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Summer news round-up, part II

Here is Part 2 of what McGill linguists did this summer:
  • Heather Goad and Lisa Travis‘s paper Phonological evidence for morpho-syntactic structure in Athapaskan appears on-line first in The Linguistic Review. Abstract available at: https://www.degruyter.com/journal/key/tlir/0/0/html
  • Ruth Martinez (BA Hon 2013), Heather Goad and Michael Dow’s paper L1 phonological effects on L2 (non-)naïve perception: A cross-language investigation of the oral-nasal vowel contrast in Brazilian Portuguese was accepted for publication in Second Language Research. The abstract appears here:
Feature-based approaches to acquisition principally focus on second language (L2) learners’ ability to perceive non-native consonants when the features required are either contrastively present or entirely absent from the first language (L1) grammar. As features may function contrastively or allophonically in the consonant and/or vowel systems of a language, we expand the scope of this research to address whether features that function contrastively in the L1 vowel system can be recombined to yield new vowels in the L2; whether features that play a contrastive role in the L1 consonant system can be reassigned to build new vowels in the L2; and whether L1 allophonic features can be ‘elevated’ to contrastive status in the L2. We examine perception of the oral-nasal contrast in Brazilian Portuguese listeners from French, English, Caribbean Spanish, and non-Caribbean Spanish backgrounds, languages that differ in the status assigned to [nasal] in their vowel systems. An AXB discrimination task revealed that, although all language groups succeeded in perceiving the non-naïve contrast /e/-/ẽ/ due to their previous exposure to Quebec French while living in Montreal, Canada, only French and Caribbean Spanish speakers succeeded in discriminating the naïve contrast /i/-/ĩ/. These findings suggest that feature redeployment at first exposure is only possible if the feature is contrastive in the L1 vowel system (French) or if the feature is allophonic but variably occurs in contrastive contexts in the L1 vowel system (Caribbean Spanish). With more exposure to a non-native contrast, however, feature redeployment from consonant to vowel systems was also supported, as was the possibility that allophonic features may be elevated to contrastive status in the L2.
  • BA student Jack Ryan did a summer ARIA internship with Jessica Coon, focused on hierarchy effects and omnivorous number agreement in Onondaga.
 

 

Summer news round-up, part 1

Here is part 1 of our summer news round-up. It’s not too late to send McLing your summer news for inclusion in next week’s digest! Please email your news to mcling.linguistics@mcgill.ca.

  • Jessica Coon‘s paper with Nico Baier (post-doc ’18–’19) and Ted Levin was published in the June issue of the journal Language. The paper is titled “Mayan agent focus and the ergative extraction constraint: Facts and fictions revisited”, and is available here: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/794875.
  • Jessica’s term as Director of McGill’s Indigenous Studies and Community Engagement Initiative ends this month. As part of this work, this summer Jessica helped organize a summer speaker series, Owén:na Tewahthá:rahkw (Let’s Talk about Language) with the advanced Kanien’kéha learners’ group Ionkwahronkha’onhátie’. The series brought speakers in to talk about topics of interest relating to language learning and linguistics.
  • James Crippen has a forthcoming article “Cross-dialectal synchronic variation of a diachronic conditioned merger in Tlingit”, co-authored with Amanda Cardoso and Gloria Mellesmoen of UBC. It has been accepted for publication as part of a special issue in Linguistic Vanguard.
  • James is now settled in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory where he is working with the Yukon Native Language Centre on the documentation and revitalization of Yukon First Nations languages. As part of this collaboration, this fall he will be teaching an introduction to Tlingit grammar, supervising a Tlingit student doing an independent study on Tlingit narrative and discourse, and advising a group of advanced Tlingit language learners.
  • Terrance Gatchalian was awarded an Endangered Language Fund Language Legacies grant as the project manager for “Ktunaxa teaching materials development and printing”. This grant will fund the creation of digital and physical learning materials for the Ktunaxa language with Violet Birdstone and Elise McClay (McGill BA ’12).
  • Martina Martinović‘s paper “Feature geometry and head-splitting in the Wolof clausal periphery” was accepted for publication in Linguistic Inquiry. A pre-published version is available on LingBuzz.
  • Martina also received an SSH Development Grant, “Igala language: Documentation and Grammatical Analysis”.
  • Michael Wagner gave a Keynote talk at a workshop on information theory at University of Saarbrücken on July 15 2021, titled “Why predictability is not predictive without a linguistic theory and a theory of processing. The case of external sandhi.” This presentation  reported on joint work with PhD alum Oriana Kilbourn-Ceron and others.

Michael Wagner in McGill Newsroom Q&A

McGill Newsroom covered Michael’s research on the iambic trochaic law that recently appeared in the Psychological Review, titled “Two-dimensional parsing of the acoustic stream explains the Iambic–Trochaic Law”. Read the full Q&A here.

Martinez, Goad, and Dow accepted in Second Language Research

Ruth Martinez (BA 2013), Heather Goad & Michael Dow’s paper “L1 phonological effects on L2 (non-)naïve perception: A cross-language investigation of the oral-nasal vowel contrast in Brazilian Portuguese” has been accepted for publication in Second Language Research.

Abstract: 

Feature-based approaches to acquisition principally focus on second language (L2) learners’ ability to perceive non-native consonants when the features required are either contrastively present or entirely absent from the first language (L1) grammar. As features may function contrastively or allophonically in the consonant and/or vowel systems of a language, we expand the scope of this research to address whether features that function contrastively in the L1 vowel system can be recombined to yield new vowels in the L2; whether features that play a contrastive role in the L1 consonant system can be reassigned to build new vowels in the L2; and whether L1 allophonic features can be ‘elevated’ to contrastive status in the L2. We examine perception of the oral-nasal contrast in Brazilian Portuguese listeners from French, English, Caribbean Spanish, and non-Caribbean Spanish backgrounds, languages that differ in the status assigned to [nasal] in their vowel systems. An AXB discrimination task revealed that, although all language groups succeeded in perceiving the non-naïve contrast /e/-/ẽ/ due to their previous exposure to Quebec French while living in Montreal, Canada, only French and Caribbean Spanish speakers succeeded in discriminating the naïve contrast /i/-/ĩ/. These findings suggest that feature redeployment at first exposure is only possible if the feature is contrastive in the L1 vowel system (French) or if the feature is allophonic but variably occurs in contrastive contexts in the L1 vowel system (Caribbean Spanish). With more exposure to a non-native contrast, however, feature redeployment from consonant to vowel systems was also supported, as was the possibility that allophonic features may be elevated to contrastive status in the L2.

Wagner to appear in Psychological Review

Michael Wagner‘s paper ‘Two-dimensional parsing of the acoustic stream explains the iambic-trochaic law’ has been accepted for publication at Psychological Review. A preprint is available at https://osf.io/rwbyh/files/ 

Abstract: In a sequence of otherwise equal sounds, listeners tend to hear a series of trochees (groups of two sounds with an initial beat) when every other sound is louder; they tend to hear a series of iambs (groups of two sounds with a final beat) when every other sound is longer. The paper presents evidence that this so-called ‘Iambic-Trochaic Law’ (ITL) is a consequence of the way listeners parse the signal along two orthogonal dimensions, grouping (Which tone is first/last?) and prominence (Which tone is prominent?). A production experiment shows that in speech, intensity and duration correlate when encoding prominence, but anticorrelate when encoding grouping. A model of the production data shows that the ITL emerges from the cue distribution based on a listener’s predicted decisions about prominence and grouping respectively. This, and further predictions derived from the model, are then tested in speech and tone perception. The results show that intensity and duration are excellent cues for grouping and prominence, but poor cues for the distinction between iamb and trochee per se. Overall, the findings illustrate how the ITL derives from the way listeners recover two orthogonal perceptual dimensions, grouping and prominence, from a single acoustic stream.

Guzzo and Garcia in Glossa

Postdoc Natália Brambatti Guzzo and Guilherme D. Garcia (PhD ’17) just had an article accepted for publication at Glossa: a journal of general linguistics. The title of the paper is ‘Gradience in prosodic representation: Vowel reduction and neoclassical elements in Brazilian Portuguese’. The preprint is available for download on Open Science Framework: 10.31219/osf.io/548gv.

Bale, Schwarz, and Shanks to appear in Journal of Semantics

Alan Bale (PhD ’06), Bernhard Schwarz, and David Shanks (incoming MA student) recemtly learned that their paper “Monotonicity revisited: mass nouns and comparisons of purity” has been accepted for publication in Journal of Semantics. A prepublished version of the paper is available at: https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/005928. Congratulations all!

Abstract: Comparatives with “more” plus mass noun, like “John has more milk than Bill”, are naturally analyzed as referencing measure functions, functions like volume or weight that map individuals to degrees. Although such measure functions vary with context as well as the choice of mass noun, there are well known grammatical limitations on this variation. In particular, Schwarzschild (2006) proposes that only monotonic measure functions can enter into the interpretation of comparatives with more plus mass noun. While this Monotonicity Constraint has strong empirical support, Bale and Barner (2009) have drawn attention to data that seemingly contradict it. For example, “There is more gold in the ring than in the bracelet” can be evaluated based on whether the ring is made from purer gold than the bracelet. This seems to suggest that comparatives with more plus mass noun can reference purity, yet purity is non-monotonic (Schwarzschild 2006, Wellwood 2015). Building on Solt (2018) and Bale and Schwarz (2019), we show here that comparisons of purity can be credited to monotonic proportional measure functions, thereby reconciling Bale and Barner’s observation with the Monotonicity Constraint. We provide independent support for this proposal, establishing that reference to the relevant monotonic proportional measure functions, but not to purity, yields meanings that accurately track speakers’ truth value judgments. Our analysis commits us to the assumption that the main clause and the comparative clause can invoke different measure functions. We propose that this is made possible by Skolemization and binding. That is, we posit function-denoting expressions which contain variables that have different binders in the two clauses.

 

 

Natália Guzzo in Journal of Child Language

Postdoc Natália Brambatti Guzzo’s article “Revisiting the Acquisition of Onset Complexity: Affrication in Québec French” has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Child Language. The preprint is available on Open Science Framework: https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/m7xys. Congrats Natália!

Royer in Canadian Journal of Linguistics

A paper by Justin Royer has been accepted for publication at the Canadian Journal of Linguistics. The paper is entitled “Decomposing definiteness: Evidence from Chuj”. The paper is based on Justin’s first PhD evaluation paper, supervised by Jessica Coon and Aron Hirsch. A pre-published version is available here: https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/005828. Congrats Justin!

Abstract: This paper explores the realization of definiteness in Chuj, an underdocumented Mayan language. I show that Chuj provides support for recent theories that distinguish between weak and strong definite descriptions (e.g. Schwarz 2009, 2013; Arkoh and Matthewson 2013; Hanink 2018; Jenks 2018). A set of morphemes called “noun classifiers” contribute a uniqueness presupposition, composing directly with nominals to form weak definites. To form strong definites, I show that two pieces are required: (i) the noun classifier, which again contributes a uniqueness presupposition, and (ii) extra morphology that contributes an anaphoricity presupposition. Chuj strong definites thus provide explicit evidence for a decompositional account of weak and strong definites, as also advocated in Hanink 2018. I then extend this analysis to third person pronouns, which are realized in Chuj with bare classifiers, and which I propose come in two guises depending on their use. On the one hand, based on previous work (Postal 1966, Cooper 1979, Heim 1990), I argue that classifier pronouns can sometimes be E-type pronouns: weak definite determiners which combine with a covert index-introducing predicate. In such cases, classifier pronouns represent a strong definite description. On the other hand, I argue based on diagnostics established in Bi and Jenks 2019, that Chuj classifier pronouns sometimes arise as a result of NP ellipsis (Elbourne 2001, 2005). In such cases, classifier pronouns reflect a weak definite description.

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.

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.

 

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.

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