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The McGill Linguistics Department Newsletter
Updated: 3 hours 26 min ago

Vanier graduate fellowship to Mathieu Paillé

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 02:00

Congratulations to second-year PhD student Mathieu Paillé, who was recently awarded a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship for his doctoral studies. He was featured, together with other fellowship recipients, in last week’s McGill Reporter. The full list of McGill Vanier scholars is here. Congrats Mathieu!


Parameters Workshop

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 02:00

The Parameters Workshop in Honour of Lisa Travis took place Friday and Saturday last week at Thomson House, and included a number of current and former McGill affiliates, especially students, colleagues, and collaborators of Lisa Travis.

workshop participants outside Thomson House

The workshop included two full days of talks and posters on the topic of parameters. Special thanks to grad student organizers Masashi Harada, Henrison Hsieh, Mathieu Paillé, and Justin Royer.

Lisa gave the plenary talk

McGill at SALT 29

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 02:00

McGill linguists traveled to California last week for the 29th meeting of SALT (Semantics and Linguistic Theory), held May 17th–19th at UCLA. Talks and posters by McGill affiliates included:

  • Luis Alonso-Ovalle and Esmail Moghiseh – Neutralizing Free Choice Items via Domain Restriction: Farsi -i Indefinites
  • Aron Hirsch and Bernhard Schwarz – Singular “which”, mention-some, and variable scope uniqueness
  • Bernhard Schwarz, Alexandra Simonenko (PhD ’14), and David Oshima – Factive islands from necessary blocking

The full program can be found here. Some current and former McGill linguists gathered for a photo:

McGill @ SALT: Bernhard, Esmail, Luis, mitcho Erlewine (postdoc ’14–
’15), Aron, Maayan Adar (MA ’14)

Jessica to UK for Annual Babel Lecture

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 01:50

Jessica Coon travels to the UK later this week to give the annual Babel Lecture at the University of Huddersfield on May 24th. She appeared in Babel Magazine’s Meet the Professionals in connection with her work on the movie Arrival.

James Tanner to University of Glasgow

Mon, 05/13/2019 - 02:00

James Tanner has received a FRQNT Internship Award and will spend the Fall 2019 semester at the University of Glasgow. Under the supervision of Jane Stuart-Smith, James will continue his investigation into phonetic variability across English dialects. Congrats James!

Parameters Workshop this Friday and Saturday!

Mon, 05/13/2019 - 02:00

This Friday and Saturday McGill will be posting a Parameters Workshop in Honour of Lisa Travis, who is retiring at the end of this year. Full information is available on the workshop website, here:

McGill at GLOW 42

Mon, 05/13/2019 - 02:00

GLOW 42 was hosted at the University of Oslo between 7-11 May. McGill linguists gave presentations at the conference, and McGill alumnus Jozina Vander Klok (PhD, 2013) was one of its organizers. The full program can be viewed on GLOW’s website here.

McGill’s linguists gathered for a quick photo:

Left-to-right: Jurij Bozic, Jozina Vander Klok (PhD ’12), Cornelia Loos (visiting student, ’06-07)

Vanna Willerton to University of Edinburgh

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 02:00

Vanna Willerton received a Graduate Mobility Award which she will use to make a short visit in August to the University of Edinburgh to complete a computational morphology research project in collaboration with Professor Kenny Smith and the Centre for Language Evolution. Vanna also recently learned that she received CGSM graduate funding. Congratulations Vanna!

Justin Royer in Guatemala with McGill Graduate Mobility Award

Mon, 05/06/2019 - 02:00

Justin Royer is currently doing fieldwork in Yuxquen, a Chuj community located in Guatemala. While in Guatemala, Justin will be working on several projects, including a new project on the interface between syntax and prosody in Chuj, the focus of his second Eval paper. For this research trip, Justin is funded by a McGill Graduate Mobility Award.

Justin in Yuxquen with Yun and Elsa

McGill at MOTH

Mon, 04/29/2019 - 02:00

The 2019 Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Hamilton (MOTH) Syntax Workshop took place this past weekend at Carleton University in Ottawa. Lisa Travis gave an invited talk, and Mathieu Paillé presented a talk title “Unergatives in Malay inside-verbals.”

McGill at MOTH: Kumiko Murasugi (postdoc ’93-’94), Lisa, Mathieu, and Bronwyn Bjorkman (BA ’06) 

Luis Alonso-Ovalle at Maryland

Mon, 04/29/2019 - 02:00

Luis Alonso-Ovalle gave a colloquium talk at the Department of Linguistics of the University of Maryland on Friday April 26. He presented joint work with Aron Hirsch. The title of their talk was “Keep ‘only’ strong!”

Syntax Reading Group, 4/25 – Mathieu Paillé

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 02:30
Syntax Group will meet this Thursday. Mathieu Paillé will be giving a practice talk for the upcoming MOTH workshop entitled “Revisiting VSO in Malay”. Description:  Malay/Indonesian has a construction where the verb surfaces to the left of the subject, and the morpheme -nya appears on the verb. Sommerlot (2018), writing about Indonesian, analyses these as fronting the verb via phrasal movement. However, new data from Malay suggests that the verb actually head-moves to some functional head, above Voice but below INFL. To find out what the nature of this head is, the meaning/function of V-nya constructions is discussed. Given that the phonological string -nya also serves as a third-person pronoun (in addition to six other functions, Perangin-angin 2006), I ask whether -nya in these constructions is an expletive subject, and provide an argument to the negative. It is therefore argued that -nya is the spinal head to which the verb moves. This week’s meeting will exceptionally be scheduled 1:30-2:30pm in room 117. As usual, all are welcome!

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

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 02:30
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, 4/26 – Bernhard Schwarz (joint work with Alexandra Simonenko and David Oshima)

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 02:20

This week, Bernhard Schwarz will present his joint work with Alexandra Simonenko and David Oshima.

Title: Factive islands from necessary blocking Abstract: Szabolcsi and Zwarts (1993) discovered a type of factive island effect where question-forming wh-movement from the complement of a factive predicate can be rendered unacceptable by the complement’s content. On Oshima’s (2007) account, fleshed out in Schwarz and Simonenko (2018), factive islands are due to the necessary conflict between two felicity conditions. We present new data from multiple questions to argue that this account undergenerates factive islands, and we propose an account in terms of necessary blocking that applies correctly to both classic instances of the effect (Szabolcsi and Zwarts 1993) and factive islands with multiple questions. This finding informs the general discussion of the meaning-based unacceptability of semantically interpretable sentences (e.g., Abrusan 2014; Chierchia 2013; Del Pinal 2017; Gajewski 2002;Mayr 2017; Oshima 2007; Schwarz and Simonenko 2018), where factive islands have been considered as an important test bench (Abrusan 2014; Del Pinal 2017; Oshima 2007; Schwarz and Simonenko 2018). As usual, we will meet on Friday in Room 117 at 3pm. All are welcome to attend!

Register for the Parameters Workshop in Honour of Lisa Travis, May 17th and 18th

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 02:00
Lisa Travis is retiring at the end of this year and we are throwing a party––in the form of a conference on parameters––to celebrate her career and her many years of contributions to the McGill Linguistics Department. The schedule for the Parameters Workshop in Honour of Lisa Travis is now available here: We have a great line-up of 8 invited presentations (including by the guest of honour), as well as shorter talks and a poster session. The two-day event will be held at Thomson House, Friday and Saturday May 17th and 18th, and you are all invited. Registration is free if you register before May 10th. Please register here: We hope to see you there! The organizing team: Jessica Coon, Masashi Harada, Henrison Hsieh, Matthieu Paillé, Ileana Paul, Justin Royer, and Junko Shimoyama

Tanner, Sonderegger, and Torreira in Frontiers in Psychology

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 02:00
McLing is happy to report that a paper co-authored by James Tanner, Morgan Sonderegger, and Francisco Torreira has just been published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. The title is ‘Durational Evidence That Tokyo Japanese Vowel Devoicing Is Not Gradient Reduction’, and is available here:

P* Reading Group, 4/17 – Heather Goad

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 02:40

P* Reading Group (Wednesday, 1:30 pm)

Heather will lead a discussion of Inkelas (2019) “Modeling Scalar Vowel Strength in Q Theory” on Wednesday (Apr. 17th) 1:30-2:30pm. All are welcome to attend!

Clint Parker at SAIL and NACIL

Mon, 04/15/2019 - 02:00

Clint Parker is at the University of Arizona this week for two conferences.  This past weekend he presented a poster at the Symposium on American Indian Languages.  His poster, based on work from his second Eval paper, was titled “On the roles and responsibilities of universities in Indigenous Language Revitalization: A Canadian Perspective”.  Next weekend he will give a talk titled “Agreement, clitic doubling, and vestigial ergativity in Shughni” at the Second North American Conference on Iranian Linguistics.

Clint with at his poster with SAIL organizer Wilson Silva

MCQLL, 4/10 – Wilfred Yau

Mon, 04/08/2019 - 02:40
At next week’s meeting, Wilfred will be presenting the following paper: Mao, L., & Hulden, M. (2016). How regular is Japanese loanword adaptation? A computational study. Please find the abstract below: Abstract: The modifications that foreign loanwords undergo when adapted into Japanese have been the subject of much study in linguistics. The scholarly interest of the topic can be attributed to the fact that Japanese loanwords undergo a complex series of phonological adaptations, something which has been puzzling scholars for decades. While previous studies of Japanese loanword accommodation have focused on specific phonological phenomena of limited scope, the current study leverages computational methods to provide a more complete description of all the sound changes that occur when adopting English words into Japanese. To investigate this, we have de- veloped a parallel corpus of 250 English transcriptions and their respective Japanese equivalents. These words were then used to develop a wide-coverage finite state transducer based phonolog- ical grammar that mimics the behavior of the Japanese adaptation process, mapping e.g cream[kôi:m] to [kW.Ri:.mW]. By developing rules with the goal of accounting completely for a large number of borrowings, and analyzing forms mistakenly generated by the system, we discover an internal inconsistency within the loanword phonology of the Japanese language, something arguably underestimated by previous studies. The result of the investigation suggests that there are multiple dimensions that shape the output form of the current Japanese loanwords. These dimensions include orthography, phonetics, and historical changes. (link to paper: We will meet 5:30pm Wednesday in room 117. Food will be provided.

Syntax Group, 4/11 – Justin Royer

Mon, 04/08/2019 - 02:30
This week, Justin Royer will be presenting a paper by Robert Henderson and a related puzzle in Chuj from his own work. The paper is Morphological alternations at the intonational phrase edge: The case of K’ichee’ (Henderson, R. Nat Lang Linguist Theory (2012) 30: 741. For the meeting, please focus on sections 1, 2.1, and 3.1 of the paper. As usual, we will meet 12-1pm in Linguistics room 117. All are welcome!