Past work and drafts

I work mostly on 'anti-lexicalist' or 'neo-constructionist' syntax, with a special interest in the 'Exo-Skeletal Model' (XSM). The theory is closely related to the more mainstream program initiated by Distributed Morphology (DM), but differs in important details. XSM has a fundamental split between categorizing heads and semantic-functional heads, reminiscent of a traditional split between inflectional and derivational morphology. This leads a much tighter fit between syntax and both semantics and morphophonology. In XSM, categorizing heads are possibly unpronounced, but only rarely, unlike in DM. They are not required by the architecture. The syntactic derivation more closely reflects morphological complexity as well as semantic composition (reducing the need for post-syntactic readjustment rules and contextual allosemy mechanisms).

I also work on quantification in cognition at large, following much work that began at UMD. Based on psychophysical experiments, we determine the fine lexical meaning of functional elements responsible for, e.g., quantification and the mass/count distinction. This psycholinguistic approach to quantification allows us to go "beyond truth-conditions", to a more accurate picture of meanings. This all lends itself to a picture of meanings that are firmly 'inside the head'. Following Paul Pietroski, I think of the meaning of a sentence as providing instructions for the conceptual cognitive systems, and the merger of most heads provides an instruction to conjoin meanings.

Being involved in both of these projects, a picture begins to emerge. There is a part of language that provides cross-linguistically stable, context-insensitive meanings. This includes determiners, classifiers, aspectual markers, etc. There is also a part of language that allows a lot of creativity with its use. This includes the lexical categories, whose meanings are almost always polysemous. A major question is how to set up the syntactic/semantic architecture so that it allows for lexical categories to display meanings that are unpredictable in various ways (whether it is idiomaticity or context-sensitivity), while preserving the deep generalization that language has a compositional structure, and that, by and large, the meaning of the whole is actually very predictable from the meaning of the parts and their syntactic arrangement.

Works in progress

Current projects include:


A handout on some wh-constructions in Hindi (particularly on 'scope marking'). I provide new evidence from sluicing that, I argue, supports an indirect dependency account of scope marking, where all wh-elements are interpreted. This handout represents a very intermediate stage of development.

A poster, presented with Veronika Gvozdovaitė at CreteLing regarding some problems with the theory of "contextual allosemy", proposed in some recent implementations of Distributed Morphology.

A handout for a talk discussing the existential closure of events. I argue that, while event variables are introduced with verbs, it is higher in the sentence that they are bound by a quantifier. (Presented at The Meaning Meeting. Comments welcome.)


An overview of Paul Pietroski's book, 'Conjoining Meanings', written for proselytizing purposes: 'Introducing Internalism'

BA Thesis - Are there linguistically guaranteed inferences? Semantic atomism versus contemporary syntactic theory 


During the COVID-19 pandemic, I was President of the Oxford University Linguistics Society. I organized our events: interviews with a number of interviews with linguists and philosophers of language, conducted mostly over Zoom. I have linked here the ones I organized.

Interviews (in alphabetical order):

Hagit Borer [link]

Emma Borg [link]

Robyn Carston [link]

Noam Chomsky [link]

Janet Dean Fodor [link]

John Goldsmith [link]

Heidi Harley [link]

Norbert Hornstein [link]

Richard Kayne [link]

Angelika Kratzer [link]

Aditi Lahiri [link]

Paul Pietroski [link]

David Poeppel [link]

Tony Thorne [link]