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Syntax-semantics reading group, 10/29 – No Meeting

There will be no syntax-semantics reading group meeting this week. Since NELS is taking place this Friday (and continuing throughout the weekend), everyone is encouraged to attend that instead and listen to some interesting talks! We will resume meeting on Friday, November 5th at 2:30pm.

Syntax-semantics reading group, 10/15 – Jonny Palucci

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, October 15th at 2:30pm. Jonny Palucci will be discussing the paper “Affected Experiencers” by Bosse et al. The paper can be downloaded here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11049-012-9177-1.

Abstract: Numerous languages permit an NP that is not selected by the verb to be added to a clause, with several different possible interpretations. We divide such non-selected arguments into possessor, benefactive, attitude holder, and affected experiencer categories, on the basis of syntactic and semantic differences between them. We propose a formal analysis of the affected experiencer construction. In our account, a syntactic head Aff(ect) introduces the experiencer argument, and adds a conventional implicature to the effect that any event of the type denoted by its syntactic sister is the source of the experiencer’s psychological experience. Hence, our proposal involves two tiers of meaning: the at-issue meaning of the sentence, and some not-at-issue meaning (an implicature). A syntactic head can introduce material on both tiers. Additionally, we allow two parameters of variation: (i) the height of the attachment of Aff, and (ii) how much of the semantics is at-issue and how much is an implicature. We show that these two parameters account for the attested variation across our sample of languages, as well as the significant commonalities among them. Our analysis also accounts for significant differences between affected experiencers and the other types of non-selected arguments, and we also note a generalization to the effect that purely not-at-issue non-selected arguments can only be weak or clitic pronouns.

Syntax-semantics reading group, 10/8 – Zoë Belk

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, October 8th at 2:30pm. Zoë Belk will be presenting joint work with Kriszta Eszter Szendrői, “Word order in Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish”.


Abstract: Yiddish has been variously argued to be an OV language with innovative VO effects, a VO language with remnants of OV characteristics, and even as a mixed VO-OV language where the verb has the ability to govern its nominal object in both directions. Based on novel Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish data, we propose that, whatever the correct analysis of historical varieties of the language, Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish is unequivocally VO. We enumerate the remnant OV characteristics and provide an analysis for them that is compatible with an underlying VO syntax of the VP. Specifically, we show that, unlike historical varieties of the language, Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish does not allow true scrambling while retaining A-bar scrambling for contrastive topicalised or focused constituents; complex predicate formation remains verb final while the VP itself is head initial; and weak pronominal objects are restricted to a position right adjacent to the finite verb, a fact which is orthogonal to the issue of word order in the VP itself.

Syntax-semantics reading group, 10/1 – Michael Wagner

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, October 1st at 2:30pm. Michael Wagner will be presenting his work, “Projecting and Operating over Syntactic Alternatives”.

Abstract: Many grammatical phenomena have been analyzed based on the assumption that constituents can introduce semantic alternatives, and that these alternatives can project in a pointwise fashion, following Hamblin’s 1973 analysis of questions. Katzir (2007) argued that at least sometimes, alternatives are structural. This presentation provides new arguments compatible with this view, which suggest that expressions can introduce syntactic alternatives, that these alternatives can “project” in a pointwise fashion, and that grammar can operate over sets of linguistic expressions. The evidence, some of which from online experiments, comes from data involving disjunction, coordination, and focus.  If true, this raises interesting questions about the architecture of grammar.

Syntax-Semantics Reading Group, 9/24 – Alex Göbel

The first syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, September 24th at 2:30pm. Alex Göbel will be presenting his work, “Accommodation, Global and Local: Experimental Data from English & Vietnamese“. We will also set up the schedule for the semester.


The ability of (some) presuppositions to be accommodated – either relative to the global context when they are not satisfied or locally when embedded under a semantic operator in order to prevent a clash – constitutes an important aspect of semantic theorizing but is empirically not well understood. In this collaborative project with Thuy Bui (Nguyen Tat Thanh University, Vietnam), we were interested in assessing whether global and local accommodation difficulty pattern together across a range of presupposition trigger types – following up on an impressionistic overlap of prior classifications – and if as a result the two accommodation types should be viewed as being rooted in the same underlying mechanism or not. I will present data from three experiments comparing English and Vietnamese to address this issue, additionally contributing an extension to an understudied language and a cross-linguistic perspective.

Please remember to register in advance at the following link: https://mcgill.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZArduGorzMsH9YD9vzVXNnLxjWRfiB6ZLqk. You can also sign up for slots here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1WHtIRQVvHXipoVKlh-0xhHYKuCh55b5CwPqA4n3ueBM/edit#gid=0. Finally, if you did not receive an email from Jonny last Friday (through the group mailing list) and wish to be added to the list, please email him. (jonathan.palucci@mail.mcgill.ca)

Syntax-Semantics Reading Group Meetings

Syntax-Semantics group meetings will take place on Fridays from 14:30-15:30. Our first meeting will take place on September 24th. There will be more information about the first meeting when the date comes closer. In the meantime, you can register in advance for the meetings using this link (you will only need to register once).

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. You can also, start signing up for slots using this link (note that the first two slots are already taken).

Email Jonny Palucci for any questions.

Syntax/semantics reading group scheduling

Syntax/semantics reading group will start off virtually this year. If you’re interested in joining, please fill out the scheduling poll here by September 6th. If you are not a member of the McGill linguistcs department, please also email Jonathan Palucci with your contact information.

Syntax/semantics group, 4/16 – Mathieu Paillé

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, April 16th at 2:30pm. Mathieu Paillé will present a 20-minute talk entitled “Généraliser l’unicité thématique: une alternative à base d’exhaustivité.”

The talk will be in French but following discussion can be in either French or English. The talk is meant for an audience of both syntacticians and semanticists.

Abstract: En général, les propositions simples n’admettent pas plus d’un constituant portant le même rôle thématique; c’est ce qu’on appelle l’unicité thématique (une idée bien connue par la seconde clause du critère thêta de Chomsky (1981), par exemple). On peut observer cela dans une phrase comme #Louise mange avec une fourchette avec une cuillère, où il y a deux instruments. Dans cette présentation, j’argumente que le concept d’unicité thématique est en fait un cas spécial d’un phénomène sémantique plus général. On compare donc le cas de #Certaines lettres pour Amy sont pour Simon (une violation d’unicité thématique) à d’autres effets semblables chez les prédicats simplexes, par exemple #Certaines responsabilités provinciales sont fédérales. Qu’elle soit «thématique» ou «prédicationnelle», je propose que cette unicité provient du renforcement sémantique des constituants en question, mais qu’il s’agit d’une sorte de renforcement particulière: les constituants doivent apparemment être renforcés localement (Chierchia et al. 2012), puisqu’un renforcement global ne créerait pas de contradiction interne à la phrase, et donc aucune illicéité.

Syntax/Semantics Reading Group, 4/9 — Martina Martinović

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, April 9th at 2:30pm. Martina Martinović will be presenting joint work with Dr. Ryan Bochnak (UBC).

Flavours of the future: The case of Wolof di

The auxiliary di in Wolof (Niger-Congo) is associated with several readings: an event-in-progress/progressive reading, a habitual reading, and a future reading. Interestingly, the availability of these readings depends on di’s structural position: when it is below C, all readings are available, but when it is in C, only the future reading is possible. We provide a unified analysis of the readings of di by combining and expanding on several independently motivated analyses for progressives, habituals, and modality. We propose that the behaviour of Wolof di provides new evidence for the idea that modal height correlates with modal flavour (Hacquard 2010, Kush 2011), specifically, that different modal bases are available at different syntactic heights because of the availability of different types of modal anchors. Progressives and habituals crucially involve event-relative circumstantial modality (Portner 1998, Ferreira 2016), and futures are derived from either a circumstantial or epistemic modal base (and give rise to different readings).

Syntax/Semantics Reading Group — Canceled

There will be no Syntax-Semantics reading group this week. The next meeting will take place on Friday April 9th at 2:30pm.

Syntax/Semantics Reading Group, 3/26 — Carol-Rose Little

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, March 26th at 2:30pm before the colloquium. Carol-Rose Little will be presenting some recent work on Ch’ol applicatives.

Abstract: In this talk, I will discuss the applicative morpheme as it shows up in external possession in Ch’ol. On the one hand, the possessor seems to have raised from its position from the theme DP. However, other data suggest that the external possessor and possessee are in fact a DP constituent, raising questions about its status as an external argument in certain contexts.

Syntax/semantics group, 3/19 – Zoë Belk on right-node raising

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, March 19thth at 2:30pm. Zoë Belk will be presenting some recent work on right-node raising.
Abstract: This paper argues, following Barros and Vicente (2011), for a mixed analysis of right-node raising, in which the phenomenon is derived either through ellipsis or through multidominance. It demonstrates that, while right-node raising has properties indicative of ellipsis and of multidominance, the two derivations are not in free variation: in some circumstances, only one derivation is possible. Right-node raising is therefore the result of two distinct derivations that both obey the same word order restrictions. This analysis accounts for a number of syntactic and semantic properties associated with right-node raising.

Syntax/Semantics Reading Group — Canceled

The Syntax-Semantics reading group will not be meeting this week. The next meeting will take place on Friday March 19th at 2:30pm.

Sytax/Semantics group, 2/26 – Masashi Harada presenting Viola Schmitt

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, February 26th at 2:30pm. Masashi Harada will be presenting a recent paper by Viola Schmitt titled “Cumulation Across Attitudes and Plural Projection”. The presentation will be related to the colloquium talk that Viola Schmitt will be giving directly after the reading group. Below is an abstract for the paper.
Abstract: This paper investigates cumulative readings of sentences in which some, but not all of the plural expressions have a de dicto reading, i.e. sentences where the lower plural is interpreted in the scope of an attitude verb like believe. I argue that such cases represent a problem for existing accounts of cumulativity, because the required cumulative relation cannot be formed. I then motivate and propose an alternative analysis where all plural expressions are interpreted in situ: I expand the ‘plural projection’ framework put forth by Haslinger & Schmitt (2018, 2019), Schmitt (2019), where embedded pluralities ‘project’ to the denotations of higher nodes in the sense that the latter reflect the part-structure of the former and where cumulativity is derived via a compositional rule in a step-by-step fashion. I show that if the denotations of the plurals with the de dicto construal are analyzed as pluralities of individual concepts, which project in the afore-mentioned sense to pluralities of propositions, the data can be explained straightforwardly. This proposal differs from treatments in terms of collective belief that don’t appeal to pluralities of propositions (Pasternak 2018a,b), in that it (i) arguably generalizes to a larger number of examples and (ii) links grammatical plurality in the embedded clause to the availability of cumulative readings.

Syntax/semantics group, 2/19 – Hermann Keupdjio on resumptive pronouns in Bamikele (rescheduled)

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, February 19th at 2:30pm. Hermann Keupdjio––rescheduled from last week due to Montreal-wide internet problems––will be presenting his work on the syntax and semantics of resumptive pronouns in Bamileke entiled “Economy of derivation vs economy of interpretation: Resumption in Medumba”. An abstract is here: abstract

Syntax/semantics group, 2/12 – Hermann Keupdjio on resumptive pronouns in Bamikele

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, February 12th at 2:30pm. Hermann Keupdjio will be presenting his work on the syntax and semantics of resumptive pronouns in Bamileke entiled “Economy of derivation vs economy of interpretation: Resumption in Medumba”. An abstract is here: abstract

Syntax/semantics group, 2/5 – Bernhard Schwarz

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday, February 5th at 2:30pm. Bernhard Schwarz will be presenting his recent work with Alan Bale (Concordia) and David Shanks (McGill), ‘Measurement monotonicity and comparisons of concentration’. A precursor of this work can be found at: https://archive.illc.uva.nl/AC/AC2019/uploaded_files/inlineitem/Bale_Schwarz_and_Shanks_Monotonicity_restored_more_.pdf
Abstract: Grammar does not fully determine a measure function for much to invoke when combining with a mass noun, as in more watermore string, or more travel. But certain measure functions are invariably excluded. Schwarzschild (2006) argued that permissible measure functions must be monotonic—they must track the relevant parthood relation between entities in the mass noun’s extension. We draw attention to potential counterexamples to this constraint: comparisons of concentration, comparatives about the concentration of substances in substances that contain them. Such comparatives seemingly reference measure functions that are non-monotonic, as they seem to output degrees of purity or density (Bale and Barner 2009). Extending Bale and Schwarz (2020), however, we argue that they must not in fact be so analyzed. What such cases actually teach us, we propose, is that much can reference Skolemized measure functions—functions that map any individual, their Skolem argument, to a measure function.  Comparisons of concentration can arise when different values serve as Skolem arguments in the main clause and in the comparative clause. Schwarzschild’s constraint, now extended to also apply to the outputs of Skolemized measure functions, can and must be upheld.

Syntax/Semantics group, 1/29 – Mathieu Paillé on homogeneity and plural semanticas

This week’s syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Friday,  January 29th at 2:30pm. Mathieu Paillé will be reviewing some of the literature on homogeneity and plural semantics. Stay tuned for more information closer to the meeting!
Please register for the meetings beforehand at the following link (you will only have to register once, not every week): https://mcgill.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZckfu2urDorGNLIitibwaKV8aF5bholSave
Also, please keep in mind that we will not be meeting every week even though the zoom link says so (in particular February 26th, March 26th, April 16th and April 23rd are all colloquium weeks so we will not meet those days). If you have any problems with registration, please contact Jonny or Justin.

Syntax-semantics meetings – Winter semester scheduling

If you plan on attending syntax-semantics meetings this winter, please fill the following poll by Friday Jan 15th: http://whenisgood.net/xcmtdzz

All are welcome!

Syntax/semantics group, 12/10 – Connie Ting

In this week’s syntax/semantics group meeting on Thursday December 10th at 1:30, Connie Ting will present her current Eval 1 work on Malagasy. All are welcome!

In Malagasy, genitive DPs are bound to a preceding head via a morphological process called N-bonding (Keenan 1995). This process is reported to occur in constructions involving agents of non-active verbs, possessors, and complements of (certain) adjectives and prepositions. In the verbal domain, N-bonding has previously been argued to be tied to the presence of an overt (adjacent) agent (Pearson 2005). However, additional data shows that the N-bonding process is dependent on the presence of D-material (following Travis 2006). Given this, I propose that N-bonding can be explained under a clitic doubling approach, which both allows the analysis to be extended to the nominal domain and draws parallels to the pronominal system in the language.

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