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McGill at WSCLA 2016

A subset of the current and past McGill affiliates attending WSCLA 2016 this year at UQÀM, co-organized by Richard Compton and Heather Newell.

back row: Carol-Rose Little (BA '12), Colin Brown (MA), Lauren Clemens (Post-doc '14-'15), Jessica Coon, Lisa Travis, Gretchen McCulloch (MA '13) front row: Emily Elfner (Post-Doc '12–'14), Cora Lesure (BA '15), Henrison Hsieh, Hadas Kotek, Elise McClay (BA '12), Heather Newell (PhD '08), Gustavo Beritognolo (MA '08)

back row: Carol-Rose Little (BA ’12), Colin Brown (MA), Lauren Clemens (Post-doc ’14-’15), Jessica Coon, Lisa Travis, Gretchen McCulloch (MA ’13)
front row: Emily Elfner (Post-Doc ’12–’14), Cora Lesure (BA ’15), Henrison Hsieh, Hadas Kotek, Elise McClay (BA ’12), Heather Newell (PhD ’08), Gustavo Beritognolo (MA ’08)

McGill at MOLT

McGill Linguistics was well represented at this year’s Montreal-Ottawa-Laval-Toronto Phonology Workshop (MOLT), which took place this past weekend at Carleton University. There were talks by graduate students, lecturers, postdocs, alumni, and faculty. The full program can be found here.

  • Guilherme Garcia & Natália Brambatti Guzzo – Second language acquisition of word-level prominence in English by Canadian French speakers
  • Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron, Michael Wagner, Meghan Clayards – The effect of production planning locality on external sandhi: a study in /t/
  • Donghyun Kim, Meghan Clayards, Heather Goad – Patterns of individual differences in second language vowel perception
  • Jeff Lamontagne – Mid-Vowel Features and Allophony in Laurentian French
  • Michael McAuliffe, Morgan Sonderegger, Michael Wagner – A system for unified corpus analysis, applied to polysyllabic shortening across 12 languages
  • Peter Milne – The variable pronunciations of word-final consonant clusters in a force aligned corpus of spoken French
  • Heather Newell (PhD 2004) – The pathology of level-specific morpho-phonology


Ling-Tea, 3/8 – Hadas Kotek

Hadas Kotek will present in this week’s Ling-Tea, Tuesday 3/8 from 1pm–2:30 in room 117. Note that this will be an extended 90 minute Ling-Tea for a practice talk.
Title: Most: architecture, evidence, and variation
Abstract: Formal semantic analyses often take words to be minimal building blocks for the purposes of meaning composition. However, work on syntax and morphology has converged on the view that the unit of the “word” should not receive a special status. In this talk, I argue for the same conclusion for the compositional semantics of superlatives, concentrating in particular on the superlative quantifier most. I present a series of experimental studies supporting the conclusion that most is decomposed into a gradable predicate many and a superlative morpheme –est, and uncover a previously unnoticed micro-variation among English speakers in their interpretation of most. I argue that these findings lend support to the unified analysis of “most (of the)” as in Mary climbed most of the mountains and “the most” as in Mary climbed the most mountains in Heim (1999) and Hackl (2009). More broadly, I discuss questions of modularity and methodology in linguistics, and conclude that investigating the interaction between the meaning, structure, and real-time use of language can illuminate underlying theoretical primitives in the architecture of grammar.
**This is a practice job talk, all are welcome!**

Sepideh and Liz at Pscychoshorts

Sepideh Mortazavinia and Liz Smeets presented their work at Psychoshorts 2016, which took place in Ottawa February 27th. Sepideh presented a poster related to her thesis work entitled “Second language acquisition of Even”, and Liz gave a talk on Ultimate Attainment at the syntax-discourse interface, using evidence from L2 acquisition of object movement in Dutch.
Liz, Sepideh, and recent McGill post-doc Meg Grant at Psychoshorts

Liz, Sepideh, and recent McGill post-doc Meg Grant at Psychoshorts

Hadas Kotek’s paper to appear in Glossa

Hadas Kotek‘s paper “Covert partial wh-movement and the nature of derivations” has just been accepted for publication with Glossa: Special Issue on Syntactic Computation. Here is a link to the latest version on Lingbuzz: http://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/002541/. Congratulations Hadas!

Colloquium, 11/20 – Meaghan Fowlie

Speaker: Meaghan Fowlie (McGill)
Date & Time: Friday, November 20th at 3:30 pm
Place: ARTS Bldg. room 260
Title: Modelling and Learning Adjuncts

Adjuncts have among their properties optionality and iterability, which are usually accounted for with a grammar in which the presence or absence of an adjunct does not affect the state of the derivation. For example, in a phrase structure grammar with rules like NP -> AP NP, we have an NP whether or not we have an adjective. However, certain adjuncts like adverbs and adjectives are often quite strictly ordered, which cannot be accounted for with a model that treats a phrase the same regardless of the presence of another adjunct: whether or not a particular adjunct has adjoined affects whether or not another adjunct may adjoin. I present a minimalist model that can handle all of these properties.

In terms of learning, I cover three topics: language learning algorithms and how they handle optionality and repetition; an artificial language learning experiment about repetition, and, just for fun, the use of machine learning to analyse the song of the California Thrasher, showing that their unbounded repetition lends itself much better to a human-language-like grammar than simple transitional probabilities.

Meaghan Fowlie at Workshop on Minimalist Parsing

Postdoctoral fellow Meaghan Fowlie gave an invited talk at Computation, Language, Biology: Workshop on Minimalist Parsing held at MIT October 10th and 11th. The title of her talk was “Parsing Adjuncts”, and the slides can be found on her website.

Hadas Kotek at IATL

This week postdoctoral fellow Hadas Kotek will be presenting a talk at the Israeli Association for Theoretical Linguistics (IATL). The title of her talk is: “On the semantics of wh-questions”.


Hadas Kotek in Amsterdam and Leiden

Hadas Kotek spent last week as a guest of the Institute for Logic, Language, and Computation (ILLC) at the University of Amsterdam. This week she is visiting the University of Leiden, where she will be giving a colloquium talk titled “Pervasive intervention and the architecture of grammar”.

McGill at Sinn und Bedeutung 20

McGill is well-represented at Sinn und Bedeutung (SuB) 20 at the University of Tübingen, Germany, this week (Sept. 9-12, 2015).
  • Elizabeth Bogal-Allbritten (UMass, postdoc-to-be with Junko Shimoyama and Keir Moulton (SFU, former postdoc)): Constructing beliefs and desires (talk)
  • Brian Buccola: Severing maximality from ‘fewer than’: evidence from genericity (talk)
  • Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine (NUS, recent postdoc) and Hadas Kotek : Relative pronoun pied-piping, the structure of which informs the analysis of relative clauses (talk)
  • Aron Hirsch (MIT, McGill BA) : A compositional semantics for wh-ever free relatives (poster)
  • Edwin Howard (MIT, McGill BA) : The pragmatics of verb-initial conditional antecedents in English (poster)
  • Anna Howell (Tübingen, McGill BA) : A Hamblin semantics for alternative questions in Yoruba (poster)
  • Hadas Kotek : On the semantics of wh-questions (poster)
  • Junko Shimoyama: Syntactic and semantic connectivity in afterthought right dislocation, sluicing and fragments (invited talk) joint work with Alex Drummond (Queen Mary Univ. of London, recent postdoc), Bernhard Schwarz and Michael Wagner

Ling-Tea, Hadas Kotek – 9/1

Hadas Kotek will be presenting joint work with Michael Erlewine at the first Ling-Tea of the Fall 2015 semester. This will be presenting a practice talk for Sinn und Beteutung. If you would like to present at a future Ling-Tea, please email Colin Brown!

Coordinates: Tuesday 9/1, 1:00pm–2:00pm in Linguistics 117

Title: Relative pronoun pied-piping, the structure of which informs the analysis of relative clauses

In this talk we argue that restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses have a fundamentally different semantic interpretation: while restrictive relatives are property-denoting, non-restrictive relatives are proposition-denoting. The evidence motivating this claim comes from a consideration of Relative Pronoun Pied-Piping, concentrating specifically on the behavior of intervention effects inside RPPP in non-restrictive relatives. Intervention effects have been shown in previous work to distinguish regions of Rooth-Hamblin alternative computation from regions where covert movement has taken place (Sauerland & Heck 2003, Cable 2007; 2010, Kotek & Erlewine, to appear, Erlewine & Kotek 2014). We show that RPPP, like pied-piping in wh-questions, is sensitive to intervention effects.
We propose that while a movement strategy is used for the interpretation of restrictive RCs, in non-restrictive relatives, relative pronouns are interpreted in-situ within the pied-piped constituent at LF, using Rooth-Hamblin alternative computation. This bring RPPP in line with other instances of pied-piping in wh-questions and focus constructions, allowing for a uniform semantics for pied-piping (cf Cable 2007; 2010).  To derive the non-intersective meaning of the relative clause, we propose that the relative pronoun projects a singleton alternative set, corresponding to the RC’s antecedent. Following Demirdache (1991), we treat this antecedent as an E-type anaphor. This allows us to directly derive the proposition denoted by the RC, without first computing the corresponding property, as is done in the case of restrictive relatives. This proposal helps explain two differences between restrictive and non-restrictive relatives in English. First, why non-restrictive relatives can only be constructed using relative pronouns, whereas restrictive relatives also have a that/∅ complementizer option. Second, why RPPP in these RCs can be substantially larger than in restrictive RCs, and why only restrictive RCs are sensitive to islands.

What McGill linguists did this summer…

McGill was well-represented at the 2015 LSA Institute.  Grads Hye-Young Bang, Guilherme GarciaDan GoodhueBing’er JiangOriana Kilbourn-CeronDejan Milacic and alums Elise McClay and Erin Olson (BA ’12) were participants; alums Gretchen McCulloch (MA ’13) and Yuliya Manyakina (MA ’15) ran satellite events; Morgan Sonderegger co-taught a course on modeling sound change.  Here are most of them:

mcgill_3 (1)

McGill was also well-represented at ICPhS 2015 in Glasgow, described in a separate post.

Hye-Young Bang  gave talks at the International Conference on Korean Linguistics and at ICPhS, in addition to attending the LSA Institute.

Colin Brown spent a good portion of his summer in the Pacific Northwest doing research on the Gitksan language. He reunited with two consultants as well as UBC’s Gitksan lab in Vancouver, BC, before traveling to Gitksan territory for two weeks, where he worked with ten consultants in 4 villages, hiked to a glacial waterfall, and attended a (8 hour!!) stone raising feast. Upon his return to Vancouver he attended the 50th annual International Conference on Salish and Neighbouring Languages (ICSNL) at UBC.

photo from the NW

Jessica Coon spent two weeks in Chiapas with Lauren Clemens (SUNY Albany, recent McGill Post-doc), Ryan Bennett (Yale), and Cora Lesure (McGill BA). They ran two experiments in two different Ch’ol-speaking towns. One was a perceptual study, and the other was a production experiment designed to test focus-marking strategies, set up with help from Michael Wagner and with new pictures created by McGill undergraduate Blare Coughlin. The pictures are available for public use, with credit to Blare, and can be downloaded here.

Cora, Morelia, Ryan, Jessica, and Lauren

McGill BA student Nadia Famularo, recent graduate Madeleine Mees, and Tibetan consultant Tashi Wangyal, traveled to UC Santa Barbara last week to present collaborative work at ICSTLL: The International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages and Linguistics. The work grew out of the 2014 Field Methods class on Tibetan. The title of their talk (with Jessica Coon, who could not attend) was “Ergative marking in Dharamsala Tibetan”.

Maddie, Nadia, and Tashi between talks in Santa Barbara

Maddie, Nadia, and Tashi between talks in Santa Barbara

Guilherme Garcia finished writing a book chapter on Quebec French and English stress with Natália Brambatti Guzzo and collected data in Brazil, in addition to attending the LSA Institute.

At the beginning of May, Brendan Gillon returned from a half year sabbatical, which he spent at National Chengchi University, in Taipei, Taiwan. During his four months there, he gave seven talks on topics in linguistics and in philosophy, two of which he managed to give in his very rusty Chinese. Later, while in Paris as a member of the jury for a CNRS Habilitation he gave a talk, entitled “Quel contenu sémantique ont les classificateurs en chinois (mandarin)?” at a workshop at the Sorbonne organized by Francis Corblin.



Heather Goad finished her term as Associate Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the end of August. Together with Misha Schwartz (BA 2014), she submitted one journal article and one conference proceedings paper on the kinds of evidence available to learners when acquiring a subset grammar in phonology. She also finished two book chapters and one conference proceedings paper on the grammar and acquisition of sC clusters. Together with James Tanner (MA 2015) and Kate Shaw (BA in progress), she worked on extending the Prosodic Transfer Hypothesis to the processing of inflectional morphology.

Henrison Hsieh attended the 13th International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics (13-ICAL) in Taipei, Taiwan this past July, as well as some of the talks held by the Linguistics Department at the University of the Philippines Diliman for their Linguistics Month activities. In addition to learning more about a lot of the current work in Austronesian linguistics, Henrison met many of the Austronesianists active in and around the Austronesian-speaking region. He is excited for opportunities to collaborate with them in the future.

Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron‘s proceedings paper from WCCFL 32, “Almost: scope and covert exhaustification” is now available online at http://www.lingref.com/cpp/wccfl/32/index.html. Oriana also attended the LSA (see above) and ICPhS (other post).

Donghyun Kim gave talks at the 2015 Linguistic Society of Korea and  the 2015 Korean Society of Speech Sciences meetings, entitled “Developmental trajectories in the acquisition of novel vowel contrasts” and “The acquisition of new vowel contrasts by Korean learners of English: A longitudinal study” (both with Meghan Clayards and Heather Goad).

Mellon postdoctoral fellow Hadas Kotek presented in Generative Syntax in the Twenty-first Century: The Road Ahead in Athens, Greece, and participated in the SIAS Summer Institute: In the Armchair, in the Field, and in the Lab, which took place in Berlin. Hadas also had a number of publications: her paper on the syntax/semantics of most appeared in Natural Language Semantics (joint work with Martin Hackl and Yasutada Sudo). Her paper describing turktools, a set of free, open-source tools appeared online in Natural Language & Linguistic Theory (joint work with recent McGill post-doc Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine), and her paper on relative pronoun pied-piping and the syntax of restrictive vs. non-restrictive relative clauses will appear in the Proceedings of CLS 51 (PDF; joint work with Michael Y. Erlewine).

Jeff Lamontagne also gave a talk at CLA, entitled “A variationist analysis of vowel fronting in Laurentian French”.

Junko Shimoyama presented a poster at the CLA annual meeting at the Univ. of Ottawa, on her ongoing project with Alex Drummond (UMass Amherst), Bernhard Schwarz and Michael Wagner, titled “A no-source puzzle for clausal ellipsis in right dislocation, sluicing and fragments”.






Michael Erlewine to Singapore

Congratulations to current postdoctoral fellow Michael Yoshitaka Erlewine who has accepted a position as Assistant Professor at the National University of Singapore, beginning in July. Please join McLing in wishing him a fond farewell!

Lauren Clemens to SUNY Albany

McLing would like to bid a fond farewell to postdoctoral fellow Lauren Clemens, who will be leaving McGill to take up a tenure-track Assistant Professor position at the University at Albany, State University of New York’s program in Linguistics and Cognitive Science. Her new position begins September 1st. Congratulations Lauren!

Kotek, Sudo, and Hackl in Natural Language Semantics

Postdoc Hadas Kotek‘s paper “Experimental investigations of ambiguity: the case of most” just appeared online in Natural Language Semantics. The paper is joint work with Yasutada Sudo and Martin Hackl and can be found here.

Erlewine and Kotek at CLS

Postdoctoral fellows Michael Erlewine and Hadas Kotek presented at the 51st meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society last week. The title of their joint talk was “Relative pronoun pied-piping, the structure of which informs the analysis of relative clauses”. The full program can be found here.

McGill at GLOW

PhD student Michael Hamilton and postdoc Hadas Kotek are returning from presenting work at the 38th Generative Linguistics in the Old World (GLOW) conference, held April 15–18th in Paris. Hadas gave a talk titled “Inervention Everywhere!”, and Mike presented a poster, “Feature Inheritance in Clausal and Verbal Domains: Evidence from Mi’gmaq”. Welcome back!

Hadas and Mike

Hadas and Mike, GLOWing

Lauren Clemens in Toronto

Postdoc Lauren Clemens was at the University of Toronto last week where she gave an invited talk titled “The possibilities and limitations of using prosodic phrasing as a diagnostic for syntactic structure: A look at Chol and Niuean”. The abstract can be found here.

McGill at upcoming GLOW and WCCFL

McGill linguists will travel to Vancouver for WCCFL 33 later this month, to be held at Simon Frasier University. Heather Goad will give a plenary talk titled “Phonotactic evidence from typology and acquisition for a coda+onset analysis of initial sC clusters“. PhD student Guilherme Duarte Garcia will give a talk “Stress and gradient weight in Portuguese.” Here is the rest of the program.

In April, PhD student Michael Hamilton and post-doctoral fellow Hadas Kotek will both head to Paris for GLOW. Mike’s talk will be “Feature Inheritance in clausal and verbal domains: Evidence from Mi’gmaq”, and Hadas’s is titled “Intervention everywhere“.  The full program can be found here.

Lauren Clemens to Stony Brook

Post-doctoral fellow Lauren Clemens heads to Stony Brook University this week for a colloquium talk. The title of her talk is “The possibilities and limitations of using prosodic phrasing to diagnose different V1 derivations”, and the abstract is below.

Abstract: This talk explores the possibilities and limitations for using prosodic phrasing as a diagnostic for syntactic structure in the context of two verb-initial (V1) languages – Chol (Mayan) and Niuean (Austronesian, Malayo-Polynesian, Oceanic) – that display similar patterns of word order variation (Coon 2010; Massam 2001). To date, no consensus has emerged among syntacticians about how to derive V1 order, but three approaches have received particularly widespread support: 1) right-branching specifier, 2) head movement and 3) VP-fronting. These three syntactic analyses make different predictions for prosodic structure, which can be cached out in Match Theory (Selkirk 2011). Match Theory posits violable constraints calling for isomorphism between syntactic and prosodic constituents. Here, I argue that the right-branching specifier account should be rejected in favor of a movement account based on the prosodic realization of different V1 structures in these languages. However, prosodic arguments alone cannot reliably distinguish between the two movement accounts under consideration (head movement and VP-fronting). Instead, I show how prosodic arguments can be used in conjunction with syntactic arguments to solve problems of syntactic structure and constituency, suggesting that V1 order is derived via head movement for both languages.

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