Research

Overview
My research centers on Austronesian languages, particularly those of the Central and Eastern Malayo-Polynesian branches and those spoken on the Bird’s Head of western New Guinea. I focus on phonology, morphology, and language change. My dissertation, based on my fieldwork in Manokwari, Indonesia, is an analysis of aspects of the morphology and phonology of Wamesa (see below). Some other recent and ongoing projects include an attempt to shed light on the internal structure of the West New Guinea subgroup of Austronesian based on morphological, phonological, and lexical patterns, and a similar inquiry using statistical phylogenetic methods to investigate the Bima-Sumba subgroup of Austronesian. In the summer of 2012 I was awarded an EAPSI fellowship through the NSF and the Royal Society of New Zealand to work with Russell Gray (then at University of Auckland) and Simon Greenhill (ANU) to use the same phylogenetic methods to explore a possible connection between the Austronesian and Tai-Kadai families. At Yale I was a member of Claire Bowern’s Historical and Pama-Nyungan Lab. I’m working on a project through this lab with Claire and Erich Round (University of Queensland) looking at phonotactic patterns across Australian languages, to see if the generalizations so often made in the Australianist literature hold up when checked against a large data set (short answer: sometimes) and if new patterns can be uncovered.

Fieldwork
Since 2011, I have been conducting fieldwork to document the Windesi dialect of Wamesa [WAD], an Austronesian language (Eastern Malayo-Polynesian -> South Halmahera-West New Guinea -> Cenderawasih Bay -> Yapen, roughly) spoken along the south-western coast of Cenderawasih Bay in West Papua, Indonesia. Wamesa currently has roughly 5000-8000 native speakers, but it is quickly losing ground to Papuan Malay as children no are no longer acquiring Wamesa natively, particularly in urban and coastal areas. I have been working with speakers in Manokwari, capital city of the province, as well as in Windesi Village, to record and document their language. My work there has been funded by the NSF (DEL grant #1153795), Swarthmore College, and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, and sponsored by the Center for Endangered Languages Documentation at Universitas Negeri Papua (UNIPA), for whose support I am incredibly grateful. My dissertation focuses on aspects of Wamesa’s phonology and morphology and provides a theoretical treatment in light of current questions in the literature. On my most recent field trip (summer 2016), I expanded my focus beyond Wamesa to collect lexical and basic grammatical data on five closely related SHWNG languages and one nearby Papuan one for use in comparative work and historical reconstruction. Talking dictionaries of those varieties are currently under construction.

Grants & Fellowships
2016-2018. Teaching with the Wamesa Talking Dictionary. Digital Humanities Course Development Grant, Swarthmore College. ($1000).

2015-2016. Lexical and Grammatical Documentation in SHWNG. PI. Granted by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. ($7500).

2012-2014. Language Documentation of Wamesa. Co-PI, with Claire Bowern (PI). NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant #1153795. ($12,000).

2012. Reconstructing Language History in the Pacific with Statistical Modeling. East Asia & Pacific Summer Institute Fellowship (EAPSI) grant #1209597. Funded by the NSF OISE and The Royal Society of New Zealand. ($8000).

2011. Summer Studies Fellowship. Funded by the Yale Council on Southeast Asia Studies. ($3000).

2010. Critical Languages Scholarship (Indonesian). Funded by the US Department of State.

2010. Summer Studies Fellowship. Funded by the Yale Council on Southeast Asia Studies. ($1500).

Windesi Bay 10/2012

 

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