My 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 been particularly interested in modularity in grammar. 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.) I don’t think that’s what syntax is, or should be; I think we can do better; and I think agreement and case hold the key to this. That’s because these are hierarchy-sensitive phenomena that cannot be reduced to interpretation, and thus, provide an ideal window into that which is quintessentially syntactic.
At the same time, I believe that there are phenomena out there that have traditionally been treated as obviously semantic, but which, upon more careful cross-linguistic examination, turn out to be syntactic, and track semantic properties only approximately. This is typical, of course, for syntactic phenomena: they appear at first glance to align with semantic properties, but this alignment falls apart under closer scrutiny.
I have started a fledgling blog where I explore these themes.
Topics I am interested in include:
- predicate-argument agreement
- case theory
- the Person Case Constraint (PCC)
- clitic doubling
- head movement
- the mapping between argument-structure and syntax
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:
(made using the blank Dinosaur Comic template, available here)