I’m a semanticist working on semantics and its interface with syntax. Most of my research has had something to do with modification in one way or another, but it’s never been obvious to me that that actually constitutes a natural class of phenomena rather than a convenient rubric under which to place a variety of more particular interests.
I received my doctorate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2005, and my BA from University of California, Santa Cruz in 1997. Until 2019, I was an associate professor of linguistics at Michigan State University, where I spent nearly 14 years. Before that I worked at the Université du Québec à Montréal and at Hampshire College.
For more, visit my personal website.
My research interests in five words
Semantics, syntax, and their interface.
In slightly more than five words
Most of my work centers on various aspects of the grammar of modification. It’s not at all obvious that this actually constitutes a natural class of phenomena, but whether it does so is an interesting question in itself. One issue I have been thinking about in the last few years is how gradability works in non-adjectival syntactic contexts. I’ve also been working on degree modifiers, including both the more familiar sort found in the extended AP and what I believe to be their analogues elsewhere. Other topics I have worked on less recently include nonrestrictive modification, measure phrases, modification of quantifiers, adverbial modification, expressive meaning, and apparently semantic restrictions on modifier order. Much of my work also reflects a fondness for phenomena that might be regarded as peripheral but turn out to be productive and, in the ideal case, to bear on more general theoretical questions.
For non-linguist humans
What theoretical linguists in general do is try to figure out what exactly it is you know when you know a language. One aspect of this is knowledge of meaning. That’s what I work on. I usually think about how the meanings of sentences are assembled from the meanings of words, and what this tells us about the meanings of the words themselves. I seem to have fixated on various puzzles involving modifiers—bits of a sentence that, in general, can be left out without making the sentence sound strange. That’s a broad topical focus, but there is also an intellectual aesthetic running through a lot of my work: I really like linguistic phenomena that might superficially seem minor or idiosyncratic but that nevertheless turn out to be systematic and (hopefully) shed light on larger theoretical issues.
For a more detailed look at my work, look at my personal page. In the meantime, here are a few more or less recent publications:
To appear. ‘Structure and Ontology in Nonlocal Readings of Adjectives’. In Thomas Gamerschlag, Tobias Kalenscher, Sebastian Löbner, M. Schrenk & Henk Zeevat (eds.), Cognitive Structures: Linguistic, Philosophical, and Psychological Perspectives. Dordrecht: Springer.
To appear. ‘Semantic Viruses and Multiple Superlatives’. Proceedings of the Chicago Linguistics Society (CLS) 54.
2019. Foreword to Min-Joo Kim, The Syntax and Semantics of Noun Modifiers and the Theory of Universal Grammar: A Korean Perspective. Studies in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory. Springer, Dordrecht.
2017. ‘Some Viruses in the Semantics’. In Nicholas LaCara, Keir Moulton, and Anne-Michelle Tessier, eds. A Schrift to Fest Kyle Johnson. University of Massachusetts Linguistics Open Access Publications.
2017. With Adam Gobeski. ‘Percentages, Relational Degrees, and Degree Constructions’. In Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 27.
2016. Modification. Book in the series Key Topics in Semantics and Pragmatics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
2016. ‘Toward a General Theory of Nonlocal Readings of Adjectives’. Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 2015. Nadine Bade, Polina Berezovskaya, and Anthea Schöller, eds. Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen.
2015. With Curt Anderson. ‘Degrees as Kinds’. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 33(3): 791–828.
2012. ‘The Several Faces of Adnominal Degree Modification’. Proceedings of the West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (WCCFL) 29. Jaehoon Choi, E. Alan Hogue, Jeffrey Punske, Deniz Tat, Jessamyn Schertz, and Alex Trueman, eds. Cascadilla Publications, Somerville, Mass.
2012. ‘Adjectival Extremeness: Degree Modification and Contextually Restricted Scales’. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 20(2): 567–609.
2011. ‘Quantification Galore’. Linguistic Inquiry 42(4): 671–682.
2011. ‘Metalinguistic Comparison in an Alternative Semantics for Imprecision’. Natural Language Semantics 19(1): 39–86.
2011. ‘Expressive Modification and the Licensing of Measure Phrases’. Journal of Semantics 28(3): 401–411.