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Movie screening, 3/11 — Tote/Abuelo (“Grandfather”)

SLUM along with Carol-Rose’s “Languages of the World” course are screening Tote/Abuelo (or “Grandfather”) on March 11th at 8pm, followed by a talk and Q&A with the documentary’s director, María Sojob. The documentary is in Tsotsil and Spanish, with subtitles in English and will be shown over zoom.

Synopsis: In a last attempt to get closer to her only grandfather, María seeks to understand how love is lived in her Tsotsil culture, trying to unite her two worlds.
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=412EOJKAbdA

Registration link: Registration link for Tote/Abuelo March 11th, 8pm: https://mcgill.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIlcuCgqTMtH9OGDI2-bLoOV2iRDKpHZuAD 

Public lecture, 2/25 — Michel DeGraff at Concordia

Black History Month at Concordia, the Black Perspectives Office, and the Centre for Cognitive Science present a public lecture by Professor Michel DeGraff (MIT)
#BlackLivesMatter → #OurLanguagesMatter
Language rights are HUMAN rights—in Haiti and beyond

When: Thursday Feb. 25 at 18:00
Where: Zoom—register here to receive the meeting ID and passcode
Who: Open to the university community and the general public

Abstract: As a creolist who works on language and education for social justice (http://MIT-Ayiti.NET http://Haiti.MIT.edu), I continuously puzzle at the vast array of educators, activists, intellectuals, politicians, etc., who fail to realize that language rights are at the core of human rights. This puzzlement will take us to my native Haiti and other outposts of Empire where we can document spectacular violations of linguistic rights in the course of knowledge production and in the workings of human-rights organizations. We’ll highlight the persistent incoherence in these patterns throughout history… Or perhaps there’s a logic (a colonial racist logic?) to this apparent madness. In this talk, I’ll take Haiti and Creolistics as twin case studies to try and understand the genesis of these human-rights violations as part of the history of colonization and slavery. Then I’ll present one specific and concrete set of “direct actions” (à la Martin Luther King Jr.) that we linguists and educators can take toward a constructive forward-looking resolution of these violations. Here our case study is the MIT-Haiti Initiative where we’re helping to usher a paradigm shift in the perception and use of Haitian Creole as a key tool for universal access to quality education and for the respect of human rights in Haiti. We hope, perhaps with too much optimism, that our MIT-Haiti Initiative, in spite of its obvious limitations (after all, MIT is part of the Global North), can serve as one among other models that can help the Global South recover, and perhaps even escape, from imperialism and racism.

Dr. Michel DeGraff is a Professor of Linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Director of MIT-Haiti Initiative. This talk is sponsored by the Black Perspectives Office and the Centre for Cognitive Science, with support from Concordia’s INDI Program, Linguistics Program and Linguistics Student Association.

SLUM + LING 215 presents: Menashe — 2/11

SLUM, together with Carol-Rose Little’s LING 215 (Languages of the World) class will be showing their first movie, Menashe in Yiddish with subtitles in English. Zoë Belk and Eli Benedict will provide a commentary and Q&A after the movie. The showing begins at 8pm EST on Thursday, February 11th and will be streamed over Zoom.

Link to register for Menashe: https://mcgill.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcsc-yurzIrHddEEz-Pqc8vfxQMSFGZR8aZ
Synopsis of Menashe: A year after his wife’s death, a widower faces pressure from his Hasidic community to give up his son for adoption unless he finds a new partner.
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83UoZcdX__Y

Call for papers for “Move and Agree” workshop, cohosted by McGill and UBC

The call for papers is now out for the workshop Move and Agree: Forum on the Formal Typology of A’-Agreement, cohosted by McGill and UBC and co-organized by Hermann Keupdjio, James Crippen, and Rose-Marie Decháine (UBC). The workshop will take place virtually May 31st–June 24th, with abstracts due March 5th.

The invited speaker line-up includes current and former McGill affiliates: Nico Baier (postdoc ’18–’19), Michael Hamilton (PhD ’15), Carol-Rose Little, and Martina Martinović. The workshop description is below:

The minimalist research program (Chomsky 1995 et seq.) creates a paradox for movement operations: Merge is conceptually necessary, but Move – and its accompanying Agree relation – is not. Yet there are many natural language phenomena which are insightfully analyzed using the metaphors of movement and agreement. We wish to theorize the paradox of Move/Agree (Keupdjio 2020), namely why does Move/Agree exist at all, if it is conceptually unnecessary? This forum focuses on the syntactic contexts that can be analyzed as instances of A′-movement and which are also associated with A′-agreement; e.g. content questions, relativization, information-structure operations like topicalization and focus. The agreement morphology that arises with A′-movement is known under various names:

  • A′-agreement (Keupdjio 2020);
  • wh-agreement (Chung 1994, Carstens 2005, Reintges, LeSourd & Chung 2006, Hedinger 2008, Schneider-Zioga 2009, Lochbihler & Mathieu 2010);
  • wh-copying (Fanselow & Mahajan 2000, Felser 2004);
  • extraction morphology (Zentz 2016);
  • complementizer agreement (McCloskey 2001, Carstens 2003);
  • reflex of successive cyclic movement (van Urk 2015, Georgi 2017).

Grouping these various morphological reflexes of A′-movement together as instances of A′-agreement, this forum explores the connection between A′-movement and A′-agreement with two goals in mind:

  1. to gain a broader and deeper empirical coverage of A′-agreement via case studies of typologically distinct languages from a variety of language families;

  2. to move forward the theory of A′-agreement defined as a non-local morphosyntactic feature-sharing mechanism that correlates with A′-movement (Baier 2018).

SLUM+LING 215 Linguistics movie nights

The SLUM, together with Carol-Rose Little’s LING 215 (Languages of the World) class, are hosting three upcoming virtual movie nights, featuring movies in Yiddish, Tsotsil, and Haida. See poster below for details! Registration links in the poster are not clickable in this blog post, but are:

  • Menashe – https://mcgill.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcsc-yurzIrHddEEz-Pqc8vfxQMSFGZR8aZ
  • Tote/Abuelo – https://mcgill.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIlcuCgqTMtH9OGDI2-bLoOV2iRDKpHZuAD
  • Edge of the Knife – https://mcgill.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIkd-yrrj8vEt3zOtJHpzynRB658l37Pn4S

Linguistics ARIA recipients to present research projects – 1/26

On January 26th, undergraduate recipients of Arts Research Internship Awards (ARIA) will present the results of their summer linguistics research projects. Four linguistics students will be presenting their work, listed below. More information and details for how to attend can be found on the ARIA website: https://www.mcgill.ca/arts-internships/events-0/annual-undergraduate-research-event

  • “The Status of Mid-Level Nuclear Accents in English” – Sijia Zhang (supervised by Francisco Torreira)
  • “The syntax and semantics of counting numerals: the comparison of Mandarin Chinese and Latin counting numerals” – Yingrui He (supervised by Gillon Brendan)
  • “A Computational Model of Phonotactics” – Scarlett Xu (supervised by Timothy O’donnell)
  • “Grammatical Criteria in Malagasy External Possession” – Tallis Clark (supervised by Jessica Coon)

Congratulations all!

AFLA 28 at McGill

McGill Linguistics will jointly host the 28th Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association meeting (AFLA 28) with National University of Singapore May 25th–28th 2021 (to be held virtually). The list of invited speakers and more information about the call for papers can be found on the AFLA website here: https://lingconf.com/afla28/.

The Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association (AFLA) promotes the study of Austronesian languages from a formal perspective. Since the initial meeting in 1994, AFLA has served as a forum for the presentation of new research in all of the core areas of formal linguistics, including (but not limited to) phonology, linguistic typology, morphology, semantics and syntax. AFLA has a history of bringing together leading scholars, native speaker linguists, and junior scholars in the formal study of Austronesian languages.

Colloquium, 10/16 — Peter Jenks

The next talk in our 2020-2021 McGill Linguistics Colloquium Series will be given by Peter Jenks (UC Berkeley) on Friday, October 16th at 3:30pm. The title of the talk is “Are indices syntactically represented?”. The abstract is below.

If you have not yet registered for the colloquium series, please do so here (you only need to register once for the 2020-2021 year).

Abstract: The status of indices in syntactic representations is unclear. While indices are frequently used for expository purposes, they have no syntactic status in the copy theory of movement (Corver & Nunes 2007) or Agree-based analyses binding phenomena (Reuland 2011, Vanden Wyngaerd 2011). In this talk I argue that the presence versus absence of indices explain language-internal splits in definiteness and pronouns in different languages, while the ability of names to violate condition C in Thai receives a natural explanation if we treat names in Thai but not English as contextually restricted indices. The resulting view is one where indices are a component of linguistic representations, but not all referential expressions contain them. This view is consistent with Tayna Reinhart’s approach to Conditions B and C (Grodzinsky & Reinhart 1993), and entails that indices should play a more important role in syntactic theory than they currently do.

Congratulations Jeff Lamontagne!

Jeff Lamontagne successfully defended his thesis on Sept 25th. Jeff’s thesis is entitled “Interaction in Phonological Variation: Grammatical Insights from a Corpus-based Approach” and it was supervised by Heather Goad and Francisco Torreira. Congratulations Jeff!!
Jeff has already started a tenure-track position in the Department of French & Italian at Indiana University Bloomington. Colleagues, friends, and family gathered by Zoom afterwards to virtually celebrate.

Dissertation defence, 9/25 – Jeff Lamontagne

Jeff Lamontagne will be defending his PhD dissertation, “Interaction in Phonological Variation: Insights from a Corpus-based Approach” on Friday September 25th at 9:15am (following the pre-defence meeting at 9:00). The defence will be live streamed on YouTube at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUqXeDr0Rc1VgEB8IVpQ5TA

All are welcome to attend!

FestEval 2020

This year’s annual FestEval took place via Zoom. Masashi Harada, Jacob Hoover, Will Johnston, Esmail Moghiseh, Matthieu Paillé, Justin Royer, and Michaela Socolof all presented the results from their recent PhD evaluation papers. Congratulations all!



Dissertation defense, Henrison Hsieh – 9/4

Our graduate student Henrison Hsieh is defending his PhD thesis online at 10 am this Friday, September 4, 2020. His thesis title is: “Beyond Nominative: A Broader View of A’-dependencies in Tagalog”. Relevant links and more details will be sent to the department mailing list as soon as they become available. See you there!

Beginning-of-year welcome Zoom

This year, the annual beginning-of-year Linguistics pizza+introductions gathering was replaced with… a Zoom meeting and break-out sessions. Students, faculty, postdocs, and staff paused for a screenshot:

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”

2020/2021 Linguistics Colloquium Series

Here is our colloquium schedule for the upcoming academic year. As always, talks will take place Fridays at 3:30 (room/Zoom url TBA). Mark your calendars!

– September 18: Laura Dilley (http://speechlab.cas.msu.edu)


McLing presents the second edition of VirtualLing, documenting our current virtual lives. Please send your photos and screenshots!

PhD student Vanna Willteron sends a photo of her tidied up office space, noting: “I am proud of how cozy and clean I managed to get it so I wanted to share. I do miss my office mates and the fast school wifi though!” Thanks Vanna, looks great!


Students, staff, and faculty gathered for a departmental Town Hall last week to discuss questions about the coming semester.


A small summer Malagasy reading group has formed for the summer, growing out of the Field Methods class last semester, and bringing in the expertise of Lisa Travis and Ileana Paul. If you’re interested in joining, please contact Jessica for details.

VirtualLing (first edition)

Welcome to the first of potentially many screenshot updates on our virtual linguistics lives. Since we don’t currently get to run into each other in the hall of 1085 Peel, please send screenshots of virtual meetings you have––classes, reading groups, small advising meetings––McLing wants them all.

Course lecturer Natália Brambatti Guzzo is teaching LING 355 ‘Language Acquisition’ in our first full semester online this summer. She delivers lecturers to the 50+ students via Zoom (pictured) and then posts the recordings online for the students who aren’t able to attend synchronously.

Natália Brambatti Guzzo (upper right corner) teaches a slide about the acquisition of questions

Faculty meetings continue by Zoom. Are they starting to miss room 117?


Colloquium, 2/28 — Andrés Salanova

We are pleased to announce that the next talk in our 2019-20 McGill Linguistics Colloquium Series will be by Andrés Salanova (University of Ottawa) on Friday, February 28 at 3:30 pm in Wilson Hall WP Room.

The title of the talk is TBA – we will make another announcement shortly with the updated title and abstract shortly. All are welcome to attend.

MCQLL Meeting, 10/16 — Michaela Socolof

This week at MCQLL, Michaela Socolof will lead a discussion on the paper “A noisy-channel model of rational human sentence comprehension under uncertain input” by Roger Levy (abstract below). The setup will be somewhat different from the typical MCQLL presentations. Michaela will have some discussion topics prepared for the group, please give the paper a read before the meeting to make the discussion more dynamic!

As usual the meeting is from 14:30-16:00 on Wednesday. A late lunch will be provided.

Abstract: Language comprehension, as with all other cases of the extraction of meaningful structure from perceptual input, takes places under noisy conditions. If human language comprehension is a rational process in the sense of making use of all available information sources, then we might expect uncertainty at the level of word-level input to affect sentence-level comprehension. However, nearly all contemporary models of sentence comprehension assume clean input—that is, that the input to the sentence-level comprehension mechanism is a perfectly-formed, completely certain sequence of input tokens (words). This article presents a simple model of rational human sentence comprehension under noisy input, and uses the model to investigate some outstanding problems in the psycholinguistic literature for theories of rational human sentence comprehension. We argue that by explicitly accounting for input level noise in sentence processing, our model provides solutions for these outstanding problems and broadens the scope of theories of human sentence comprehension as rational probabilistic inference.

Link to the paper: https://www.mit.edu/~rplevy/papers/levy-2008-emnlp.pdf

P* Reading Group, 10/7 — Wei Zhang

Wei will lead a discussion of Baeser-Berk & Morrill’s (2019) “Perceptual consequences of variability in native and non-native speech”, on Monday (Oct. 7) 2:45-3:45pm in room 117 of the Linguistics Department.

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