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McGill @ CLA 2021

Current and former McGillians were well represented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Linguistic Association, held virtually June 4–7. Presentations included:
  • Bronwyn M. Bjorkman (BA 2006): Representing and resolving feature conflicts
  • Heather Goad & Natália Brambatti Guzzo: Regularly inflected forms can be prosodically ambiguous in English
  • Heather Newell (PhD 2006): The Morphophonology of Tamil Pronouns: A solution to a locality problem
  • Ileana Paul (PhD 2000), Lisa Travis, Jozina Vander Klok (PhD 2013) & Susi Wurmbrand:  Crossed control as Voice restructuring
  • Gretchen McCulloch (MA 2014) participated in the Round table: What can I do with a degree in linguistics? How to be a linguist outside academia 

The full program is available at: https://cla-acl.ca/programmes/congres-de-2021-meeting.html

Martinez, Goad, and Dow accepted in Second Language Research

Ruth Martinez (BA 2013), Heather Goad & Michael Dow’s paper “L1 phonological effects on L2 (non-)naïve perception: A cross-language investigation of the oral-nasal vowel contrast in Brazilian Portuguese” has been accepted for publication in Second Language Research.


Feature-based approaches to acquisition principally focus on second language (L2) learners’ ability to perceive non-native consonants when the features required are either contrastively present or entirely absent from the first language (L1) grammar. As features may function contrastively or allophonically in the consonant and/or vowel systems of a language, we expand the scope of this research to address whether features that function contrastively in the L1 vowel system can be recombined to yield new vowels in the L2; whether features that play a contrastive role in the L1 consonant system can be reassigned to build new vowels in the L2; and whether L1 allophonic features can be ‘elevated’ to contrastive status in the L2. We examine perception of the oral-nasal contrast in Brazilian Portuguese listeners from French, English, Caribbean Spanish, and non-Caribbean Spanish backgrounds, languages that differ in the status assigned to [nasal] in their vowel systems. An AXB discrimination task revealed that, although all language groups succeeded in perceiving the non-naïve contrast /e/-/ẽ/ due to their previous exposure to Quebec French while living in Montreal, Canada, only French and Caribbean Spanish speakers succeeded in discriminating the naïve contrast /i/-/ĩ/. These findings suggest that feature redeployment at first exposure is only possible if the feature is contrastive in the L1 vowel system (French) or if the feature is allophonic but variably occurs in contrastive contexts in the L1 vowel system (Caribbean Spanish). With more exposure to a non-native contrast, however, feature redeployment from consonant to vowel systems was also supported, as was the possibility that allophonic features may be elevated to contrastive status in the L2.

Liz Smeets to York University

McLing is very pleased to report that Liz Smeets (PhD ’19)  has accepted a tenure-track position in the Dept of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics at York University in Toronto, starting this July. Congratulations Liz!

Guzzo and Garcia in Glossa

Postdoc Natália Brambatti Guzzo and Guilherme D. Garcia (PhD ’17) just had an article accepted for publication at Glossa: a journal of general linguistics. The title of the paper is ‘Gradience in prosodic representation: Vowel reduction and neoclassical elements in Brazilian Portuguese’. The preprint is available for download on Open Science Framework: 10.31219/osf.io/548gv.

Bale, Schwarz, and Shanks to appear in Journal of Semantics

Alan Bale (PhD ’06), Bernhard Schwarz, and David Shanks (incoming MA student) recemtly learned that their paper “Monotonicity revisited: mass nouns and comparisons of purity” has been accepted for publication in Journal of Semantics. A prepublished version of the paper is available at: https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/005928. Congratulations all!

Abstract: Comparatives with “more” plus mass noun, like “John has more milk than Bill”, are naturally analyzed as referencing measure functions, functions like volume or weight that map individuals to degrees. Although such measure functions vary with context as well as the choice of mass noun, there are well known grammatical limitations on this variation. In particular, Schwarzschild (2006) proposes that only monotonic measure functions can enter into the interpretation of comparatives with more plus mass noun. While this Monotonicity Constraint has strong empirical support, Bale and Barner (2009) have drawn attention to data that seemingly contradict it. For example, “There is more gold in the ring than in the bracelet” can be evaluated based on whether the ring is made from purer gold than the bracelet. This seems to suggest that comparatives with more plus mass noun can reference purity, yet purity is non-monotonic (Schwarzschild 2006, Wellwood 2015). Building on Solt (2018) and Bale and Schwarz (2019), we show here that comparisons of purity can be credited to monotonic proportional measure functions, thereby reconciling Bale and Barner’s observation with the Monotonicity Constraint. We provide independent support for this proposal, establishing that reference to the relevant monotonic proportional measure functions, but not to purity, yields meanings that accurately track speakers’ truth value judgments. Our analysis commits us to the assumption that the main clause and the comparative clause can invoke different measure functions. We propose that this is made possible by Skolemization and binding. That is, we posit function-denoting expressions which contain variables that have different binders in the two clauses.



Mike Hamilton (PhD ’15) promoted to Associate Professor at Florida Atlantic University

Michael David Hamilton (PhD 2015) has been awarded tenure and been promoted to Associate Professor of Linguistics (effective Fall 2021) at Florida Atlantic University after 5 years there. Congratulations Mike!

McGill @LSRL 51

McGill linguists presented the following talks at the 51st Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (LSRL). The conference was hosted virtually between April 29 and May 1 by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
  • Natália Brambatti Guzzo and Avery Franken (BA ’21): Structure preservation and contact effects: Subjects in Brazilian Veneto
  • Guilherme D. Garcia (PhD ’17) and Natália Brambatti Guzzo: Target vowel asymmetry in Brazilian Veneto metaphony

Carol-Rose Little to University of Oklahoma

McLing is happy to announce that Carol-Rose Little (current postdoc; BA ’12) has accepted a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Linguistics position at the University of Oklahoma in the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics. She will be joining their faculty this fall. Congratulations Carol-Rose!

Congratulations to Donghyun Kim

Donghyun Kim (PhD 2018) will soon be starting a tenure-track assistant professor position in English Education at Kumoh National Institute of Technology in South Korea. Congratulations Don!

Alonso-Ovalle and Hsieh in Journal of Semantics

Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Henrison Hsieh’s manuscript on the Tagalog Ability / Involuntary Action verbal form (“Causes and expectations: On the interpretation of the Tagalog Ability / Involuntary Action form”) has been accepted for publication at the Journal of Semantics.

Bernhard Schwarz at UCL

As part of the UCL Linguistics Seminar series, Bernhard Schwarz gave an invited talk today entitled “Comparisons of concentration and the composition of dimensions”, reporting on on joint work with Alan Bale (Concordia University) and David Shanks (McGill University).

Royer et al. in Tlalocan

A paper by Justin Royer, Pedro Mateo Pedro (U. Toronto), Elizabeth Carolan (BA ’14), Jessica Coon, and Magdalena Torres has been accepted for publication in Tlalocan, a journal that specializes on the documentation of texts and narratives from Indigenous languages of Mesoamerica. The paper is entitled “Atz’am k’ik’ atz’am: The story of Xuwan and a grammatical sketch of Chuj”, and is available on LingBuzz: https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/005630
Abstract: This article and text provide a new take on the San Mateo saltwater sources from the perspective of Xuwan, a San Mateo resident who for her entire life has been working in the extraction, production, and merchandising of atz’am k’ik’ atz’am ‘the black salt’, a culturally-valued good which forms a quintessential aspect of Chuj life and culture. In addition to recounting her experiences with black salt, Xuwan comments on several other aspects of Chuj life, both in the past and in the present. The article is introduced with a short grammar sketch of Chuj, which highlights the prominent grammatical features found in the text.

Guzzo and Garcia in Journal of Language Contact

The article ‘Phonological variation and prosodic representation: Clitics in Portuguese-Veneto contact’ by Natália Brambatti Guzzo and Guilherme D. Garcia (PhD ’17) has been published in the Journal of Language Contact.

Guzzo, Natália Brambatti and Guilherme Duarte Garcia. 2020. Phonological variation and prosodic representation: Clitics in Portuguese-Veneto contact. Journal of Language Contact 13(2): 389–427.

In a variety of Brazilian Portuguese in contact with Veneto, variable vowel reduction in clitic position can be partially accounted for by the phonotactic profile of clitic structures. We show that, when phonotactic profile is controlled for, vowel reduction is statistically more frequent in non-pronominal than in pronominal clitics, which indicates that these clitic types are represented in separate prosodic domains. We propose that this difference in frequency of reduction between clitic types is only possible due to contact with Veneto, which, unlike standard BP, does not exhibit vowel reduction in clitic position. Contact thus provides speakers with the possibility of producing clitic vowels without reduction, and the resulting variation is used to signal prosodic distinctions between clitic types. We show that the difference in frequency of reduction is larger for older speakers, who are more proficient in Veneto and use the language regularly.

Kilbourne-Ceron, Clayards, and Wagner published in Laboratory Phonology

A new paper by Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron (PhD ’17), Meghan Clayards, and Michael Wagner was published in the journal Laboratory Phonology:
Kilbourn-Ceron, O., Clayards, M., and Wagner, M. (2020). Predictability modulates pronunciation variants through speech planning effects: A case study on coronal stop realizations. Laboratory Phonology: Journal of the Association for Laboratory Phonology, 11(1).
Abstract: Predictability has been shown to be associated with many dimensions of variation in speech, including durational variation and variable omission of segments. However, the mechanism or mechanisms that underlie these effects are still unclear. This paper presents data on a new aspect of predictability in speech, namely how it affects allophonic variation. We examine two coronal stop allophones in English, flap and glottal stop, and find that their relationship with predictability is quite different from what is expected under current theories of probabilistic reduction in speech. Flapping is more likely when the word that follows is more predictable, but is not influenced by the frequency of the word itself, while glottal stops are more likely in words that are less predictable. We propose that the crucial distinction between these two allophones is how they are conditioned by phonological context. This, we argue, interacts with online speech planning processes and gives rise to variability for context-dependent allophones. This hypothesis offers a specific, testable mechanism for certain predictability effects, and has the potential to extend to other factors that contribute to variability in speech.

Xia, White, and Guzzo in Second Language Research

Vera Yunxiao Xia (BA ’18), Lydia White and Natália Brambatti Guzzo’s article “Intervention in relative clauses: Effects of relativized minimality on L2 representation and processing” was accepted for publication in Second Language Research.

McGill at SALT 30

McGill Linguistics was well represented at the recent Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT 30), held online from August 17–20, and hosted by Cornell University.

Our own Bernhard Schwarz was a keynote speaker, presenting joint work with Aron Hirsch (McGill postdoc 2017-19) and Michaela Socolof (“Severing uniqueness from answerhood”), and a number of former and current McGill affiliates were featured in the program:

  • Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Esmail Moghiseh: “Numeral Any: the view from Farsi”
  • Brian Buccola (McGill PhD 2015) and Andreas Haida: “Numeral modifiers revisited: Ignorance as a consequence of obligatory (ir)relevance”
  • Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine (McGill postdoc 2014-15) and Meghan Lim: “Anti-uniqueness without articles”
  • Filipe Hisao Kobayashi and Vincent Rouillard (McGill BA 2017): “High and low exhaustification in singular which-questions”
  • Mathieu Paillé: “The distribution of local-only exhaustivity”

McGill at AFLA 27

Mathieu Paillé gave a talk at AFLA 27 called “Tucking-in and nominative-third word order.”

Ileana Paul (undergraduate and graduate alum) presented joint work with Diane Massam: “A recipe for null arguments”

Lauren Clemens (former postdoc) presented an invited talk: “Absolutive movement in Polynesian: Syntactic ergativity and postverbal word order variation”

They are pictured below, with Jozina Vander Klok, Michael Erlewine, and Henrison Hsiehalso in attendance.


Kilbourn-Ceroun, Clayards, and Wagner in Laboratory Phonology

Congratulations to coauthors Oriana Kilbourn-Ceroun (PhD ’17), Meghan Clayards, and Michael Wagner, who have just had their paper “Predictability modulates pronunciation variants through speech planning effects: A case study on coronal stop realizations” accepted for publication in the journal Laboratory Phonology.

Sonderegger, Stuart-Smith, Knowles, Macdonald, and Rathcke in Language

“Structured heterogeneity in Scottish stops over the twentieth century”, a paper by Morgan Sonderegger, Jane Stuart-Smith, Thea Knowles (McGill BA 2012, Asst Prof at U. Buffalo), Rachel Macdonald, and Tamara Rathcke, was published in the March issue Language.  Congrats all!

How and why speakers differ in the phonetic implementation of phonological contrasts, and the relationship of this ‘structured heterogeneity’ to language change, has been a key focus over fifty years of variationist sociolinguistics. In phonetics, interest has recently grown in uncovering ‘structured variability’—how speakers can differ greatly in phonetic realization in nonrandom ways—as part of the long-standing goal of understanding variability in speech. The English stop voicing contrast, which combines extensive phonetic variability with phonological stability, provides an ideal setting for an approach to understanding structured variation in the sounds of a community’s language that illuminates both synchrony and diachrony. This article examines the voicing contrast in a vernacular dialect (Glasgow Scots) in spontaneous speech, focusing on individual speaker variability within and across cues, including over time. Speakers differ greatly in the use of each of three phonetic cues to the contrast, while reliably using each one to differentiate voiced and voiceless stops. Interspeaker variability is highly structured: speakers lie along a continuum of use of each cue, as well as correlated use of two cues—voice onset time and closure voicing—along a single axis. Diachronic change occurs along this axis, toward a more aspiration-based and less voicing-based phonetic realization of the contrast, suggesting an important connection between synchronic and diachronic speaker variation.

McGill at Amsterdam Colloquium

The 22nd Amsterdam Colloquium, hosted by the Institute of Logic, Language and Computation at the University of Amsterdam, took place December 18-20. It featured a number of presentations by current and former affiliates of our Department, including:
  • Alan Bale (PhD 2006), Bernhard Schwarz & David Shanks (U2): Monotonicity restored: more never means purer (poster)
  • Aron Hirsch (postdoc 2017–19) & Michael Wagner: Only reconstruction and backwards association (talk)
  • Will Johnston: Pair-list questions from dependent plurals (talk)

David, Anouk Dieuleveut (visiting student 2015–16), Bernhard, Aron, Will

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