The long steps up to Po Klaung Garai. Photo credit: Dylan A. Calhoun.


(As of Fall 2017,) I am a fifth-year graduate student in linguistics at UC Berkeley, advised by Peter Jenks.
I am a syntactician, specializing in information structure, and a sociolinguist. I primarily work on Eastern Cham, an Austronesian language spoken in Vietnam, though I also research Western Cham (Austronesian: Cambodia), Moken (Austronesian: Thailand, Burma), German, Catalán, and English dialects.


Download my CV here. (pdf, 249kb)


The syntax–information structure interface
My central research points to this conclusion: the structure of a conversation affects the structure of individual sentences. This research integrates generative syntax with work on the hierarchical structure of conversations (cf. work by Luis López and Asher & Lascarides' Segmented Discourse Representation Theory). I show that information structure concepts like topic, contrastive topic, and D-linking are best characterized by discourse structure, through what I call discourse connectedness. The fact that syntax is sensitive to these categories (e.g. topicalization) shows that there must be an interface between syntax and discourse structure.
"Discourse connectedness: Towards a unification of topic and D-linking" (2018) [LSA abstract (link)]
"Subpart of focus fronting is discourse subordination" (2017) [WCCFL handout (pdf, 805kb)]
"Topic, focus, and wh-phrases in Cham (and Moken)" (2015) [ISSLAC2 presentation (pdf, 428kb)]

Eastern Cham syntax
I also work on Eastern Cham syntax more generally, to complement the existing literature on the language that mostly focuses phonetics and phonology.
"Clause-final particles and focus in Eastern Cham" (2017) [LSA paper (pdf, 150kb)]
"Clefts and Anti-Superiority in Moken" (2016) [paper in JSEALS with Peter Jenks (link)]
"Multiple fronting restrictions in Eastern Cham: An [ID]-feature account" (2016) [LSA handout (pdf, 140kb)]

Eastern Cham variation
The Eastern Cham speech community is a microcosm of the effects of diglossia and language contact. Cham script is very old (the oldest attested Austronesian script) and a great source of pride for the Cham people. On the other hand, it is reported that all Eastern Cham speakers are now bilingual with Vietnamese, and there is a millennia-long history of language contact with Vietnamese and other languages of Mainland Southeast Asia. Building on the work of Marc Brunelle and Graham Thurgood, I have been using variationist sociolinguistic methods to assess variation and the influence of Cham script and Vietnamese on the modern language.
"Convergence and divergence in Eastern Cham language contact" (2018) [NWAV-AP5 abstract (pdf, 209kb)]
"Covariance of syntactic and phonological contact effects in Eastern Cham" (2016) [NWAV 45 presentation (pdf, 1,511kb)]
"Triglossia in Eastern Cham" (2016) [NWAV-AP4 presentation (pdf, 2mb)]

Internet slang
The because-Noun construction (e.g. because reasons, because Obama) spread across the Internet in late 2011-2012 (In fact, it was the 2013 American Dialect Society Word of the Year). We know it originated largely online, but how did it spread so quickly through the Internet sphere? Justin Bland, Matthias Raess, and I are investigating because-Noun from a corpus perspective, using big data from Twitter, Reddit, and Wikipedia. We are also testing attitudes towards because-Noun on the Amazon Mechanical Turk platform. Back in 2012, I examined abbrevs like totes and adorbs.
The first decade of because-NP: 2007-2016" (2018) [ADS abstract (pdf, 341kb)]
"Because formality: The conjunction-noun construction in online text corpora" (2016) [ADS poster (pdf, 906kb)]
"A Frequency-Based Analysis of the Modern -s Register-Marking Suffix" (2012) [LSA poster (pdf, 1.16mb)]

New England dialectology
Did you know that the New England dialect is disappearing across the region? Since 2009, James N. Stanford, Nathan Severance, Thomas Leddy-Cecere, other collaborators, and I have undertaken a long-term study on New Hampshire English, using contemporary field data along with audio recordings from previous dialect atlases going back to the 1920's. We have studied numerous aspects of dialect shift, from the encroachment of the Western New England dialect eastward, to the spread of a supra-regional American English norm. Our current project studies the appearance of Canadian Raising effects in New Hampshire and Boston over the past 150 years.
"146 years of 'Canadian Raising' in New Hampshire" (2014) [ADS presentation (]
"Multiple vectors of unidirectional dialect change in Eastern New England" (2014) [paper in Language Variation & Change (]
"Farewell to the founders: Dramatic changes between eastern and western New England" (2012) [paper in American Speech (link)]

Assorted other projects
"Does Aymara have subtractive case morphology?" (2016) [LSA poster (pdf, 795kb)]
"Deictics and related phenomena in Kuki-Chin" (2013) [paper for ICSTLL (]
"The Kuki-Chin deictic complex: examining interconnected reference systems" (2013) [LSA presentation (pdf, 1.95mb)]
"A/O possession in Modern Maori" (2011) [manuscript (pdf, 860kb)]

Media coverage

Occasionally, my research gets media coverage. Here are some links to coverage of my New England dialectology and Internet slang research.
Internet slang: 2014 NPR interview, Newspaper interview
New England dialectology: Radio Boston interview, Boston Globe interview, New York Times interview

Origami 'artichoke', designed and folded by Kenny Baclawski.


My father and namesake is a professor of Computer and Information Science at Northeastern University.
In my free time, I fold origami (see, picture) and play tennis.
At various points in the past, I had interests in palindromes, Minesweeper, playwriting, and writing humor.


By email:
By mail: 1203 Dwinelle Hall, Berkeley CA 94720

Last updated: October 18, 2017