YouTube Patreon YouTube Twitter Github RSS PayPal PayPal

Linguistics

My day job is that I work as a linguistics doctoral student at the University of Arizona. Here are some things relevant to my work.

CV. (For those who like my CV style, I have the source .tex file here.)

Here is my Master's thesis. Written at the University of Georgia under the guidance of Vera Lee-Schoenfeld.

My Theoretical Program

The general theme behind my work in linguistics is replacing poor-functioning traditional syntactic theory with explanations of data driven by extra-linguistic cognitive properties. That means deriving linguistic tendencies, habits and alternations from interactions between prosody, semantics, speaker world-knowledge and "third factor" principles.

My Program differs from traditional Chomskyan syntax in one crucial area: while the typical Generative assumption assume that the language faculty's main (possibly only) business is constructing the hierarchical structure in language from raw materials (words/morphemes), I view the main prerogative of the language faculty as translating and interpreting pre-existing semantic schemas into sound (and vice versa). While much of the data accumulated in the past 60 years has proven interesting and still useful, most of the central theoretical questions of Generative Syntax I consider to be non-meaningful or wild goose chases given this difference.

The language faculty is an optimization scheme that takes the many varying and contradicting constraints of the motor system (sound), the semantic system and other processing constraints and using typical neural architecture, attempts to bridge the formal gaps between them, producing the sometimes vexing constructions of syntax. Ultimately, syntax is the interface. Different languages are merely different configurations of constraint orderings.

Random squibs

All of these papers I consider "unfinished" and are really about piquing interest, so feedback is welcome.

A Critique of Reason
This is mostly a brief critique of the "Heuristics and Biases" program as popularized by Kahneman and Tversky as an approach to cognitive science, but also a critique of the more general tendency to prioritize Platonic forms over real-life function in science.
Scope without syntax: A Game Theoretic approach
Here I propose that scope availability is a result of pragmatic implicatures, not any formal syntactic operation. I suggest scope, and other perplexing aspects of language aren't actually part of the "language faculty," but fall the world knowledge and assumptions of speakers. (A preliminary presentation of this)
Indo-European Particles and Head-Movement-driven Word Order Change
Throwing some ideas out there about the evolution of word order, using the development Indo-European families as an example. The idea is that preferences for particle placement can cause verb movement overtime via univerbation or head movement. That is, languages that tend to place particles in initial position will move toward being VSO, languages that place particles in second position will move to being V2, etc.
Syntax without Syntax
Building an account differential syntactic traits driven by varying prosodic constraints.
Scope Markings and Serial Phrase Parsing
Here I point out the formal parallel between Harmonic Serial phrase prosodification and the distribution of scope marking. I argue that scope marking is a kind of prosodic repair to rectify an imperfect local maximum achieved in a stochastic and serial derivation. Wh- words want to be prosodically unified with the position they take scope in, but if this is not possible due to independent reasons, scope marking appears as a repair.
Syntax is just a phonological construct!
A brief squib which is the inklings of a constraint-based syntax-less approach to word order. Word order falls out from prosodic constraints, without the need for syntax itself.
Some countercyclic problems at the nexus of phonology and syntax
Here I overview the many syntactic alternations of languages which are manifestly tied into phonological constraints, and note the problems that consensus Generative Grammar has with dealing with them.
Accommodating phonological structure: Extraposition, the EPP and trace effects
Similarly to above, I overview phonological control of syntactic structure and here attempt to motivate it. Less complete.

Coming Presentations

Videos

Other