I’m a linguist.

I hold the position of Associate Professor in the UMD Department of Linguistics.

photoMy research interests span the linguistic sub-fields traditionally identified as syntax and morphology.

I work on phenomena that resist explanation in terms of sound and/or meaning. (If you are unfamiliar with linguistics, the very idea that such phenomena exist might strike you as a little bit counter-intuitive. But phenomena of this sort are surprisingly common in natural language!)

Lately, I have become particularly interested in issues of modularity. Specifically, I have come to believe that much of what passes for “syntax” these days is actually semantics, masquerading as syntax. (Or, if you prefer: semantics, obliquely described using the vocabulary of syntactic theory.) The idea of a transparent & reliable mapping between syntax and semantics is an indispensable methodological heuristic; but as a bona fide principle of grammar, it is obviously false. And yet much of contemporary syntactic theory is predicated on this very assumption.

I think we can do better; and I think agreement and case hold the key to this. That’s because agreement and case are hierarchy-sensitive phenomena that cannot be reduced to interpretation, and thus, provide an ideal window into that which is quintessentially syntactic.

Some of the topics I am interested in are:

  • predicate-argument agreement
  • nominal case
  • the Person Case Constraint (PCC)
  • clitic doubling
  • head movement
  • ergativity

I work on various (and often unrelated) languages, including: Basque, Icelandic, English, Hebrew, Kaqchikel, Q’anjob’al, Sakha, Kinyarwanda, Shi, Oromo, and Georgian.

See my research page for further details.

And now, a linguistic Dinosaur Comic:

linguistic dinosaur comic

(made using the blank Dinosaur Comic template, available here)