Archive for the 'Student news' Category

Bozic in Linguistic Inquiry

Congratulations to Jurij Božič, who has recently learned that his paper ‘Strictly Local Impoverishment: An Intervention Effect’ has been accepted for publication by Linguistic Inquiry. An earlier version of the paper can be found on Lingbuzz.

McGill at NWAV 47

McGill linguists were at New Ways of Analyzing Variation, NWAV 47 last week at NYU where they gave talks and ran a workshop.

  • Integrated Speech Corpus ANalysis – ISCAN: A new tool for large-scale, cross-corpus, sociolinguistic analysis – Jane Stuart-Smith (University of Glasgow), Morgan Sonderegger, James Tanner, Vanna Willerton, Michael McAuliffe (McGill University)


  • Age vectors vs. axes of intraspeaker variation for North American and Scottish English vowel formants  – Mielke, Fruehwald, Thomas, McAuliffeSonderegger and Dodsworth
  • Dialectal and social factors affect the phonetic bases of English /s/-retraction – Stuart-Smith, Sonderegger, Macdonald, McAuliffe and Mielke

McGill at Annual Meeting on Phonology

McGill linguists attended the Annual Meeting on Phonology that took place at UC San Diego on October 5-7. The following posters were presented by current members of the department:
  • “Native and non-native patterns in conflict: Lexicon vs. grammar in loanword adaptation in Brazilian Portuguese” — Natália Brambatti Guzzo
  • “Evidence for a pitch accent in Saguenay French” — Jeffrey Lamontagne, Heather Goad and Morgan Sonderegger
  • “Evidence of phonemicization: Lax vowels in Canadian French” — Jeffrey Lamontagne
In the picture, from left to right:
Natália Guzzo, Marc Garellek (BA 2008), Sara Mackenzie (post-doc 2010-2011), Jeff Lamontagne, Erin Olson (BA 2012), Joe Pater (PhD 1997), Sharon Rose (PhD 1997)

McGill at GALANA

Several papers by members of the Department were presented at GALANA (Generative Approaches to Language Acquisition North America) in Bloomington, Indiana, Sept. 27–30. Presentations included:
  • “Intervention effects in adult L2 processing of relative clauses” – Vera Xia and Lydia White
  • “Pronoun interpretation in L2 Italian: prosodic effects revisited” – Heather Goad, Lydia White, Guilherme Garcia, Natalia Guzzi, Sepideh Mortazavinia, Liz Smeets, and Jiajia Su
  • “Competence and performance in language acquisition revisited: drawing a fine line” – Keynote talk by Lydia White

Gui Garcia, Lydia White, Liz Smeets, Silvina Montrul, Alan Munn

Lydia White and Vera Xia also presented a poster at EUROSLA, Münster, Germany, Sept. 5-8. on “Intervention effects in L2 representation and processing”.

McGill at Sinn und Bedeutung 23

McGill Linguists, past and present, attended Sinn und Bedeutung 23, hosted by the Centre de Lingüística Teòrica at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, on September 5-7, 2018. Presentations included:

  • Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Esmail Moghiseh – Contradiction-Free Strengthening and Alternative Discharge: Persian -i Indefinites
  • Amir Anvari, Brian Buccola (PhD McGill 2016) and Andreas Haida – Alternative questions in Farsi
  • Alan Bale (PhD McGill 2006) and Bernhard Schwarz – Reverse proportionality without context dependent standards.
  • Daniel Goodhue (PhD McGill 2018) – High negation questions and epistemic bias.

Brian, Luis, Dan, and Bernhard at SuB 23

Welcome 1st year graduate students!

Jacob Hoover is interested in formal linguistics and logic, and has an undergraduate background in mathematics. He is starting the graduate program at McGill after ten years of a career as a ballet dancer, and is also curious about the structure of nonlinguistic communication such as dance.

William Johnston‘s interests are in syntax, semantics, and the cognitive science of language. He completed a B.A. in linguistics at Carleton College.

Esmail Moghiseh‘s research interests lie primarily in semantics and pragmatics, and he is also interested in philosophy of language. He earned a master’s degree in engineering from Concordia University, and completed his second degree, B.A. in Linguistics, at McGill University

Michaela Socolof‘s main interests are in syntax, computational linguistics, and fieldwork. She completed her B.A. in Linguistics here at McGill, minoring in Italian, then spent a year as a Baggett Fellow in the University of Maryland’s linguistics department.

Ken Wickham is entering into a qualifying year at McGill having previously completed a BA in Near Eastern studies at the University of Washington. He is primarily focused on syntax, morphology, and typology as they relate to ergativity, but is also interested in syntax-semantics interface, language acquisition, and philosophy of language.

Vanna Willteron got her B.A. in Linguistics, minoring in Philosophy, at Carleton University and has just completed a Qualifying Year here at McGill. She spent the year developing math and programming skills and is finally ready to start her MA, with research interests primarily in computational linguistics.


Departmental summer news

McGill linguists did a lot of linguistics this summer! Here is a selection of summer news:

In early July, Amelia Bruno and Eva Portelance (BA McGill, now at Stanford) presented a poster at the “Learning Languages in Humans and Machines” conference in Paris, entitled “A Framework for Lexicalized Grammar Induction Using Variational Bayesian Inference”. This work was coauthored with Tim O’Donnell and Leon Bergen (UCSD).

Jessica Coon returned from her six-month sabbatical stay in Mexico, then in August traveled to Guatemala where she gave a plenary talk (‘Construyendo verbos en chuj y ch’ol’) as well as a collaborative talk (‘Relativas libres en ch’ol y maya yucateco y la tipología de cláusulas relativas sin núcleo’ with Scott Anderbois, Oscar Chan Dzul, and Juan Jesús Vázquez Álvarez) at FAMLi 5.

McGill at FAMLi: Justin Royer, Cora Lesure (BA ’15), Paulina Elias (BA ’18), Robert Henderson (Postdoc ’14), Jessica Coon, Carol-Rose Little (BA ’12)

Brendan Gillon gave one talk entitled ‘Underspecification and the count mass distinction’ at a conference called The Count and Mass Distinction: a linguistic understanding?, held in May at Ruhr Univesität, in Bochum, Germany. Later in the summer, he gave a talk entitled ‘Complementation in Sanskrit treated by a modest generalization of categorial grammar’ in the Sanskrit Computational and Digital Humanities session of the 18th World Sanskrit Conference, held at the University of British Columbia.

Jacob Hoover, Michael Wagner, Masashi Harada, and Gouming Martens (from left to right in the photo below) attended the 2nd Crete Summer School of Linguistics in Rethymnon in July.

Henrison Hsieh published a paper in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory entitled Distinguishing nouns and verbs: A Tagalog case study. It is currently available online here.

Donghyun Kim successfully defended his thesis in August titled “Individual differences in plasticity in speech perception”. Don is off to a post doc at the University of Exeter working with Nicholas Dumay on research involving speech, memory, and sleep. Best of luck Don!

Defence committee from left: Heather Goad, Shari Baum (SCSD), Francisco Torreira, Donghyun Kim, Meghan Clayards, Morgan Sonderegger

Tim O’Donnell visited the Digital and Cognitive Musicology Laboratory at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne this summer to work with collaborators Martin Rohrmeier and Daniel Harasim on models of musical cognition.

Clint Parker attended CoLang 2018 (the Institute on Collaborative Language Research) at the University of Florida. During the first two weeks, he attended workshops focused on ethical considerations in fieldwork and collaboration between universities and Indigenous peoples in language revitalisation.  In the second three weeks, he participated in a practicum in which he helped compile materials and analyze the grammar of the dormant Timucua language, once spoken in northern Florida.  His CoLang work will feed into his second Evaluation Paper, which will connect to language revitalisation and the role of the university in supporting Indigenous languages.

Justin Royer did three months of research and fieldwork in Mexico, where he was supervised by Roberto Zavala at the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS) in San Cristóbal de las Casas, funded by a MITACs travel grant. While in Mexico, he participated to the workshop on Headless Relatives Clauses in Mesoamerican Languages CIESAS. He also attended two conferences where he presented two talks, and one joint poster with Luis Alonso-Ovalle:
  • In May, at the Primer encuentro de estudios sobre el Chuj at the Universidad Autónoma de México he gave a talk entitled ‘La (in)definitud en chuj y los clasificadores nominales’.
  • In August, at Form and Analysis in Mayan Linguistics (FAMLi 5) in Antigua, Guatemala he gave a talk titled Configuraciones referenciales en chuj and a poster (with Luis Alonso-Ovalle) titled ‘La modalidad de decisión arbitraria en chuj: komon

Justin with Chuj consultant Magdalena Torres in Yolnhajab’, Guatemala

Liz Smeets travelled to Italy to test second language learners of Italian with Romanian or English as a first language for her dissertation research on Conditions on L1 transfer in L2 discourse-syntax mappings. Liz also published a paper entitled ‘The acquisition of object movement in Dutch: L1 transfer and near-native grammars at the syntax–discourse interface’ in Second Language Research. The paper can be found here.

In July, Lisa Travis gave a joint paper at the International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics (ICAL) with Ileana Paul, held at the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar.  She stayed on ten days to work with students and professors at the university (see attached photo) collecting data for a paper co-authored with Baholisoa Ralalaoherivony and Jeannot Fils Ranaivoson on dialect variation in Malagasy focus constructions.

The Montréal Computational and Quantitative Linguistics Laboratory (MCQLL) hosted two local workshops. From June 11-15, MCQLL held a workshop on models of morphological productivity which included visitor Mika Braginsky from MIT. From August 15-17, MCQLL hosted a workshop on computational minimalist grammars and parsing which included Eva Portelance, visiting from Stanford, and Leon Bergen, visiting from UCSD.

Finally, a number of other publications involving current and former McGill authors came out this summer! These include:

Clemens, Lauren and Jessica Coon. (2018) Deriving verb-initial word order in Mayan. Language 94(2): 237–380 doi:10.1353/lan.2018.0017

Hamlaoui,FatimaMarzena Żygis, Jonas Engelmann, and Michael Wagner (2018). Acoustic correlates of focus marking in Czech and Polish. Language and Speech, 1(20):44pp DOI: 10.1177/0023830918773536

Mackenzie, SaraErin Olson, Meghan Clayards, and Michael Wagner (2018). North American /l/ both darkens and lightens depending on prosodic context. Laboratory Phonology, 9(1)(13) DOI: 10.5334/labphon.104

Santi, AndreaNino Grillo, Emilia Molimpakis & Michael Wagner (2018) Processing relative clauses across comprehension and production: similarities and differences, Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1080/23273798.2018.1513539

Smeets, Liz and Michael Wagner (2018). Reconstructing the syntax of focus operators. Semantics & Pragmatics, 11(6):1–27. DOI: 10.3765/sp.11.6

Vander Klok, JozinaHeather Goad, and Michael Wagner (2018). Prosodic Focus in English vs. French: A Scope Account.Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 3(1): 71. 1-47 DOI: 10.5334/gjgl.172

McGill Linguistics FestEval

On Friday, September 7, 3–5pm (Room TBA) our annual FestEval will take place.  The following grad students will present their recent evaluation papers:
3.00pm Jurij Bozic: Tense Deficiency and Scope Inversion: Implications for Control and Case
3.30pm Amy Bruno: Minimalist Grammar Induction using Variational Bayesian Inference
4.00pm Gouming Martens: Frozen by Context: Focus Effects on Syntactic Freezing
4.30pm Clinton Parker: Agreement, clitic doubling, and vestigial ergativity in Shughni

Sepideh Mortazavinia’s Thesis Defence

Congratulations to Sepideh Mortazavinia for a successful thesis defence on Friday June 1st 2018! Below find the abstract from her thesis.


One of the differences between first language (L1) acquisition, which is always successful, and second language (L2) acquisition, where convergence on target-like representations is not always possible, is that L2 learners are already equipped with the fully established system of their L1. In fact, a great body of literature has shown that L2 learners demonstrate systematic errors in the L2 which can be attributed to the properties of their L1. The present study contributes to this area of research on the role of L1 transfer by investigating the L2 acquisition of semantic properties related to the word even across English and Persian. In particular, focus will be on the additive presupposition of even and how it is manifested in the two languages. The study will consider two learning directions: L1 Persian L2 English and L1 English L2 Persian. These two languages differ in the ways the additive presupposition is encoded: In English, the additive presupposition of even is triggered only when even is used in prenominal syntactic position. I assume that this presupposition is covertly expressed because it is not encoded in an overt lexical item and is constrained by syntax. Besides, the expression of this presupposition is indirect, because it is a secondary function of even, assuming that this particle is used to express surprise, unexpectedness, or unlikelihood primarily. Therefore, the assumption will be that L1 English L2 learners of Persian start off by a covert and indirect system of encoding the additive presupposition from their L1. L1 Persian L2 learners of English, on the other hand, start off by an overt and direct system of encoding additivity: the additive presupposition is lexicalized on an additive operator ham which overtly and directly triggers this presupposition.

In this study, the Feature Reassembly Hypothesis (FRH) (Lardiere 2005, 2008, 2009, and subsequent work) was implemented as the theoretical standpoint to investigate the extent to which L2 learners in both languages fail and/or succeed at acquiring the semantic system of the L2s, as described above. This theory assumes a mapping stage in L2 acquisition where learners map their L1 feature specifications onto the L2, as well as a reassembly stage triggered by inconsistencies between the L2 input and the L1, where the L2 learners reconfigure their feature organizations onto those of the L2. Felicity judgment experiments were designed and administered on two proficiency learner groups, intermediate and advanced, in order to monitor L2 development in both stages of acquisition. The results indicated strong lingering L1 effects in both proficiency groups for both L2 learning directions which were identified as sources of difficulty in converging on target-like feature configuration. In particular, the L1 Persian L2 learners of English demonstrated that dissociating from an L1 feature which is overtly expressed in favour of acquiring an L2 covert system of encoding the same feature presents considerable challenge to the L2 learners. In addition, the L1 English L2 learners of Persian showed that it is not difficult to learn the absence of an L1 covert and indirect encoding system in the L2. It is, however, challenging to acquire the overt L2 system when the native language offers an indirect way of expressing the same feature.




Sepideh (Marzieh) Mortazavinia’s Thesis Defence, June 1st

Sepideh (Marzieh) Mortazavinia is defending her Ph.D thesis on the “Second Language Acquisition of Focus-Sensitive Presupposition Triggers in English and Persian” on June 1 2018, at 2.30pm in the Ferrier Building, rm. 456. Come join the defence and the reception in the department after!

Incoming Grad Class (Fall 2018)

McLing is pleased to announce the incoming class of graduate students. We’re looking forward to seeing you all in the fall!

  • Jacob Hoover (MA, coming from Harvard)
  • Will Johnston (PhD, Carleton College)
  • Esmail Moghiseh (MA, McGill)
  • Michaela Socolof (PhD, McGill)
  • Vanna Willerton (MA, Carleton U./McGill)
  • Kenneth Wickham (Qualifying Year, U. Washington)

McGill students win awards

The following graduate and undergraduate students are the recipients of the stated awards:


  • Óscar Costa – Academic Leadership Award
  • Gabriel Daitzschman – Cremona Memorial Prize
  • Maya Keshav – Department Citizenship Award
  • Yunxiao (Vera) Xia – Award for Excellence in Research
  • Being Wang – U2 Academic Achievement Award


  • Kim Donghyun – Lara Riente Memorial Prize


Marielle Côté-Gendreau wins two research prizes

Undergaduate student Marielle Côté-Gendreau  has won two research prizes in the value of $1000 (CAD) each, one for the project “Contribution onomastique à l’histoire sociale : Napoléon, son prénom et son mythe dans le Canada français du XIXe siècle“, and the other for having a promising profile as a researcher. Both prizes were awarded at the 86th ACFAS meeting. Marielle was congratulated, along with two other winners, by Rémi Quirion, Quebec’s scientifique en chef for their achievements, which can be viewed here.




Semantics reading group, May 4 : Bruno, Gentile, Goodwin

At the Semantics Research Group on May 4, Chris Bruno, Francesco Gentile, and Emily Goodwin will be presenting on some ongoing research on compositional semantics and monotonicity in neural network models.

The meeting is at 3 PM in room 117.


McGill at WCCFL 36

McGill linguists past and present gathered at UCLA this past weekend to present their research at the 36th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL).

McGill linguists past and present gathered at UCLA this past weekend to present their research at the 36th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL).


Matthew Barros & Hadas Kotek (McGill postdoc 2014-16): “Some Issues with Sluicing as Anaphora to Issues“
Mathieu Paillé & Bernhard Schwarz: “Knowing whether and ignorance inferences“


Aron Hirsch: “Epistemically-sensitive ‘only’ ”
Maayan Abenina-Adar (McGill MA 2014): “Surprising”
Guilherme D. Garcia (McGill PhD 2017) and Heather Goad: “Can you have stress without feet?”
Jeffrey Lamontagne: “Acoustic Evidence of Phonemicization: Laxing Coarticulation in Canadian French”

Photo, from left to right: Mathieu, Maayan, Heather, Aron, Bernhard

Left to right: Mathieu, Maayan, Heather, Aron, Bernhard


ARIA grants

Several undergraduate students received Arts Research Internship Awards (ARIA) to  work with Linguistics faculty this summer:

Emma Gibson: “Intonational Tunes in English: Corpus and Experiment”, working with Michael Wagner

Michael Goodale: “Enabling large-scale analysis of stop consonants across English dialects”, working with Morgan Sonderegger

Emily Goodwin: “Neural Networks, compositionality, and linguistic representation: evidence from monotonicity”, working with Tim O’Donnell

Avleen Mokha: “Prosodic Transfer and the L2 acquisition of Hindi”, working with Lydia White

Benjamin Oldham: “Linguistic Fieldwork Research”, working with Jessica Coon

Madelaine O’Reilley Brown: “Long Distance relationships in Urdu-Hindi: phases or horizons”, working with Lisa Travis

Gregory Theos:  “Storage and Computation of morphology: Evidence from English”, working with Tim O’Donnell


Congratulation Jeff and Oriana!

Congratulations Jeff, for winning this year’s Faculty of Arts Graduate Student Teaching Award! And Congratulations Oriana, for winning this year’s Arts Insights Dissertation Award in the Social Sciences! You can cheer for them in person when the awards will be announced at the Arts Faculty Council meeting on April 10, at 3:00 pm in Leacock 232.

Justin Royer receives Mitacs Award

Justin Royer has received a Mitacs award to do fieldwork in Mexico this summer. He will be doing fieldwork on Chuj and will also spend some time at CIESAS (centro de investigaciones y estudios superiores en antropología social) with Prof. Roberto Zavala.


Daniel Goodhue defends dissertation

Congratulations to Daniel Goodhue, who defended his dissertations on 9th February 2018! Daniel’s dissertation, supervised by Michael Wagner and co-supervised by Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Bernhard Schwarz  is titled “On asking and answering biased polar questions.” Congratulations, Dan!

Luis Alonso-Ovalle, Bernhard Schwarz, Daniel Goodhue, Michael Wagner

Daniel Goodhue’s dissertation defence, 2/9

McGill University

Department of Linguistics

Daniel Goodhue

Ph.D. Oral Defence


On asking and answering biased polar questions

Friday, February 9th, 2018

at 3:00 pm

in the Arts Bldg. Rm. 160

followed by a reception in the lounge (rm. 212)

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