Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy
77 Massachusetts Ave., 32-D868
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307 (USA)

Office phone:
(617) 258-6837

(617) 253-5017

My book Uttering Trees is now available in finer bookstores everywhere.

I'm very proud to be a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow!

Here's my CV.

And here's an abstract of my 1997 MIT thesis, What Moves Where When in Which Language?, available from MIT Working Papers in Linguistics.


If I'm doing linguistics…

…chances are I'm working on wh-movement, crucially derivational properties of syntax, endangered languages, the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, or any of various issues in the syntax of Tagalog or other Austronesian languages. Here are some recent papers of mine:

  • "Two components of long-distance extraction: successive cyclicity in Dinka", co-written with Coppe van Urk, offers new evidence from Dinka (a Nilo-Saharan language spoken in South Sudan) bearing on the nature of successive-cyclic movement. In particular, the Dinka facts make it particularly clear that long-distance movement must stop at the edge of every phase, and also show that extraction from CP is only possible if the CP is Agreed with by a higher v.
  • In "The Tagalog Copula" I argue that Tagalog, contrary to appearances, actually has a copula (which is generally null, but can appear overtly under the right conditions). The fact that Tagalog doesn't generally use an overt copula has led to speculation that it might be a language in which there are no real distinctions between lexical categories; the paper argues that this cannot be correct, and that there must at least be a difference between verbs and nonverbs.
  • "Maliseet VP-ellipsis and the syntax of polysynthesis" argues for the existence of VP-ellipsis (and, for some speakers, VP-pronominalization) in Maliseet, an endangered Algonquian language spoken in parts of New Brunswick and Maine. The result is of interest, since Maliseet is polysynthetic, and hence of a type which has sometimes been argued to lack VPs entirely, or to have VPs which contain none of the arguments of the clause. I argue that Maliseet VPs are in fact entirely ordinary, containing the direct object (though not the subject), certain adverbs, and the stem of the verb. A version of the paper will appear in the Proceedings of NELS 38.
  • "Can A-scrambling reorder arguments?" tries to account for the apparent violation of locality involved in A-scrambling of one DP past another. It claims that this is accomplished by Merge of (for example) a subject underneath the landing site of scrambling of the object. I try to show that allowing derivations of this kind not only solves the locality problem, but successfully predicts, given certain types of theories of reconstruction, that such movements should not reconstruct.
  • "Lardil "Case Stacking" and the Structural/Inherent Case Distinction" discusses the conditions on case marking in Lardil. Like a lot of Australian languages, Lardil has many processes of case concord (for example, possessors agree in case with their possessees), which allows nominals to bear multiple case morphemes. I investigate the conditions on these strings of case morphemes, and discuss their consequences for Case theory more generally; in particular, I argue for a derivation in which case features are assigned in the narrow syntax and may be assigned to a given nominal arbitrarily many times, and in which PF Spellout and LF Spellout can take place at different points in the derivation.
  • "Beyond Strength and Weakness" is an attempt to develop a theory that predicts, for a given language, whether that language has wh-in-situ or wh-movement. The claim is that a universal condition on the prosody of wh-questions requires wh-phrases to share a prosodic domain of a certain type with the complementizers marking their scope positions, and that this can be achieved either by movement or by manipulating the prosody directly; which options are open to a given language depend on how prosody is organized in that language, and on where the complementizer is.
  • "Person-Case Effects in Tagalog and the Nature of Long-Distance Extraction" offers another kind of evidence for the theory that Andrea Rackowski and I develop in "Phase edge and extraction: a Tagalog case study", having to do with the distribution of Person-Case effects in Tagalog.
  • "Phase edge and extraction: a Tagalog case study", co-authored with Andrea Rackowski, is an attempt to derive both the CED and the facts about conditions on extraction in languages like Tagalog to follow from the behavior of Chomskyan phases.
  • "A Distinctness Condition on Linearization" is about well-formedness conditions on syntactic structures that are imposed by the need to make those structures linearizable; I argue that ordering statements can make reference only to node labels, and that this restriction accounts for various OCP-like phenomena in syntax.
  • "The Syntax of the Conjunct and Independent Orders in Wampanoag" discusses the distribution of Conjunct and Independent Order verbs in Wampanoag, and argues that Conjunct verbs are structurally lower than Independent verbs.
  • "Dependency Formation and Directionality of Tree Construction" is an argument that the tree should be constructed from the top down, rather than from the bottom up as is standard in Minimalism. It will appear in MITWPL 33: Papers on Morphology and Syntax, Cycle Two.
  • "An Idiomatic Argument for Lexical Decomposition" argues that verbs like "give" and "get" should be decomposed into parts; the data involve pairs of idioms like those in "We gave John the boot" and "John got the boot". To appear in Linguistic Inquiry.
  • "An Island Effect in Japanese" argues against unselective-binding approaches to wh-in-situ. A version of this will appear in Journal of East Asian Linguistics.
  • "Subjacency Forever" argues that both overt and covert movement are constrained by Subjacency, and that Rudin's (1988) division of multiple overt wh-movement languages (e.g., Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian) into languages with multiple movement to specifiers of CP and languages with only a single specifier of CP can be extended as well to wh-in-situ languages (e.g., Chinese, Japanese).
  • "The Principle of Minimal Compliance" is an attempt at developing a theory of cases in which dependencies seem to be able to "assist" each other; that is, in which a dependency which would be ill-formed in isolation is rendered well-formed by the presence of a well-formed dependency. Topics include parasitic gaps, additional-wh effects of various kinds, and Reinhart and Reuland's (1993) Reflexivity. Appeared in Linguistic Inquiry 29.599-629.
  • "In Full Pursuit of the Unspeakable" is a theory of PF-imposed well-formedness conditions on chains. The goal is to derive Chomsky's (1993, 1995) Procrastinate, as well as to explain the apparently "marked" character of subject extraction cross-linguistically, among other things. Appeared in the proceedings of NELS 28.
  • "Featural Cyclicity and the Ordering of Multiple Specifiers" argues that movement to multiple specifiers always involves maximally crossing paths, and tries to derive this fact from Chomsky's (1995) version of cyclicity and a certain version of Shortest Move.
  • "Complementizer cliticization in Tagalog and English" discusses the properties of a complementizer in Tagalog which has an allomorph that cliticizes to the immediately preceding word; the distribution of this allomorph is shown to be remarkably similar to that of the English null complementizer.
  • "Another Look at Tagalog Subjects" investigates the nature of subjecthood in Tagalog; I argue that Tagalog exhibits a (morphologically expressed) equivalent of movement to the preverbal position in V2 languages.
  • "Towards a Theory of Head-Binding" argues that binding theory should be characterized in terms of Chomsky's (1995) notion of feature-movement.
  • "Toward a Feature-Movement Theory of Long-Distance Anaphora" is particularly concerned with some problems for Economy-based approaches arising from properties of long-distance anaphora, especially ones having to do with optionality.
  • "Competition and Disjoint Reference" is a squib arguing for competition-based approaches to disjoint reference phenomena, based on some data from Norwegian and Japanese. It appeared in Linguistic Inquiry 28.1.
  • "An Optimality-Theoretic Approach to Ponapean Reduplication" was my phonology generals paper; it uses the framework of Optimality Theory to explain the complex ways in which the shape of Ponapean verbal reduplication is determined by properties of the base.
  • "Leerdil Yuujmen bana Yanangarr" is based on fieldwork I did with Ken Hale in July and August of 1996 on Mornington Island, Australia; it is a comparison of Lardil as it is currently spoken by its youngest fluent speakers with Lardil as it was spoken in the mid-1960's. I describe the fairly drastic morphological and syntactic changes Lardil has undergone in the past few decades, and offer some suggestions as to their probable cause; in particular, I argue that Lardil has not in fact been influenced by English.


If I'm not doing linguistics…

…well, then why not ? If you see me doing any of these things, please tell me to get back to work immediately:


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