M. Ryan Bochnak
I am a linguist and fieldworker. My research interests lie mainly in linguistic semantics, with a strong focus on cross-linguistic variation, semantic fieldwork, and language documentation.
The theoretical side of my research investigates the ways in which linguistic meanings can vary across typologically diverse languages. A major over-arching question in my work is whether certain aspects of variation in grammatical patterns are due to the semantic, morphological, or syntactic components of grammar, and in what ways they are influenced by the interactions of these grammatical systems. This research is largely focused on gradability and comparison, tense, and modality. I am interested in the manifestation of gradability in a cross-categorial perspective, specifically in how it is implicated in temporal, aspectual, a modal systems. I have also worked on the syntax and semantics of copula clauses, noun incorporation, bipartite verb constructions, and complement clauses in Washo.
My fieldwork has involved the documentation and analysis of Washo, an endangered Amerindian language spoken in Northern California and Nevada. Together with researchers at the University of Chicago, I am involved in the development of interactive electronic resources for the preservation, analysis, and teaching of the Washo language. I have also done fieldwork on Luganda, a Bantu language of Uganda, and have also recently added Wolof as a research language. Given that nearly half of the world’s languages are in danger of becoming extinct within the next century, the study of endangered and underrepresented languages is critical for our understanding of the nature of human language, its cognitive underpinnings, and the community knowledge associated with them.