Field linguistics and documentation

African languages:

  • Kru languages (Vata, Dida, Gbadi..),
  • Gur (Nawdem),
  • Mande (Bambara),
  • Kwa (Abe(y)..),
  • Grassfield Bantu (Nweh, Ncufie, Bafanji),
  • West Atlantic (Wolof, Fulani),
  • Bantu (Ndendeule, Siswati),
  • Nilotic (Maasai, Dholuo),
  • Austronesian (Malagasy, Javanese, Samoan, Tongan),
  • Creole languages (Haitian, Sranan, Saramaccan).

Formal Linguistics

  • Syntactic theory
  • Morphosyntax
  • Comparative syntax
  • Syntax/Phonology interface


under review. Soft Syntax and the Evolution of Negative and Polarity Indefinites in the History of English (with Heather Burnett and Sali A. Tagliamonte). Submitted to Language Variation and Change. 

to appear. When the Syntax is not what it seems.

to appear. A note on Huave Morpheme Ordering: Local Dislocation or Generalized U20?. In Gautam Sengupta, Shruti Sircar, Gayatri Raman, and Rahul Balusu (eds), Perspectives on the Architecture and Acquisition of Syntax: Essays in Honour of R. Amritavalli.

2017.  Neurophysiological dynamics of phrase-structure building during sentence processing (with Nelson, M.J., El Karoui, I., Giber, K., Yang, X., Cohen, L., Cash, S.S., Naccache, L., Hale, J.T., Pallier, C. and Dehaene, S.). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, p.201701590.

2016. A Further Step towards a Minimalist Analysis of Japanese -no (with Tomoko Ishizuka). Presented at the 24th Japanese/Korean Linguistics Conference.

2014a. The que/qui alternation: new analytical directions (with Dominique Sportiche). In Peter Svenonius (ed), Functional Structure From Top to Toe. Oxford University Press.

2014b. Recursion restrictions: Where grammars count. In T. Roeper and M. Speas (eds.), Recursion: Complexity in Cognition (pp. 17-38). Springer International Publishing.

2012a. Samoan ergatives as double passives. In L.Brugé, A. Cardinaletti, G Giusti, N. Monera, and C. Poleto (eds), Functional Heads, Oxford Studies in Comparative Syntax, 7.

2012b. Notes on Malagasy Causatives. In Dennis Paperno and Anna Szabolcsi,  Theories of everything. In Honor of Ed Keenan UCLA working papers in Linguistics, 19, 19, 163-167.

2010a. On Dutch allemaal and West Ulster all. In J. Wouter Zwart (ed), Structure Preserved Benjamins Publications, pp.267-275.

2010b. The Dutch PP: Prepositions, Postpositions, Circumpositions and Particles. In G. Cinque and Luigi Rizzi (eds), Mapping spatial PPs: The cartography of syntactic structures (Vol. 6). Oxford University Press.

2010c. Verbal complexes and complex verbs: a single computational engine. 12th International Symposium on Chinese Language and Linguistics. Taipei, June 2010. (available on demand)

2007. Topics in Imperatives. In W. van der Wurff (ed). Imperative clauses in generative grammar, pp.153-180

2006. Agreement: in defense of the “Spec head configuration”. In Cedric Boeckx (ed), Agreement systems, pp.159-199.

2006. When to pied-pipe and when to strand in San Dionicio Octotepec Zapotec. Organizing Grammar: Linguistic Studies in Honor of Henk van Riemsdijk, 86, p.331.

2005a. Malagasy Imperatives. In Jeffrew Heinz and Dimitrios Nthelitheos, Proceedings of AFLA XII, pp.141-160.

2005b. On the parallelism of DPs and clauses: Evidence from Kisongo Maasai. In A. Carnie (ed), Verb First, On the Syntax of Verb-initial Languages. John Benjamins, Amsterdam, pp.281-302.

2005c. Korean (and Japanese) morphology from a syntactic perspective. Linguistic Inquiry, 36(4), pp.601-633.

2003. The locality of agreement and the structure of the DP in Maasai. In William E.Griffin (ed.), The role of agreement in natural language: TLS 5 Proceedings (pp. 207-227).

2002. Derivations and complexity filters. In A. Alexiadou, E. Anagnostopoulou, S Barbiers, H Gaertner (eds), Dimensions of Movement: From features to remnants, 48, p.151-189.

2001. On the homophony of past tense and imperatives in Kisongo Maasai. In H. Torrence (ed), Papers in African Linguistics 1, UCLA Working Papers in Linguisticsno, 6, pp.1-13.

1999. The internal and external distribution of pronominal DPs. In Kyle Johnson and Ian Roberts (eds), Beyond principles and parameters (pp. 91-132). Springer Netherlands.

1999. Hungarian complex verbs and XP-movement (with Anna Szabolcsi). In I. Kenesei (ed), Crossing Boundaries: Theoretical Advances in Central and Eastern European Languages, Benjamins p. 115-137.

1997. Unifying predicate cleft constructions. In K. Moore (ed.), Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (Vol. 23, No. 2, pp. 71-85).

1996a. The position of incorporated heads within the Dutch verbal cluster. In F. Lee and E. Garret (eds), Syntax at Sunset, pp. 31-36.

1996b.  The Spec Head configuration. In F. Lee and E. Garret (eds), Syntax at Sunset, pp. 37-64.

1995. On verbs that fail to undergo V-second. Linguistic Inquiry, 26(1), pp.137-163.

1994. Licensing heads. In D. Lightfoot and N. Hornstein (eds), Verb movement, pp.261-295

1992. On the absence of case chains in Bambara. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, 10(4), pp.555-594.

1991. The position of subjects (with Dominique Sportiche). Lingua, 85(2-3), pp.211-258.

1989. Pronouns, logical variables, and logophoricity in Abe. Linguistic Inquiry, pp.555-588.

1986. A Note on Long Extraction in Vata and the ECP. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, 4(3), pp.357-374.

1986. On Deriving Deep and Surface order. NELS 14, Umass. pp. 220-235

1986. The genesis of Haitian: Implications of a comparison of some features of the syntax of Haitian, French and West African languages. In P. Muysken et al (ed), Universals versus substrata in Creole genesis. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp.231-259.

1983. ECP effects in main clauses. Linguistic Inquiry, 14(2), pp.346-350.

1982. Control from COMP and comparative syntaxLinguistic Review, 2(4), pp.365-391.

1982. Variables and the Bijection Principle (with Dominique Sportiche). In The Linguistic Review 2.3. pp. 139-160.

1978. Jan Vat (pseudonym). On Footnote 2- Evidence for the pronominal status of þaer in Old English relatives.  Linguistic Inquiry 9.4. pp. 695-717.

Unpublished papers

2011. To find language universals, at least look for them (with Robyn Rider and Dominique Sportiche). (contact me for a copy)

2004. Agreement-lite. A short summary of judgment patterns of 17 speakers for plural agreement in English there-insertion constructions, depending on interveners.

1997. The Doubly filled C filter, the Principle of Projection Activation and Historical Change.


2013. An introduction to syntactic analysis and theory (with Dominique Sportiche and Ed Stabler). John Wiley & Sons.

2000. Verbal complexes (with Anna Szabolcsi). MIT Press.

2003. The syntax of specifiers and heads: Collected essays of Hilda J. Koopman. Routledge.

1984. The syntax of verbs: From verb movement rules in the Kru languages to Universal Grammar.

Edited books

1983. Current Approaches to African Linguistics (with J. Kaye, D. Sportiche and A. Dugas). Foris Publications, Dordrecht.

Selected handouts

2016. Unifying Syntax and Morphology and the SSWL database project. Presented at The 1st SynCart Workshop, Chiusi.

2016. A Further Step towards a Minimalist Analysis of Japanese no (with Tomato Ishizuka). Presented at the 24th Japanese/Korean Linguistics Conference.

2015. Scattering objects and developing SSWL. Presented at Università Ca’ Foscari, Venezia.

2014. On the importance of being silent or pronounced: English –able and Japanese –rare potentials compared. Presented at GLOW 37th, Brussels.

2013. Remnant Movement, Intervention, and Structure Building- the view from Samoan. Presented at the Conference on Remnant Movement, Frankfurt.


Syntactic Structure of the World's Languages

SSWL is a searchable database that allows users to discover which properties (morphological, syntactic, and semantic) characterize a language, as well as how these properties relate across languages. This system is designed to be free to the public and open-ended. Anyone can use the database to perform queries.

This is a project for the community and by the community, which aims moving towards fostering collaborative research.

I have been engaged in the development of all linguistic aspects of SSWL from the beginning, and became senior editor in October 2011. You can reach us at:

We will soon move to a new platform:

Letters to contributors and some statistics

Some Statistics


Specific contributions to SSWL:

Property definitions (the initial tags will eventually be hidden)

21_Pronominal Possessor Noun

22_Noun Pronominal Possessor

N2 01_Numeral Noun (indefinite)

N2 02_Noun Numeral (indefinite)

N2 03_Numeral Noun (definite)

N2 04_Noun Numeral (definite)

A series of secondary properties that follow up on these coding for formal differences between indefinites and definites:

N2 05_Definite NP (Num N, N Num) has a definite article

N2 06_Definite NP (Num N, N Num) has a demonstrative

N2 07_Definite NP (Num N, N Num) lacks a definite article or demonstrative

N2 08_Definite NP (Num N, N Num) contains a Plural marker, but Indefinite NP does not

N2 09_Definite NP (Num N, N Num) contains any other marking

N2 10_The Numeral has a different form in Definite and Indefinite (Num N, N Num) contexts

And with Cristina Guardiano:

Order N3 07_Demonstrative Numeral Noun

Order N3 08_Demonstrative Noun Numeral

Order N3 09_ Noun Numeral Demonstrative

Order N3 10_Noun Demonstrative Numeral

Order N3 11_Numeral Demonstrative Noun

Order N3 12_Numeral Noun Demonstrative

And many more in different stages of development.

Data entries:  for Dutch, Vata, Dholuo, Maasai (Kisongo), Nweh.

Tools for comparative syntax (and links to some resources)

Meertens Institute, Amsterdam (Dynasand)

Italian Dialects

Wals World atlas of the World’s language Structures


Afranaph African anaphora project (Rutgers University)

The scope fieldwork project

Resources Department of Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

African Linguistics School

ALS 2009. (two weeks hosted by NYU in Ghana) One of the biggest challenges most African countries face is the maintenance and management of linguistic diversity. In order to meet these challenges, it is necessary to have access to advanced linguistic tools. This school aimed at offering African students the possibility of becoming familiar with new advances in linguistic description and theory. 70 African students participated! The school was held in Accra, Ghana and centered around four major linguistic domains: Syntax (I taught syntax 2), Phonology, Semantics, and Language Contact. The school was a resounding success and just a wonderful experience.

The second African Linguistics School 2011 was held in Porto-Novo, Bnin.