My primary theoretical interests are phonology, suprasegmentals
(tone, stress, syllable structure), and the phonetics-phonology
and phonology-morphology interfaces. I am interested in language
contact, variation, and change, and what these can reveal about
human history. My research combines fieldwork, corpus data and computational
methods, and archival materials. Documentation and description of endangered and
understudied languages, and language revitalization, are also an
important part of my work.
My recent research focus has been on Karuk, an endangered indigenous language of northern California. I have carried out fieldwork with the last remaining first-language speakers to fill in gaps in the record of the language, and I have worked closely with community language documentarians and teachers to make sure data gathered is relevant for language revitalization as well as for theoretical questions.
Prosodic prominence in Karuk
My dissertation, Prosodic Prominence in Karuk, focuses on an aspect of Karuk that has been poorly understood, namely an unusually complex system of accentuation made up of sparse stress and tone. The Karuk prosodic system bears striking resemblances to other 'accent' languages, but with important differences and added complexities. I found two main influences on the placement of accentuation: the alignment of high tone with certain syllable structures, and the use of prosodic prominence to mark morphological boundaries. When these two influences are in conflict, the resolution depends on morphologically-specific criteria. The system is thus far more predictable and phonologically based than previously thought, yet still requires reference to certain sets of morphology, which poses a challenge for approaches that seek to relegate the role of morphology in explanation to phonology or syntax. There remain questions about the precise nature of consonant and vowel length in Karuk, which have been described both in binary and more gradient terms. I have hypothesized that some length can be attributed to metrical phenomena. In order to know whether this is true, and if so, to determine which degrees of length are involved, I am working on a phonetic study of stress and length.
Karuk dictionary and text corpus
As part of the Karuk research group at Berkeley, I have played a key role in building the Ararahih'urípih online dictionary and morphologically parsed text corpus of Karuk. My contributions include transcription, morphological parsing, integrating archival material, and developing an automated system for digitizing transcriptions of recordings. We have been successful in our goal of developing a resource that is useful for both academic linguists and language learners. Scholarly work and revitalization efforts in the community both rely on this resource.
With elder speaker Charlie Thom, Sr., Erik Maier, and Florrine Super in Yreka, CA, 2013
Omagua documentation and description
I have been part of a project to document and describe Omagua, a highly endangered Tupí-Guaraní language of the Peruvian Amazon, since 2009. I carried out team-based fieldwork with some of the last elderly speakers of the language in the communities of San Joaquin de Omaguas and Iquitos, Peru, in 2010 and 2011. We used text and elicitation data to inform scholarly descriptive and analytical work and to produce a dictionary of the language for the community. My analytical focus was on the phonology of the language, in particular the stress patterns, and on information structure and how it determines pronoun choice. The current goal of the project is the collaborative writing of a comparatively and diachronically informed grammar of the language.
Transcribing with Alicia and Lino in San Joaquin de Omaguas, Peru, 2011
Making use of archival materials
As there has been a fair amount of documentation on Karuk, a key component of my research on the language has been to locate archived materials and determine what can be gleaned from them for modern linguistic analysis. I was invited to present a poster at an LSA special session on Utilization of Language Archives in Endangered Language Research, Revitalization, and Documentation, in which I showed how I integrated archival research with fieldwork to expand the Karuk text corpus. Utilizing a single extant recording, I interpreted J.P. Harrington’s early 20th century field notes on Karuk. The result is that I am able to reconstruct word-level accentuation from Harrington's transcriptions, and even some utterance-level intonation.
Comparative Abo verb morphology
In work with a Cameroonian consultant to describe aspects of the Bantu language Abo, my research focused on derivational verbal morphology. In particular, I was interested in the segmental and tonal forms of the verb extensions, and what they indicate historically and comparatively. I found several reflexes of Proto-Bantu extensions, and some important similarities and differences in comparison with the related language Basaá.