Research

 

I’m currently working on a range of projects that investigate the semantics of functional categories (especially tense and mood interactions) and language change (especially contact-induced). This work is supported predominantly by data collected in Northern Australia (esp. the Eastern Arnhem communities of Ramingiṉiŋ and Ropa/Ngukurr).

Please feel free to reach out for manuscripts/drafts/handouts associated with any of the below!

Yolngu Matha: intensionality, morphosemantics, variation

Yolŋu is a Pama-Nyungan language family spoken in NE Arnhem Land. Varieties exhibit a range of significant functional and formal variation in verbal inflectional paradigms, including typologically fascinating temporal phenomena  (notably “cyclic” tense) and interactions between the temporal, aspectual and modal domains that point a history of contact-induced semantic change.

My dissertation describes and proposes an analysis the verbal paradigm of Djambarrpuyŋu [djr]; seeks to understand temporal & modal expression in this language; and assesses (in view of explaining) the considerable functional variation in this domain  across Yolŋu languages.

Semantic fieldwork

Dissertation fieldwork in Ramingiṉiŋ

Apprehensionality & discourse anaphora

A 2016 paper by Denise Angelo & Eva Schultze-Berndt shows how Australian Kriol temporal frame adverbials (notably bambai ‘soon’)  have developed ‘apprehensional’ readings. I’ve been working on how insights from the formal (incl ‘dynamic’) semantics & formal pragmatics literatures can be brought to bear on these phenomena.

An implication for this is a new way of understanding the interpretive conventions for adverbs like English otherwise and related ‘discourse anaphoric’ lexical items that appear to exhibit sensitivity to information structure.

Typologies and diachrony of negation

Australian languages exhibit a range of morphosyntactic strategies for clausal and subclausal negation. I’ve been working on a typology of these strategies with particular reference to a cyclic change described in the literature as the ‘negative existential cycle.’
This work has also comprised a formal amphichronic treatment of privative marking with implications for semantic theories of both grammaticalisation and negation.

  • Negation in Australian languages [submitted 2018]
  • Privation & negation: semantic change in Australian languages’ negative domains

Creolistics

Little research has been undertaken on the formal structure of Australian Kriol and it is poorly integrated into the literatures on pidgin & creole languages. My undergraduate thesis (2011) and subsequent work have sought to approach phenomena in Australian Kriol from a diachronically-informed perspective.
‘A sense of agency’ (SL42, 2018takes original field data and an assembled text corpus to analyse apparent syntactic/semantic/pragmatic distributional differences and to evince the recent grammaticalisation of agentivity in the Kriol pronoun paradigm.

Computational phylogenetics

The recruitment of computational phylogenetic methodologies (esp. those used in evolutionary biology and cultural anthropology) have shown promise of improving our understanding of diachronic processes. This work comprises Bayesian modelling of variation and trait reconstruction that makes predictions about the development of morphosyntactic phenomena across Australian languages.