Ibero-Romance and theoretical linguistics

My PhD investigated the extent to which conversational turn-taking and signposting in dialogue is in some sense ‘hardwired’ into the grammatical core of human language, taking variation between members of the Ibero-Romance language family as a testing ground, whereas my most recent project (originally funded by a Drapers’ Company Research Fellowship at Pembroke College, Cambridge) examines what —beyond geography and genetics— distinguishes the Ibero-Romance branch from other Romance language families, and whether, in fact, we can even talk of an ‘Ibero-Romance’ grammar in terms of these languages’ linguistic properties alone.

I am currently writing a monograph (under contract, Oxford University Press) on illocutionary complementisers and utterance syntax in Ibero-Romance, which asks what happens when exclusively grammatical items (specifically, subordinators) come to be used as conversational signposts (e.g. ‘pay attention to what follows’), losing their core function (i.e. subordination) along the way; or, put differently, where the limits of syntactic structure lie. In the book, I argue that these items provide insight into how language participates in world-building, and I show how speakers of Ibero-Romance languages ‘do things’ with grammar. By identifying the underlying unity in how different Ibero-Romance languages—alongside their Romance cousins and Latin ancestors—organise their grammars to build a bridge between our inner world and the external world, the book aligns its arguments with the philosophical position that the mind is (necessarily) grammatical, insofar as the human ability to refer—i.e. to connect our inner world to the one outside—is mediated through the architecture of grammar.

I have recently begun a British Academy/Leverhulme-funded documentation project on the grammar of Judeo-Spanish, a language considered critically-endangered by UNESCO, which will identity the distinguishing structural characteristics of this branch of Ibero-Romance and the linguistic ‘distance’ between Judeo-Spanish and modern Spanish varieties from the morphosyntactic perspective.

I am also interested more generally in the history of Ibero-Romance, particularly Old/Medieval Ibero-Romance varieties. Some of my recent work looks at distributive reduplicated numerals in Old Spanish, Old Portuguese, and West-Iberian Medieval Latin; and an apparent ‘dual’ complementiser system in (Medieval) Galician-Portuguese.

My theoretical interests include clause structure; utterance syntax; the syntax-pragmatics interface; complementizers and complementizer systems; distributivity and the syntax-semantics interface; argument structure; auxiliary selection; word order; the status of left-peripheral elements; the notion of subjecthood and ‘expletives’; case marking in Romance; the null subject parameter and typology.