I am a linguist working on syntax and syntactic theory, as well as the syntax/semantics and syntax/morphology interfaces. My empirical research focuses primarily on Icelandic and (various varieties of) English, with comparisons to related languages. I am an Associate Professor of Linguistics at Yale University. I completed my Ph.D. at New York University in 2012 under the direction of Alec Marantz. On this page, you can find information about me and my research, as well as downloadable papers and relevant links.
I am pursuing several strands of research, most of which revolve around one central question: how is natural language designed so that structured representations of very different kinds can be systematically related to each other? At a minimum, natural language must have structured meanings and structured (morphophonological) strings; somehow, we are able to ‘translate’ these very different kinds of structures, so that a hearer is able to extract a structured meaning from a structured string of speech sounds. The hypothesis I have been pursuing is that the syntactic component builds representations which are featurally underspecified, so that the same representations can be used by the semantics and by the morphology. I began to develop this view in some detail in my Ph.D. thesis Icelandic Morphosyntax and Argument Structure (later published in revised form as a book) focusing specifically on argument structure and thematic interpretation in verb phrases. I have continued that line of work in a number of papers, including my forthcoming book Icelandic nominalizations and allosemy, which can be downloaded in manuscript form here. Since 2012, I have also been a leading member of the Yale Grammatical Diversity Project, and have worked on many topics in connection with syntactic dialect variation in American English. Along with some of my students, I have created a fairly comprehensive mapbook of our survey results, with over 200 maps of some 194 sentences, covering a wide range of syntactic constructions.
I began studying Icelandic while working as a helicopter crew chief (essentially a general mechanic) with the US Air Force at Naval Air Station Keflavík, Iceland in 2003. I became fascinated with that language, and then with language in general, so after separating from the Air Force, I pursued a B.A. in Linguistics at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), where I worked with Naomi Nagy and Shelly Lieber. I graduated in 2006, writing my B.A. thesis on Icelandic syntax, specifically focusing on a word order known as “stylistic fronting.” I continued to study Icelandic syntax and syntactic theory as a Ph.D. student at New York University and completed my Ph.D. under the direction of Alec Marantz in May of 2012. I also studied extensively with Richie Kayne, Halldór Sigurðsson, Stephanie Harves, Chris Collins and Anna Szabolcsi while at NYU. My thesis focuses on how the meaning and structure of Icelandic verbs interact with the syntax of those verbs.
While Icelandic syntax is extremely interesting in its own right (and some of my work is purely in the interest of understanding how that language works), the ultimate goal is to find out what individual languages like Icelandic can tell us about the human capacity for language and human cognition in general. A large part of my work has pursued the hypothesis that roots, words and affixes in natural language do not have fully formed meanings independent of the syntactic structures in which they are embedded. Instead, syntax creates hierarchical representations that can be “read” or “interpreted” by semantic and phonological systems, but which are underspecified for both.
In 2012, I came to Yale University as a Postdoctoral Associate, and worked closely with Raffaella Zanuttini and Larry Horn for several years before becoming an Assistant Professor here in 2016. I have been extremely fortunate to have been able to teach and conduct research here since then.