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McGill at WCCFL 39

McGill linguists presented at the 39th meeting of the West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL 39), hosted virtually by the University of Arizona April 8–11. Presentations involving McGill linguists included:

  • Dan Brodkin and Justin Royer – “Ergative Anaphors and High Absolutive Syntax” Abstract
  • Carol-Rose Little, Juan Jesús Vázquez Álvarez, Jessica Coon, Nicolás Arcos López and Morelia Vázquez Martínez – “Collaborative corpus creation: A Chol case study” Abstract
  • Jonathan Palucci, Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Esmail Moghiseh – “Against Obligatory Wide Scope for Any : Transparency”   Abstract

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.

McGill @ MOTH 2021

The annual Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Hamilton (MOTH) Syntax Conference is scheduled to take place Monday–Tuesday, April 19th and 20th, hosted virtually by McMaster University. You can find the full program and registration information here: https://moth-2021.webnode.com/, including the following talks by McGillians:

  • Jing Ji, (McGill University): A Hybrid Analysis of Chinese Right Dislocation
  • William Johnston, (McGill University): Verb Serialization as Event-Building: Evidence from Hmong
  • Jonathan Palucci, (McGill University): Unifying English causative and experiencer have: the affected argument

Register for free here: https://moth-2021.webnode.com/registration/

Wagner, Iturralde Zurita, and Zhang at CUNY Sentence Processing Conference

Michael, Alvaro (SCSD), and Sijia presented their work on rhythm typology at CUNY this week:

Wagner, Michael, Alvaro Iturralde Zurita, and Sijia Zhang (2021). Two dimensional parsing, the iambic trochaic law, and the typology of rhythm. Short Talk at the CUNY Sentence Processing Conference, UPenn [abstract]  [slides]


McGill @ DGfS 43

McGill was represented at the 43rd Annual Conference of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS 43, Freiburg, February 23-26, 2021), presenting the following talks in two focused workshops:

Aurore Gonzalez and Justin Royer
“Expletive negation and negative polarity: the view from Québec French”
(Workshop on Empirical approaches to canonical and non-canonical uses of negation)

Elizabeth Bogal-Allbritten, Keir Moulton (postdoc 2009-11) and Junko Shimoyama
“Nouny propositions and their individual correlates: the view from Japanese”
(Workshop on the nouniness of propositional arguments)

Bernhard Schwarz at UCL

As part of the UCL Linguistics Seminar series, Bernhard Schwarz gave an invited talk today entitled “Comparisons of concentration and the composition of dimensions”, reporting on on joint work with Alan Bale (Concordia University) and David Shanks (McGill University).

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.

SLUM+LING 215 Linguistics movie nights

The SLUM, together with Carol-Rose Little’s LING 215 (Languages of the World) class, are hosting three upcoming virtual movie nights, featuring movies in Yiddish, Tsotsil, and Haida. See poster below for details! Registration links in the poster are not clickable in this blog post, but are:

  • Menashe – https://mcgill.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcsc-yurzIrHddEEz-Pqc8vfxQMSFGZR8aZ
  • Tote/Abuelo – https://mcgill.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIlcuCgqTMtH9OGDI2-bLoOV2iRDKpHZuAD
  • Edge of the Knife – https://mcgill.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIkd-yrrj8vEt3zOtJHpzynRB658l37Pn4S

Alonso-Ovalle and Royer to appear in Journal of Semantics

A paper by Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Justin Royer has been accepted for publication at the Journal of Semantics. The paper is entitled “Random choice from Likelihood: The case of Chuj (Mayan)”, and is available at the following link on LingBuzz: https://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/005715. Congrats both!

Random choice from Likelihood: The case of Chuj (Mayan)

Abstract: Research on modality has recently broadened beyond the verbal domain, unearthing questions about the cross-categorial nature of modality (Arregui et al., 2017), for instance: To what extent do DP and VP modals mirror each other? Chuj, an understudied Mayan language, provides an ideal vantage point to answer this question with respect to random choice modality. Random choice indefinites convey, roughly, that an agent made an indiscriminate choice. In Chuj, random choice indefinite DPs involve a morpheme (komon) that can also appear as a verbal modifier (Royer and Alonso-Ovalle 2019), inviting a comparison between categories. We argue that both in DPs and VPs, komon conveys information about the likelihood of the event described, but that the modal component of komon is nevertheless tied to its syntactic position. VP-komon conveys that the most expected worlds where the described event happens are no more expected that the most expected worlds where it does not. DP-komon conveys a similar modal component, but hardwires a comparison between the likelihood of the event described, which involves an individual in the extension of the NP, and that of alternative events determined by considering alternative individuals in the extension of that NP. The characterization of the modal component of komon contributes to the characterization of random choice modality and brings into question whether this type of modality should be taken to be a unified category, since none of the previous proposals on the nature of random choice modality tie it to the expression of likelihood.

Linguistics ARIA recipients to present research projects – 1/26

On January 26th, undergraduate recipients of Arts Research Internship Awards (ARIA) will present the results of their summer linguistics research projects. Four linguistics students will be presenting their work, listed below. More information and details for how to attend can be found on the ARIA website: https://www.mcgill.ca/arts-internships/events-0/annual-undergraduate-research-event

  • “The Status of Mid-Level Nuclear Accents in English” – Sijia Zhang (supervised by Francisco Torreira)
  • “The syntax and semantics of counting numerals: the comparison of Mandarin Chinese and Latin counting numerals” – Yingrui He (supervised by Gillon Brendan)
  • “A Computational Model of Phonotactics” – Scarlett Xu (supervised by Timothy O’donnell)
  • “Grammatical Criteria in Malagasy External Possession” – Tallis Clark (supervised by Jessica Coon)

Congratulations all!

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.

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”.

Justin Royer at Going Romance 34

Justin Royer presented joint work with Aurore Gonzalez (Harvard) at Going Romance 34 (held virtually in Paris). Their work was entitled “Expletive negation” as a decomposed NPI in Québec French. 

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.

McGill @ NELS 51

The 51st Annual Meeting of the Northeast Linguistics Society (NELS 51) took place virtually this past weekend, organized by the UQÀM. McGill presenters included:

  • Justin Royer – Subject or possessor? Binding and the ‘Low/High-ABS’ parameter in Mayan
  • Jonathan Palucci & Luis Alonso-Ovalle – Numeral any: In favor of viability

Full conference information can be found here: https://sites.grenadine.uqam.ca/sites/linguistique/en/nels51/

Congratulations Jeff Lamontagne!

Jeff Lamontagne successfully defended his thesis on Sept 25th. Jeff’s thesis is entitled “Interaction in Phonological Variation: Grammatical Insights from a Corpus-based Approach” and it was supervised by Heather Goad and Francisco Torreira. Congratulations Jeff!!
Jeff has already started a tenure-track position in the Department of French & Italian at Indiana University Bloomington. Colleagues, friends, and family gathered by Zoom afterwards to virtually celebrate.

Dissertation defence, 9/25 – Jeff Lamontagne

Jeff Lamontagne will be defending his PhD dissertation, “Interaction in Phonological Variation: Insights from a Corpus-based Approach” on Friday September 25th at 9:15am (following the pre-defence meeting at 9:00). The defence will be live streamed on YouTube at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUqXeDr0Rc1VgEB8IVpQ5TA

All are welcome to attend!

FestEval 2020

This year’s annual FestEval took place via Zoom. Masashi Harada, Jacob Hoover, Will Johnston, Esmail Moghiseh, Matthieu Paillé, Justin Royer, and Michaela Socolof all presented the results from their recent PhD evaluation papers. Congratulations all!



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.

Congratulations Dr. Henrison Hsieh!

Congratulations to Henrison Hsieh, who successfully defended his doctoral dissertation “Beyond nominative: A broader view of A’-dependencies in Tagalog” last week. Photos of the Zoom defense and post-defense virtual celebration are below.

during the defense

post-defense celebration

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