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My Research


As a linguist, I study the patterns that occur in languages around the world and seek to characterize what makes them special. For example, the English noun denaturalization is assembled from five components: de + nature + al + ize + ation. There are 120 ways these elements could be arranged, but English allows only the one above. The other 119 patterns would include words like naturdeizalation and deationalnaturize, and all of them are clearly incorrect. Languages differ in what orders they allow, but not everything goes: for instance, no language requires the parts of a word to be ordered by their length. Linguists try to construct a scientific theory of which patterns are possible, why only these patterns occur across languages, and how humans learn to produce the right patterns.

Computational Linguistics

Computational linguistics means many things to many people. Some consider it computer-assisted linguistics, others a branch of engineering that tries to teach computers to communicate with humans. I have a much more general view: computational linguistics is any kind of linguistics with a grounding in mathematics. Mathematics is a wonderful tool to do scientific research, and all the advantages it has for physics, chemistry and biology can also be harnessed for linguistics.

My main goal is to evaluate the complexity of language from a mathematically and computationally informed perspective. What kind of memory architecture and inference rules are required to produce only correct patterns? Can computational limitations of the human brain be invoked to explain why certain patterns never occur in any languages? And can we exploit the limited nature of certain patterns to make them easier to handle for computers?

Research Topics

I have worked on a pretty diverse list of topics, although they are all connected by this overarching idea of determining the complexity of patterns in language. I have looked a fair bit at the structure of sounds (phonology) and words (morphology), but in particular sentences (syntax). Recently I have also developed an interest in applying results from my research to molecular biology. If you’d like to know more, check out the overview of research projects or the list of topics to the left (assuming you’re not using a device with a small screen).

Getting in Touch

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Mailing Address
Department of Linguistics
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY 11794-4376

Social and Behavioral Sciences Building
2nd floor
Room N-249