My background is in language acquisition, but for the past twenty years my research has focused on the critically endangered indigenous languages of BC, in particular, those of the Salish, Wakashan, and Tsimshianic families.

I have been working since 1992 on the Northern Interior Salish language St’át’imcets (Lilllooet), in partnership with the Upper St’át’imcets Language, Culture and Education Society and collaboration with my colleague Lisa Matthewson. Besides syntactic research on categories, configurationality, anaphora, ellipsis, and WH-questions, and semantic work on modality and quantification, I have written a large but as yet-unpublished teaching grammar of the language, am collaborating on a three-volume English-St’át’imcets dictionary, and have worked on both contemporary and historical textual materials.

Besides St’át’imcets, I have worked directly or indirectly on a number of other Salish languages, including Northern Straits, Halkomelem, Shuswap, and Thompson, and have published comparative and historical work on pronouns and negation.

I have done collaborative research on two Wakashan languages: Nuuchahnulth, from the Southern branch, and more recently Kwak’wala, from the North. My work on Nuuchahnulth has centred on WH-questions and anaphora; In addition, Rachel Wojdak and I co-edited a special edition of the Canadian Journal of Linguistics in (2007) devoted to the grammar of Southern Wakashan: LINK. Current research on Kwak’wala includes work on argument structure with Katie Sardinha.

Most recently, I and a team of researchers at UBC have begun a detailed investigation of the Interior Tsimshianic language Gitksan (Gitxsanmix). Jason Brown and I have been working on WH-movement,, and I have begin investigation quantification.

It should be emphasized that all the remaining extant indigenous languages of BC are under-documented in the areas of syntax and semantics, and there is probably only a decade or so remaining in which we can do meaningful work with fluent first language speakers. This research is urgent not only for the purposes of linguistic documentation, but also to lay the groundwork for effective teaching programs, so that future generations of speakers have accurate, detailed curriculum materials which can serve as the basis for language revival.

Courses Currently Teaching


Davis, H. 2010. A Unified Analysis of Relative Clauses in St’át’imcets. Northwest Journal of Linguistics 4.1: 1-43.

Davis, H. and L. Matthewson 2009. Issues in Salish Syntax and Semantics. Language and Linguistics Compass 3/4: 1097-1166.

Davis, H. 2009. Cross-linguistic Variation in Anaphoric Dependencies: Evidence from the Pacific Northwest. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 27(1): 1-43.

Rullmann, H., L. Matthewson and H. Davis 2008. Modals as Distributive Indefinites. Natural Language Semantics 16: 317-357.

Matthewson, L., H. Davis and H. Rullmann 2008. Evidentials as Epistemic Modals in St’át’imcets. Linguistic Variation Yearbook 7: 201-254.

Davis, H., R. Waldie and R. Wojdak 2007. Condition C in Nuu-chah-nulth. Canadian Journal of Linguistics 52: 185-222. (Special Edition on Southern Wakashan Languages).

Davis, H. 2005. On the Syntax and Semantics of Negation in Salish. International Journal of American Linguistics 71(1): 1-55.

Davis, H. 2001. Kayám: an Early St’át’imcets Text. Anthropological Linguistics 43(3): 1-59.

Davis, H. 2000. Remarks on Proto-Salish Subject Inflection. International Journal of American Linguistics 66: 499-520.

Conference Proceedings (Refereed by Abstract)

Davis, H. in press. Salish Lacks Generalized Quantifiers After All! In D. Lutz and N. Li (eds.) Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory 20. 18ps. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University.

Davis, H., M. Louie, L. Matthewson, I. Paul, A. Reis Silva & T. Peterson 2010. Perfective Aspect and Actuality Entailments: A Cross-Linguistic Approach. The Proceedings of SULA 5: The Semantics of Under-Represented Languages in the Americas. Amherst, MA: GLSA, 17-32.

Bar-el, L., H. Davis and L. Matthewson 2005. On Non-Culminating Accomplishments. In L. Bateman and C. Ussery (eds.), Proceedings of the 35th North East Linguistic Society Conference. Amherst, MA: GLSA, 87-102.

Davis, H. 2003. Disjoint Anaphora and Reciprocals in Salish. Proceedings of WECOL 2002: 161-172. Department of Linguistics, California State University, Fresno. Fresno, CA.

Davis, H. and N. Sawai 2001. WH-Movement as Noun Incorporation in Nuu-chah-nulth. In K. Megerdoomian and L. Bar-el (eds.), Proceedings of the Twentieth West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics. Somerville, MD: Cascadilla Press, 123-136.

Refereed Book Chapters

Davis, H., L. Matthewson and H. Rullmann. 2009. ‘Out of Control’ Marking as Circumstantial Modality in St’át’imcets. In L. Hogeweg, H. de Hoop, and A. Maljukov (eds.) The Cross-linguistic Semantics of Tense, Aspect, and Modality. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 205-244.

Davis, H. 2005. Constituency and Coordination in St’át’imcets (Lillooet Salish). In Andrew Carnie, Sheila Anne Dooley, and Heidi Harley (eds.) Verb First: on the Syntax of Verb Initial Languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 31-64.

Davis, H., L. Matthewson and S. Shank 2004. Clefts versus Nominal Predicates in Two Salish Languages. In D. Gerdts and L. Matthewson (eds.) Studies in Salish Linguistics in Honor of M. Dale Kinkade. Missoula, Montana: University of Montana Occasional Papers in Linguistics 17, 100-117.

Davis, H. and L. Matthewson 2003. Quasi Objects in St’át’imcets: on the (Semi-) Independence of Agreement and Case. In A. Carnie, H. Harley, and M.-A. Willie (eds.), Formal Approaches to Function in Grammar: In Honor of Eloise Jelinek. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 79-106.

Davis, H. and H. Demirdache 2000. On Lexical Verb Meanings: Evidence from Salish. In J. Pustojevsky and C. Tenny (eds.), Events as Grammatical Objects: the Converging Perspectives of Lexical Semantics and Syntax. CSLI: Stanford University Press, 97-142.

Davis, H. 2000. Salish Evidence on the Causative-Inchoative Alternation. In Wolfgang U. Dressler, Oskar E. Pfeiffer, Markus Pöchtrager and John R. Rennison (eds.), Morphological Analysis in Comparison. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 25-60. (Current Issues in Linguistic Theory. Vol. 201.)