I’m a linguist. I hold the position of Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Maryland. I am also affiliated with the Maryland Language Science Center.

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 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
  • ergativity
  • 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:

linguistic dinosaur comic

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