Mayan Morphosyntax

  • In Kaqchikel sluicing, an active or passive clause can serve as a licit antecedent for a sluice in the Agent Focus voice and vice-versa. I am investigating the consequences of this phenomenon for the formulation of the identity condition on ellipsis.                            ……………………….
group pic santiago
On the Santiago dock with Paulina Lyskawa, Ted Levin, and Chris Baron.
  • Jointly with Ted Levin and Paulina Lyskawa, I am investigating a pattern of optional agreement in the Santiago dialect of Tz’utujil.  We argue that the availability of optional agreement in a subset of constructions in the language sheds light on the featural make-up of specifiers vs. complements, as well as the typology of verbal agreement in Mayan.  This project has been funded by a group grant from the Jacobs Research Funds and an individual grant from the Cosmos Club


  • Gesoel Mendes and I are exploring adjunct extraction in the K’ichean branch of the Mayan languages.  We argue that a postverbal clitic that appears upon the extraction of certain adjuncts is the spell-out of a copy that has undergone Chain Reduction (Nunes 2004). However, the copy has not undergone deletion, but instead has undergone substitution.  Our analysis of the phenomenon shows as well that v cannot be a phase (contra Chomsky 2001 a.o.). Our paper will appear in Glossa [link]


Summer ’17 Kaqchikel language class in Patzún
  • Jamie Douglas, Michelle Sheehan, and I argue that Mayan languages that display syntactic ergativity (SE) come in two flavors. Some languages ban the extraction of all vP internal elements except the absolutive argument, while others ban the extraction of the ergative argument exclusively. We argue that SE can arise from two distinct derivational histories, yielding this difference and other correlations related to word order and partial SE.

Kaqchikel Ritual Language Documentation

During the summer of 2017, I collaborated with historian Yolanda Estrada to launch a documentation project in Sumpango (Guatemala) with funding from the Firebird Foundation. We worked with the Kaqchikel Mayan spiritual guide collective Waqxaqi’ B’atz’ to document a ritual register of Kaqchikel which is used during certain religious ceremonies. The project resulted in over 8 hours of footage and transcribed text, which will be disseminated by members of Waqxaqi’ B’atz’ within their communities. Respecting the wishes of the spiritual guides, the entirety of the material will not be made publicly available.

Recording in Sumpango.

All transcriptions were made by Kaqchikel linguist Filiberto Patal Majzul. Recordings and editing were done by Andres Ranero & Gabriela Sagastume.

Language Reclamation

  • In 2012, I launched a 3-year language reclamation project with members of the Xinka community in Chiquimulilla (Guatemala). I worked with the Council of the Xinka People of Guatemala (COPXIG) to analyze the available documentation on Xinka and we jointly authored two textbooks for teaching the language. We secured institutional support from the Guatemalan Ministry of Education and carried out language teaching workshops with hundreds of primary school teachers across the Xinka region. At present, COPXIG continues with this project independently. 
gramatica xinka
First textbook for teaching Xinka; written in collaboration with COPXIG.
  • As an undergraduate, I worked with my adviser Mary Paster to support the Costanoan Rumsen Carmel tribe in a language reclamation effort. We taught weekly language lessons to help tribe members use the existing documentation of the language, which consists mostly of the work carried out by J. P Harrington with Isabel Meadows. A video about this project can be found here