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Michael at UofT

Michael Wagner presented a keynote talk titled “Toward a Bestiary of the Intonational Tunes of English” at the 4th Intonation Workshop at University of Toronto last Friday, reporting on joint work with McGill PhD alum Dan Goodhue on the on the intonational bestiary.

Moulton and Shimoyama in Glossa

A paper by Keir Moulton (U. Toronto, former McGill post-doc) and Junko Shimoyama just appeared in Glossa. The paper is titled “On the Inverse Trace Conversion and maximal informativeness analysis of Japanese internally-headed relative clauses: A reply to Erlewine and Gould 2016”, and can be found here.

Abstract: In this response to Erlewine & Gould (2016), we argue that an account of internally-headed relative clauses using Inverse Trace Conversion and the maximal informativeness semantics for definites of von Fintel et al. (2014) does not derive the observed interpretations when the internal head is quantified by certain downward entailing quantifiers and derives no interpretation at all for non-monotonic and some upward entailing quantifiers. We then argue that the cases that Erlewine & Gould (2016) claim to be a newly identified interpretation of internally-headed relatives are actually headless relatives.

Michael Wagner at MarantzFest

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


Knowles, Clayards, and Sonderegger in Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

McGill Linguistics alum and current PhD candidate at Western, Thea Knowles, was the lead author on a paper published in the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research along with co-authors Meghan Clayards and Morgan Sonderegger. The paper is titled “Examining Factors Influencing the Viability of Automatic Acoustic Analysis of Child Speech” and is available online here and in preprint form here.

Coon in Journal of Linguistics

Jessica Coon’s article, “Building verbs in Chuj: Consequences for the nature of roots” was just published in the 2019 winter issue of Journal of Linguistics. A preprint is available here.


This paper offers an in-depth look at roots and verb stem morphology in Chuj (Mayan) in order to address a larger question: when it comes to the formation of verb stems, what information is contributed by the root, and what is contributed by the functional heads? I show first that roots in Chuj are not acategorical in the strict sense (cf. Borer 2005), but must be grouped into classes based on their stem-forming possibilities. Root class does not map directly to surface lexical category, but does determine which functional heads (i.e. valence morphology) may merge with the root. Second, I show that while the introduction of the external argument, along with clausal licensing and agreement generally, are all governed by higher functional heads, the presence or absence of an internal argument is dictated by the root. Specifically, I show that transitive roots in Chuj always combine with an internal argument, whether it be (i) a full DP, (ii) a bare pseudo-incorporated NP, or (iii) an implicit object in an antipassive. In the spirit of work such as Levinson (2007, 2014), I connect this to the semantic type of the root; root class reflects semantic type, and semantic type affects the root’s combinatorial properties. This work also contributes to the discussion of how valence morphology operates. In line with works such as Alexiadou, Anagnostopoulou & Schäfer (2006), I argue that valence morphology applies directly to roots, rather than to some ‘inherent valence’ of a verb.

M. Schwarz, Sonderegger, and Goad to appear in Journal of Phonetics

An article by Martha Schwarz (MA alum 2017), Morgan Sonderegger, and Heather Goad has just been accepted to Journal of Phonetics: “Realization and representation of Nepali laryngeal contrasts: Voiced aspirates and laryngeal realism”.

Theories of Laryngeal Realism argue for a tight correspondence between a segment’s phonetic cues and the (laryngeal) phonological features that represent it. As such, the ‘p’/’b’ contrast in French, expressed phonetically by vocal fold vibration during the stop closure, is represented by a [voice] feature while the ‘p’/’b’ contrast in English, expressed phonetically by contrasting long and short lag VOT, is represented by a [spread] feature. Laryngeal realist literature focuses on whether a given segment is best represented by [voice] or [spread], and proposes a set of criteria and tests by which to diagnose the representation. In this study we push laryngeal realist theory in a new direction — to segments proposed to be specified for both [voice] and [spread] features — a combination which poses challenges to the current diagnostics. To do so, we analyze acoustic data from Nepali, an Indo-Aryan language with a single class of stops described as both voiced and aspirated. We apply the same criteria and diagnostics used in laryngeal realism. We find support for the proposed representation, with a caveat that the [voice] feature appears stronger than [spread].

Boberg et al. Handbook of Dialectology

The Handbook of Dialectology, co-edited by Charles Boberg, John Nerbonne, and Dominic Watt was published by Wiley-Blackwell earlier this year.

Bernhard Schwarz at McGill Student Association of Cognitive Science

On November 13, Bernhard gave an invited presentation “How and why: a case study in meaning”  in the Cognitive Science speaker series,x organized by McGill’s Student Association of Cognitive Science. The presentation was based on joint work with Alexandra Simonenko (McGill PhD ’14).
Abstract: The body of literature on the semantics of questions, sparked by classic works from the 1970s and 1980s, is substantial, yet most of this literature focuses narrowly on questions about individuals (Who left?or degrees (How long is it?)In this talk, I will offer some remarks about how– and why-questions like How did you open the door? or Why did the lights go out?. I will discuss why investigating the semantics of such questions is hard, what types of evidence are available to probe their meanings, and I will report on some surprising differences in logical behaviour between different types of how– and why-questions

Michael Wagner in France

Michael is back from at talk at LINGUAE at ENS in Paris, and presenting a joint keynote at the Workshop on Prosody & Meaning and SemDial in Aix en Provence. The talks reported on joint work with Dan Goodhue on their project ‘Toward an Intonational Bestiary‘.

Congratulations Lisa Travis!

Congratulations to Lisa Travis, who will be retiring at the end of this year. Last week, current and former students and colleagues gathered for a surprise party in Lisa’s honour. McGill alums Laura Kalin, Ileana Paul and Jozina Vander Klok presented Lisa with a book of 44 papers written on the occasion of her retirement entitled Heading in the right direction: Linguistic treats for Lisa Travis, which was published by McGill Working Papers in Linguistics and will be available online shortly.

McGill will also host a workshop on parameters in honour of Lisa’s retirement this May. See details and a call for papers here.

Junko Shimoyama at Ottawa

Junko Shimoyama gave a colloquium talk on Friday, Nov. 2 at the University of Ottawa, on positively biased negative polar questions in Japanese and their embeddability. This is joint work with Dan Goodhue (PhD 2018) and Mako Hirotani at Carleton University.

Junko Shimoyama at WAFL

Junko Shimoyama gave an invited talk at the 14th Workshop on Altaic Formal Linguistics (WAFL) at MIT last week (Oct. 19-21), which was preceded by a workshop in honor of Shigeru Miyagawa (Oct. 18). Her talk was titled “Embeddability of biased negative polar questions in Japanese”, which is joint work with Dan Goodhue (PhD 2018) and Mako Hirotani (Carleton University).

Morgan Sonderegger at University of Oregon

Morgan Sonderegger was at University of Oregon’s Department of Linguistics October 25-26, where he gave a workshop entitled “Topics in fitting and using mixed-effects regression models” and a colloquium talk, “Towards larger-scale cross-linguistic and cross-variety studies of speech”.

McGill at NWAV 47

McGill linguists were at New Ways of Analyzing Variation, NWAV 47 last week at NYU where they gave talks and ran a workshop.

  • Integrated Speech Corpus ANalysis – ISCAN: A new tool for large-scale, cross-corpus, sociolinguistic analysis – Jane Stuart-Smith (University of Glasgow), Morgan Sonderegger, James Tanner, Vanna Willerton, Michael McAuliffe (McGill University)


  • Age vectors vs. axes of intraspeaker variation for North American and Scottish English vowel formants  – Mielke, Fruehwald, Thomas, McAuliffeSonderegger and Dodsworth
  • Dialectal and social factors affect the phonetic bases of English /s/-retraction – Stuart-Smith, Sonderegger, Macdonald, McAuliffe and Mielke

Knowles, Clayards, and Sonderegger in Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

The paper “Examining Factors Influencing the Viability of Automatic Acoustic Analysis of Child Speech,” by Thea Knowles (McGill BA 2012; now at Western University), Meghan Clayards and Morgan Sonderegger was published in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Congrats!

Jessica Coon to Liverpool Biennial

Jessica will give a public lecture at the UK Biennial of Contemporary Art in Liverpool later this week. The talk, “Aliens, Fieldwork, and Universal Grammar” is one of ten public lectures during the 15-week event.

McGill at Annual Meeting on Phonology

McGill linguists attended the Annual Meeting on Phonology that took place at UC San Diego on October 5-7. The following posters were presented by current members of the department:
  • “Native and non-native patterns in conflict: Lexicon vs. grammar in loanword adaptation in Brazilian Portuguese” — Natália Brambatti Guzzo
  • “Evidence for a pitch accent in Saguenay French” — Jeffrey Lamontagne, Heather Goad and Morgan Sonderegger
  • “Evidence of phonemicization: Lax vowels in Canadian French” — Jeffrey Lamontagne
In the picture, from left to right:
Natália Guzzo, Marc Garellek (BA 2008), Sara Mackenzie (post-doc 2010-2011), Jeff Lamontagne, Erin Olson (BA 2012), Joe Pater (PhD 1997), Sharon Rose (PhD 1997)

McGill at GALANA

Several papers by members of the Department were presented at GALANA (Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America) in Bloomington, Indiana, Sept. 27–30. Presentations included:
  • “Intervention effects in adult L2 processing of relative clauses” – Vera Xia and Lydia White
  • “Pronoun interpretation in L2 Italian: prosodic effects revisited” – Heather Goad, Lydia White, Guilherme Garcia, Natalia Guzzi, Sepideh Mortazavinia, Liz Smeets, and Jiajia Su
  • “Competence and performance in language acquisition revisited: drawing a fine line” – Keynote talk by Lydia White

Gui Garcia, Lydia White, Liz Smeets, Silvina Montrul, Alan Munn

Lydia White and Vera Xia also presented a poster at EUROSLA, Münster, Germany, Sept. 5-8. on “Intervention effects in L2 representation and processing”.

Simonenko and Schwarz to appear in Natural Language Semantics

Alexandra Simonenko (McGill PhD 2014) and Bernhard Schwarz recently learned that their paper “Factive islands and meaning-driven unacceptability” has been accepted for publication in Natural Language Semantics. Congratulations to both!

Jessica to Calgary

Jessica was at the University of Calgary last week where she gave a colloquium talk, “Feature Gluttony and the Syntax of Hierarchy Effects” (collaborative work with Stefan Keine, USC).

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