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Le linguiste s’intéresse à tout ce qui touche à la langue
(Antoine Meillet)


I retired from Yale as of 1 July, 2017. On 18 May, 2017, my colleagues and friends arranged a symposium at Yale to recognize this, with a number of talks and reminiscences by invited visitors, colleagues and students.


At the conclusion of the symposium, I was presented with a magnificent volume of papers, available as Open Access from Language Science Press:

On Looking Into Words

This was a very moving event, and I am immensely grateful to my colleagues and friends who made it happen.

Research Interests

  • Biological bases of human language:  the relations between the communicative abilities of non-human animals and human language; the evolutionary biology of the human language faculty. I’m a charter member of Project Steve. I have also taught courses on animal communication, and on the evolution of the human language faculty. As part of the inauguration of a new “Reseau thématique” devoted to “langage et communication” at the University of Geneva on 1 October, 2015, I gave a public lecture on “The Place of Human Language in the Animal World.” The event is available by clicking on the poster below (lecture starts at 10:30 into the file).  
  • General Linguistic TheoryPhoneticsPhonologyMorphology, Syntax, Semantics; Historical Linguistics; and the History of Linguistics.
  • Languages: Scandinavian (Icelandic, Faroese); Romance (French, Franco-Provençal patois, Rumantsch); Celtic (Breton); Caucasian languages (Georgian, Abkhaz); American Indian languages (Wakashan [Kwakw’ala], Muskogean, Algonquian).

Lingua longa, vita brevis

I spent a good deal of my time over a number of years developing a view of word structure known as A-Morphous Morphology, a theoretical position which has a variety of implications for several areas of phonology and morphosyntax. It also leads to a theory of clitics (considered to be the analog at the phrase level of affixes and other morphology within words) on which my research was supported for several years by the National Science foundation (grants SBR 95-14682 and BCS 98-76456). A book presenting this theory appeared in the Fall of 2005.

Among languages I have worked on, I have conducted research on the Surmiran form of Rumantsch with support from the National Science Foundation (BCS-0418410). A monograph on this language will eventually appear in the series Oxford Studies of Endangered Languages.

I am quite interested in the history of our field, particularly in the areas of phonology and morphology. Together with Louis de Saussure, I have prepared an edition (with some commentary) of recently rediscovered work on morphology by Ferdinand de Saussure’s brother René. This appeared as an open-access book from Language Science Press in 2018. My 1985 book on the history of phonology (“Phonology in the Twentieth Century”) has been completely revised and expanded, and the second edition is now available in open-access from Language science Press.

Be kind to bunnies