1. Africa’s Endangered Languages: Documentary and Theoretical Approaches (with H. Torrence)
2017. Oxford University Press.
This book examines the endangered languages of Africa from both documentary and theoretical perspectives, focusing on the symbiotic relationship of the two approaches and its consequences for research on and preservation of endangered languages.
2. Africa’s Endangered Languages: An Overview (with H. Torrence)
2017. In Africa’s Endangered Languages: Documentary and Theoretical Approaches. [pdf]
This article provides an overview of language endangerment in sub-Saharan Africa, highlighting previous efforts to document the continent’s endangered languages and ascertain their threat levels, the unique state of language endangerment in Africa as compared to other parts of the world, and the challenges to documentation and revitalization efforts posed by Africa’s endangered languages. As a consequence of these challenges, a disproportionately low amount of research and funding is devoted to the study of endangered African languages when compared to any other linguistically threatened region in the world. We propose nurturing synergistic partnerships between documentary and theoretical linguists researching endangered African languages to stimulate and enhance the depth, visibility, and impact of endangered African language research in the hope of reversing this trend.
3. The Role of Theory in Documentation: Intervention Effects and Missing Gaps in the Krachi Documentary Record (with H. Torrence)
2017. In Africa’s Endangered Languages: Documentary and Theoretical Approaches. [pdf]
This article presents a case study of an instance in which the influence of linguistic theory on descriptive fieldwork has led to both the discovery and remedy of missing gaps in the documentation record of a language. It focuses on the restriction of wh– in-situ induced by intervention effects in Krachi, an endangered Kwa language of Ghana. Investigating Krachi intervention effects both enriches the depth of description of wh– constructions in the language and reveals patterns of intervention effects that differ from what has been documented in other languages in the literature. The Krachi data therefore provide a new set of empirical challenges for current theoretical accounts of intervention effects and thus help to set the theoretical agenda for further work. This case study thus supports the position that the relationship between linguistic theory and language documentation and description is a symbiotic one in that each complements and drives progress in the other.
4. African Linguistics on the Prairie (with Travis Major and Harold Torrence)
2017. Language Science Press.
Selected Papers from the 45th Annual Conference on African Linguistics.
5. On Prosodic Variation and the Distribution of Wh– In-situ
2017. Linguistic Variation 17.1: 111-148. [pdf]
In this article, I argue that wh– items in the Tano languages can not phrase with C at the level of Intonational Phrase (ιP) and that the ability of a wh– item to appear in-situ correlates with the prosodic status of its immediately containing clause. Embedded complement clauses are parsed as independent ιP units in Krachi and Bono, but not in Wasa and Asante Twi. Thus, ιP boundaries divide C from embedded interrogatives in Krachi and Bono, preventing the items from forming a prosodic constituent at the level of ιP. Conversely, no such boundaries intervene between embedded C and wh– in Wasa and Asante Twi, yielding prosodic mappings in which the items phrase together. Consequently, embedded wh– in-situ is prosodically licit in Krachi and Bono, but not in Wasa and Asante Twi. In this way, the Tano pattern of wh– in-situ variation reduces to a difference in how syntactic structures are externalized via prosodic mapping.
6. Are Syntax & Prosody Entangled? Insights from Krachi In-situ Interrogatives (with H. Torrence)
Under review. [pdf]
This article addresses Richards’ (2010) prosodic entanglement theory by applying it to the investigation of in-situ wh– distribution in Krachi. We show that although Richards’ theory is sufficient to derive the distribution of matrix wh– in-situ from the prosodic mapping of DPs in the language, it is too restrictive to derive the distribution of wh– in-situ in embedded clauses.
7. On Prosodic Vacuity and Verbal Resumption in Asante Twi
Linguistic Inquiry 46.2: 243-272. [pdf]
I argue that verbal resumption (the occurrence of an additional default verbal element meaning ‘do’) in Asante Twi is prosodically conditioned. Following MATCH theory (Selkirk 2011), I propose that phonosyntactic constituency matching requires, at the minimum, avoidance of phonetically empty transferred syntactic structures (prosodic vacuity). I show that Twi verbal resumption is highly constrained and occurs precisely in those contexts where a prosodically vacuous domain would otherwise be mapped from a fully evacuated Spell-Out domain.
8. Wh– Question Formation in Krachi (with H. Torrence)
Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 36.2: 253-286. [pdf]
This article describes wh– question formation in Krachi. Krachi employs a variety of wh– question formation strategies, including the regionally and genetically prevalent strategies of wh– movement and wh– in-situ, as well as partial wh– movement, a highly marked phenomenon in Kwa. We investigate the properties of each question formation strategy, focusing on the distribution of wh– items and the constraints imposed upon interrogatives across each strategy. We compare these properties in Krachi with those in Akan, the most thoroughly studied Tano language, and find that although there are some similarities, the majority of the features defining Krachi wh– question formation are absent in Akan.
9. Predicate Focus in Krachi: 2 Probes, 1 Goal, 3 PFs (with H. Torrence)
Proceedings of the 33rd West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics: 227-236. [pdf]
This article examines verb doubling predicate focus constructions in Krachi, an endangered language of Ghana. Krachi has three such constructions: one in which V alone appears in the left periphery; another in which V-O has been fronted; and a third involving O-V inversion in the fronted constituent. We propose that all instances of predicate focus with verb doubling in Krachi involve the formation of identical parallel chains, namely, V-to-T and vP-to-Spec,FocP movement. These parallel chains arise because different probes (Foc & T) target the same goal (V). We propose that differences in the PF interpretation of the two vP copies account for the surface differences between the predicate focus constructions in the language. Krachi predicate focus thus provides additional support for analyses like Kandybowicz 2008 and Aboh & Dyakonova 2009 that attempt to derive verb doubling from narrow syntactic mechanisms like parallel chain formation rather than multiple copy spell-out at PF.
10. The Prosodic Licensing of Wh– In-situ: Evidence from Krachi and Wasa (with H. Torrence)
Selected Proceedings of the 44th Annual Conference on African Linguistics: 146-157. [pdf]
Presented as a plenary talk at the 44th Annual Conference on African Linguistics, this paper evolved into “On Prosodic Variation and the Distribution of Wh– In-situ”.
11. Unweaving the Interrogative Rainbow (with H. Torrence)
ACAL 44 plenary talk. [pdf of slides from talk]
12. Comparative Tano Interrogative Syntax: The View from Krachi & Bono (with H. Torrence)
Selected Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Conference on African Linguistics: 222-234. [pdf]
This article describes wh– question formation in Krachi and Bono and considers its typological implications for the genetic relationships among Tano languages. The paper focuses on four phenomena: main clause wh– in-situ; embedded clause wh– in-situ; partial wh– movement; and island-internal wh– in-situ. Comparing wh– question formation in these languages reveals that in most respects Bono patterns similarly to Krachi, yet in others it behaves more like Asante Twi. Given the genetic relationship between the Akan and North Guang branches, of which Bono and Krachi are respective members, this raises the possibility that Bono has preserved interrogative constructions that have been lost in other Akan varieties, supporting a deeper genetic affiliation between the two branches.
13. Ways of Emphatic Scope-taking:
From Emphatic Assertion in Nupe to the Grammar of Emphasis. Lingua 128: 51-71. [pdf]
This article investigates emphatic assertion in Nupe. Two distinct varieties are attested in the language: a syntactically restricted type that employs a clause-final discourse particle to achieve veridical interpretations and a syntactically unrestricted and interpretationally weaker form that employs verb doubling. I argue that the core distributional and interpretive properties of the two varieties are derivable entirely on syntactic grounds. To account for Nupe’s two emphatic marking strategies, I propose the existence of two emphatic domains: a high left peripheral domain from which the emphatic operator takes scope over polarity and a low TP-internal site in which the operator is outscoped by polarity. Consequently, emphasis is syntactically restricted and semantically strongest when activating the peripheral domain and unrestricted/weakened when invoking the lower clause-internal domain.
14. How Why is Different: Wh-in-situ in Krachi (with H. Torrence)
Snippets 23: 5-6. [pdf]
This article discusses an asymmetry with respect to the merge possibilities of wh– constituents in Krachi. Unlike all other interrogatives in the language, ‘why’ may not appear in-situ. It must surface pre-verbally in a left-peripheral focus position. Krachi thus furnishes additional evidence that amongwh– expressions, ‘why’ is different. It does not have low or high merge variants, but is rather a dedicated peripheral operator.
15. Embracing Edges: Syntactic and Phono-syntactic Edge Sensitivity in Nupe
Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 27.2: 305-344. [pdf]
This article adduces further empirical justification for the inclusion of edges into the Minimalist ontology. By way of two case studies, I show that reference to edge domains in both the narrow syntax and at the syntax-phonology interface facilitates principled explanations to two unsolved puzzles in Nupe. The first study investigates a peculiar restriction on extraction from perfect domains. The most tenable solution emerges when both phase edges and Edge Features are embraced. The second study concerns the proper characterization of Comp-trace effects in the language. The most tenable characterization is one where Comp-trace phenomena involve phono-syntactic edge sensitivity.
16. The Grammar of Repetition: Nupe Grammar at the Syntax-Phonology Interface
John Benjamins. Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 136 [promotional leaflet]
This book deals with repetition, an atypical outcome of movement operations in which displaced elements are pronounced multiple times. Although cross-linguistically rare, the phenomenon obtains robustly in Nupe. Repetition raises a tension of the descriptive-explanatory variety. In order to achieve both measures of adequacy, movement theory must be supplemented with an account of the conditions that drive and constrain multiple pronunciation. This book catalogs these conditions, bringing to light a number of undocumented aspects of Nupe grammar.
17. Externalization and Emergence: On the Status of Parameters in the Minimalist Program
Biolinguistics 3.1: 94-99. [pdf]
This article discusses several important questions facing the Minimalist Program. To what extent would a parameter-free language faculty represent a departure from optimal design? That is, why did the language faculty evolve with flexible principles over a more minimal/streamlined format consisting solely of fixed principles? In what way can the flexibility of parameterization be squared with the optimal design of the language faculty?