Archive for the 'Colloquia' Category

Colloquium, 10/12 – Jane Stuart-Smith

Jane Stuart-Smith from the University of Glasgow will be giving the first colloquium talk of the semester, titled “Sound perspectives? Speech and speaker dynamics over a century of Scottish English” on Friday, October 12th, at 3:30pm in Education Bldg. rm. 211. All are welcome to attend!

Abstract: 

As in many disciplines, in linguistics too, perspective matters. Structured variability in language occurs at all linguistic levels and is governed by a large range of diverse factors. Viewed through a synchronic lens, such variation informs our understanding of linguistic and social-cognitive constraints on language at particular points in time; a diachronic lens expands the focus across time. And, as Weinreich et al (1968) pointed out, structured variability is integral to linguistic description and explanation as a whole, by being at once both the stuff of the present, the reflexes of the past, and the potential for changes in the future. There is a further dimension which is often not explicit, the role of analytical perspective on linguistic phenomena.

This paper considers a particular kind of structured variability, phonetic and phonological variation, within the sociolinguistic context of the recorded history of Glaswegian vernacular across the 20th century. Two aspects of perspective frame my key research questions:

1. What are the ‘things’ which we observe? How do different analytical perspectives on phonetic variation affect how we interpret that variation? Specifically, how do different kinds of observation — within segment/across a phonological contrast/even beyond segments — auditory/acoustic/articulatory phonetic — shape our interpretations?

2. How are these ‘things’ embedded in time and social space? Specifically, how is this variation linked to contextual perspective, shifts in social events and spaces over the history of the city of Glasgow? How do we know whether, or when, these ‘things’ might be sound changes (following Milroy 2003)?

I consider these questions by reviewing a series of studies (including some ongoing and still unpublished) on two segments in Glaswegian English, the first thought to be stable and not undergoing sound change (/s/), the second thought to be changing (postvocalic /r/).

2018–2019 colloquia

We are happy to share our colloquium schedule for the upcoming academic year. As always, colloquia will take place Fridays at 3:30, rooms TBA. Mark your calendars!

Jane Stuart-Smith (University of Glasgow) – October 12
Nico Baier (McGill) – November 2
Susi Wurmbrand (University of Connecticut) – March 22
Scott AnderBois (Brown University) – April 12

Daniel Pape colloquium: April 13

Daniel Pape (McMaster University) will be giving a talk entitled “Linking speech production to speech perception: A cross-linguistic comparison of the phonological voicing contrast and its phonetic realization”. The talk with take place in room 433 of the Education Building at 3:30 pm on Friday, April 13th. The abstract, along with information about other colloquia in the department, is available on the McGill Linguistics Colloquium Series website (https://www.mcgill.ca/linguistics/events/colloquium-series).

Colloquium on 1/26 postponed

This is to announce that Karen Jesney will not be giving a colloquium talk on 26th January as originally planned. The talk has been postponed. More details on the rescheduling are to be announced soon.

Colloquium: Sharon Goldwater, 01/12

Sharon Goldwater from the University of Edinburgh will be giving a talk entitled Bootstrapping Language Acquisition as part of the McGill Linguistics Colloquium Series on Friday, January 12th at 3:30pm in room 433 of the Education Building. All are welcome to attend! For the abstract and for any other colloquium information, please clear here to visit the Colloquium Series web page.

Colloquium, 12/01 – Lucie Ménard

Lucie Ménard (UQÀM) will be giving a talk at 3:30pm on Friday, December 1st. The talk abstract is forthcoming. Please note that the talk will be in Arts Bldg. W-20 instead of the normal room.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Colloquium: Christian DiCanio, 11/10

Christian DiCanio from the University at Buffalo will giving a talk entitled “Phonetic variation and the construction of a Mixtec spoken language corpus” as part of the McGill Linguistics Colloquium Series on Friday, November 10th at 3:30pm in room 433 of the Education Building. All are welcome to attend! For the abstract and for any other colloquium information, please visit the Colloquium Series web page: https://www.mcgill.ca/linguistics/events/colloquium-series.

Colloquium Series 2017-18

In the year 2017-18, the following colloquia will take place throughout Fall 2017 and Winter 2018:

  • Aaron Hirsch – October 6
  • Christian DiCanio – November 10
  • Lucie Ménard – December 1
  • Sharon Goldwater – January 12
  • Karen Jesney – January 26
  • Susana Béjar – February 23
  • Elizabeth Coppock – March 23
  • Daniel Pape – April 13

Colloquia typically take place on Fridays at 3.30-5pm. Rooms are to be announced.

Jessica Coon to UMass

Jessica travels to Amherst later this week to give a colloquium talk at UMass. The title of her talk is: “Building verbs in Chuj: Consequences for the nature of roots”.

 

Colloquium, 3/17 – Stephanie Shih

Please join us for the next talk in our 2016–2017 colloquium series:

Speaker: 
 Stephanie Shih (University of California Merced)
Date & Time: March 17th at 3:30 pm
Place:  Education Bldg. rm. 433
Title:  A multilevel approach to lexically-conditioned phonology

Abstract:

Lexical classes often exhibit different phonological behaviours, in alternations or phonotactics. This talk takes up two interrelated issues for lexically-conditioned phonological patterns: (1) how the grammar captures the range of phonological variation that stems from lexical conditioning, and (2) whether the relevant lexical classes needed by the grammar can be learned from surface patterns. Previous approaches to lexically-sensitive phonology have focused largely on constraining it; however, only a limited understanding currently exists of the quantitative space of variation possible (i.e., entropy) within a coherent grammar.

In this talk, I present an approach that models lexically-conditioned phonological patterns as a multilevel grammar: each lexical class is a cophonology subgrammar of indexed constraint weight adjustments (i.e., varying slopes) in a multilevel Maximum Entropy Harmonic Grammar. This approach leverages the structure of multilevel statistical models to quantify the space of lexically-conditioned variation in natural language data. Moreover, the approach allows for the deployment of information-theoretic model comparison to assess competing hypotheses of what the phonologically-relevant lexical classes are. I’ll show that under this approach, the relevant lexical classes need not be a priori assumed but can instead be induced from noisy surface input via feature discovery.

Two case studies are examined: part of speech-conditioned tone patterns in Mende and content versus function word prosodification in English. Both case studies bring to bear new quantitative evidence on classic category-sensitive phenomena. The results illustrate how the multilevel approach proposed here can capture the probabilistic heterogeneity and learnability of lexical conditioning in a phonological system, with potential ramifications for understanding the structure of the developing lexicon in grammar acquisition.

Colloquium, 2/17 – Boris Harizanov

Speaker:  Boris Harizanov (Stanford University)
Date & Time:  February 17th at 3:30 pm
Place:  Education Bldg. rm. 433
Title:  On the nature of syntactic head movement

Abstract:  

In Harizanov and Gribanova 2017, we argue that head movement phenomena having to do with word formation (affixation, compounding, etc.) must be empirically distinguished from head movement phenomena having to do purely with the displacement of heads or fully formed words (verb initiality, verb-second, etc.). We suggest that the former, word-formation type should be implemented as post-syntactic amalgamation, while the latter, displacement-type should be implemented as regular syntactic movement.

In this talk, I take this result as a starting point for an investigation of the latter, syntactic type of head movement. I show in some detail that such movement has the properties of (Internal) Merge and that it always targets the root. In addition, I suggest that, once a head is merged with the root, there are two available options (traditionally assumed to be incompatible with one another or with other grammatical principles): either (i) the target of movement projects or (ii) the moved head projects. The former scenario yields head movement to a specifier position, while the latter yields head reprojection. I offer participle fronting in Bulgarian as a case study of head movement to a specifier position and show how this analysis explains the apparently dual X- and XP-movement properties of participle fronting in Bulgarian, without stipulating a structure-preservation constraint on movement. As a case study of head reprojection, I discuss free relativization in Bulgarian. A treatment of this phenomenon in terms of reprojection allows for an understanding of why an element that has the distribution of a relative complementizer C in Bulgarian free relatives looks like a determiner D morphologically.

This work brings together and reconciles two strands of research, usually viewed, at least to some degree, as incompatible: head movement to specifier position and head movement as reprojection. Such synthesis is afforded, in large part, by the exclusion of the word-formation type of head movement phenomena from the purview of syntactic head movement, as in Harizanov and Gribanova 2017.

Colloquium, 2/3 – Jeremy Hartman

Speaker:  Jeremy Hartman (UMass Amherst)
Date & Time: February 3rd at 3:30 pm
Place:  Education Bldg. rm. 433
Title:  Negation and factivity in acquisition and beyond

Abstract:

In this talk, I present joint work with Magda Oiry on the interaction between negation and two types of factive predicates in acquisition. Following work by Léger (2008), we examine children’s understanding of sentences with the factive predicates know and be happy, in combination with negation–in the matrix clause, as well as in the embedded clause. In addition to an asymmetry in the understanding of know vs. be happy, we find a new and revealing pattern of errors across different sentence-types with know. We also show that a similar error pattern is found even with adult subjects. I discuss how these findings relate to recent work on the processing of negation.

Colloquium, 1/20 – Dan Lassiter

Speaker:  Dan Lassiter (Stanford University)
Date & Time: January 27th at 3:30pm
Place:  Education Bldg. rm. 433

Title:  Epistemic language in indicative and counterfactual conditionals

Abstract:  In this talk I’ll report on a series of experiments which examine judgments about epistemic modals, both in unembedded contexts and in indicative and counterfactual conditionals. Building on these results and recent probabilistic theories of epistemic language, I propose a probabilistic version of Kratzer’s restrictor theory of conditionals that identifies the indicative/counterfactual distinction with Pearl’s distinction between conditioning and intervening in probabilistic graphical models. Combining this theory with recent accounts of must, we can also derive a theory of bare conditionals; I describe the predictions and consider their plausibility in light of the experimental data.

Colloquium, 12/1 – Jackie Cheung

Speaker:  Jackie Cheung (McGill University)
Date & Time: December 2nd at 3:30 pm
Place:  Education Bldg. rm. 624
Title:  Generalized Natural Language Generation

Abstract:  

In popular language generation tasks such as machine translation, automatic systems are typically given pairs of expected input and output (e.g., a sentence in some source language and its translation in the target language). A single task-specific model is then learned from these samples using statistical techniques. However, such training data exists in sufficient quantity and quality for only a small number of high-profile, standardized generation tasks. In this talk, I argue for the need for generic tools in natural language generation, and discuss my lab’s work on developing generic generation tasks and methods to solve them. First, I discuss progress on defining a task in sentence aggregation, which involves predicting whether units of semantic content can be meaningfully expressed in the same sentence. Then, I present a system for predicting noun phrase definiteness, and show that an artificial neural network model achieves state-of-the-art performance on this task, learning relevant syntactic and semantic constraints.

Clayards, Kilbourn-Ceron, Sonderegger, Tanner and Wagner – Colloquia at Princeton and Johns Hopkins University

Michael Wagner gave talks at colloquia at Princeton University (16th November) and Johns Hopkins University (17th November), in which he reported on his joint work with Meghan Clayards, Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron, Morgan Sonderegger and James Tanner with the title “Allophonic variation and the locality of production planning“. The abstract is given below.

Abstract

The application of allophonic processes across word boundaries (processes such as flapping (cf. De Jong, 1998; Patterson and Connine, 2001) and sibilant assimilation (cf. Holst and Nolan, 1995) in English, or liaison in French (Durand and Lyche, 2008)) is known to be subject to locality conditions. The same processes are also known to be variable. While a correlation between the locality of cross word processes on the one hand and their inherent variability is often observed (e.g. Kaisse, 1985), existing theories of either aspect usually do not make any predictions about the other. In this paper we report on several projects that pursue the hypothesis that the locality and variability of cross-word allophonic processes are tightly linked, and can be both be understood as a consequence of the locality of production planning.

The basic idea is that flapping, sibilant assimilation, liaison and related processes are sensitive to the segmental environment in a following word, but the following segmental environment can only exert its effect of the relevant information is already available when the phonetic detail of the current word is being planned. Under this view, effects of syntax and prosody on the application of these processes are reducible to their indirect effects on production planning: For example, a speaker is less likely to plan ahead across a sentence boundary, and less likely to plan ahead across a prosodic juncture. This hypothesis makes specific predictions that all factors affecting planning should affect the likelihood of cross-word allophonic processes (such as the predictability of the following word, the # syllables of the following word, etc.). We report evidence from several experimental and corpus studies that test our hypothesis, which makes different predictions than accounts that tie allophonic processes to particular phonological domains. It also makes different predictions than accounts that try to explain sandhi processes as an effect of gestural overlap, or than currently popular accounts in terms of probabilistic reduction.

An account of the the locality of sandhi processes in terms of the locality of production planning removes some of the motivation for categorically distinct phonological domains as they are assumed in the theory of the prosodic hierarchy. It also makes new predictions about what types of processes will necessarily have to be local and variable, and also about the degree of locality/variability depending on which information their application relies on.

Colloquium, 11/4 – Judith Degen

Please join us for the next colloquium in our fall colloquium series.

Speaker:  Judith Degen (Stanford University)
Date & Time: November 4th at 3:30 pm
Place:  Education Bldg. rm. 433
Title:  Beyond “overinformativeness”: rationally redundant referring expressions

Abstract: What guides the choice of a referring expression like “the box”, “the big box”, or “the big red box”? Speakers have a well-documented tendency to add redundant modifiers in referring expressions (e.g., “the big red box” when “the big box” would suffice for uniquely picking out the intended object). This “overinformativeness” poses a challenge for theories of language production, especially those positing rational language use (e.g., in the Gricean tradition). We present a novel production model of referring expressions in the Rational Speech Act framework. Speakers are modeled as rationally trading off the cost of additional modifiers with the amount of information added about the intended referent. The innovation is assuming that truth functions are probabilistic rather than deterministic.

This model captures a number of production phenomena in the realm of overinformativeness, including the color-size asymmetry in probability of overmodification (speakers overmodify more with color than size adjectives); visual scene variation effects on probability of overmodification (increased visual scene variation increases the probability of overmodifying with color); and color typicality effects on probability of overmodification (speakers overmodify less with more typical colors). In addition to demonstrating how the model accounts for these qualitative effects, we present fine-grained quantitative predictions that are beautifully borne out in data from interactive free production reference game experiments.

We conclude that the systematicity with which speakers redundantly use modifiers implicates a system geared towards communicative efficiency rather than towards wasteful overinformativeness.

Colloquium, 10/28 – Yvan Rose

We are pleased to announce the second talk in our 2016-2017 McGill Linguistics Colloquium Series will be given by Yvan Rose (Memorial University Newfoundland). For more information on upcoming events in the McGill Linguistics department, please see our website (http://www.mcgill.ca/linguistics/events).

Who: Yvan Rose

When: Friday 10/28 at 3:30pm

Where: Education room 433

Title: “Perceptual-Articulatory Relationships in Phonological Development: Implications for Feature Theory”

Abstract:

In this presentation, I discuss a series of asymmetries in phonological development, the nature of which is difficult to address from a strictly phonological perspective. In particular, I focus on transitional periods between developmental stages. I show that these transitions are best interpreted in terms of phonological categories at both prosodic and segmental levels of representation, including segmental features. Using computer-assisted methods of data classification, I describe the detail of these transitions, highlighting both perceptual and articulatory pressures on the child’s developing system of phonological representation. I discuss implications of these findings for Phonological Theory, in particular for traditional models of segmental representation relying on phonological features. While the data support the need for sub-segmental units of phonological representation, these units do not appear to match fully the set of features typically used in the analysis of adult phonological systems.

Colloquium, 9/23 – Michael McAuliffe

We are pleased to announce that the first talk in our 2016-2017 McGill Linguistics Colloquium Series will be given by our own Michael McAuliffe. For more information on upcoming events in the McGill Linguistics department, please see our website (http://www.mcgill.ca/linguistics/events).

Who: Michael McAuliffe

When: Friday 9/23 at 3:30pm

Where: Education room 433

Title: “Dual nature of perceptual learning: Robustness and specificity”

Abstract: “In perceiving speech and language, listeners need to both perceive specific, highly variable utterances, and generalize to larger linguistic categories. One large source of the variability is in how individual speakers produce sounds, but another source of variation is the way in which speech and language are used in a particular task to accomplish a goal. Perceptual learning is a phenomenon in which listeners update their perceptual sound categories when exposed to a novel speaker. Perceptual learning is robust in the sense that most listeners show perceptual learning effects, most sound categories can be easily updated, and most tasks involving speech facilitate perceptual learning. In this talk, I focus more on the ways that perceptual learning can be task-specific. I present a series of perceptual learning experiments for exposing listeners to a novel talker through single words or longer sentences, varying tasks and the linguistic context. The instructions and goals of the task exert a size-able influence over the amount of perceptual learning that listeners exhibit. In general, listeners adapt less in the course of an experiment if they do not have to rely on the acoustic signal as much. For instance, if listeners are presented the orthography of the word along with the audio, they will not learn as much as if they had heard the audio alone. In sentence tasks, listeners matching pictures to a word at the end of a predictable sentence (i.e., A deep moat protected the old castle) will not learn as much from the final word as from an unpredictable sentence (i.e., He dreaded the long walk to the castle). However, the inverse is true for sentence transcription tasks, with larger perceptual learning effects from predictable sentences than unpredictable. Perceptual learning effects can generally be seen for all listeners and all tasks, but the size of the effects are dependent on the exposure task and how the linguistic system is engaged.”

2016–2017 Colloquium Schedule

Below is the finalized colloquium schedule for the upcoming academic year, also available here. As always, colloquia will take place Fridays at 3:30, rooms TBA. Mark your calendars!
Michael McAuliffe (McGill) – September 23
Yvan Rose (Memorial Univ. Newfoundland) – October 28
Judith Degen (Stanford) – November 4
Jackie Cheung (McGill) – December 2
Dan Lassiter (Stanford) – January 27
Jeremy Hartman (UMass Amherst) – February 3
Boris Harizanov (Stanford) – February 17
Stephanie Shih (UC Merced) – March 17
Lucie Ménard (UQÁM) – March 31

Jessica Coon at Stanford

Jessica Coon is returning from Stanford, where she gave a colloquium talk titled “Case Discrimination in Caseless Languages.”

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