discourse particles in Gitksan, an endangered Tsimshianic language spoken in British Columbia, Canada.

The particles under investigation, k’ap and ist, both convey a pre-theoretic notion of ‘emphasis’. K’ap is glossed as ‘certainly, indeed, for sure’ by Rigsby (1986) and as ‘must, have to, absolutely, simply, really, no getting out of it, no two ways about it, no choice about it’ by Tarpent (1987) (in the closely related Nisga’a). Ist is glossed as ‘interact’ by Rigsby and as ‘affirmative’ by Tarpent. I argue that k’ap p is licensed when ¬p is in the Projected Set (the set of potential future common grounds at the time of utterance, Farkas and Bruce 2010). Ist p, on the other hand, conveys that the speaker wishes to downdate the current Question Under Discussion by asserting p (following Gutzmann and Castroviejo Miró’s 2011 analysis of verum focus). I show that these analyses correctly account for the distribution of the particles across a range of discourse contexts and speech act types. Several questions for future research remain, including how to account for the effect of the particles in imperatives. Larger questions are also raised about how we can account for subtle differences between k’ap and ist and similar elements (particles, verum focus) in German and English.

LingTea, 4/1 – Michelle Sheehan (University of Cambridge)

This week we’d like to welcome a special guest from overseas for our LingTea:

Who: Michelle Sheehan (University of Cambridge)

When: Wednesday, Apr. 13:05-4:05 in room 117

What: Ergative alignment in Romance causatives


In this talk I consider the parallels between the Romance faire-infinitif construction in (1) and ergative-absolutive alignment, as exemplified in (2):

(1)        a.         Jean l’              a          fait       manger.                        [French]
Jean 3s.acc     has       made    eat.inf
‘Jean made her eat.’

b.         Jean le              lui         a          fait       manger.
Jean 3s.acc     3s.dat    has       made    eat.inf
‘Jean made her eat it.’

(2)           a.         Qusngiq          ner’-uq.                                             [Yup’ik]
reindeer.abs   eat-intr.3sg
‘The reindeer is eating.’

b.         Angute-m       qusngiq                       ner-aa.
man-erg          reindeer.abs                 eat-tr.3sg/3sg
‘The man is eating (the) reindeer.’

In both cases, the external argument surfaces with a morphologically marked case sensitive to transitivity (in the languages in question). I show variation across Romance varieties parallels quite closely variation amongst ergative systems, and that a unified inherent-case account of both in terms of a parameter hierarchy seems promising. For example, Spanish dialects which extend the dative to the subjects of unergatives parallel Basque, which extends ergative to these contexts. Obligatory clitic climbing in French, Italian and European Portuguese can be attributed to the presence of an additional short movement of the object to spec ApplP in these languages, which parallels the trigger for syntactic ergativity in languages like Chamorro and Trumai. I also discuss some challenges for the inherent case approach, notably the fact that some Spanish dialects also extend the dative to the subjects of unaccusative verbs.

LingTea, 3/25 – Yuliya Manyakina and Jiajia Su

This week there is a special LingTea session for MOTH practice talks:

Yuliya Manyakina will present “Two Types of ‘Incorporation’ in Mi’gmaq” and Jiajia Su will present “On the ‘Numeral Classifier de Noun’ Construction in Mandarin Chinese.”

When: Wednesday, Mar. 253:00-4:00 in room 117

Ergativity Lab: 3/25 – Kevin Tuite (Université de Montréal)

This week in the Ergativity Lab, there will be a talk by Kevin Tuite of The University of Montreal, Wednesday at 2pm in room 117. Title and abstract below:
Alignment and orientation in Kartvelian (South Caucasian)
I will present an overview of case assignment and person/number marking in the Kartvelian languages, and the extent to which they correspond to a recognizable alignment type (ergative-absolutive, or split-intransitive). If time permits, I will also present a hypothesis concerning the morphosyntactic characteristics of Proto-Kartvelian.

LingTea, 3/18 – Guilherme Garcia

Who: Guilherme Garcia

When: Wednesday, Mar. 183:00-4:00 in room 117

What: “Stress and Gradient Weight in Portuguese” (WCCFL practice talk)


Morgan Sonderegger at Carleton

Morgan Sonderegger gave a colloquium talk in the School of Linguistics and Language Studies last week, entitled “The structure of variability in spontaneous speech: evidence from voice onset time”.

Ling-Tea, Bronwyn Bjorkman – 4/11, plus upcoming schedule

Please joins us for the next LingTea of the semester:

Who: Bronwyn Bjorkman (University of Toronto)
When: Wednesday, Mar. 113-4pm in room 117
What: “Not All Fake Pasts Are Real”

There are at least two domains where it has been proposed that past inflection is “uninterpretable” or “fake”, because it does not contribute its ordinary back-shifted interpretation: sequence of tense and counterfactuals. Though they have only occasionally been directly compared, both have been analyzed as cases where T bears a formally uninterpretable tense feature that must be licensed by a higher counterpart. This talk, however, focuses on differences between the two phenomena, particularly in their interaction with situation and viewpoint aspect, and argues that these differences suggest that sequence of tense and counterfactuals cannot both be analyzed in terms of feature licensing. I conclude that of the two, only counterfactuals involve real “fake” past (i.e. a licensed [uPAST] feature), and (finally) that this sheds light on differences between the interpretation of particular inflectional forms, and their formal representation in terms of features, which in turn helps account for crosslinguistic differences in what inflectional forms are possible in counterfactual contexts.


Other upcoming presentations:

March 18: Guilherme Garcia, “Stress and gradient weight in Portuguese” (WCCFL practice talk)
March 25: Jiajia Su – “On the ‘Numeral Classifier de Noun’ construction in Mandarin Chinese” / Yuliya Manyakina – “Two Types of ‘Incorporation’ in Mi’gmaq” (MOTH practice talks)
April 8: Hadas Kotek, TBA (GLOW practice talk)


A reminder! If you are interested in presenting a paper or getting some feedback on work in progress please email Gui ( or Yuliya ( The following dates are still available for this semester’s LingTea:
April: 1, 15, 22, 29



Tokiko Okuma at GASLA 2015

Tokiko Okuma has just returned from presenting a paper at the 13th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference at Indiana University on March 4-6. The title of her talk was “Typology of pronouns and L2 acquisition of the OPC effect in Japanese”. The full program can be found here.

Okuma starts working as a full-time lecturer (one-year contract) at the University of Shizuoka, Japan, and a part-time lecturer (one-term contract) at Osaka University, Japan, from April 2015. Congrats!

Mi’gmaq Research Partnership at ICLDC 4

Mi’gmaq Research Partnership members Carolyn Anderson, Joel Dunham, Yuliya Manyakina, Madelaine Metallic, Conor Quinn and Lola Vicaire traveled to Honolulu, Hawai’i for the 4th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (Feb. 26-Mar. 1, 2015). The following talks were presented:

  • Douglas Gordon (McGill), Carol-Rose Little (Cornell), Yuliya Manyakina (McGill), Madelaine Metallic (Listuguj Education Directorate) and Lola Vicaire (Listuguj Education Directorate) Bringing a Community Closer: A report on the Listuguj Mi’gmaq Summer Workshops (poster)

    Right to Left: Metallic, Vicaire and Manyakina with poster

    Right to Left: Metallic, Vicaire and Manyakina with poster

  •  Joel Dunham (UBC), Jessica Coon (McGill) and Alan Bale  (Concordia University) LingSync: web-based software for language documentation
  • Conor Quinn (University of Maine/University of Southern Maine) Taking down the barriers: Accessibility by detechnicalization and minimalist presentation

The full schedule may be found here. Stay tuned at to read some blog posts about the travelers’ experiences.

McGill at GALANA 2015

McGill linguists, psychologists and speech-language pathologists traveled to University of Maryland to present at the 6th bi-annual Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition – North America (GALANA), held on February 19-21. Presenters included:

  • Misha Schwartz (McGill) & Heather Goad (McGill): Indirect Positive Evidence in the Acquisition of a Subset Grammar in Phonology
  • Erica Yoon (Stanford), Heather Goad (McGill), Jennifer McManus (McGill), Elisa Bucurel (McGill) & Kristine Onishi (McGill): Use of allophonic cues to detect word-medial syllable boundaries
  • Tokiko Okuma: L1 transfer in bound variable use of L2 Japanese demonstrative pronouns

Full program may be found here.

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