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Current Research Projects

Currently I am pursuing four main research projects. I welcome student and professional collaborators in all of these areas. (I also have smaller projects involving scope and kinship terms, about which feel free to ask!)


θ -ROLES AS FORMAL FEATURES. Projection in the Government Binding Theory (Chomsky 1981) made crucial use of θ-roles and θ-role assignment. I am updating these notions within the Minimalist Program, recasting θ-roles as formal syntactic θ-features and θ-role assignment as θ-feature agreement. Among other things, this view yields a radical reconceptualization of light verbs and prepositions as well as an attractive view of “argument inversions” like passive, psych movement, applicatives and instrumental advancement. The latter are analyzed as the product of formal θ-features interacting with the theory of Movement.

Languages Studied in this Project:   English, Mandarin, Japanese



CONCORDIAL PHENOMENA: The theory of features developed by Pesetsky and Torrego (2007) yields a general notion of concordial feature: one that is uninterpretable and unvalued. I am exploring cross-linguistically for examples of “concordializing elements” – elements that convert an expression that is typically valued for a given feature into one that is unvalued for that feature. Examples include “adjectivalizing” elements that convert a noun, which is valued for case and φ-features, into an expression that exhibits such features by concord. I am exploring the hypotheses that reverse Ezafe elements and Bantu/Kohoisan linkers are concordializers.

Languages Studied in this Project:   English, Mandarin, Japanaese, Persian, Gilaki, Mazandarani, Taleshi, Pashto, Zazaki, Kinande



GENERALIZED QUANTIFIER SYNTAX & SEMANTICS: GQ theory attributes argument structure to quantifiers analgous to predicates. This suggests that theories of predicate projection based on argument structure (θ-roles) should apply to them as well, an idea explored in earlier work. My results with θ-features yield a way of formalizing these ideas within the Minimalist Program, yielding many intriguing semantic questions. For example, θ-features in vP/VP have a direct interpretation within Neo-Davidsonian event semantics. If θ-features apply to the projection of DP/DegP, can they also be given event semantical interpretation? Fascinating puzzles and challenges arise!

Languages Studied in this Project:   English, Warlpiri



RETHINKING CARTOGRAPHY. My results with θ-features suggest a potential rethinking of the Cartographic Program, which currently assumes many separate functional heads rigidly ordered in a hierarchy determined by functional selection. I reanalyze proposed cartographic heads as features ordered in a feature hierarchy. These features are resident on a single head that is projected in shells. Projection in cartographic domains (left periphery, modifiers, etc.) thus comes to mimic projection in vP/VP. This reanalysis solves several conceptual problems within cartography and suggests interesting views of “inversions” within cartographic projections (e.g., movements within the left periphery, reorderings among modifiers, etc.)

Languages Studied in this Project:   English, Mandarin, Italian