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Will Johnston at Minnesota

Will Johnston gave a talk titled “Event Structure and Serial Verb Constructions in Hmong” on Friday, April 1 at a (virtual) meeting of the University of Minnesota Hmong Linguistics Research/Reading Group.

McGill at upcoming MOTH 2022

The 10th Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Hamilton (MOTH) Syntax Workshop will take place this year April 22nd and 23rd at UQÀM. The line-up includes presentations by Terrance Gatchalian, Will JohnstonBernardas Jurevicius, and Willie Myers, as well as an invited talk by Justin Royer. The full program is available here, and registration is here.

McGill @ MOT 2022

Connie Ting and Wei Zhang each presented at the 2022 edition of MOT, the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto Phonetics/Phonology Workshop, held at the University of Ottawa March 25th and 26th.

  • Connie Ting – “Investigating universality of consonant intrinsic F0 effects”
  • Wei Zhang – “Cue primacy effects in Mandarin tone imitation”

The full program is available here.

Departmental cross-country ski

Wei, Irene, Meghan, Ben, Martina, Terrance, and Jessica on a mini departmental ski trip on Mount Royal

Banting post-doctoral fellowship to Justin Royer

McLing is thrilled to announce that 5th-year PhD student Justin Royer has been awarded a two-year Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship. Justin will spend the next two years at UC Berkeley Linguistics, working under the supervision of Peter Jenks. Justin’s project grows out of his dissertation research and is entitled: “Documentation of Chuj and Mam, two Mayan languages: Implications for a cross-linguistic theory of reference”. Congratulations Justin!

Alonso-Ovalle and Royer AND Bale, Schwarz, and Shanks in Journal of Semantics

The most recent issue of Journal of Semantics (volume 38, issue 4) contains two new articles by McGill linguists, both collaborations between students and faculty members:

Congrats all!


McGill @ LSA 2022

McGill linguists presented at this year’s meeting of the Linguistics Society of America, held this past weekend in hybrid format in Washington DC. The full program is available at: https://www.linguisticsociety.org/node/36129/schedule.



Mathieu Paillé at Göttingen

Mathieu Paillé gave an invited talk on December 21, 2021, online at the University of Göttingen. The talk was entitled “On the strengthening of non-scalar predicates and the syntactic distribution of exhaustivity.”

McGill at TOMILLA 3

McGill linguists traveled to the University of Ottawa last week for the 3rd Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal Indigenous Languages of Latin America (TOMILLA 3) workshop December 3rd and 4th. McGill talks included:

  • Willie Myers – “High, low, and no absolutive Mayan syntax: effects of object raising in heritage Mam” (based on work with McGill BA student Ix Jimenez-Haham)
  • Justin Royer & Jessica Coon – “Object raising bleeds binding: a new correlate of high-absolutive syntax in Mayan”

Justin Royer, Willie Myers, Ix Jimenez-Haham, Jessica Coon, and collaborator Pedro Mateo Pedro (UofT)

Mathieu Paillé at Humboldt University of Berlin

Linguistics PhD student Mathieu Paillé gave an invited talk online at Humboldt University of Berlin on November 9th, entitled “Derivational morphemes exhaustify roots: a hypothesis on the relationship between language and concepts.”
Abstract: Non-scalar content vocabulary taken from a particular conceptual domain is usually interpreted as mutually exclusive, as seen in examples like #This comedy is a tragedy or #Some animated films are live-action (Paillé 2020; cf. Cann 2011). This has been variously dealt with as a fact about the structure of the lexicon (de Saussure 1916) or of conceptual space (Gärdenfors 2000). I begin by showing that the mutual exclusivity is in fact a product of grammar; indeed, it can be removed through conjunction or additive particles. As such, I speculate that it is the effect of a grammatical Exh(aust) operator (Chierchia et al. 2012). If this account is accepted, it comes with the consequence that the Exh found with these predicates displays novel behaviour. Not only is it obligatory (cf. e.g. Magri 2009), but it also, at first approximation, necessarily has the predicate in its immediate scope. To understand these requirements on Exh, I turn to another linguistic phenomenon that has the same twin properties of being obligatory with, and always local to, content vocabulary. This is derivational morphology. As discussed by Boeckx (2011), derivational morphemes take concepts (qua roots) and make them mergeable — i.e., linguistically usable. My proposal is that Exh’s unusual behaviour with content words is due to these very morphemes not just selecting a root/concept, but also requiring an Exh operator in their immediate vicinity. I formalize this through an Agree relation between derivational morphemes and Exh; this explains both the obligatory nature of Exh and its locality requirement, assuming there is no upward Agree. Thus, in effect, derivational morphemes ‘clean up’ underlyingly messy conceptual spaces, hiding away any overlap between related concepts.

Royer and Coon at FAMLi VI

Justin Royer and Jessica Coon presented collaborative work at the 6th meeting of Form and Analysis in Maya Linguistics (FAMLi VI), which took place in a hybrid format at CIMSUR-UNAM in Chiapas, Mexico November 12th and 13th. The title of their talk was: “Extracción del objeto y el parámetro absolutivo bajo/alto”.

McGill linguists at EMNLP 2021

McGill linguists presented their work at the Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing  (EMNLP 2021) November 7–11. Jacob Louis Hoover presented a poster (virtually) for a paper titled Linguistic Dependencies and Statistical Dependence.

here is Jacob presenting his poster

Siva Reddy was an author on Visually Grounded Reasoning across Languages and Cultures, which won the Best Long Paper award. Congrats Siva and team!

McGill @ NELS

McGill linguists will be presenting their work at the upcoming 52nd meeting of the Northeast Linguistics Society (NELS 52), hosted virtually by Rutgers University October 29–31. More information and the full program are available here: https://sites.rutgers.edu/nels-52/.



Montreal Underdocumented Languages Linguistics Lab (MULL-Lab) launched

We are happy to report that the former McGill Fieldwork Lab has been reconfigured into the Montreal Underdocumented Languages and Linguistics Lab (MULL-Lab), led by McGill faculty members Jessica CoonJames Crippen, and Martina Martinović, together with Lisa Travis, Richard Compton (UQAM) and Sigwan Thivierge (Concordia).

Learn more at the new website:

McGill @ Sinn und Bedeutung 26

Sinn und Bedeutung was hosted virtually last week by the Institute of German Language and Literature I and the Cologne Center of Language Sciences at the University of Cologne, and included a number of McGill presentations:

The full program is available here.

Welcome new Qualifying Year student, Willie Myers

McLing is happy to welcome incoming QY student, Willie Myers. Willie completed his BA in East Asian Studies at Princeton University and spent the last 7 years working in the public sector in East Africa. He is interested in syntax, fieldwork, and language documentation and is excited to explore more on the P-side as well. Outside of linguistics, he loves crossword puzzles, card games, and karaoke.

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.

Welcome new graduate students!

McLing is pleased to introduce you to this year’s new cohort of incoming graduate students! In alphabetical order…

Laurestine Bradford is interested in computational methods for exploring semantics, typology, sociolinguistics, and relationships between language and mathematics. She did her BSc in Mathematics and Philosophy and her MA in Linguistics both at the University of Toronto. She also really likes to dance and crochet.

Claire Henderson is interested in language variation and change, especially the diffusion of phonetic and lexical features around the Canada-U.S. border. She’s from Niagara Falls, Ontario and completed her B.A. in Linguistics at McGill. Outside of linguistics, Claire enjoys painting, plants, and pigeons.

Bernardas Jurevicius has worked on ellipsis phenomena in Lithuanian as well as computational perspectives on the syntax-semantics interface and has a keen interest in fieldwork. He has completed his undergraduate in English Language and Literature at the University of Edinburgh, and his Master’s in Linguistics at University Leipzig. Outside of linguistics, he has an interest in contemporary philosophy and Olympic weightlifting.

Guarav Kamath is interested in semantics, syntax, and pragmatics, as well as expressive and foul language more broadly. He completed a B.A. in Philosophy from Ashoka University, and hopes to also gain exposure to computational linguistics. Outside of academics, Gaurav likes to read fiction, listen to and play music, and work on his Sanskrit.

Massimo Lipari was born and raised in Montreal, and recently completed his B. A. in linguistics and philosophy at McGill. His main interests lie in syntax—especially at the interfaces with sematics and prosody—as well as with just about anything relating to Quebec French.

Katya Morgunova has a B.A. and an M.A. degree in Linguistics from Moscow State University. Her main interests are syntax and syntax-semantic interface. She has previously done a lot of fieldwork and also has some experience in experimental and computational linguistics. In her free time, she enjoys watching films, cycling, and swimming laps in a pool.

David Shanks focuses on semantics, phonology and Na-Dene languages. He finished his BA this year at McGill and grew up in Glasgow, Scotland. David also enjoys baking, knitting and spending time with his cat, Tommy.


Mpoke Mimpongo completes MA at UQÀM

Congratulations to Mpoke Mimpongo, who recently completed is MA in Linguistics at UQÀM, under the supervision of Heather Newell (McGill PhD ’08)  with a thesis entitled “Le statut phonologique des groupes NC en Bobangi/Mangala.”

Mpoke served as the language consultant for the Field Methods class co-taught by Jessica and Morgan in 2017, and continued working with McGill students after. Mpoke credits his experience as a language consultant with deepening his interest in studying Bantu linguistics.

Congratulations Mpoke!



McGill at Interspeech and Amlap 2021

McGill will be represented at two upcoming virtual conferences in early September, details and links below:

At  Amlap 2021 in Paris:

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