Archive for the 'Talks' Category

Bernhard Schwarz at McGill Student Association of Cognitive Science

On November 13, Bernhard gave an invited presentation “How and why: a case study in meaning”  in the Cognitive Science speaker series,x organized by McGill’s Student Association of Cognitive Science. The presentation was based on joint work with Alexandra Simonenko (McGill PhD ’14).
Abstract: The body of literature on the semantics of questions, sparked by classic works from the 1970s and 1980s, is substantial, yet most of this literature focuses narrowly on questions about individuals (Who left?or degrees (How long is it?)In this talk, I will offer some remarks about how– and why-questions like How did you open the door? or Why did the lights go out?. I will discuss why investigating the semantics of such questions is hard, what types of evidence are available to probe their meanings, and I will report on some surprising differences in logical behaviour between different types of how– and why-questions

Michael Wagner in France

Michael is back from at talk at LINGUAE at ENS in Paris, and presenting a joint keynote at the Workshop on Prosody & Meaning and SemDial in Aix en Provence. The talks reported on joint work with Dan Goodhue on their project ‘Toward an Intonational Bestiary‘.

Kyle Gorman Visit

Kyle Gorman from Google AI and CUNY will be visiting the Department the week of November 12th. He will be giving a talk at 15:30 – 17:00 on Monday in Room 117 1085 Dr. Penfield (title and abstract will be sent out soon), and a Tutorial on Pynini, a Python library he developed for weighted finite-state grammar compilation, on Wednesday 12:00-15:00 in Ferrier room 230.

(Talk, Monday)
Grammar engineering in text-to-speech synthesis
Many speech and language applications, including speech recognition and speech synthesis, require mappings between “written” and “spoken” representations of language. Despite substantial progress in applied machine learning, it is still the case that real-world industrial text-to-speech (TTS) synthesis systems largely depend on language-specific hand-written rules for these conversions. These may require a great deal of development effort and linguistic sophistication, and as such represent substantial barriers for quality control and internationalization. 
I first consider the case of number names, where the goal is to map written forms like 328 to three hundred twenty eight. I propose two computational models for learning this mapping. The first uses end-to-end recurrent neural networks. The second, inspired by prior literature on cross-linguistic variation in number naming, uses an induction strategy based on finite-state transducers. While both models achieve near-perform performance, the latter model is trained using several orders of magnitude less data, making it particularly useful for low-resource languages. The latter model is being used at Google to produce number grammars for dozens of languages and locales. 
I then consider the case of grapheme-to-phoneme conversion, where the task is to map written words onto their phonemic transcriptions. I describe a model in which the grammar engineering is performed by providing input and output vocabularies; in Spanish for instance, the input vocabulary includes digraphs like ll and rr, which denote single phonemes, and for Japanese kana, the output vocabulary includes entire syllables. This grammatical information, incorporated into a finite-state generative model, results in a significant improvement over a baseline system which lacks direct access to such information.
 
(Tutorial, Wednesday)
Pynini: Finite-state grammar development in Python
Finite-state transducers are abstract computational models of relations between sets of strings, widely used in speech and language technologies and studied as computational models of morphophonology. In this tutorial, I will introduce the finite-state transducer formalism and Pynini (Gorman 2016; http://pynini.opengrm.org), a Python library for compiling and processing finitestate grammars. In the first part of the tutorial, we will cover the finite-state formalism in detail. In the second part, we will install the Pynini library and survey its basic functionality. In the third, we will tackle case studies including Finnish vowel harmony rules and decoding ambiguous text messages. Participants are assumed to be familiar with the Python programming language, but I do not assume any experience with finite-state methods or natural language processing. Note to participants: You are encouraged to bring a working laptop. We will reserve some time to install the necessary libraries so that you can follow along and participate in a few select exercises. This software has been tested on Linux, Mac OS X (with an up-to-date version of XCode), and Windows 10 (with the Ubuntu flavor of Windows Subsystem for Linux). In case you wish to get a head start, installation instructions are available here: http://wellformedness.com/courses/PyniniTutorial/installation-instructions.html  

Morgan Sonderegger at University of Oregon

Morgan Sonderegger was at University of Oregon’s Department of Linguistics October 25-26, where he gave a workshop entitled “Topics in fitting and using mixed-effects regression models” and a colloquium talk, “Towards larger-scale cross-linguistic and cross-variety studies of speech”.

Linguistics talk, today (10/22) – David Barner

Today David Barner (UCSD) will be giving a talk in the linguistics department. (He will also be giving a different talk tomorrow.)
Time/Date: Monday, 22 October, 2018, 15:30 – 17:00
Place: McGill Campus, 1085 Dr. Penfield, Room 117
Title: Access to alternatives and the acquisition of logical language
Abstract:
Though children begin to use logical connectives and quantifiers earlier in acquisition, studies in both linguistics and psychology have documented surprising failures in children’s interpretation of expressions. Early accounts, beginning with Piaget, ascribed these failures to children’s still burgeoning semantic and conceptual representations, arguing that children acquire ever more powerful logical resources as they development and acquire language. But more recent accounts, drawing on a Gricean divide between semantics and pragmatics, have argued that certain of these failures might not reflect semantic incompetence, but instead changes in children’s pragmatic reasoning abilities. In particular, early studies argued that children might be more “logical” than adults, perhaps because of difficulties with Gricean reasoning, or theory of mind. In this talk, I investigate this question, and argue that neither pragmatic incompetence nor conceptual/semantic change can explain children’s behaviors, and that instead children’s judgments stem from difficulties with “access to alternatives”.
I show this in two parts. First, I consider the case study of scalar implicature, and show that children when children hear an utterance like the one in (1) they fail to compute a scalar implicature like in (3) because they are unable to spontaneously generate the stronger alternative scale mate in (2). But when scalar alternatives are provided contextually or are “unique” alternatives, children no longer struggle with implicatures. I show that children easily compute “ad hoc” implicatures and ignorance implicatures (where all relevant alternatives are provided in the original utterances), as well as inferences that exhibit similar computational structure, like mutual exclusivity. Also, I show that children’s problems cannot be ascribed to difficulties with epistemic (theory of mind) reasoning, ruling out the idea that their problems are related to understanding other minds and intentions.
(1) I ate some of the cake
(2) I ate all of the cake
(3) I ate some (but not all) of the cake
In the second part, I discuss one variant of the “access to alternatives” hypothesis, that exploits Roberts’ (1996) notion of the Question Under Discussion. On this hypothesis, there is a symmetrical relation between a speaker’s intended QUD when uttering a statement, and the alternative statements are relevant to evaluating that QUD, such that (1) knowing a speaker’s intended QUD specifies which alternatives are relevant, and (2) knowing which alternatives are relevant specifies the speaker’s intended QUD. On this view, children’s ability to make logical inferences should be affected either by making alternatives available in context, or by narrowing the QUD. To explore this idea, I present data from three studies. First, I review evidence from a recent study by Skordos and Papafragou (2016) in which children’s rate of implicature can be improved by either means (alternatives or direct QUD narrowing). Second, I present data regarding quantifier spreading in (4). Like in past studies, I show that, in a context where three girls are riding 3 out of 4 available elephants (Context A), children judge (4) to be false (as though the intended question is, “Is every elephant is ridden by a girl?). However, when identical utterance is first probed in a context that renders it false (Context B), children subsequently judge (4) to be true in Context A (now understanding the question to be “Is every girl riding an elephant?). I argue that Context B provides a state of affairs providing what Crain calls “plausible dissent”, by making clear the speaker’s intended meaning (i.e., here, the QUD), which in absence of Context B children must infer from other contextual cues – e.g., “What is question is the speaker most likely to ask in this context?”
(4) Every girl is riding an elephant.
Context A: <g, e> <g, e> <g, e> <e>
Context B: <g, e> <g, e> <g> <e>
Also, I show that providing relevant states of affairs can likewise affect scalar implicature, and that when children are not provided with a context that makes the denial of a statement plausible (a la Crain), they fail to converge on the intended QUD, fail to generate relevant linguistic alternatives, and derive non-adult-like inferences – e.g., interpreting disjunction as conjunction. I show that, contrary to several recent reports, children do not interpret disjunction as conjunction if the context properly narrows the speaker’s intended QUD by providing states of affairs that render test statements deniable.

Jessica Coon to Liverpool Biennial

Jessica will give a public lecture at the UK Biennial of Contemporary Art in Liverpool later this week. The talk, “Aliens, Fieldwork, and Universal Grammar” is one of ten public lectures during the 15-week event.

Special talk, 10/23 – David Barner

Speaker: Dr. David Barner, UCSD
Place: Room 461, 2001 McGill College
Title: Linguistic origins of uniquely human abstract concepts
Abstract: Humans have a unique ability to organize experience via formal systems for measuring time, space, and number. Many such concepts – like minute, meter, or liter – rely on arbitrary divisions of phenomena using a system of exact numerical quantification, which first emerges in development in the form of number words (e.g., one, two, three, etc). Critically, large exact numerical representations like “57” are neither universal among humans nor easy to acquire in childhood, raising significant questions as to their cognitive origins, both developmentally and in human cultural history. In this talk, I explore one significant source of such representations: Natural language. In Part 1, I draw on evidence from six language groups, including French/English and Spanish/English bilinguals, to argue that children learn small number words using the same linguistic representations that support learning singular, dual, and plural representations in many of the world’s languages. For example, I will argue that children’s initial meaning for the word “one” is not unlike their meaning for “a”. In Part 2, I investigate the idea that the logic of counting – and the intuition that numbers are infinite – also arises from a foundational property of language: Recursion. In particular, I will present a series of new studies from Cantonese, Hindi, Gujarati, English, and Slovenian. Some of these languages – like Cantonese and Slovenian – exhibit relatively transparent morphological rules in their counting systems, which may allow children to readily infer that number words – and therefore numbers – can be freely generated from rules, and therefore are infinite. Other languages, like Hindi and Gujarati, have highly opaque counting systems, and may make it harder for children to infer such rules. I conclude that the fundamental logical properties that support learning mathematics can also be found in natural language. I end by speculating about why number words are so difficult for children to acquire, and also why not all humans constructed count systems historically.
Bio: Dr. Barner’s research program engages three fundamental problems that confront the cognitive sciences. The first problem is how we can explain the acquisition of concepts that do not transparently reflect properties of the physical world, whether these express time, number, or logical content found in language. What are the first assumptions that children make about such words when they hear them in language, and what kinds of evidence do they use to decode their meanings? Second, he is interested in how linguistic structure affects learning, and whether grammatical differences between languages cause differences in conceptual development. Are there concepts that are easier to learn in some languages than in others? Or do cross-linguistic differences have little effect on the rate at which concepts emerge in language development? Dr. Barner studies these case studies taking a cross-linguistic and cross-cultural developmental approach informed by methods in both psychology and linguistics, and studies children learning Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Hindi, Gujarati, Arabic, Slovenian, Spanish, French, and English, among others.

Jessica to Calgary

Jessica was at the University of Calgary last week where she gave a colloquium talk, “Feature Gluttony and the Syntax of Hierarchy Effects” (collaborative work with Stefan Keine, USC).

Aron Hirsch mini-course: Oct 30-Nov 9

Aron Hirsch (SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at McGill this year), will be giving a “mini-course” about his research on the syntax-semantics of “cross-categorial” operators, in five lectures stretching from October 30-November 9. See below for a course description and schedule. No advanced background in syntax or semantics is required. Mark your calendars, everyone is welcome to attend!
Cross-categorial operators
“Cross-categorial” operators — notably, the conjunction and and focus operator only — appear in a broad range of environments. And occurs, for instance, between full clauses in (1a) and DPs in (1b). Likewise, only occurs pre-vP in (2a) and pre-DP in (2b).
 
(1) a. John saw every student and Mary saw every professor.
b. John saw every student and every professor.
 
(2) a. John only learned oneF language.
b. John learned only oneF language.
 
Given their broad distribution, these operators seem to require a flexible semantics. In (1a), and operates on truth-values, like the & connective of propositional logic: (1a) is true iff both conjoined clauses are true. Yet, in (1b), and seems to have a different meaning which composes with quantifiers. A range of semantic mechanisms have been proposed to achieve the necessary flexibility (e.g. Keenan & Faltz 1978, 1985,
Gazdar 1980, Partee & Rooth 1983, Jacobson 1999, 2015). One approach draws on type-shifting rules: and is stored in the lexicon as &, but type-shifted to compose with quantifiers in (1b). Only receives a similar analysis, through type-shifting (Rooth 1985).
 
The aim in this mini-course is to challenge the idea that these operators have a flexible semantics, pursuing instead the Semantic Inflexibility Hypothesis (‘SIH’). Under the SIH, and always operates on truthvalues (following Schein 2017), and only again patterns in kind. The viability of the SIH for data like (1b)
and (2b) depends on covert syntax: the underlying structure must be richer than it appears from the surface string so that it includes a truth-value denoting scope site for the operator. The course will build a case the SIH. First: we will see that semantic flexibility approaches have overgeneration problems, providing initial motivation for the SIH. Second: we will diffuse some counterarguments to covert syntax with and from the prior literature (e.g. Partee 1970). And, third: we will provide a range of novel evidence that covert syntax is in fact present with both and and only in a fragment of data. The SIH, if successful, leads us to constrain the availability of type-shifting, and the expressive power of the semantic grammar more generally (cf. Heim 2015).
Class 1: The Semantic Inflexibility Hypothesis
October 30, Monday, 10:30-12:00 – Room 117
Class 2: Apparent DP conjunction
November 2, Thursday, 11:30-13:00 – LEACOCK 14
Class 3: November 3, Friday, 15:00-16:30 – Room 117
Apparent NP conjunction
Class 4: November 6, Monday, 10:30-12:00 – Room 117
Focus operators
 
Class 5: November 9, Thursday, 11:30-13:00 – LEACOCK 14
Consequences for the grammar

Language revitalization talk: Megan Lukaniec

There will a talk on language revitalization Tuesday cosponsored by Linguistics and the Office of First Nations and Inuit Education, DISE. The talk will take place Tuesday September 12th at 4:15pm in Education room 233, and will be preceded by coffee and snacks in Education room 203A at 3:45. All are invited!
Speaker: Megan Lukaniec (Huron-Wendat Nation, UC Santa Barbara Linguistics)
 Abstract:

With the number of dormant languages steadily increasing, archival materials are becoming indispensable tools for linguistic research and revitalization. Absent the invaluable opportunity to consult a native speaker, reclamation in dormant language communities must follow a different trajectory: transform documentation into accessible and culturally relevant language teaching.

The Wendat language, also known as Huron or Huron-Wendat, is one such example of a dormant language undergoing revitalization. Although it lost its last fluent speakers in the mid-19th century, Wendat (Iroquoian) was documented extensively by missionaries in the 17th and 18th centuries. For the past decade, Wendat community members have been leading efforts to reawaken their language. These revitalization efforts, based out of the reserve of Wendake, Québec, have led to adult evening courses, workshops for children at the tribal elementary school, lessons at the tribal daycare center as well as the creation of an online, open access trilingual dictionary, Wendat-French-English (wendatlanguage.com).

So, how does one repurpose historical documentation for language reclamation? How does one use linguistics in order to repatriate linguistic and cultural knowledge? Using Wendat as a case study, this paper will examine the broader processes of language reclamation and revitalization, including the historical-comparative reconstruction of linguistic data, transforming such data into materials for teacher training and language courses, and reintroducing language into a dormant language community. Finally, I will offer observations about the social and cultural effects of language reclamation, including its effects on community healing and individual well-being.

Afternoon Bantu Workshop, May 3rd

Please join us for an afternoon Bantu Workshop, to celebrate the end of this semester’s Bobangi Field Methods class. There will be presentations by some of the undergraduate and graduate students, our Bobangi consultant Mpoke Mimpongo (UQAM), and invited speaker Jenneke van der Wal (Harvard). All talks will take place in McGill Education Building, room 216. The schedule is below–all are welcome!

12:30–12:45 – Jiaer Tao, A Study on object asymmetry in Bobangi

12:45–1:00 – Benjamine Oldham, Object marking in Bobangi: A pronominal incorporation analysis

1:00–1:15 – Renata Masucci, Tone in Bobangi

1:15–1:30 – Paulina Elias, Object asymmetry in Bobangi

1:30–1:45 – BREAK

1:45–2:00 – Sara Carrier-Bordeleau, Verbal reduplication in Bobangi

2:00–2:15 – Jasmine Zhang, Vowel sandhi in Bobangi

2:15–2:30 – Emily Kellison-Linn, Intonation of polar questions and declarative statements in Bobangi

2:30–2:45 – Yeong Park, High boundary tone in Bobangi

2:45–3:00 – Rosie Barnes, Agent nominalizations in Bobangi

3:00–3:15 – BREAK

3:15–3:45 – Mpoke Mimpongo (UQAM), TBA

3:45–4:45 – Invited Speaker – Jenneke van der Wal (Harvard University)

Title: Investigating focus marking in Luganda and Lingala

Abstract: While it is admittedly difficult to investigate information structure in an unfamiliar language, in this talk I hope to show that there are some manageable diagnostics for focus that can be applied in elicitation. Based on data from Luganda and Lingala I show why the discoveries about focus marking in Bantu languages are crucial for understanding both the synchronic analysis and the diachronic development of focus. (full abstract)

Jessica Coon at Silicon Valley Comic Con

Jessica is returning this week from San Jose, where she spent the weekend at Silicon Valley Comic Con. She gave a public lecture, “The Linguistics of Arrival: Aliens, Fieldwork, and Universal Grammar”, and participated on a panel for women in STEM. She also met some interesting characters:

Recently, she was featured on the BBC Radio 4’s “The Film Programme”. Up-to-date Arrival-related media is on her website.

Michael Wagner to Amsterdam

Michael served as an ‘opponent’ on Matthijs Westera‘s thesis defense in Amsterdam last week at the  Institute for Logic, Language and Computation  Universiteit van Amsterdam. The thesis is titled “Exhaustivity and Intonation. A Uni fed Theory“. While there, Michael also presented a paper on “Prosodically marking focus and givenness: What a purely pragmatic account needs to account for” in a satellite workshop to the event.

Two Talks by Mats Rooth and Dorit Abusch on October 11

Mats Rooth and Dorit Abusch will give two semantics taks on Tuesday October 11th (from 12:30 to 2:30 in room 002.) The title of the talks are:
Dorit Abusch, “A dynamic semantics for indexing in pictorial narratives.”
Mats Rooth, “Picture descriptions, centered content, and finite state intensional semantics.”
Everybody is invited.

Yosef Grodzinsky talk, 9/16

Yosef Grodzinsky (Hebrew University Jerusalem) will be giving a talk this Friday, 3:30-5 in EDUC 434. Title and abstract below. All are welcome!

The neural dynamics of Verification Procedures: neurological and linguistic implications

Yosef Grodzinsky HUJI, FZ Jülich

At the heart of this talk will be results from a set of complex, multi-modal, Reaction Time and fMRI experiments in healthy adult subjects and in patients with Broca’s aphasia, that deployed a verification task with quantificational sentences and quantity-containing scenarios. I will report recent work that had 2 goals:

1. to study the relation between linguistic and numerical processes in the brain (anatomical localization, and the neural dynamics of verification).

2. to distinguish between semantic analyses (theoretical adjudication). This was made possible as among other things, we studied the temporal and neural dynamics of the verification of comparatives, with the hope of distinguishing between different analyses of less-comparatives.

Relevant reading:

Deschamps, I, Agmon G, Loewenstein Y, Grodzinsky Y.  2015.  The Processing of Polar Quantifiers, and Numerosity Perception. Cognition. 143:115-128

Meghan Clayards at SCSD speaker series, 5/16

Meghan Clayards will give the first talk of the spring-summer SCSD speaker series, today May 16th

Coordinates: 2001 McGill College Ave, room 869, at 3:00pm

Title: Modulation of phonetic contrasts

Abstract:

When speaking, talkers modulate the signal they produce to balance the conflicting goals of conveying meaning and speaking fluently. How talkers manage this modulation is responsive to information content (e.g. focus prosody, predictability) as well as sociolinguistic factors (e.g. gender, dialect). It is clear that many global phonetic characteristics change consistently with this modulation (e.g. speaking rate, vowel dispersion/reduction,) which may affect how easily the listener can understand the message. A second question is whether talkers also modulate the precision of phonetic contrasts so that they are more/less clearly conveyed to the listener. This talk will investigate whether and under what circumstances phonetic contrasts are enhanced by talkers and provide evidence that modulation may not be as precisely targeted as has been assumed. I will then turn to the issue of individual differences between talkers and argue that many of the differences between talkers can be captured by where they fit on the spectrum of more or less clear articulation. Together these results can reduce the complexity of both the production and perception computations required by talkers and listeners.

Kabyle Mini-Workshop, 4/13

This year’s Field Methods class is happy to announce a Kabyle Mini Workshop, which will take place this Wednesday, April 13th, in Education room 129. In addition to short 10-minute presentations by all class members, we will have an invited presentation by Karim Achab (U. Ottawa), from 1:10–2:10. The full program, along with Achab’s abstract, is below. Anyone is welcome to join for any portion of the workshop.

Kabyle Mini Workshop

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Education Building, room 129

11:00–11:40

  • Lydia Felice: Feminine plural noun formation
  • Sarah Mihuc: Noun-initial a- and the Construct State
  • Francesco Gentile: On the morphosyntax of causatives in Kabyle
  • Alyssa Gold: Complements and adjuncts in Kabyle noun phrases

11:40–12:00 – Questions & Break

12:00–12:30

  • Becca Hoff: The role of sonority sequencing in Kabyle syllable formation
  • Martha Schwarz & Bing’er Jiang: The role of sonority in schwa epenthesis: Stem level and beyond

12:30–1:10 – Lunch (provided for class members)

1:10–2:10 – Karim Achab: Lexical roots, nouns and nominal aspect (abstract below) 

2:10–2:50

  • Anisa Amin: Methods of nonverbal negation in Kabyle
  • Michaela Socolof: Two functions of ara in Kabyle
  • Dejan Milacic: Aḏ and ara in irrealis and negation
  • Melanie Custo-Blanch: Questions and clitics in Kabyle 

2:50–3:10 – Questions & Break

3:10–3:50

  • Alex Elias: Kabyle “double” consonants: Long or strong?
  • Jeff LaMontagne: Motiver ses choixExamining variability in schwa placement and acoustics
  • Daniel Biggs: A question of word order in Kabyle: VSO vs. SVO
  • Ines Patino Anaya: ḏ as a copular particle

3:50–4:00 – Questions and wrap-up

 

Lexical roots, nouns, and nominal aspect – Karim Achab 

It has been widely accepted in Afroasiatic linguistics that verbs and nouns in Afroasiatic languages are derived from lexical roots, considered as the smallest building block in the lexicon[1]. A lexical root is traditionally defined as the basic entity that conveys the semantics of a word but which lack a category feature. For instance the Tamazight root mɣr conveys the meaning of ‘tall’, ‘big’, ‘elder’, etc. It may yield a noun (eg. amɣar ‘old man’) if associated with the category feature [n], or a verb (eg. imɣur ‘grow up’, if associated with the category feature [v]. Lexical roots consist of consonants only; they are later combined with thematic vowels to form the (word) stem. Much has been said in the literature as regards the thematic (or stem) vowels associated with verbs, which indicate inflection (tense/aspect and agreement), as well as the initial vowel of nouns, which results from incorporation into the noun of an old determiner[2]. However, analyses regarding the inner vowel of nouns are almost inexistent, except in the situations where this vowel alternates with respect to number, known as internal plurals in the literature[3]. In the example amɣar ‘old man’, the internal vowel is by no means associated with number as the plural imɣarn is derived by means of the suffix –n. In this presentation, I argue that the inner vowel is associated with perfective (bound, telic or accomplished) aspect. Nominal aspect is not as investigated as verbal aspect in the literature, but it has been the topic of a number of studies[4] which point out to some inherent aspectual properties of nouns. However, unlike the aspect investigated in such studies, which is often of the type mass/count distinction, the nominal aspect that is dealt with in the present study is of the perfective/imperfective type, which is more reminiscent of verbal lexical aspect (or aktionsart). An example of a perfective nominal aspect in English is provided by nouns derived from participles such as a grown-up or writing where the perfective and imperfective aspect is inherited from the past and present participle, respectively. However, even in English, this type of nominal aspect is not restricted to nouns derived from participles. They are for instance implicit in deverbal nominals derived by means of the suffix –ion such as constructioninspection, etc. Similarly, some basic nouns, no matter the language, refer to an entity that is inherently perfective or accomplished. For instance, if we say a ‘house’ or an ‘adult’, these words are understood in their accomplished state or aspect (perfective, bounded or telic). Exploring data from Tamazight, I argue that the primary property of the inner vowel of nouns is aspectual and that in the case of internal plural, this aspectual vowel is put into contribution to indicate number. I further demonstrate that aspect is an essential property of the internal structure of nouns, without which the nominal structure cannot be complete. Finally, I explore the ways in which aspect interacts with other nominal properties such as class and number along the nominal spine.


[1] With the exception of Bohas (2000) who suggests the concept of etymon as an alternative.

[2] See Achab (2003, 2012) and references cited therein.

[3] There are three types of plurals in Tamazight: (i) internal, obtained by changing the internal vowel, (ii) external, obtained by means of the plural suffix –n and (iii) the mixt plurals, which is a combination of (i) and (ii).

[4] See among others Rijkhoff (1991, 2002), Nordlinger and Sadler’s (2004) and I Wayan Arka (2013) and references cited therin.

Dissertation defense, 3/31 – Alanah McKillen

All are welcome to attend Alanah McKillen’s PhD Dissertation Defense.

Title: On the interpretation of reflexive pronouns

When: Thursday, March 31st  at 10:00am

Where: Arts Buildling, room 230 (followed by a reception in the lounge)

Abstract

This dissertation is concerned with the interpretation of reflexive pronouns and how their interpretation requirements affect the formulation of Condition A in binding theory. In Standard Binding Theory, reflexives are assumed to be interpreted as bound-variables only (Chomsky, 1981; Reinhart, 1983; Büring, 2005). This assumption is explicitly reflected in Condition A, which requires that reflexives must be locally bound-variables. In this dissertation I question how well motivated this assumption is.

To test the bound-variable-only assumption for reflexives, I investigate the readings that reflexives give rise to in VP-ellipsis and focus constructions. It has previously been observed that reflexives are ambiguous in VP-ellipsis, giving rise to both a strict and sloppy reading (Dahl, 1973; Sag, 1976; Hestvik, 1995; Fiengo and May, 1994). Rather than take this as evidence for both referentially interpreted and boundvariable reflexives, as is the case with ambiguities that arise with non-reflexive pronouns (Sag, 1976; Reinhart, 1983; Heim and Kratzer, 1998), previous accounts aim to derive strict readings of reflexives while maintaining the bound-variable-only assumption (Hestvik, 1995; Büring, 2005). However, I argue that these accounts run into problems which could be avoided if reflexives were able to be interpreted as coferential with their antecedents, and not just as bound-variables.

The readings of reflexives in focus constructions have received far less attention. Judgements are mixed, with reflexives being claimed to only be interpreted as sloppy, and the strict reading being unavailable or marginal (McCawley, 1967; Heim and Kratzer, 1998; Reinhart and Reuland, 1993), which would seem to support the bound variable-only assumption. Yet others – such as Dahl (1973), Büring (2005), Roelofsen (2008), and Ahn and Sportiche (2014) – claim both strict and sloppy readings are equally possible. I present experimental evidence in this dissertation which shows that strict reflexives in focus constructions are judged as acceptable to speakers, and argue that these readings cannot be accounted for with the assumption that reflexives are interpreted as bound-variables only; and that instead, a binding theory is needed in which reflexives can be coreferential with their antecedents.

With the need for coreferential reflexives established, the remainder of this dissertation is concerned with how Condition A can be formulated to incorporate this interpretation option, and how strict readings in VP-ellipsis and focus constructions will follow once it has been incorporated. I follow Sauerland (2013) in adopting a Condition A which is built into the compositional semantics as an argument identity presupposition, which will allow reflexives the option of coreference, and accounts for strict readings as instances of weakened presupposition projection. Compared to the option of modifying Standard Binding Theory, this presuppositional approach appears to be more insightful, but is not without complications. In order for weakened projection to occur, Sauerland (2013) assumes that a presupposition must be purely presuppositional. I present data which are problematic for this assumption and outline a new direction for the conditions under which weakened projection in focus alternatives may proceed, which is based on the relation the presuppositional element bears to the focus-marked phrase.

Guest lecture in Syntax 4, 2/10 – Bogal-Allbritten

This Wednesday (Feb 10), 2:35 – 3:25 pm (Room 117), there will be a guest lecturer via Skype in Syntax 4/Seminar in Syntax. Elizabeth Bogal-Allbritten (postdoctoral researcher at Simon Fraser University) will report on recent fieldwork-findings on Navajo internally-headed relative clauses. All are welcome!

Colloquium, 10/2 – Matt Goldrick

The next talk in our 2015-16 McGill Linguistics Colloquium Series will be a CRBLM Distinguished Lecture by Matt Goldrick (Northwestern University) on Friday, Oct 2nd at 1:30 in the Goodman Cancer Research Centre (1160 av des Pins ouest). Note unusual time and place! There will be a reception in the evening following the colloquium, hosted by Morgan Sonderegger (additional details to follow).

Title: Phonetic echoes of cognitive processing

Abstract: 

For many years, theories of language production assumed a strict functional separation between peripheral phonetic encoding processes and more central cognitive processes. The output of lexical access—the processes mapping intended messages to utterance plans—was assumed to yield a plan that was simply executed by more peripheral processes. Recent work has challenged such proposals, showing that on-line disruptions to lexical access can affect gradient phonetic properties (e.g., phonological speech errors influence the phonetic properties of speech sounds; Goldrick & Blumstein, 2006). I’ll discuss two sets of projects from my lab that extend this work. Large data sets, enabled by machine-learning based techniques for automated phonetic analysis, provide new insights into the consequences of cognitive disruptions for monolingual speech. I’ll then discuss how cognitive disruptions modulate cross-language interactions in multilingual speakers.

Additionally, there will be a workshop session preceding the lecture: http://www.crblm.ca/events/speech_production_cognitive_processes_and_big_data. Please register for the workshop portion if interested!

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