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Most of my research centers on the morphosyntax of A′-movement in Bantu, a family of 300-500 languages spoken throughout sub-Saharan Africa. In Bantu languages, A′-movement environments such as wh-questions, relative clauses, and clefts exhibit morphological alternations that reflect the path of movement and/or properties of the moved element. Phenomena such as wh-agreement, anti-agreement, and relative marking fall into this category of extraction marking, along with some kinds of tonal alternations.
During graduate school, I used published data to perform case studies on extraction marking in Akɔɔse (Cameroon), Duala (Cameroon), and Kinande (Democratic Republic of Congo), and then later I conducted 50 hours of elicitation sessions in New Haven, CT, with a native speaker of Shona (Zimbabwe) for my dissertation on Bantu wh-question formation strategies. I investigated wh-in-situ, full wh-movement, and partial wh-movement using several diagnostics that have been underutilized in Bantu, such as island effects, reconstruction effects, and intervention effects. I also examined the distribution of extraction marking in each of these wh-question strategies.
My dissertation research, part of which led to the Linguistic Society of America’s 1st Place Student Abstract Award for 2015, was profiled in the Dec. 2014 issue of the Yale Graduate School of Arts & Sciences newsletter.
For my first few years of graduate school, I specialized in phonology, and I still am quite partial to Optimality Theory, particularly versions of it that harness the strengths of both derivational and constraint-based approaches to phonology. In my qualifying paper on vowel harmony in Warlpiri (Pama-Nyungan, Australia), I developed an analysis of the interaction of labial attraction and the labial blocking of progressive front vowel harmony. The analysis is couched within Serial Harmony (McCarthy 2009, 2010), a theory of local assimilation that uses autosegmental representations within the architecture of Harmonic Serialism.
As a member of Claire Bowern’s historical linguistics lab on the NSF grant “Dynamics of Hunter-Gatherer Language Change,” I contributed to several projects that considered the ways in which languages spoken by hunter-gatherers might be similar or different from languages spoken by agriculturalists in an effort to understand the kinds of sociocultural factors that influence language change. I was responsible for the African case study and also worked on the Australian case study.
In a joint project with Gaja Jarosz and Shira Calamaro, we used statistical modeling to analyze a corpus of speech of Polish children and their caregivers, providing insight into the role that input frequency plays in children’s acquisition of phonotactics.
While an undergraduate at the University of Rochester, I was privileged to work with Joyce McDonough, a phonologist, and Harold Danko, a professor of jazz piano, on a project looking at the relation between musical rhythm and speech rhythm in historical recordings of Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton.
I have consulted on the Yale Law School’s Pronouncing Dictionary of the Supreme Court of the United States, which provides audio recordings and IPA and layperson’s transcriptions of difficult-to-pronounce case names.