This page is about my research.

You can read about my general research aims, the Phonology and Field Research lab, my fieldwork, and specific projects.

If you would like to see my publications and talk handouts, click here.

General Research Goals

My work focuses on the phonological module - the part of the brain that manipulates representations that are ultimately realized as muscle movements that produce speech sounds. The phonological module interfaces with the phonetic module (a component that converts phonological symbols into speech-sound muscle movements), the syntactic module (which manipulates words to form sentences), and the morphological module (which manipulates morphemes to form words).


In the broadest terms, my research goal is to figure out the representational and computational properties of the phonological system.


I have worked extensively on language universals, or markedness'. There are many reasons for phonological universals; they can be side-effects of learning processes, diachronic change, and the nature of the human articulatory and perceptual system. However, some are due to cognitive restrictions — actual limits on the phonological system. My aim has been to uncover these universals and explain why they exist. My major work on universals is my book Markedness (Cambridge University Press, 2006). You can read more about my markedness work here.


I am also concerned with phonological 'evidence' — the kinds of observations that are presented in arguments for or against phonological theories. [ more ... ]


An ongoing research project has been my work on glossolalia — sustained spontaneous pseudo-language that conveys no complex meaning. I have been creating a phonetic and phonological corpus of glossolalia for over 10 years. Currently about 45,000 symbols have been transcribed. The corpus will be published at 100,000 symbols. Glossolalia is fascinating because it has no lexicon, syntax, morphology, or semantics. It also has no diachronic history (on the individual level). It is essentially 'pure' phonology, which promises to provide insight into the natural of phonological processes and asymmetries. For more on glossolalia, click here.


I have also published work on Anglo-Saxon poetry (its literary analysis, not linguistics). [ more ... ]

The Lab

I started the Phonology and Field Research Laboratory in 2004. The lab contains a sound-attenuated booth [picture] and a variety of equipment for recording and field research.


The lab has been used for a variety of projects including my own work on intonation and glossolalia, and my students work on topics such as Thai creakiness-tone interaction, and incomplete phonological/phonetic neutralization. I have made my lab available to my colleagues in cognitive science fields.


The lab's webpage is:


A great deal of my work is informed by fieldwork. I have worked on several languages, including Gujarati, Māori, Rarotongan, and Nauruan. My primary focus has been Maori, a Polynesian language spoken in New Zealand. I have published work on its phonological system and allomorphy. I have elicited extensive recordings with the aim of providing a full examination of its intonation and higher-level prosodic system. [ read more ... ]


The Phonology and Field Research Lab lends out equipment to Rutgers students and faculty for fieldwork on language. Please contact me for details.