My primary research interests lie in connecting mathematical and computational linguistics with mainstream syntax. Mathematical approaches can complement mainstream approaches, for example by identifying the place of human language in the Chomsky hierarchy, and it can also clarify existing theories, by forcing their formulation to be completely explicit.
I focus mainly on Minimalist Grammars, Ed Stabler (1997 etc)'s formalisation of Chomsky (1995 etc)'s minimalism. MGs are of interest because they define the right general class of languages (MCFLs), they are an efficient and intuitive formalism, and as they are formalisations of the current work of a great many syntacticians, MGs are a bridge to mainstream syntax.
- Minimalist Grammars with Adjunction
- A model of adjuncts that accounts for both optionality and Cinquesque ordering. Click here for more details
- Multidominant Minimalist Grammars
- A minimalist grammar that generates multidominant graphs, a structure that retains information about the derivation, allowing moved constituent to easily be interpreted correctly in each of their positions. Click here for more details
- As adjuncts are classically optionally and often repeatable, it is useful to see how formal learning algorithms approach optionality and repetition. Some learners treat optionality and repetition as a unified phenomenon. Click here for more details
- I coded up an Inside/Outside expectation-maximisation
CKY parser/learner based on Lari & Young (1990), and aided by presentations by
Collins, Prescher, and Eisner. Given
a context-free grammar and a corpus, it guesses the probability
of each rule.
I extended the IO algorithm to handle copying, because this algorithm is being used to test the hypothesis that some birds, such as the California Thrasher, have overt copying in their songs, making their language Context Sensitive. This is a project with biologist Charles Taylor, linguist Ed Stabler, and neuroscientist Floris van Vugt.
- I ran an ALL study to see if people generalise from limited to indefinite word-level repetition. I found that they do, but there is quite a lot of variability in the response pattern. Next steps are (1) category-level repetition and (2) generalisation from optionality to repetition.
- Field work
- Q'anjob'al (Mayan)
- Chuj (Mayan) - just getting started
- Multiple Multiple Spellout: a theory of spellout
accounting for free word order, PIC effects, and CED effects. Click here for more
- Bare Grammar approach to free word order in Tagalog
- Output-output correspondence in
- Mathematical structure of c-command