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Welcome new postdoctoral fellow Hermann Keupdjio

McLing is happy to welcome Hermann Keupdjio [kə́pʒʲò], who is joining McGill Linguistics this January as a postdoctoral researcher under the supervision of Prof. James Crippen. Hermann recently graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Ph.D in Linguistics. His research program spotlights the following research areas: (i) theoretical syntax (the mechanics of Move & Agree in relation to A’-movement and A’-agreement); (ii) syntax at the interfaces –– Syntax-Phonology/Phonetics interface (tonal reflexes of A’-movement and their acoustic correlates); Syntax-Semantics interface (Exhaustivity marking, pluralities and pronouns denotation) and Syntax-Pragmatics interface (Polar questions and response particles)  ––; and (iii) syntactic variation (Bamileke dialect variation).
In the context of his postdoctoral research activities at McGill, Hermann will be investigating aspects of information structure and allomorphy (stem variation) in Tlingit, and will also be developing Tlingit language learning materials. Hermann is a Bamileke Medumba speaker-linguist (Grassfield Bantu), but has also conducted research on Nata (Eastern Bantu). When he is not doing linguistics, Hermann is either cooking some African culinary delights or is doing kickboxing.
Welcome Hermann!

Guzzo and Little at LSA and SSILA 2021

McGill postdocs Natália Brambatti Guzzo and Carol-Rose Little each presented their work at this year’s annual meeting of the Linguistics Society of America, which took place virtually January 7–10.

Carol-Rose also presented “Clusivity marking across Mayan languages” at the concurrent 2021 Annual Meeting for the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA).
SSILA will also be awarding Carol-Rose Little and Morelia Vázquez Martínez with a Special Recognition for incorporation of an Indigenous language in their Best Student Presentation award category for their talk entitled “Dimensions of definiteness in Ch’ol: A dialectal comparison”, which Morelia gave entirely in Ch’ol at the 2020 SSILA meeting (with slides in English).

Guzzo and Garcia in Journal of Language Contact

The article ‘Phonological variation and prosodic representation: Clitics in Portuguese-Veneto contact’ by Natália Brambatti Guzzo and Guilherme D. Garcia (PhD ’17) has been published in the Journal of Language Contact.

Guzzo, Natália Brambatti and Guilherme Duarte Garcia. 2020. Phonological variation and prosodic representation: Clitics in Portuguese-Veneto contact. Journal of Language Contact 13(2): 389–427.

Abstract
In a variety of Brazilian Portuguese in contact with Veneto, variable vowel reduction in clitic position can be partially accounted for by the phonotactic profile of clitic structures. We show that, when phonotactic profile is controlled for, vowel reduction is statistically more frequent in non-pronominal than in pronominal clitics, which indicates that these clitic types are represented in separate prosodic domains. We propose that this difference in frequency of reduction between clitic types is only possible due to contact with Veneto, which, unlike standard BP, does not exhibit vowel reduction in clitic position. Contact thus provides speakers with the possibility of producing clitic vowels without reduction, and the resulting variation is used to signal prosodic distinctions between clitic types. We show that the difference in frequency of reduction is larger for older speakers, who are more proficient in Veneto and use the language regularly.

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.

 

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.

Welcome to Montreal postdoctoral fellow, Alexander Göbel!

Alex Göbel, who recently finished his Ph.D. at UMass, just made it across the border to start his postdoc at McGill! He will be working Michael’s prosody.lab, on a postdoc funded through a Feodor Lynen Research Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, as well as funding from a SSHRC Insight grant. Welcome Alex!

Syntax/Semantics reading group, 10/04 – Carol-Rose Little

The syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Thursday October 4th at 1:30pm. If you haven’t done so, please register at the following link to join meetings: https://mcgill.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMsc-uupzMiGNDqNbAYrfn2b0ffCR0GDMJ2?fbclid=IwAR2XsoMQrLoYaaw9iejJJvfGrykVWSAPPegdGF-iiIKT51Yo7dz1eWxPXmM
 
This week, Carol-Rose Little will present work entitled Participant plurals across Mayan and the treatment of features
Abstract
Drawing on data from the morphology of participant plurals across Mayan languages, I argue that we must treat person features as binary, rather than privative. To make the inclusive/exclusive distinction, I argue that Mayan languages utilize the same set of features, but the way these features are spelled out varies across the languages. I present data demonstrating that Mayan languages derive the inclusive/exclusive distinction form a generalized first person plural, and then add morphemes to this form to make a specified inclusive or exclusive form. Some Mayan languages have a more specified inclusive form (e.g., Itzaj), whereas other Mayan languages have a more specified exclusive form (e.g., Ch’ol). I argue that the template utilized across Mayan is best captured under a binary feature approach to person (e.g., Noyer 1992, Watanabe 2013) rather than a privative feature approach to person (e.g., Harley & Ritter 2002). I end with consequences of this analysis for capturing person crosslinguistically.

Syntax/Semantics reading group, 09/24 – Alex Göbel

The first syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Thursday February 24 at 1:30pm. Please register in advance at the following link in order to join meetings: https://mcgill.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMsc-uupzMiGNDqNbAYrfn2b0ffCR0GDMJ2?fbclid=IwAR2XsoMQrLoYaaw9iejJJvfGrykVWSAPPegdGF-iiIKT51Yo7dz1eWxPXmM

For our fist meeting, postdoc Alex Göbel will present work entitled On the role of Focus-sensitivity for a typology of presupposition triggers. We will also set up the schedule for the Semester, so feel free to come with ideas!
Abstract: Presupposition triggers have been noted to make up a heterogeneous set that varies along multiple dimensions. In this presentation, I investigate the role of Focus-sensitivity for such a typology of presupposition triggers. The hypothesis I will be testing is that triggers differ in the mental representations they access depending on whether they are Focus-sensitive or not. For triggers lacking Focus-sensitivity, such as `again’, I hypothesize that their presupposition needs to be entailed by the Common Ground, in line with the classic treatment by Stalnaker. In contrast, Focus-sensitive triggers like `also’ require a linguistic antecedent in the discourse model. I present experimental data evaluating two predictions of this hypothesis. The first prediction is that the salience of the linguistic material satisfying a given presupposition should matter for Focus-sensitive triggers, analogous to how salience affects pronoun processing. In contrast, triggers lacking Focus-sensitivity should not be sensitive to salience in the same way, with a possible analogy being the way in which the order of premises is relevant to the validity of a conclusion in a syllogism. The second prediction is that Focus-sensitive triggers will be harder to globally accommodate than triggers lacking Focus-sensitivity, on the assumption that the Common Ground is subject to cooperative principles that render accommodation a standard practice of communication, whereas constructing the linguistic material required for an antecedent is not subject to those principles. I conclude with some discussion of the broader theoretical implications of the experimental results.

McGill at SULA 2020

Current and former McGill linguists attended the 11th Semantics of Under-represented Languages of the Americas (SULA 11), hosted virtually by El Colegio de México and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, August 4–7, 2020.
Justin Royer gave an invited talk, presenting collaborative work with Luis Alonso-Ovalle, titled “Modal effects in the nominal domain: Lessons from Chuj” based on joint work with Luis Alonso-Ovalle.
Postdoc Carol-Rose Little presented co-authored work with Justin Royer and Mary Moroney (Cornell) entitled “Two types of numeral classifiers: Evidence from Ch’ol, Shan, and Chuj”. 

Tanner, Sonderegger, and Stuart-Smith in Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

An article co-authored by James Tanner, Morgan Sonderegger, and Jane Stuart-Smith has just been published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, available here: https://asa.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1121/10.0001734.

Title: “Structured speaker variability in Japanese stops: Relationships within versus across cues to stop voicing”

Abstract: A number of recent studies have observed that phonetic variability is constrained across speakers, where speakers exhibit limited variation in the signalling of phonological contrasts in spite of overall differences between speakers. This previous work focused predominantly on controlled laboratory speech and on contrasts in English and German, leaving unclear how such speaker variability is structured in spontaneous speech and in phonological contrasts that make substantial use of more than one acoustic cue. This study attempts to both address these empirical gaps and expand the empirical scope of research investigating structured variability by examining how speakers vary in the use of positive voice onset time and voicing during closure in marking the stop voicing contrast in Japanese spontaneous speech. Strong covarying relationships within each cue across speakers are observed, while between-cue relationships across speakers are much weaker, suggesting that structured variability is constrained by the language-specific phonetic implementation of linguistic contrasts.

Congrats all!

Welcome new postdoc Carol-Rose Little!

Carol-Rose Little is joining the McGill Department of Linguistics as a postdoctoral researcher, supervised by Jessica Coon and Lisa Travis. She recently graduated from Cornell University with a Ph.D. in linguistics and two minors in American Indian and Indigenous Studies and Cognitive Science.

Carol-Rose’s research program brings together syntax, semantics and morphology, rooted in a strong commitment to fieldwork and language documentation. She investigates possible structural variations crosslinguistically and how these structures interface with semantic computation. Her theoretical analyses draw on data collected from fieldwork with understudied languages, namely Ch’ol (Mayan: Chiapas, Mexico) and Mi’gmaq (Algonquian: Quebec, Canada). Topics she has recently worked on include subextraction, (in)definiteness, verb-initial word order, and the inclusive/exclusive distinction. When she is not working, she enjoys running and dancing.

Welcome aboard Carol-Rose!

Goad, Guzzo, and White in Studies in Second Language Acquisition

Heather Goad, Natália Guzzo and Lydia White’s paper, “Parsing Ambiguous Relative Clauses in L2 English: Learner Sensitivity to Prosodic Cues” has been accepted for publication in Studies in Second Language Acquisition. Congrats all!

Wagner & McAuliffe in Journal of Phonetics

A new paper has  just been published in the Journal of Phonetics:
Wagner, Michael & Michael McAuliffe (2019): The effect of focus prominence on phrasing. Journal of Phonetics 77https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2019.100930
Prosody simultaneously encodes different kinds of information about an utterance, including the type of speech act (which, in English, often affects the choice of intonational tune), the syntactic constituent structure (which mainly affects prosodic phrasing), and the location of semantic focus (which mainly affects the relative prosodic prominence between words). The syntactic and semantic functional dimensions (speech act, constituency, focus) are orthogonal to each other, but to which extent their prosodic correlates are remains controversial. This paper reports on a production experiment that crosses these three dimensions to look for interactions, concentrating on interactions between focus prominence and phrasing. The results provide evidence that interactions are more limited than many current theories of sentence prosody would predict, and support a theory that keeps different prosodic dimensions representationally separate.

McGill at Tübingen Exhaustivity Workshop

McGill linguists were at Workshop Exhaustivity in Questions and Answers – Experimental and theoretical approaches, June 13-14, 2019 at Tübingen University. Francesco Paolo Gentile and Bernhard Schwarz presented “An argument that higher order wh-quantification is over existential only” and Aron Hirsch and Bernhard Schwarz presented “Singular which, mention-some, and variable scope uniqueness.”

Punting on the Neckar

McGill at SALT 29

McGill linguists traveled to California last week for the 29th meeting of SALT (Semantics and Linguistic Theory), held May 17th–19th at UCLA. Talks and posters by McGill affiliates included:

  • Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Esmail Moghiseh – Neutralizing Free Choice Items via Domain Restriction: Farsi -i Indefinites
  • Aron Hirsch and Bernhard Schwarz – Singular “which”, mention-some, and variable scope uniqueness
  • Bernhard Schwarz, Alexandra Simonenko (PhD ’14), and David Oshima – Factive islands from necessary blocking

The full program can be found here. Some current and former McGill linguists gathered for a photo:

McGill @ SALT: Bernhard, Esmail, Luis, mitcho Erlewine (postdoc ’14–
’15), Aron, Maayan Adar (MA ’14)

Jessica Coon in Florida

Jessica Coon was at the University of Florida in Gainesville April 5-6 for the 5th Florida Linguistics Yearly Meeting (FLYM) where she gave a plenary talk, presenting collaborative work with Nico Baier and Ted Levin. The title of her talk was titled: “Mayan Agent Focus and the Ergative Extraction Constraint”. A new manuscript of this work is available here.

Amazigh Workshop talks, 3/21 – Achab, Baier, Ouali, Fahloune

This Thursday and Friday McGill  will host a Workshop on Amazigh languages, featuring 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.
Thursday, the talks will be held in Leacock 738
All are welcome! Below, find the titles/times of the four long talks for the conference. For a detailed scheduled and abstracts for the talks, please visit the workshop website.
Thursday, March 21st (Leacock 738)
1:00 — 2:00:  Karim Achab (University of Ottawa) — Diachronic and Synchronic Account of Anti-Agreement in Amazigh Languages
2:00 — 3:00: Hamid Ouali (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) — On Tense and Aspect in Tamazight
3:30 — 4:30:  Khokha Fahloune (UQAM) — Retour sur les marqueurs sujet et objet en kabyle
4:30 — 5:30: Nico Baier (McGill University) — Person Case Constraint Effects in Kabyle

Please feel free to drop by for any of the talks.

McGill at LSA 2019

The Annual Meeting of the Linguistics Society of America took place this past weekend in New York, and McGill linguists were there presenting. Presentations by current affiliates included:

  • Nico Baier – Anti-agreement in Selayarese
  • Aron Hirsch and Uli Sauerland (ZAS) – Adverbs in collective conjunctions
  • Jeffrey LaMontagne – Acoustic evidence of phonemicization: Lax high vowels in Quebec French

Nico Baier at UofT

Postdoctoral researcher Nico Baier was at the University of Toronto last week where he gave an invited talk “Unifying anti-agreement and wh-agreement.”

Welcome new postdocs!

Nico Baier recently received his PhD in Linguistics from UC Berkeley. At McGill this year he’ll be doing a post-doc with Jessica Coon working on agreement and anti-agreement in Kabyle, a Berber language of Algeria. His research interests are in theoretical syntax, morphology, and typology, with particular focus on agreement and extraction and their interaction.

Ying Li did her PhD degree in Linguistics at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne and her research interests lie primarily in Second Language Acquisition, particularly in the acquisition of L2 phonology, phonetics, and morphology. Her postdoctoral research, supervised by Heather Goad, explores prosodic transfer in a case where the grammar of the language being learned is a subset of the native language grammar. This study is funded by China Scholarship Council.

Returning post-docs include Michael McAuliffe, Natalia Brambatti Guzzo, and Aron Hirsch.

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