Research Interests


My research interests involve the morphosyntax, acquisition, and documentation and description of Algonquian languages, which are indigenous to Canada and the United States. See below for some brief information on these three areas of work. See my CV for more details on my research program and activity, and please contact me if you’d like to know more.


Many indigenous languages of North America display polysynthetic characteristics. In Cree, for example, verbs employ a templatic structure, encode participants, and can constitute an entire clause. These kinds of characteristics raise important issues for theoretical models of language and language acquisition, which have traditionally been built upon observations from non-polysynthetic languages. Although the structure of verbs in polysynthetic languages receives most of the attention in linguistic research, the structure of nominals can also display complex morphosyntactic marking. My research focuses on nominals in Northern East Cree, where the formation of words involves the interaction of categories of person, animacy, number, possession, obviation, and more.


My dissertation explores how children acquire the morphosyntax of nominals in Northern East Cree. Perhaps nothing is more uniquely human than our ability to acquire language. Linguists have spent decades studying the processes through which people come to speak their mother tongues, but most efforts have focused on a relative handful of languages and language families. As a result, we know very little about the acquisition of thousands of other languages, especially those indigenous to Canada and the United States. I work with the Chisasibi Child Language Acquisition Study (CCLAS), one of the very few ongoing research efforts focused on the acquisition of a polysynthetic language—and the only such project dedicated to the study of how children acquire an Algonquian language.


My language acquisition research goes hand-in-hand with linguistic fieldwork: Like many thousands of languages across the world, Northern East Cree is under-documented, under-described, and facing language loss. In order to understand how children acquire any language, we must have rich records of how adult speakers use the language and how different grammatical phenomena function in the language. My work enriching the CCLAS corpus contributes to enhancing and expanding the documentary record of Northern East Cree. Importantly, the CCLAS corpus documents genres of speech that are often absent in the linguistic record: child and child-directed speech. My fieldwork also involves investigating lesser-described grammatical phenomena in Northern East Cree, so we can better trace the acquisition of these elements by children.