My research interests revolve around what language learning reveals about the nature of language and the efficacy of theoretical models of language. Over the years, my investigations have convinced me that the study of language and language learning is most insightful when undertaken from the perspective of language in use and, by extension, language in context.
The particular view of language that guides my work recognizes the following as foundational:
humans use language purposefully, primarily to communicate with other humans beings;
what any one utterance communicates is multidimensional involving, at minimum, the ideational, interpersonal, and textual;
communication always occurs in a context, richly defined; and
the complex, multi-layered interpretations we regularly assign to naturally-occurring language are underdetermined by the lexical items and the syntactic patterns in which they occur.
Although these attributes are so basic and so unquestionably true, they have not been of central concern for many linguists and language acquisitionists. Placing this particular perspective at the center of my linguistic inquiry has had profound consequences for the questions I ask, the data I consider, the patterns I discover, and my interpretation of the import of those patterns. In the last few years, my basic view of language has evolved to include a recognition of the critical relationship between human conceptual structure and the nature of language. This has led me to adopt a Cognitive Linguistics perspective.
My work is also defined by a recursive style of investigation that emphasizes interactions between theory and practical application. It usually begins with the observation of learners experiencing difficulty with an aspect of language. The puzzle is then to figure out why this aspect presents such a challenge. This leads to an examination of the theoretical explanations and to an attempt to refine the theory so it more accurately describes and explains the target phenomena. Finally, I test the accuracy or usefulness of the refined model, often in an experimental setting. This methodology has its basis in my doctoral research in which I investigated 4th, 6th, 8th, and 10th graders' acquisition of English derivational morphology and how they used that knowledge when reading for comprehension. In various ways, that early work has informed all my subsequent research as it provided a foundation in experimental design and methodology as well as an abiding interest in language processing, a commitment to examining models of language through the lens of language learning, and the belief that the results of those examinations can both help refine the model and eventually aid the language learner.
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Cognitive Linguistics, Cross Cultural Pragmatics and Discourse Analysis, Language and the Law, Writing Theory and Reading Theory.