Research

Whe 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 semantic domains of temporality, modality, aspect and polarity that point a history of contact-induced change (e.g., the neutralisation of reality status marking in negated sentences).

My dissertation is concerned with an analysis of the verbal paradigm of Djambarrpuyŋu [djr]; and developing an understanding of temporal & modal expression in this language.  Drawing on new data—collected predominantly on-site in Ramingining—my work seeks to assess (in view of explaining) the considerable functional variation in this domain across Yolŋu languages with reference to contemporary theories of natural language semantics and diachronic change.

Semantic fieldwork

Dissertation fieldwork in Ramingiṉiŋ

discourse anaphora & apprehensionality” 

A 2016 paper by Denise Angelo & Eva Schultze-Berndt shows how Australian Kriol temporal frame adverbial bambai ‘soon’ has developed ‘apprehensional’ readings. On the basis of new data elicited in Ngukurr, I’ve been working on how insights from the formal (incl. ‘dynamic’) semantics & pragmatics literatures can be brought to bear on this cross-linguistically attested meaning change trajectory. This work draws, on and has implications for, theories of information structure, conventional implicature and modals & conditionals.

Relatedly, in joint work, Hadas Kotek & I develop a new way of understanding the interpretive conventions for adverbs like English otherwise and related ‘discourse anaphora’ — lexical items that appear to exhibit sensitivity to information structure.  Proposing a modal analysis of otherwise and deploying insights from the formal pragmatics literature, we suggest that the range of propositions which can serve as the antecedent/restrict the domain of otherwise provides additional insights into the representation and interpretation of linguistic expressions that contain modal (incl. conditional) operators.

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  (as a negative existential predicate that generalises into a clausal negator) with implications for theories of both grammaticalisation and the semantics of negation in natural language.

  • Negation in Australian languages [to appear 2021]
  • 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 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 collected in Ngukurr and an assembled text corpus to analyse apparent syntactic/semantic/pragmatic distributional differences and to evince the recent (in-progress?) 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.