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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)

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.

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!

Michael Wagner at MarantzFest

Michael Wagner attended MarantzFest at NYU last week, a workshop in honor of Alec Marantz.


Canadian Linguistics Olympiad

McGill Linguistics was a proud sponsor of two Canadian Linguistics Olympiad teams last year. The teams, pictured below with coaches Gustavo Beritognolo (UQÀM) and Andrés Salanova (Ottawa), traveled to Prague over the summer, where they competed against 49 other teams from around the world. They earned two bronze medals and one honourable mention–congratulations future linguists!

McGill Linguistics FestEval

On Friday, September 7, 3–5pm (Room TBA) our annual FestEval will take place.  The following grad students will present their recent evaluation papers:
3.00pm Jurij Bozic: Tense Deficiency and Scope Inversion: Implications for Control and Case
3.30pm Amy Bruno: Minimalist Grammar Induction using Variational Bayesian Inference
4.00pm Gouming Martens: Frozen by Context: Focus Effects on Syntactic Freezing
4.30pm Clinton Parker: Agreement, clitic doubling, and vestigial ergativity in Shughni

Symposium on Second Language Acquisition in Honour of Lydia White

We are pleased to announce that the Department of Linguistics will be hosting the Symposium on Second Language Acquisition in Honour of Lydia White, August 31–September 1, 2018. The program is attached. Everyone is invited to attend. You can find the program here.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of our McGill sponsors: Provost’s Research Fund, Dean of Arts’ Development Fund, as well as the Department of Linguistics.

McGill Symposium on the Role of the University in Supporting Indigenous Languages

The McGill Symposium on the Role of the University in Supporting Indigenous Languages will take place this Thursday and Friday, May 10th and 11th, on McGill Campus and in Kahnawà:ke. As noted on the Symposium website:

In response to Call to Action #34 of the Final Report of McGill’s Task Force on Indigenous Education and Indigenous Studies, on May 10th and 11th, the Department of Linguistics and the Office of First Nations and Inuit Education are jointly hosting a symposium examining the role of the university in Indigenous language maintenance and revitalization.

Organized with the support of the Kanien’keháka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Centre, McGill Faculties of Arts and Education, the McGill Indigenous Studies Program, and McGill’s Institute for the Study of International Development, the purpose of this Symposium is to: (a) signal McGill’s commitment to Indigenous languages in this province and (b) examine more closely what role the University should play in supporting the health of Indigenous languages, locally and regionally.

The Symposium will involve both closed-door and public sessions with the goals of establishing a broad consultative body on this question and developing a concrete plan of action for McGill to pursue. Special invitees include Indigenous language teachers, scholars, and university program directors from across Canada.

More details, including information about invitees and panels, can be found on the symposium website.

Jobs for linguists outside academia: 4/18 3-5:30

This Wednesday there will be a special session of the McGill Linguistics Graduate Seminar:

Jobs for linguists outside academia

For everyone who is curious what might be some options outside of academia if you’re a linguist.

Wednesday, April 18 2018, time: 3-5.30pm
Location: Arts Room W-20 (basement of Leacock Building)


Gretchen McCulloch (All things linguistics)
Moti Lieberman (Lingspace)
Madeleine Mees & Marc Fabiani (Nuance)
Fred Mailhot (Ask Media Group)

Please RVSP for better planning here

Semantics Reading Group, Friday April 6th

Bernhard Schwarz and Mathieu Paillé will be giving a practice talk for
WCCFL, on the subject of wh-complements with ‘know’. We will be meeting
on Friday, April 6th at 3pm in room 117.

Colloquium: Susana Béjar, 23/02

Susana Béjar from the University of Toronto will giving a talk entitled “Person, Agree, and Derived Predicates” as part of the McGill Linguistics Colloquium Series on Friday, February 23th 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.

Ph.D Oral Defence, 12/4 – Hye-Young Bang

Hye-Young Bang is defending her Ph.D. dissertation “The structure of multiple cues to stop categorization and its implications for sound change” on Monday, December 4th, 2017 at 1:00 pm in the Arts Bldg. (Rm. 160). The defence will be followed by a reception in the lounge (Rm. 212).

Linguistics at Open House

McGill Linguistics had a table at McGill’s Open House this past Sunday.  Thanks to Claire Bautista, Shannon Fiedler, Fiona Higgins, Hayley Ostrega, Alele Rangel, Nicole Ryan (pictured left), Vicky Svaikovsky and Tea Vincic (pictured right) who volunteered at the event — it was a great success!

Jessica at Public Astro Night

Jessica will be giving a public lecture this week as part of the Astrophysics & Cosmology Public Astro Nights series. The talk will be Thursday, March 17th at 7pm in McIntyre Medical room 522. Weather-permitting, the talk will be followed by night-sky observations.

The Linguistics of Arrival: Aliens, Fieldwork, and Universal Grammar

If aliens arrived, could we communicate with them? How would we do it? What are the tools linguists use to decipher unknown languages? How different can human languages be from one another? Do these differences have bigger consequences for how we see the world?

The recent science-fiction film Arrival touches on these and other real questions in the field of linguistics. In Arrival, linguistics professor Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is recruited by the military to translate the language of the newly-arrived Heptapods in order to answer the question everyone wants to know: why are they here? Language, it turns out, is a crucial piece of the answer.

Jessica Coon, science consultant for the linguistics in Arrival, has never worked with an alien, but will discuss her own fieldwork on Mayan languages, and what these languages can tell us about linguistic diversity and Universal Grammar.

Admitted students open house, 2/23–2/24

We’re having an open house for admitted graduate students later this week on Feb. 23-24. Admitted graduate students will attend classes, a lab tour, and a campus tour; have individual meetings with faculty members; learn about our current graduate students’ research, as well as the faculty members’ research; enjoy a party afterwards, socialize with our current graduate students, etc. Department members can find more details on the final schedule that has been sent out by email. Meanwhile, if you see any new faces wandering the halls, please say hello!

Arrival arrives

Arrival, the new sci-fi movie with a world-saving linguist protagonist, premiered Friday. The Washington Post recently said it’s made linguistics look “almost cool,” and Science Magazine adds that this will our field’s “chance to set the record straight” about linguistics as a science.

Filmed in Montreal and directed by Denis Villeneuve, Arrival filmmakers worked with McGill linguists Jessica Coon, Morgan Sonderegger, and Lisa Travis. A group of Montreal-based linguists got to attend a special pre-release screening in downtown Montreal last Wednesday:

Linguists at Arrival

Linguists at Arrival

Jessica spent the last couple of weeks doing a lot of press interviews. You can read about some of them in the The Wall Street Journal, The New York ObserverThe Montreal Gazette, Wired, PCMag, Metro News, and McGill’s Alumni Magazine.

Jessica also wrote a piece for Museum of the Moving Image on aliens, fieldwork, and Universal Grammar.

You’ll notice an uncanny resemblance between Lisa’s office and the office of Dr. Louise Banks, documented on LanguageLog.

The Banks/Travis office

The Banks/Travis office

And you’ll see Morgan’s spectograms and Heptapod sounds throughout the film.


Departmental Picnic: return to Parc Lafontaine

The rain stopped just in time for linguists to enjoy a beginning-of-the-year departmental picnic in perfect weather in Parc LaFontaine. Delicious food and good conversation were had by all.  Here are some pictures of linguists, and a white squirrel who joined us:

DSC_0160 DSC_0159 DSC_0189

Latex Tutorial announcement

Chris, Gui, and Henrison are hosting a series of informal LaTeX tutorials for the department. These tutorials will be appropriate for those with little to no experience, but they are also planning on covering some non-introductory topics, for those who want to supplement their current knowledge. If you are interested in attending, please email Henrison for any future news.
Sessions will be every Thursday over 4 weeks starting next week (September 15, 22, 29, and October 6) in Room 002 from 2:00 to 3:30. Here’s roughly what each session will cover:
  1. LaTeX basics and getting started, document structure, common formatting
  2. In-depth topics useful for managing larger/multiple projects: bibliographies, custom commands and environments, custom packages and class files, handling larger projects
  3. Creating presentations
  4. Linguistics-specific: Example sentences, trees and tree-like figures, tableaux, mathematical/semantics formulae
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