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McGill at WCCFL 39

McGill linguists presented at the 39th meeting of the West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL 39), hosted virtually by the University of Arizona April 8–11. Presentations involving McGill linguists included:

  • Dan Brodkin and Justin Royer – “Ergative Anaphors and High Absolutive Syntax” Abstract
  • Carol-Rose Little, Juan Jesús Vázquez Álvarez, Jessica Coon, Nicolás Arcos López and Morelia Vázquez Martínez – “Collaborative corpus creation: A Chol case study” Abstract
  • Jonathan Palucci, Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Esmail Moghiseh – “Against Obligatory Wide Scope for Any : Transparency”   Abstract

Bernhard Schwarz promoted to Full Professor

McLing is very pleased to report that Bernhard Schwarz has been promoted to Full Professor. Congratulations Bernhard!

Michael Wagner at UPenn

Michael gave a colloquium talk at UPenn on March 25, titled “Two dimensional parsing and the iambic-trochaic law”.
Abstract:
The ‘Iambic-Trochaic-Law’ of rhythmic perception holds that alternating long and short sounds are perceived as sequences of binary groups with final prominence; alternating soft and loud sounds as sequences of binary groups with initial prominence. This talk reports on experiments that illustrate how the ITL emerges from the way listeners parse the signal along two in principle orthogonal perceptual dimensions, grouping and prominence. Evidence from production experiments shows that intensity and duration correlate when cueing prominence (syllables carrying word stress or focal stress are loud and long) and anti-correlate when cueing phrasing (word-final and phrase-final syllables are soft and lengthened, word- and phrase-initial syllables are loud). Listeners exploit this cue relation when deciding what aspects of the signal to attribute to each dimension. Syllables that are excessively long are perceived as final and prominent (leading to the perception of iambs), syllables that are excessively loud as initial and prominent (leading to the perception of trochees), but these two cases (which the ITL is based on) are only a small part of the more general pattern, to which the notions of iamb and trochee are not central. The decisions about grouping and prominence are orthogonal in principle, but they compete for explaining overlapping cues, and they mutually constrain each other.  This perspective on prosodic parsing raises new questions about why exactly we often even perceive a rhythm when listening to sequences of acoustically identical tones or syllables (a phenomenon called ‘subjective rhythm’), as well as about rhythmic differences between languages.

Michael Wagner in GLOW “targetted collaborative debate”

Michael will debate Arto Anttila (Stanford) in a “Targeted Collaborative Debate” on April 16 at the upcoming 44th meeting of Generative Linguistics in the Old World (GLOW 44) conference, held virtually.
Arto Anttila (Stanford University) and Michael Wagner (McGill):  “What is deaccentuation?”
https://glowlinguistics.org/44/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2021/02/abstract-debate-deaccentuation.pdf
The full program is available here: https://glowlinguistics.org/44/program/

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.

Wagner, Iturralde Zurita, and Zhang at CUNY Sentence Processing Conference

Michael, Alvaro (SCSD), and Sijia presented their work on rhythm typology at CUNY this week:

Wagner, Michael, Alvaro Iturralde Zurita, and Sijia Zhang (2021). Two dimensional parsing, the iambic trochaic law, and the typology of rhythm. Short Talk at the CUNY Sentence Processing Conference, UPenn [abstract]  [slides]

 

McGill @ DGfS 43

McGill was represented at the 43rd Annual Conference of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS 43, Freiburg, February 23-26, 2021), presenting the following talks in two focused workshops:

Aurore Gonzalez and Justin Royer
“Expletive negation and negative polarity: the view from Québec French”
(Workshop on Empirical approaches to canonical and non-canonical uses of negation)

Elizabeth Bogal-Allbritten, Keir Moulton (postdoc 2009-11) and Junko Shimoyama
“Nouny propositions and their individual correlates: the view from Japanese”
(Workshop on the nouniness of propositional arguments)

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).

Alonso-Ovalle and Royer to appear in Journal of Semantics

A paper by Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Justin Royer has been accepted for publication at the Journal of Semantics. The paper is entitled “Random choice from Likelihood: The case of Chuj (Mayan)”, and is available at the following link on LingBuzz: https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/005715. Congrats both!

Random choice from Likelihood: The case of Chuj (Mayan)

Abstract: Research on modality has recently broadened beyond the verbal domain, unearthing questions about the cross-categorial nature of modality (Arregui et al., 2017), for instance: To what extent do DP and VP modals mirror each other? Chuj, an understudied Mayan language, provides an ideal vantage point to answer this question with respect to random choice modality. Random choice indefinites convey, roughly, that an agent made an indiscriminate choice. In Chuj, random choice indefinite DPs involve a morpheme (komon) that can also appear as a verbal modifier (Royer and Alonso-Ovalle 2019), inviting a comparison between categories. We argue that both in DPs and VPs, komon conveys information about the likelihood of the event described, but that the modal component of komon is nevertheless tied to its syntactic position. VP-komon conveys that the most expected worlds where the described event happens are no more expected that the most expected worlds where it does not. DP-komon conveys a similar modal component, but hardwires a comparison between the likelihood of the event described, which involves an individual in the extension of the NP, and that of alternative events determined by considering alternative individuals in the extension of that NP. The characterization of the modal component of komon contributes to the characterization of random choice modality and brings into question whether this type of modality should be taken to be a unified category, since none of the previous proposals on the nature of random choice modality tie it to the expression of likelihood.

Two new LING courses for Winter 2021

Registration has just opened for two new Linguistics courses to be taught by incoming professor James Crippen this winter: an introductory undergraduate course LING 211 (Introduction to Indigenous Languages) and a mixed gradute/undergraduate course, LING 411/511 (Structure/Analysis of an Indigenous Language).

Coon, Baier, and Levin to appear in Language

A paper by Jessica Coon, Nico Baier (McGill postdoc ’18–’19), and Ted Levin has been accepted for publication in the journal Language. The paper is titled “Mayan Agent Focus and the Ergative Extraction Constraint: Facts and Fictions Revisited”, and is available on LingBuzz.

Abstract: Many languages of the Mayan family restrict the extraction of transitive (ergative) subjects for focus, wh-questions, and relativization (A’-extraction). We follow Aissen (2017b) in labelling this restriction the ergative extraction constraint (EEC). In this paper, we offer a unified account of the EEC within Mayan languages, as well as an analysis of the special construction known as Agent Focus (AF) used to circumvent it. Specifically, we propose that the EEC has a similar source across the subset of Mayan languages which exhibit it: intervention. The intervention problem is created when an object DP structurally intervenes between the A’-probe on C and the ergative subject. Evidence that intervention by the object is the source of the problem comes from a handful of exceptional contexts which permit transitive subjects to extract in languages which normally ban this extraction, and conversely, a context which exceptionally bans ergative extraction in a language which otherwise allows it. We argue that the problem with A’-extracting the ergative subject across the intervening object connects to the requirements of the A’-probe on C: the probe on C is bundled to search simultaneously for [A’] and [D] features. This relates the Mayan patterns to recent proposals for extraction patterns in Austronesian languages (e.g. Legate 2014; Aldridge 2017b) and elsewhere (van Urk 2015). Specifically, adapting the proposal of Coon and Keine (to appear), we argue that in configurations in which a DP object intervenes between the probe on C and an A’-subject, conflicting requirements on movement lead to a derivational crash. While we propose that the EEC has a uniform source across the family, we argue that AF constructions vary Mayan-internally in how they circumvent the EEC, accounting for the variation in behavior of AF across the family. This paper both contributes to our understanding of parametric variation internal to the Mayan family, as well as to the discussion of variation in A’-extraction asymmetries and syntactic ergativity cross-linguistically.

 

Lydia White listed among top 2% of most cited academics worldwide

James McGill Professor Emeritus Lydia White appears on a recently published list of the top 2% of academics in the world, as determined by citation indicators (Ioannidis, J., Boyack, K. and Baas, J. 2020. Updated science-wide author databases of standardized citation indicators. PloS Biol 18(10).) There were almost 160,000 names in the top 2%, so presumably almost 8 million researchers were fed into the indicators. 460 McGill researchers made it onto the list. Congratulations, Lydia!

Alonso-Ovalle and Menéndez-Benito in Blackwell Companion to Semantics

Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Paula Menéndez-Benito’s handbook article on free choice items, to appear in the The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Semantics, went online in November at the publisher’s website:

Alonso-Ovalle, Luis and Paula Menéndez-Benito  (2021). Free Choice Items and Modal Indefinites. The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Semantics, First Edition. Edited by Daniel Gutzmann, Lisa Matthewson, Cécile Meier, Hotze Rullmann, and Thomas Ede Zimmermann.

Bernhard Schwarz in Blackwell Companion to Semantics

Bernhard’s handbook article on adjectival modification, to appear in the The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Semantics, went online in September at the publisher’s website:

Schwarz, Bernhard (2021). Nonlocal Adjectival Modification “The wrong number”. The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Semantics, First Edition. Edited by Daniel Gutzmann, Lisa Matthewson, Cécile Meier, Hotze Rullmann, and Thomas Ede Zimmermann. [https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/9781118788516.sem114]

Martina Martinović at UChicago

Martina Martinović presented her work on control and restructuring in an invited talk at the University of Chicago on November 20th. The title and abstract are below:

Control and restructuring in Wolof

This research explores the phenomenon of control in the Niger-Congo language Wolof, which has the following properties. First, Partial Control is not possible in Wolof; all control predicates exhibit only Exhaustive Control. Second, all control predicates in Wolof exhibit restructuring properties, both those that cross-linguistically generally restructure, and those that have been argued to never restructure. I argue that these properties give support to Grano’s (2012, 2015) claim that there are two strategies for establishing control: one that results in Exhaustive Control (for Grano, following Cinque (2004), this is raising), and another that results in Partial Control (involving a PRO). I argue that Wolof only has the former strategy. While Wolof does not have direct evidence that the strategy resulting in Exhaustive Control involves raising, it does offer some indirect support for this claim. First, I show that all non-finite complements involve a reduced clausal size, and propose that this allows for raising to proceed from all such structures. Second, only predicates that do not take direct objects participate in control: subject control over an object, as well as object control, are not possible. It has long been noted that restructuring/Exhaustive Control verbs are only monotransitive verbs (Kayne 1989, Cinque 2004), which has been taken as an argument for the functional status of such verbs. I argue that lexical verbs must also be allowed to involve raising of embedded subjects. Raising to object, even if it exists (as convincingly argued in Postal 1974), appears to be cross-linguistically rare. If Exhaustive Control is raising, and raising to object is not found in Wolof, this explains the absence of object control. And finally, I show that there is no independent evidence for PRO in Wolof.

Coon and Royer in Nominalization volume

Jessica Coon and Justin Royer contributed a chapter to a recently-published Oxford University Press volume, Nominalization: 50 Years on from Chomsky’s Remarks, celebrating the 50-year anniversary of Chomsky’s “Remarks on Nominalization”. The title of their chapter is “Nominalization and Selection in Two Mayan Languages”.

Jessica Coon and Justin Royer in “Headless Relative Clauses in Mesoamerica”

Articles by Jessica Coon and Justin Royer appeared in the recently-published Oxford University Press volume, “Headless Relative Clauses in Mesoamerican Languages“, edited by Ivano Caponigro, Harold Torrence, and Roberto Zavala. The volume is the result of a series of workshops which took place in Chiapas Mexico in 2017 and 2018. The volume contains 15 chapters covering headless relative clauses in different languages of Mesoamerica; Justin’s article focuses on Chuj, and Jessica’s article, coauthored with Juan Jesús Vázquez Álvarez (CIMSUR-UNAM) focuses on Ch’ol. Details of the project can be found here: https://sites.google.com/view/mesoamerican.

Michael Wagner in Semantics Companion

Michael’s handbook article on prosodic focus, to appear in the upcoming Semantics Companion, has gone online on Nov 4 at the publisher’s website:

Wagner, Michael (2021). Prosodic focusTheWiley Blackwell Companion to Semantics, First Edition. Edited by Daniel Gutzmann, Lisa Matthewson, Cécile Meier, Hotze Rullmann, and Thomas Ede Zimmermann. [doi]

Michael Wagner at the 61st Annual Conference of the Psychonomic Society

Michael Wagner recently presented a poster, “Encoding a semantic contrast requires phonological contrast in English but not in French” at the 61st Annual Conference of the Psychonomic Society on Nov 19 2020.

Can a homophone antecedent cause deaccentuation?

It turns out yes. See the full poster for more.

Jessica Coon at Leipzig and UCLA

Jessica Coon presented collaborative work with recent postdoctoral fellow, Nico Baier, and with Ted Levin at two invited talks recently: November 11th at Leipzig University, and November 20th at UCLA. The title and abstract are below. A manuscript version is available on LingBuzz: https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/004545.

“Mayan Agent Focus and the Ergative Extraction Constraint”

Many languages of the Mayan family restrict the extraction of transitive (ergative) subjects for focus, wh-questions, and relativization (Ā-extraction). We follow Aissen (2017) in labelling this restriction the ergative extraction constraint (EEC). In this paper, we offer a unified account of the EEC within Mayan languages, as well as an analysis of the special construction known as Agent Focus (AF) used to circumvent it. Specifically, we propose that the EEC has a similar source across the subset of Mayan languages which exhibit it: intervention. The intervention problem is created when an object DP structurally intervenes between the Ā-probe on C and the ergative subject. Evidence that intervention by the object is the source of the problem comes from a handful of exceptional contexts which permit transitive subjects to extract in languages which normally ban this extraction. We argue specifically that the problem with Ā-extracting the ergative subject across the intervening object connects to the requirements of the Ā-probe on C: the probe on C is bundled to search simultaneously for [Ā] and [D] features. Adapting the proposal of Coon and Keine (to appear), we argue that in configurations in which a DP object intervenes between the probe on C and an Ā-subject, conflicting requirements on movement lead to a derivational crash. This paper both contributes to our understanding of parametric variation internal to the Mayan family, as well as to the discussion of variation in Ā-extraction asymmetries and syntactic ergativity cross-linguistically.

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