I recently defended my PhD thesis at the Linguistics Department at the University of Maryland, College Park. My supervisors were Valentine Hacquard and Maria Polinsky. I’m interested in the syntax-semantics interface: Where and why does structure constrain meaning?
Currently, I work on the syntax and semantics of modals. I’m interested in the following questions:
- How are modals acquired? Together with Anouk Dieuleveut (UMD), Ailís Cournane (NYU), Valentine Hacquard (UMD) and Maxime Tulling (NYU) I conducted two corpus studies on English and Dutch modals within the research project ‘Acquiring the language of possibility’. We find that modals are highly frequent in child-directed speech, but that the full range of interpretations is obscured. The intermediate report is in the paper ‘Learning what must and can must and can mean’.
- How do modals behave cross-linguistically? Besides investigating modals in highly studied languages like Dutch and English, I conducted fieldwork on Georgian (a South-Caucasian language), where I studied a particular item that can mean both ‘must’ and ‘want’, depending on its syntax. The handout ‘The Georgian item unda – raising and control’ gives more details on this project.
- How do modals change over time? Together with Nick Huang and Gesoel Mendes (UMD) I’m studying the syntactic and semantic change in willen, yao and querer (the item expressing want in Dutch, Mandarin Chinese and Brazilian Portuguese, respectively). These items expressing desires have obtained a future meaning over time (compare ‘it wants to rain’, which is accepted by some English speakers). An intermediate report on this cross-linguistic pattern can be found in the poster ‘The future of want’.
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