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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.

Clint Parker in Iranian Studies

Clint Parker recently published a book review of The Routledge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition and Pedagogy of Persian, which was edited by Pouneh Shabani-Jadidi, senior lecturer of Persian in McGill’s Islamic Studies Department.  The review was published with the journal Iranian Studies and can be found here.

Royer et al. in Tlalocan

A paper by Justin Royer, Pedro Mateo Pedro (U. Toronto), Elizabeth Carolan (BA ’14), Jessica Coon, and Magdalena Torres has been accepted for publication in Tlalocan, a journal that specializes on the documentation of texts and narratives from Indigenous languages of Mesoamerica. The paper is entitled “Atz’am k’ik’ atz’am: The story of Xuwan and a grammatical sketch of Chuj”, and is available on LingBuzz: https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/005630
Abstract: This article and text provide a new take on the San Mateo saltwater sources from the perspective of Xuwan, a San Mateo resident who for her entire life has been working in the extraction, production, and merchandising of atz’am k’ik’ atz’am ‘the black salt’, a culturally-valued good which forms a quintessential aspect of Chuj life and culture. In addition to recounting her experiences with black salt, Xuwan comments on several other aspects of Chuj life, both in the past and in the present. The article is introduced with a short grammar sketch of Chuj, which highlights the prominent grammatical features found in the text.

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.

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.


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]

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]

Justin Royer’s paper to appear in NLLT

Congratulations to Justin Royer, whose paper “Prosody as syntactic evidence: The view from Mayan” has been accepted for publication in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory! The paper is based on Justin’s second PhD Evaluation paper, supervised by Michael Wagner and Jessica Coon. Congratulations Justin!

Abstract: A subset of Mayan languages feature “prosodic allomorphy”, a phenomenon involving morphological alternations at certain prosodic boundaries. In previous work, Henderson (2012) proposes that prosodic allomorphs in K’iche’ provide evidence for non-isomorphisms in the correspondence between syntax and prosody. In this paper, I argue against this view by building on a related extraposition analysis in Aissen 1992. I contribute novel data from prosodic allomorphy from two Mayan languages, Chuj and K’iche’, and show that upon further inspection, there is strong evidence for a syntactic analysis different from the one assumed in Henderson 2012. The new syntax leads to several predictions that are borne out, and crucially, does not force us to posit mismatches, allowing for a one-to-one correspondence between syntax and prosody. By taking apparent instances of mismatches as suggestive that the syntactic analysis must be revisited, the proposal aligns with work such as Steedman 1991, Wagner 2005, 2010, and Hirsch and Wagner 2015. Finally, I discuss how the proposal could be restated within phase theoretic approaches to the interface between syntax and phonology, concluding that Mayan prosodic allomorphy poses an interesting challenge for such accounts.

Kilbourne-Ceron, Clayards, and Wagner published in Laboratory Phonology

A new paper by Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron (PhD ’17), Meghan Clayards, and Michael Wagner was published in the journal Laboratory Phonology:
Kilbourn-Ceron, O., Clayards, M., and Wagner, M. (2020). Predictability modulates pronunciation variants through speech planning effects: A case study on coronal stop realizations. Laboratory Phonology: Journal of the Association for Laboratory Phonology, 11(1).
Abstract: Predictability has been shown to be associated with many dimensions of variation in speech, including durational variation and variable omission of segments. However, the mechanism or mechanisms that underlie these effects are still unclear. This paper presents data on a new aspect of predictability in speech, namely how it affects allophonic variation. We examine two coronal stop allophones in English, flap and glottal stop, and find that their relationship with predictability is quite different from what is expected under current theories of probabilistic reduction in speech. Flapping is more likely when the word that follows is more predictable, but is not influenced by the frequency of the word itself, while glottal stops are more likely in words that are less predictable. We propose that the crucial distinction between these two allophones is how they are conditioned by phonological context. This, we argue, interacts with online speech planning processes and gives rise to variability for context-dependent allophones. This hypothesis offers a specific, testable mechanism for certain predictability effects, and has the potential to extend to other factors that contribute to variability in speech.

Xia, White, and Guzzo in Second Language Research

Vera Yunxiao Xia (BA ’18), Lydia White and Natália Brambatti Guzzo’s article “Intervention in relative clauses: Effects of relativized minimality on L2 representation and processing” was accepted for publication in Second Language Research.

Two new papers from Speech Prosody conference

Two new papers by McGill Linguistics coauthors were published in the proceedings of this years Speech Prosody Conference, held May 25 to August 31, 2020. Videos from the talks can still be found on the conference website.

Gibson, Emma, Francisco Torreira, and Michael Wagner. (2020). The high-fall contour in North American English: A case study in imperatives. In Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020.
Abstract: Imperatives are often uttered with a standard declarative falling contour. However, there are several claims that they can be pronounced with different tunes, leading to different illocutionary as well as attitudinal import. In this paper, we investigate one such tune, which we categorize as the “high-fall contour” and can be described as a nuclear high accent that is often scaled higher (or ‘upstepped’) compared to earlier accents. We show that it is used in the context of “weak” (suggestion-like) and “repeated” or “redundant” imperatives. The “weak” usage of the high-fall seems contradictory in pragmatic flavour to its use in repetitions, which usually sound like definite commands and not suggestions. We test for whether these uses may be distinguishable based on prenuclear patterns, as has been suggested in prior literature, and ultimately do not find evidence to suggest the tunes are distinct. We also observe that, surprisingly, imperative repetition leads to a lengthening of duration.
Martens, Gouming, Francisco Torreira, and Michael Wagner. (2020). Hat contour in Dutch: Form and function. In Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020.
Abstract: The hat contour is an intonation pattern which starts with a rise and ends in a fall. Although most researchers agree that it consists of a rise and fall, there is little consensus about the actual phonological form of this contour. Consequently, theories about the meaning of the hat pattern are very diverse as well.

The current research attempts at gaining a better understanding of the relationship between the form and meaning of one specific hat contour in Dutch: Something we will refer to as the early-fall hat contour. We will test the hypothesis that an early fall encodes the presupposition that there are true alternatives to the asserted proposition.An online rating experiment was set up in which stimuli were manipulated for the timing of the fall (early fall vs. late fall) and the availability of alternative propositions. The results show that as predicted, an early-fall is less acceptable when all alternatives are ruled out than a late fall. Moreover, an early fall is preferred when there are true alternatives, which interprets as an effect of Maximize Presupposition. The effects are very small however, suggesting that more research is needed to understand these effects better. Index Terms: alternative propositions, hat contour, intonational meaning, maximize presupposition.

Heather Goad and Lisa Travis in The Linguistic Review

Heather Goad and Lisa Travis’s paper ”Phonological evidence for morpho-syntactic structure in Athapaskan” was accepted for publication in The Linguistic Review.

Jiang, Clayards, and Sonderegger in Laboratory Phonology

Binger Jiang and co-authors Meghan Clayards and Morgan Sonderegger published a paper in Laboratory Phonology, titled: “Individual and dialect differences in perceiving multiple cues: A tonal register contrast in two Chinese Wu dialects.”


Clint Parker in Glossa

Clint Parker’s article, “Vestigial ergativity in Shughni: At the intersection of alignment, clitic doubling, and feature-driven movement” appeared in the journal Glossa this summer, available here. This paper developed out of Clint’s 1st Eval paper.

Abstract: This paper provides an account of two related aspects of the past-tense morphosyntax of Shughni (Eastern Iranian): (i) the use of second-position clitics, rather than the verbal suffixes of the present tense, to index past-tense subjects’ φ-features; and (ii) a curious alignment pattern – sometimes referred to as vestigial ergativity – in which third-singular subjects of transitive and unergative verbs, but not unaccusative verbs, trigger a second-position clitic matched to their φ-features. After applying a battery of diagnostics to the Shughni clitics, I argue that these morphemes are the result of a clitic-doubling operation rather than agreement proper. A significant clue for this conclusion is the lack of any morphological material co-indexing third-singular unaccusative subjects, which I take to indicate that the past-tense clitics, unlike the present-tense suffixes, lack a default morpheme. This account not only provides support for the validity of diagnostics developed by previous authors for object clitics, but also highlights the importance of including subject clitics when developing a theory of clitic doubling and agreement. In the latter part of the paper, I build upon recent work on the alignment system of Davani (Western Iranian) to provide a feature-driven movement account of Shughni syntax, whereby all unaccusative subjects except third-singular move to a phase edge, where they are found by a probe on T0 and trigger a second-position clitic bearing their φ-features.

Congrats Clint!

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!

Kilbourn-Ceroun, Clayards, and Wagner in Laboratory Phonology

Congratulations to coauthors Oriana Kilbourn-Ceroun (PhD ’17), Meghan Clayards, and Michael Wagner, who have just had their paper “Predictability modulates pronunciation variants through speech planning effects: A case study on coronal stop realizations” accepted for publication in the journal Laboratory Phonology.

Sonderegger, Stuart-Smith, Knowles, Macdonald, and Rathcke in Language

“Structured heterogeneity in Scottish stops over the twentieth century”, a paper by Morgan Sonderegger, Jane Stuart-Smith, Thea Knowles (McGill BA 2012, Asst Prof at U. Buffalo), Rachel Macdonald, and Tamara Rathcke, was published in the March issue Language.  Congrats all!

How and why speakers differ in the phonetic implementation of phonological contrasts, and the relationship of this ‘structured heterogeneity’ to language change, has been a key focus over fifty years of variationist sociolinguistics. In phonetics, interest has recently grown in uncovering ‘structured variability’—how speakers can differ greatly in phonetic realization in nonrandom ways—as part of the long-standing goal of understanding variability in speech. The English stop voicing contrast, which combines extensive phonetic variability with phonological stability, provides an ideal setting for an approach to understanding structured variation in the sounds of a community’s language that illuminates both synchrony and diachrony. This article examines the voicing contrast in a vernacular dialect (Glasgow Scots) in spontaneous speech, focusing on individual speaker variability within and across cues, including over time. Speakers differ greatly in the use of each of three phonetic cues to the contrast, while reliably using each one to differentiate voiced and voiceless stops. Interspeaker variability is highly structured: speakers lie along a continuum of use of each cue, as well as correlated use of two cues—voice onset time and closure voicing—along a single axis. Diachronic change occurs along this axis, toward a more aspiration-based and less voicing-based phonetic realization of the contrast, suggesting an important connection between synchronic and diachronic speaker variation.
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