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McGill @ MOTH 2022

McGill linguists of past and present gathered at UQAM last Friday and Saturday for the 10th annual edition of the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Hamilton (MOTH) Syntax Workshop.

Justin Royer gave an invited talk titled “Binding and anti-cataphora in Mayan”. Other talks by McGill grad students included:

  • Terrance Gatchalian – Building Ktunaxa causatives
  • Will Johnston – Directed motion in White Hmong: Serial verb constructions as complex PPs
  • Bernardas Jurevičius – Anaphoricity and referentiality
  • Willie Myers – High-, Low-, and No-absolutive syntax: Effects of object raising in Mam

The full program is available here: https://sites.google.com/view/moth2022/program

Mireille Tremblay (PhD ’91), Richard Compton (Post-doc ’13–’14), Ileana Paul (PhD ’00), Justin Royer, Bernardas Jurevicius, Terrance Gatchalian, Jessica Coon, Lisa Travis, Will Johnston, Willie Myers

McGill @ WCCFL 40

Martina Martinović and Michael Wagner will be presenting at the upcoming West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL 40), hosted virtually by Stanford University May 13–15.

Martina will be presenting a talk titled “[-Person] and [+Person] resumption in Igala”, and Michael will be presenting in the special session on Prosody, Focus, and Ellipsis with a talk titled “Syntactic alternative projection”.

The full program is available here: https://wccfl2022.stanford.edu/program

James Crippen at UQAM

 James Crippen will be giving an invited talk at UQAM (in English) on Wednesday April 13, 2022 from 12:45 to 1:45 pm in DS-3470 (https://carte.uqam.ca/pavillon-ds). Area linguists are welcome!

Title: Space and time in Tlingit: Aspect, motion, and conjugation class

Abstract :
Tlingit verb inflection for aspect is conditioned by four conjugation classes that are identified by three prefixes (n-, g̱-, g-) and their absence (∅). These prefixes occur in a variety of contexts such as the imperative, habitual, consecutive, conditional, and some specialized imperfective forms. For the majority of state, activity, and achievement verbs the selection of prefix is unpredictable and so must be lexically specified. The conjugation prefixes and their corresponding lexically specified conjugation classes are traditionally said to be meaningless; this is a major problem for the compositional semantics and syntax of Tlingit verb morphology. But verbs of motion and handling show correlations between the conjugation classes and spatial orientation: n- is correlated with horizontal movement, g̱- with downward movement, and g- with upward movement. A small class of state verbs (e.g. ‘be distant’, ‘be deep’, ‘be extended’) show similar patterns. I argue that this is not accidental; the same spatial orientations permeate the lexically specified conjugation classes of state, activity, and achievement verbs. The conjugation prefixes also have a dedicated grammatical function beyond conjugation class: in the progressive aspect the n- prefix is used regardless of the verb’s conjugation class and likewise in the prospective aspect the g- prefix is used regardless of conjugation class. I propose that this dedicated use of the conjugation prefixes also reflects their spatial semantics via a metaphorical semantic mapping of time variables to spatial dimensions; it is thus a grammaticalized special case of the universal time → space conceptual metaphor which must fit into a compositional semantics. Finally, I note that there is an apparently distinct, semantically independent four-way contrast of spatial orientation in the nominal domain with determiners, demonstratives, and focus particles and I suggest this reflects a basic conceptual division between the spatial orientation of entities and the spatial orientation of events.

Luis Alonso-Ovalle in Nantes

Luis Alonso-Ovalle has just come back from a week at the Laboratoire de Linguistique of the University of Nantes, France, where he gave a six-hour mini course on intensional semantics and a colloquium talk (‘Singular Bare Interrogatives: a Case for Higher Order Quantification, a Weak Singular and Strong Plural’, joint work with our own Vincent Rouillard, BA ’17.)

Jessica Coon at Harvard

Jessica Coon gave a colloquium talk titled “Constraining Agree” at Harvard last Friday, presenting collaborative work with Stefan Keine (UCLA). The abstract is below:

This talk illustrates how a constrained probe mechanism for Agree combined with the feature gluttony system laid out in Coon & Keine 2021 can account for a wide range of complex phenomena, including: (i) hierarchy effects in agreement; (ii) PCC effects involving clitics; and (iii) patterns in which A’-movement is restricted to targeting the closest DP.  All of these patterns appear to involve defective intervention, in which an element that is not an eligible target for an operation nonetheless blocks that operation from crossing it. We show that a feature gluttony analysis allows us to understand these patterns without appeal to defective intervention. Instead, problems arise not because agreement fails, but rather because Agree is successful with more than one goal. A probe which has participated in Agree with more than one goal may then create problems down the line for the morphology or syntax. We further show that attested patterns of variation in the systems listed above can be handled without appeal to parametric variation in the basic Agree mechanism (e.g. Multiple Agree, Contiguous Agree, Dynamic Interaction). While the core insights of a feature gluttony system are in principle compatible with any of these types of Agree, we aim to derive attested variation not from the mechanics of Agree, but from independent properties in the languages in question. The result is a more constrained syntax, which makes testable predictions about cross-linguistic variation.

Departmental cross-country ski

Wei, Irene, Meghan, Ben, Martina, Terrance, and Jessica on a mini departmental ski trip on Mount Royal

Charles Boberg’s new book published

A new book by Charles BobergAccent in North American Film and Television A Sociophonetic Analysis, has just been published by Cambridge University Press. Congrats Charles!

Drawing on data from well-known actors in popular films and TV shows, this reference guide surveys the representation of accent in North American film and TV over eight decades. It analyzes the speech of 180 film and television performances from the 1930s to today, looking at how that speech has changed; how it reflects the regional backgrounds, gender, and ethnic ancestry of the actors; and how phonetic variation and change in the ‘real world’ have been both portrayed in, and possibly influenced by, film and television speech. It also clearly explains the technical concepts necessary for understanding the phonetic analysis of accents. Providing new insights into the role of language in the expression of North American cultural identity, this is essential reading for researchers and advanced students in linguistics, film, television and media studies, and North American studies, as well as the larger community interested in film and television.

Alonso-Ovalle and Royer AND Bale, Schwarz, and Shanks in Journal of Semantics

The most recent issue of Journal of Semantics (volume 38, issue 4) contains two new articles by McGill linguists, both collaborations between students and faculty members:

Congrats all!

 

McGill @ LSA 2022

McGill linguists presented at this year’s meeting of the Linguistics Society of America, held this past weekend in hybrid format in Washington DC. The full program is available at: https://www.linguisticsociety.org/node/36129/schedule.

Talks:

Posters:

James Crippen interviewed by CBC

James Crippen was interviewed by CBC News in a piece about the lack of updates to the Canadian English Dictionary, emphasizing that it isn’t just English that suffers from a lack of documentation in Canada. You can read the full story here: https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/canadian-english-dictionary-two-decades-1.6291089

Martinović to appear in NLLT

A paper by Martina Martinović titled “Reversibility in specificational copular sentences and pseudoclefts” has been accepted for publication in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory. The abstract is below, and a link to the pre-published version is here: https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/003198. Congrats Martina!

Specificational sentences have long been attracting the attention of researchers, due to their syntactic, semantic and pragmatic characteristics. In this talk I address one property that is claimed to be the hallmark of both specificational copular sentences (“His most important quality is his honesty”) and specificational pseudoclefts (“What is most important about him is his honesty”) – the surface reversibility of their two constituents around the copula.  In the literature, this reversibility is not taken to necessarily indicate syntactic identity between this type of copular sentences and pseudoclefts. Specifically, while the raising of an underlying predicate to the structural subject position is nowadays the standard analysis of specificational copular sentences (e.g. Moro 1997, Mikkelsen 2005, den Dikken 2006), den Dikken et al. (2000) argue that pseudoclefts with the two constituent orders (wh-clause > NP vs. NP > wh-clause) are not derivationally related. 

In Wolof (Niger-Congo) copular sentences, one constituent always A’-moves to Spec,CP, to the specifier of a complementizer that exhibits a subject/non-subject asymmetry. The other constituent is topicalized. The top-heaviness of copular sentences and the morphosyntactic properties of A’-movement in this language provide a window into the syntax of specificational sentences, especially with respect to reversibility. I argue that Wolof pseudoclefts do exhibit syntactic reversibility, in that either the NP or the wh-clause can raise to the structural subject position, contra den Dikken et al. (2000). Specificational copular sentences, on the other hand, do not show the same kind of reversibility. While I do not directly argue against a predicate inversion analysis for specificational copular sentences, I show that a non-inversion analysis can explain an otherwise puzzling pattern in this sentence type.

Shimoyama at UMass Amherst

Junko Shimoyama gave a colloquium talk last Friday at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (virtually) on joint work with Daniel Goodhue (PhD 2018). The title of the talk was “Two types of non-canonical negation in Japanese: reducing one to the other and learning about embedding strategies along the way”.

McGill at TOMILLA 3

McGill linguists traveled to the University of Ottawa last week for the 3rd Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal Indigenous Languages of Latin America (TOMILLA 3) workshop December 3rd and 4th. McGill talks included:

  • Willie Myers – “High, low, and no absolutive Mayan syntax: effects of object raising in heritage Mam” (based on work with McGill BA student Ix Jimenez-Haham)
  • Justin Royer & Jessica Coon – “Object raising bleeds binding: a new correlate of high-absolutive syntax in Mayan”

Justin Royer, Willie Myers, Ix Jimenez-Haham, Jessica Coon, and collaborator Pedro Mateo Pedro (UofT)

Martina Martinović at UQAM

Martina Martinović will give a colloquium talk this Wednesday 11/24 from 12:45-1:45 at UQAM. The talk will be in the De-Sève building, room DS-3470. Note that proof of vaccination is required to attend.
Title: Reversibility in specificational copular sentences and pseudoclefts: Evidence from Wolof
Abstract:
Specificational sentences have long been attracting the attention of researchers, due to their syntactic, semantic and pragmatic characteristics. In this talk I address one property that is claimed to be the hallmark of both specificational copular sentences (“His most important quality is his honesty”) and specificational pseudoclefts (“What is most important about him is his honesty”) – the surface reversibility of their two constituents around the copula.  In the literature, this reversibility is not taken to necessarily indicate syntactic identity between this type of copular sentences and pseudoclefts. Specifically, while the raising of an underlying predicate to the structural subject position is nowadays the standard analysis of specificational copular sentences (e.g. Moro 1997, Mikkelsen 2005, den Dikken 2006), den Dikken et al. (2000) argue that pseudoclefts with the two constituent orders (wh-clause > NP vs. NP > wh-clause) are not derivationally related.

In Wolof (Niger-Congo) copular sentences, one constituent always A’-moves to Spec,CP, to the specifier of a complementizer that exhibits a subject/non-subject asymmetry. The other constituent is topicalized. The top-heaviness of copular sentences and the morphosyntactic properties of A’-movement in this language provide a window into the syntax of specificational sentences, especially with respect to reversibility. I argue that Wolof pseudoclefts do exhibit syntactic reversibility, in that either the NP or the wh-clause can raise to the structural subject position, contra den Dikken et al. (2000). Specificational copular sentences, on the other hand, do not show the same kind of reversibility. While I do not directly argue against a predicate inversion analysis for specificational copular sentences, I show that a non-inversion analysis can explain an otherwise puzzling pattern in this sentence type.

Royer and Coon at FAMLi VI

Justin Royer and Jessica Coon presented collaborative work at the 6th meeting of Form and Analysis in Maya Linguistics (FAMLi VI), which took place in a hybrid format at CIMSUR-UNAM in Chiapas, Mexico November 12th and 13th. The title of their talk was: “Extracción del objeto y el parámetro absolutivo bajo/alto”.

Goad and Travis in The Linguistic Review

Heather Goad and Lisa Travis’s paper ‘Phonological evidence for morpho-syntactic structure in Athapaskan’ has just been published in a special issue of The Linguistic Review on Phonological solutions to morphological problems. The link to the paper is here: https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/tlr-2021-2070/html

McGill at BUCLD

McGill was well represented at the 46th annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (Nov 4-7). The following poster presentations were given by current and former McGillians:

  • Unlearning L1 options and incomplete acquisition: The case of CLLD in Italian and Romanian. Liz Smeets (PhD 2020)
  • Can indirect positive evidence be used in the domain of inflectional morphology? Native English-speaking learners’ understanding of Mandarin plural marking. Ying Li (post-doc 2018-2020) & Heather Goad
  • L2 acquisition of singular/plural interpretation of Japanese bare nouns. Tokiko Okuma (PhD 2015)
  • Does using ‘babytalk’ predict more talking with infants? Infant-directed prosody in the TalkBank LENA corpus. Henny Yeung, Elise McClay (BA Hon 2012) & Emma Hutchinson

McGill @ NELS

McGill linguists will be presenting their work at the upcoming 52nd meeting of the Northeast Linguistics Society (NELS 52), hosted virtually by Rutgers University October 29–31. More information and the full program are available here: https://sites.rutgers.edu/nels-52/.

Talks:

Posters:

Michael Wagner @ Michigan State

Michael Wagner gave a colloquium talk at Michigan State University October 14th titled “Projecting and operating over syntactic alternatives”. The handout is available here: https://osf.io/h9cxn/

Abstract: Many grammatical phenomena have been analyzed based on the assumption that constituents can introduce semantic alternatives, and that these alternatives can project by point-wise semantic composition, following Hamblin’s 1973 analysis of questions.  This talk presents arguments that linguistics expressions can also introduce syntactic alternatives, that these alternatives can “project” in a point-wise fashion to create larger linguistic expressions, and that grammar can operate over sets of linguistic expressions. This syntactic view of alternatives is compatible with Katzir’s 2007 independent arguments that alternatives are, at least sometimes, structural. The evidence comes from data involving prosodic focus, association with focus, disjunction, and coordination.

McGill @ AMP 2021

McGill Linguistics was represented at the Annual Meeting on Phonology 2021, held Oct. 1-3 (virtually) in Toronto:
  • Morgan Sonderegger gave an invited talk, “Corpus studies of variation in obstruent ‘voicing’ across languages and speakers: phonetic variation and implications for phonology”
  • Jeff Lamontagne (PhD ’20, now at Indiana University) gave a talk: “Contrasting Community and Individual Grammars in Laurentian French Laxing”
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