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Public lecture, 2/25 — Michel DeGraff at Concordia

Black History Month at Concordia, the Black Perspectives Office, and the Centre for Cognitive Science present a public lecture by Professor Michel DeGraff (MIT)
#BlackLivesMatter → #OurLanguagesMatter
Language rights are HUMAN rights—in Haiti and beyond

When: Thursday Feb. 25 at 18:00
Where: Zoom—register here to receive the meeting ID and passcode
Who: Open to the university community and the general public

Abstract: As a creolist who works on language and education for social justice (http://MIT-Ayiti.NET http://Haiti.MIT.edu), I continuously puzzle at the vast array of educators, activists, intellectuals, politicians, etc., who fail to realize that language rights are at the core of human rights. This puzzlement will take us to my native Haiti and other outposts of Empire where we can document spectacular violations of linguistic rights in the course of knowledge production and in the workings of human-rights organizations. We’ll highlight the persistent incoherence in these patterns throughout history… Or perhaps there’s a logic (a colonial racist logic?) to this apparent madness. In this talk, I’ll take Haiti and Creolistics as twin case studies to try and understand the genesis of these human-rights violations as part of the history of colonization and slavery. Then I’ll present one specific and concrete set of “direct actions” (à la Martin Luther King Jr.) that we linguists and educators can take toward a constructive forward-looking resolution of these violations. Here our case study is the MIT-Haiti Initiative where we’re helping to usher a paradigm shift in the perception and use of Haitian Creole as a key tool for universal access to quality education and for the respect of human rights in Haiti. We hope, perhaps with too much optimism, that our MIT-Haiti Initiative, in spite of its obvious limitations (after all, MIT is part of the Global North), can serve as one among other models that can help the Global South recover, and perhaps even escape, from imperialism and racism.

Dr. Michel DeGraff is a Professor of Linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Director of MIT-Haiti Initiative. This talk is sponsored by the Black Perspectives Office and the Centre for Cognitive Science, with support from Concordia’s INDI Program, Linguistics Program and Linguistics Student Association.

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).

Martina Martinović at UChicago

Martina Martinović presented her work on control and restructuring in an invited talk at the University of Chicago on November 20th. The title and abstract are below:

Control and restructuring in Wolof

This research explores the phenomenon of control in the Niger-Congo language Wolof, which has the following properties. First, Partial Control is not possible in Wolof; all control predicates exhibit only Exhaustive Control. Second, all control predicates in Wolof exhibit restructuring properties, both those that cross-linguistically generally restructure, and those that have been argued to never restructure. I argue that these properties give support to Grano’s (2012, 2015) claim that there are two strategies for establishing control: one that results in Exhaustive Control (for Grano, following Cinque (2004), this is raising), and another that results in Partial Control (involving a PRO). I argue that Wolof only has the former strategy. While Wolof does not have direct evidence that the strategy resulting in Exhaustive Control involves raising, it does offer some indirect support for this claim. First, I show that all non-finite complements involve a reduced clausal size, and propose that this allows for raising to proceed from all such structures. Second, only predicates that do not take direct objects participate in control: subject control over an object, as well as object control, are not possible. It has long been noted that restructuring/Exhaustive Control verbs are only monotransitive verbs (Kayne 1989, Cinque 2004), which has been taken as an argument for the functional status of such verbs. I argue that lexical verbs must also be allowed to involve raising of embedded subjects. Raising to object, even if it exists (as convincingly argued in Postal 1974), appears to be cross-linguistically rare. If Exhaustive Control is raising, and raising to object is not found in Wolof, this explains the absence of object control. And finally, I show that there is no independent evidence for PRO in Wolof.

Announcement: PhD Dissertation Defense, 12/9 — Francesco Gentile

Please join us for the PhD Oral Defense of Francesco Gentile, Monday, December 9th, 2019 at 2:30 pm in the Ferrier Bldg. Rm. 456. The dissertation is titled: “Modal Adjectives and the Grammar of Non-local Modification”. The defence will be followed by a reception in the Linguistics lounge (room 212).

LING/DISE Indigenous languages search, 12/2 – Ryan DeCaire

Please join us this afternoon for the last of the three talks in connection with the LING/DISE search in Indigenous Languages.

Speaker: Ryan DeCaire (UofT)

Coordinates: December 2nd, 3:00–4:30 in Arts 260 (to be followed by a reception)

Title: Tertiary Education for Indigenous Language Revitalization

Abstract:

Indigenous communities, some now for decades, have been working tirelessly to maintain and revitalize their languages with the hope that their use will again become normal. Given this experience, many communities are in a very unique, yet critical, time in their history as they struggle to restore intergenerational transmission and primary use among and between peer groups. In this struggle, we are noticing that adults are now more important than ever, especially given their necessary role in raising and teaching children. While focusing on our situation in Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) communities, in this presentation I will discuss the critical role of adults in our revitalization efforts, how we are creating second language speakers, and how we can work in partnership with the University to make a historical impact in the pursuit to revitalize Indigenous languages.

Speaker bio: Ryan DeCaire is Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) and was born and raised in Wáhta Mohawk Territory. His work is primarily focused on best practices for developing advanced oral proficiency in adults as well as Kanien’kéha documentation for revitalization. He is a language learner and instructor in immersion and non-immersion environments. Ryan is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Centre for Indigenous Studies at the University of Toronto, a Ph.D. Student in the Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization Program at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, as well as a research partner with Onkwawén:na Kentyóhkwa.

LING/DISE Indigenous Languages search invited speaker, 11/26 – James Crippen

Please join us for the second of three talks in connection with the LING/DISE search in Indigenous Languages.

Speaker: Dr. James Crippen (UBC)

Coordinates: November 26th, 3:00–4:30 in EDUC 624 (to be followed by a reception)

Title: Theoretical analysis of Tlingit’s verbs and consequences for language documentation and learning

Abstract: 

The Tlingit language is a First Nations language of Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon. It is a member of the Na-Dene family and is distantly related to the Dene languages like Navajo, Kaska, and Dene Sųłiné. Linguistic research has traditionally presented Tlingit’s verbs as large strings of interwoven morphology which require complex and opaque lexical entries. This traditional approach is extremely difficult to internalize and generations of Tlingit language learners have been daunted by its complexity. Crippen’s dissertation work counters the traditional approach, arguing instead that Tlingit’s verbs are more like whole sentences and hence that they can be straightforwardly analyzed with conventional syntactic theory. The system described by this analysis is simple and transparent, and it concentrates most arbitrary phenomena in a single place: the verb root.

Eight previously unexplicated properties of roots are documented and analyzed in Crippen’s dissertation: (i) valency (√, v, Voice) restricts the number of arguments required by default, (ii) qualia structure (√, N) restricts the meaning of patients, (iii) durativity (√, Asp) restricts the temporal structure of the eventuality denoted by the verb, (iv) stativity (√, Ɛ, Asp) determines the dynamicity of eventualities, (v) stem variation (√, V) is the predictable tone (L/H)
and length (μ/μμ) of verb stems, (vi) conjugation class (√, Asp) reflects spatial organization and determines many apparently unrelated morphological patterns, (vii) motion status (√, Asp, PP) regulates the location or path argument, and (viii) irrealis status (√, Asp) reflects whether the eventuality denotes a world that is like or unlike the actual world. This presentation will illustrate valency (property i) and a few of the other root properties to show how Tlingit’s verbs are built from roots and other pieces. The aim is to demonstrate that on the one hand that this system is theoretically tractable and on the other that it is  straightforward to internalize for language learners and so can radically transform efforts to document and revitalize the Tlingit language.

announcement: LING/DISE Indigenous languages search invited speaker, 12/2 – Ryan DeCaire

Please join us next week for the last of the three talks in connection with the LING/DISE search in Indigenous Languages.

Speaker: Ryan DeCaire (UofT)

Coordinates: December 2nd, 3:00–4:30 in Arts 260 (to be followed by a reception)

Title: Tertiary Education for Indigenous Language Revitalization

Abstract:

Indigenous communities, some now for decades, have been working tirelessly to maintain and revitalize their languages with the hope that their use will again become normal. Given this experience, many communities are in a very unique, yet critical, time in their history as they struggle to restore intergenerational transmission and primary use among and between peer groups. In this struggle, we are noticing that adults are now more important than ever, especially given their necessary role in raising and teaching children. While focusing on our situation in Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) communities, in this presentation I will discuss the critical role of adults in our revitalization efforts, how we are creating second language speakers, and how we can work in partnership with the University to make a historical impact in the pursuit to revitalize Indigenous languages.

Speaker bio: Ryan DeCaire is Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) and was born and raised in Wáhta Mohawk Territory. His work is primarily focused on best practices for developing advanced oral proficiency in adults as well as Kanien’kéha documentation for revitalization. He is a language learner and instructor in immersion and non-immersion environments. Ryan is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Centre for Indigenous Studies at the University of Toronto, a Ph.D. Student in the Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization Program at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, as well as a research partner with Onkwawén:na Kentyóhkwa.

LING/DISE Indigenous Languages search invited speaker, 11/19 – Kari Chew

Please join us for the first of three talks in connection with the LING/DISE search in Indigenous Languages.

Speaker: Dr. Kari Chew (University of Victoria)

Coordinates: November 19th, 3:00–4:30 in EDUC 624 (to be followed by a reception)

Title: Weaving Words: Situating linguistics, education, and language reclamation within a culturally-significant metaphor

Abstract: 

Drawing on a five-year study with Chickasaw language learners and speakers, I consider the metaphors used to talk about language reclamation, which involves the work of linguists and educators. As a Chickasaw, I understand language as the vehicle for our original instructions from Aba’ Bínni’li’, the Creator, to be in good relation with people, land, plants, animals, and spirits. Within dominant discourses about Indigenous languages, metaphors of endangerment, loss, and extinction pervade. I conceptualize Chickasaw language reclamation within the culturally-significant metaphor of tanni—the art of finger weaving belts for ceremonial attire. I identify strands of the weaving as themes emerging from research with my community and personal experience as a language learner, including a critical consciousness of cultural identity rooted in language, a holistic understanding of language as cultural practice, and a view of language reclamation as an intergenerational endeavor in which younger generations are especially valued. I argue that by situating language reclamation within metaphors envisioned by Indigenous peoples, communities can exercise linguistic and educational sovereignty to enact language continuance in alignment with their own aspirations.

PhD dissertation defense, 11/22 – Liz Smeets

Please join us for the PhD oral defence of Liz Smeets, Friday November 22nd at 2:30pm in Ferrier room 476. The dissertation is titled: “Conditions on L1 transfer in L2 discourse-syntax mappings: The case of Clitic Left Dislocation in Italian and Romanian.” The defence will be followed by a reception in the Linguistics lounge (room 212).

LING/DISE Indigenous Languages search invited speaker – Kari Chew, 11/19

Please join us next week for the first of three talks in connection with the LING/DISE search in Indigenous Languages.

Speaker: Dr. Kari Chew (University of Victoria)

Coordinates: November 19th, 3:00–4:30 in EDUC 624 (to be followed by a reception)

Title: Weaving Words: Situating linguistics, education, and language reclamation within a culturally-significant metaphor

Abstract: 

Drawing on a five-year study with Chickasaw language learners and speakers, I consider the metaphors used to talk about language reclamation, which involves the work of linguists and educators. As a Chickasaw, I understand language as the vehicle for our original instructions from Aba’ Bínni’li’, the Creator, to be in good relation with people, land, plants, animals, and spirits. Within dominant discourses about Indigenous languages, metaphors of endangerment, loss, and extinction pervade. I conceptualize Chickasaw language reclamation within the culturally-significant metaphor of tanni—the art of finger weaving belts for ceremonial attire. I identify strands of the weaving as themes emerging from research with my community and personal experience as a language learner, including a critical consciousness of cultural identity rooted in language, a holistic understanding of language as cultural practice, and a view of language reclamation as an intergenerational endeavor in which younger generations are especially valued. I argue that by situating language reclamation within metaphors envisioned by Indigenous peoples, communities can exercise linguistic and educational sovereignty to enact language continuance in alignment with their own aspirations.

James Tanner at University of Glasgow

On Thursday 31st October, James Tanner gave an invited talk at the University of Glasgow, presenting joint work with Morgan Sonderegger and Jane Stuart-Smith (Glasgow) entitled ‘Structured speaker variability in Japanese stops: relationships within and across cues to stop voicing’.

Special talk, 10/11 – Uli Sauerland

There will be a special talk by Uli Sauerland on Friday October 11, 15:30-17:00 in Sherbrooke 688, Room 491. Title and abstract below, all are welcome!
“Compression within a generative view of thought and language”  (based on joint work with A. Alexiadou and T. Guasti)
Language is generally thought to be closely related to non-linguistic thought.  We argue instead for a view where thought representations are radically compressed before linguistic articulation. Specifically, we propose that thought representations are generated independent of language and that language realizes in a compressed form  Initial evidence for the account comes from syntax-semantics interface phenomena, code-mixing and -blending, expressive meaning, and historical linguistics. In this talk, I focus on ongoing work developing the approach by using data from large-scale (i.e. 30+ languages) comparisons of child language data.

Jessica Coon and Tarynne Pachano in Ottawa

Jessica Coon and Tarynne Pachano were at Carleton University over the weekend where they participated in ELK-Tech, a meeting on digital tools for supporting endangered languages.

Jessica also spent Friday afternoon at the University of Ottawa, where she gave a colloquium talk on hierarchy effects, based on her collaborative work with Stefan Keine.

Syntax-Semantics Reading Group, 9/23 — Chris Davis

The next syntax-semantics reading group meeting will take place Monday (23/09) at 14:30 in room 002. Chris Davis will be giving a guest talk related to a paper of his from 2017, downloadable at the following link: https://semanticsarchive.net/Archive/2YzZjA5N/davis-NELS47

The presentation is entitled: Evidentiality, Maximize Presupposition, and Gricean Quality in Okinawan.

McGill Linguistics FestEval, 9/13

Please join us Friday at our annual evaluation paper roundup to hear what the third and fourth year students have been up to!

Friday, September 13, 2-4:30pm, in Education 629

2.00pm Masashi Harada: Context-Dependent Case Connectivity Sentences in Japanese

2.30pm Gouming Martens: Hat Contour in Dutch: Form and Meaning

3.00pm Mathieu Paillé: Broad focus and VSO in colloquial Malay

3.30pm Clint Parker: Painting the picture of Indigenous Language Revitalization in Canada: Context and Practices

4.00pm Yeongwoo Park: Interaction Between Lexical Tone and Intonation in Kinshasa Lingala

End-of-year news

Paulina Elias (BA ’18) will begin the masters program in Speech Language Pathology at Western University.

Masashi Harada will present a poster at GLOW in Asia Xll in Seoul, South Korea. The poster about his first Eval paper will be titled “Contextual effects on case in Japanese copular constructions”. For this research trip, Masashi will be funded by the CRBLM.

Francesco Gentile and Bernhard Schwarz will be presenting their new joint work on how many questions at the Workshop “Exhaustivity in Questions and Answers – Experimental and theoretical approaches” in Tübingen, Germany. The  title of their talk is: “An argument that higher order wh-quantification is over existentials only“.

Special talk, 4/25 – Stefan Keine and Ethan Poole

Who: Stefan Keine (USC) and Ethan Poole (UCLA)
When: Thursday April 25th, 3:00–4:30
Where: Linguistics room 117
Not all reconstruction effects are syntactic

With the advent of the copy theory of movement (Chomsky 1995), reconstruction effects have typically been analyzed in terms of interpreting the lower copy of a movement chain (e.g. Fox 1999). In this talk, we present evidence from Hindi-Urdu that indicates that interpretation of a lower copy cannot be the only route to reconstruction effects. Our argument is based on the observation that some but not all reconstruction effects induce Condition C connectivity. We argue that Hindi-Urdu requires the hybrid approach to reconstruction developed on independent grounds by Lechner (1998, 2013, to appear), where both copy neglection (a syntactic mechanism) and higher-type traces (a semantic mechanism) are available as independent interpretation mechanisms.

Semantics Group, 4/5 – Daniel Hole (Stuttgart University)

This Friday, Daniel Hole (Stuttgart University) will be giving a talk titled “Arguments for a universal distributed syntax of evaluation, scalarity and basic focus quantification with ‘only’”.

Abstract: In this talk, I review the evidence that has been adduced for a multi-constituent syntax of focus particle constructions. Traditionally, those components that I model as independent morphemes with their own scope-taking properties have been analyzed as submorphemic components of focus particles. I use ‘only’ words to make this point. This work is based on Hole (2013, 2015, 2017), and it makes use of data from Chinese, Vietnamese, German and Dutch. However, many arguments carry over to English. Time allowing, I will also present novel data from the interaction of German nur with modals and the German NPI modal brauchen ‘need (+NPI)’. This approach to focus particles stands in stark contrast to Büring & Hartmann (2001) or Coppock & Beaver (2013) and follows trains of thought as laid out in Smeets and Wagner (2018).
We will meet at 3:30 (Room TBD, but likely R117). All are welcome to attend!

Linguistics/CS Seminar, 3/28 — Fatemeh Asr

McGILL UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF LINGUISTICS AND SCHOOL OF COMPUTER SCIENCE 

SpeakerFatemeh Asr
Date & Time: Thursday, March 28, 2019 9:30am
Place: RPHYS 114
Title: Relations between words in a distributional space: A cognitive and computational perspective.

Abstract:

Word embeddings obtained from neural networks trained on big text corpora have become popular representations of word meaning in computational linguistics. In this talk, we first take a look at the different types of semantic relations between two words in a language and ask whether these relations can be identified with the help of popular embedding models such as Word2Vec and GloVe. I propose different measures to obtain the degree of paradigmatic similarity vs. syntagmatic relatedness between two words. In order to evaluate these measures, we use two datasets obtained from experiments on human subjects: SimLex-999 (Hills et al. 2016) including explicitly instructed ratings for word similarity, and explicitly instructed production norms (Jouravlev & McRae, 2016) for word relatedness.

In the second part of the talk, we look into the question of modeling the meaning of discourse connectives. Similarities between a pair of such particles, e.g., “but” and “although”, cannot be computed based directly on surrounding words. I explain however that discourse connectives can also be viewed from a distributional semantics perspective if a suitable abstraction of context is employed. For example, the slightest differences in the meaning of “but” and “although” can be revealed by studying their distribution in a corpus annotated with discourse relations. Finally, I draw some future directions for research based on our findings and the current developments in computational linguistics and natural language processing.

Special talk, 3/25 – Caroline Féry

Who: Caroline Féry (Goethe University Frankfurt)
Coordinates: Monday, March 25 2019, 1-2.30pm, in Room EDUC 338
Title: Prosody and information structure in European French
Abstract: 
It has repeatedly been reported in the literature that French prosody reacts in a different way to changes in information structure as compared to Germanic languages (Delais-Roussarie 1995, Post 2000, Jun & Fougeron 2002, vander Klock, Portes et al 2014, Goad & Wagner 2018, among others). But all authors do not agree as to how to analyse this difference. Some propose that it is just a matter of degree across those languages (see the authors above), and thus the same prosodic tools can be used in French and in English. I propose that French has a different intonation system altogether (Féry 2014), the most important clues being the absence of pitch accents and the emphasis on the boundaries of prosodic constituents. I will show two experiments on French prosody in collaboration with Emilie Destruel. The first one compares post-verbal given and new objects and adjuncts and finds that the phonetic correlates of phrasing are larger for adjuncts than for objects. The second one investigates pairs of post-verbal objects and adjuncts in different information structural conditions: all-new, only one of the two constituents is focused, or both are (dual focus). In both experiments, it is the correlates of phrasing that are variable, but these correlates do only a poor job in unambiguously expressing information structural roles. The reason is that information structure cannot change the syntax-based phrasing, and the role of phonetic prominence is not clear in French. I will also briefly discuss vander Klock et al.’s semantic proposal and assess it in comparison with my intonational one.
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