My research investigates the division of labour between linguistic competence (abstract knowledge) and language performance (surface language behavior as manifested by production and comprehension). Such a distinction is commonly assumed by language scientists but the relationship between what one knows and how this knowledge is put to use is at best partially understood. We hypothesize that in most scenarios there is a fairly direct link between the two. That is, abstract linguistic knowledge combines with extra-linguistic cognitive components like memory and language planning and maps onto surface language performance. However, we also know that there are scenarios when the surface data may not reflect the underlying abstract knowledge. I explore this question via data that on the surface may be classified as displaying variation, variability or optionality.
I am currently a post-doctoral research at the The Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø working on the Experimental approaches to Syntactic Optionality project with Björn Lundquist (PI), Eline Visser and Jade J. Sandstedt (post-docs). We are looking at the variability in word order in Mainland Scandinavian languages and investigating the question of what drives its regularization (e.g., innate preference for categorical rules or usage-based phenomena like priming). This question is at the core of linguistic investigation as it deals with the distribution of labour across different modules within the competence system (linearization in syntax vs. post-syntax) as well as the interplay between competence and performance systems (are grammatical instructions underspecified? why? can external systems provide guidance?)
During my PhD program at the University of Maryland, College Park, I was advised by Masha Polinsky and Omer Preminger. My dissertation focuses on resolution of person/number/gender (ϕ) features under coordination. It is commonly assumed that the ϕ-features of a coordinate structure come from a grammatical computation carried out over the ϕ’s of the two conjuncts. This assumption is largely based on the robustness of resolution. However, as one departs from simple cases, the amount of inter- and intra-speaker variation in ϕ-resolution increases. Based on data from Polish and a number of other languages, I argue that the mechanism behind (some cases of) ϕ-resolution in coordination is grammar-external, contra the common assumption.
Parallel to my work on word order and ϕ-resolution, I do research on two other empirical domains where variability occurs – heritage immigrant languages and endangered languages. Despite the apparent differences, some researchers have raised the possibility of a connection between the two areas. We hypothesize that some of the established properties of heritage languages may also characterize a particular heritage-like stage in endangered languages. Since my undergraduate studies, I’ve been a part of the Heritage Language Variation and Change project at the University of Toronto run by my former supervisor Naomi Nagy. Furthermore, since 2016 I’ve been doing fieldwork in Guatemala on two closely related Mayan languages – Kaqchikel and Tz’utujiil – mainly investigating their syntax and, to a smaller degree, phonology. I’m affiliated with the field station in Sololá, Guatemala and collaborate regularly with Rodrigo Ranero.