Associate Professor of Linguistics
Ph.D., University of Cambridge
4080 Foreign Languages Building
707 S Mathews Ave MC 168
Urbana IL 61801
Office: FLB 4110
Fall 2013: Center of Advanced Study Associate Fellow
I am a pragmatician with wide-ranging interests in the social parameters that constrain the generation
of meanings locally (socio-pragmatics), the psycholinguistic processes by which these meanings are acquired and
implemented in real time (experimental pragmatics), and the historical processes that shape the interactional potential
of language resources over time (historical pragmatics).
In the area of socio-pragmatics, I have worked extensively on im/politeness and how face impacts the inferential process, using spoken corpus data from Cypriot Greek and more recently experimental results (manipulating intonation). The empirical finding that speakers show distinct and quantifiable lexicogrammatical preferences for the same speech act in different situations (‘qualitative indirectness’) has prompted my formulation of the frame-based approach, which puts at the heart of explanations of im/politeness not indirectness (as in Brown & Levinson’s ‘Model Person’ and recently Pinker’s ‘strategic speaker’) but conventionalization, and uses a neo-Gricean pragmatic framework to model the resulting implicatures. Unification-based frameworks are especially apt to model speaker/hearers’ socio-culturally constrained knowledge in this regard, and I have used both HPSG (joint work with Ann Copestake) and Construction Grammar to model this. These findings are also relevant to ongoing discussions of pragmatic variation (often understood in regional terms).
In the area of historical pragmatics, I have correlated pragmatic differences between Standard and Cypriot Greek to changing demographic and social network patterns in the two communities, making the more general claim that weaker network ties tend to lead to an increased need for explicitness in language. In the areas of historical and contact linguistics more generally, I have researched the evolution of Cypriot Greek from its emergence (7th-9th century c.e.) to this day, with particular emphasis on the period of Frankish rule (1192-1489) and the impact on its inflectional system of the multilingual environment of the medieval Eastern Mediterranean (joint work with Ioanna Sitaridou).
Experimental pragmatics represents my most recent research interest (the field is itself new and largely concerned with scalar phenomena and reference resolution so far). My own interest lies in indirect speech acts: how they are acquired by children; how they are stored and activated; and (in joint work with Napoleon Katsos & Jessica Soltys) how the conventionalization vs. indirectness hypothesis plays out cross-culturally.
My teaching reflects these interests but has additionally taken in, beyond pragmatics, language diversity in the USA, language and gender, sociolinguistic frameworks, and cognitive linguistics, resulting in interesting synergies such as an edited volume on global hip-hop spurred by a graduate sociolinguistics course. I welcome proposals by students interested in working in any of these areas. Currently, I am advising graduate work on the diffusion of borrowings in German CMC, language and asexuality, and the pragmatics of taboo words.
I am an Associate Professor at the Department of Linguistics of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I also hold faculty appointments at the European Union Center and the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Between 2008 and 2012, I served as Co-Director and then Director of the University’s Modern Greek Studies program and currently serve on the School’s exploratory committee for Mediterranean Studies. I am an Associate Editor for Brill's International Review of Pragmatics and Co-Editor of the companion book series Empirical Foundations of Theoretical Pragmatics, as well as a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Pragmatics and of Lodz Papers in Pragmatics.