Professor, Linguistics
Director, Human Development Program


    My research focuses on a broad range of issues concerning the relation between lexical semantics, morphology, and syntax. I'm concerned with cross-linguistic and typological matters in these domains, especially within the Uralic family. Following up on research from my book with Webelhuth I am exploring ways of revitalizing Word & Paradigm (alternatively, pattern-based inferential-realizational) models of morphology.

    An early focus of this work was on the relevance of paradigms and periphrasis for theory construction within a view of grammar referred to as Realization-based Lexicalism (Blevins 2001). In collaboration with J. P. Blevins and Rob Malouf this research on word-based morphology has broadened into explorations of morphology as a complex adaptive system (following research in Ecological Developmental Biology (Gilbert and Epers 2009, Bateson and Gluckman 2011, Gissis and Jablonka 2011)).

    We utilize information-theoretic measures to study cross-linguistic paradigm organization in terms of implicational relations among related wordforms. Related work is being done by Gregory Stump, Rafael Finkel and Andrew Wedel. We are presently exploring how experimental research can be be applied to learnability issues bearing on word-based based morphology. Many of these strands of research are synthesized in a recent book with Irina Nikolaeva (see below).

    Over the past few years I have been working on the description and theoretical analysis of an underdocumented Kordofanian language, Moro, spoken in Sudan. This is collaborative work with my co-PI Sharon Rose and several graduate and undergraduate students under the auspices of an NSF grant (BCS-0745973). This research can be seen at I have also developed a correspondence-based mapping theory with John Moore and we are presently extending this model to the Moro morphology-syntax interface.

Recent Presentations


UC Berkeley Fieldwork Forum

Conference on Quantitative Methods in Morphology and Morphological Development, Center for Human Development UCSD

LSA Morphology Workshop, University of Colorado Boulder

LFG 2011 Hong Kong

LFG 2011 Hong Kong

The Nuba Mountain Languages Conference, Leiden University

Conference on syntactic government Cambridge University

A workshop on morphology and formal grammar, Paris

8th Mediterranean morphology meeting, Cagliari, Sardinia


Linguistic Society of America, 2010

Construction-theoretic morphology.
14th International Morphology Meeting, Budapest Hungary.

Paradigm entropy as a measure of morphological simplicity. (with Rob Malouf)
Morphological complexity: Implications for the theory of language, Harvard University, January 2010.

An evolutionary explanation for the Paradigm Economy Principle. (with Rob Malouf)
Linguistic Society Meeting January 2010.


Affix ordering and the morphosyntax of object marking in Moro.
Lexical Functional Grammar 09, Cambridge University. July 2009.

A construction-theoretic approach to possessive relatives.
UC Davis, Linguistics Colloquium. November 2009.

A construction-theoretic approach to part-whole relations in grammar.
University of Oregon, Linguistics Colloquium. April 2009.

Language as a complex system (with Jim Blevins, Rob Malouf, and Andrew Wedel).
Biology-Linguistics Nexus: MLK 2009 Workshop, Ohio State University

Proto-properties and obliqueness. (with John Moore).
Conference on Case In and Across Languages. Helsinki, Finland.  August 2009.

A construction-theoretic approach to possessive relatives (with Irina Nikolaeva)
Frames and Constructions: A Tribute to Charles Fillmore. UC Berkeley, July 2009.

The Morphosyntax of Filler-Gap Constructions in Moro. (with George Gibbard, Peter Jenks, Laura Kertz & Sharon Rose.)
ACAL, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne. April, 2009.

Balancing description, typology, and theory in Thetogovela Moro. (with George Gibbard, Peter Jenks, Laura Kertz & Sharon Rose)
ACAL, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne. April, 2009.


Inflectional morphology as a complex adaptive system. (with Robert Malouf and James Blevins)
First Annual Complex Systems and Language Workshop, Tucson, April 2008.

A construction-theoretic approach to lexical periphrasis in Hungarian complex predicates. (with Robert Malouf, and Gert Webelhuth)
18th International Congress of Linguists, Seoul, Korea. July 2008.

An entropy-based measure of morphological information. (with James Blevins and Rob Malouf.)
3rd Workshop on Quantitative Investigations in Theoretical Linguistics (QITL - 3), Helsinki, Finland. July 2008.

Workshops & Symposia Organized

Quantitative Measures in Morphology and Morphological Development
UC San Diego, Center for Human Development. February 2010.

Four dimensions in evolution.
Human Development Colloquium Series. Winter 2009.

Organizer for the Syntax Sessions.
18th International Congress of Linguists, Seoul Korea. July 21st-26th 2008.

Applications of Biological Models to Behavioral Science (with Nick Spitzer).
Human Development Colloquium Series. Fall 2008.

1st Language as a complex adaptive system workshop. (with Andrew Wedel)
University of Arizona, Tucson. April 2008.