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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.”

https://doi.org/10.5334/labphon.266

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!

Abstract:
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.

Coon and Keine to appear in Linguistic Inquiry

McLing is happy to report that Jessica Coon and Stefan Keine’s paper “Feature Gluttony” has been accepted for publication in the journal Linguistic Inquiry.

Abstract:
This paper develops a new approach to a family of hierarchy effect-inducing configurations, with a focus on Person Case Constraint (PCC) effects, dative-nominative configurations, and copula constructions. The main line of approach in the recent literature is to attribute these effects to failures of phi-Agree or, more specifically, failures of nominal licensing or case checking. We propose that the problem in these configurations is unrelated to nominal licensing, but is instead the result of a probe participating in more than one Agree dependency, a configuration we refer to as feature gluttony. Feature gluttony does not in and of itself lead to ungrammaticality, but rather can create irresolvably conflicting requirements for subsequent operations. We argue that in the case of clitic configurations, a probe which agrees with more than one DP creates an intervention problem for clitic-doubling. In violations involving morphological agreement, gluttony in features may result in a configuration with no available morphological output.

Michael Wagner in Snippets

A new paper by Michael Wagner was recently published in the journal Snippets. The full citation and link are:
Wagner, Michael (2019). Disjuncts must be mutually excludable. Snippets 37.  http://dx.doi.org/10.7358/snip-2019-037-wagn

Clint Parker to appear in Glossa

Congratulations to Clint Parker, whose paper “Vestigial ergativity in Shughni: At the intersection of alignment, clitic doubling, and feature-driven movement” has been accepted for publication in the journal Glossa. The paper is based on his first PhD Evaluation paper, cosupervised by Jessica Coon and Nico Baier. Congrats Clint!

Bale & Schwarz in Linguistics and Philosophy

An article co-authored by Alan Bale and Bernhard Schwarz, titled “Proportional readings of ‘many’ and ‘few’: the case for an underspecified measure function,” has just appeared online in Linguistics and Philosophy. The article can be found online here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10988-019-09284-5

Goad & White in Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism

Heather Goad & Lydia White have just published an epistemological paper ‘Prosodic effects on L2 grammars’ in Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism. The paper, along with 15 commentaries, can be found here: https://www.jbe-platform.com/content/journals/10.1075/lab.19043.goa

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.

Keine, Wagner, and Coon in CJL

A new paper by Stefan Keine, Michael Wagner, and Jessica Coon has just appeared in the newest issue of the Canadian Journal of Linguistics. The paper is titled “Hierarchy Effects in Copula Constructions” and can be accessed online here.

This paper develops a generalization about agreement in German copula constructions described in Coon et al. (2017), and proposes an analysis that ties it to other well-established hierarchy phenomena. Specifically, we show that “assumed-identity” copula constructions in German exhibit both person and number hierarchy effects, and that these extend beyond the “non-canonical” or “inverse” agreement patterns described in previous work on copula constructions (e.g., Béjar and Kahnemuyipour 2017 and works cited there). We present experimental evidence to support this generalization, and then develop an account that unifies it with hierarchy phenomena in other languages, with a focus on PCC effects. Specifically, we propose that what German copula constructions have in common with PCC environments is that there are multiple accessible DPs in the domain of a single agreement probe, the lower of which is more featurally specified than the higher (see, e.g., Béjar and Rezac 2003, 2009; Anagnostopoulou 2005; Nevins 2007). We also offer an explanation as to why number effects are present in German copula constructions but notably absent in PCC effects. We then place our account within the broader context of constraints on predication structures.

Brendan Gillon publishes semantics textbook

Brendan Gillon‘s new textbook Natural Language Semantics: Formation and Valuation was recently published by MIT Press. Congratulations Brendan!

Tanner, Sonderegger, and Torreira in Frontiers in Psychology

McLing is happy to report that a paper co-authored by James Tanner, Morgan Sonderegger, and Francisco Torreira has just been published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. The title is ‘Durational Evidence That Tokyo Japanese Vowel Devoicing Is Not Gradient Reduction’, and is available here: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00821/

Michel Paradis in The Handbook of the Neuroscience of Multilingualism

The Handbook of the Neuroscience of Multilingualism was just published with a special forward by emeritus McGill linguistics professor Michel Paradis. Congratulations Michel!

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