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


I study syntax (how words are put together to form sentences) and how it interfaces with discourse (how sentences are put together to form conversations) using fieldwork and experimental methods. I work on languages of Southeast Asia, especially Eastern Cham, an Austronesian language of Vietnam. My dissertation at UC Berkeley was advised by Peter Jenks. I also study language variation (sociolinguistics) and language contact between Eastern Cham and Vietnamese.


Download my CV here. (pdf, ~200kb)


The syntax–discourse structure interface
My central research points to this conclusion: syntax can be sensitive to discourse structure through what I call discourse connectedness (DC). Think about the phrase That's because. This phrase is known to signal the rhetorical relation Explanation. It tells you the next sentence is about to explain a previous one. In Eastern Cham and other languages, Explanation is marked not by a phrase, but by moving a phrase to the left edge of a clause. My research shows that this is a kind of Ā-movement, much like wh-movement in English. Therefore, there must be a deeply syntactic feature (DC) that indexes a property of discourse structure.
"Discourse connectedness: The syntax--discourse structure interface" (2019) [Dissertation (link)]
"Subpart of focus fronting is discourse subordination" (2017) [WCCFL paper (link)]
"Clefts and Anti-Superiority in Moken" (2016) [paper in JSEALS with Peter Jenks (link)]

Eastern Cham syntax
I also work on Eastern Cham syntax more generally, particularly on issues of more general interest in Southeast Asian languages and issues that arise from discourse connectedness.
"Contrastive topic in Eastern Cham" (2018) [Berkeley Papers in Formal Linguistics (link)]
"Clause-final particles and focus in Eastern Cham" (2017) [LSA paper (link)]

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.
"Diglossia and change from below in Eastern Cham" (2018) [paper in Asia-Pacific Language Variation (link)]

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 slides (pdf, ~450kb)]

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.
"Multiple vectors of unidirectional dialect change in Eastern New England" (2014) [paper in Language Variation & Change (link)]
"Farewell to the founders: Dramatic changes between eastern and western New England" (2012) [paper in American Speech (link)]

Earlier projects
Proceedings of the Berkeley Linguistics Society 41st Annual Meeting (2015) [co-editor, (link)]

Media coverage

Here are some links to coverage of my New England dialectology and Internet slang research.
Internet slang: 2014 NPR interview, Edmonton Journal 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: February 10, 2020