About me

I am originally from Dundee, Scotland. My dialect, however, doesn’t show many Dundee characteristics—partially because I grew up in the bourgeois bit of Dundee, and partially because my parents and all of my immediate family grew up/lived in Kirkcaldy, Fife. (Dundee is right next to Fife geographically, just across the River Tay; but the Tay roughly corresponds to a fairly major dialect isogloss.) So my speech is basically Scottish Standard English with some Fife/East Central Scotland dialect features mixed in.

Language and linguistics fascinated me from my schooldays onwards. I was, I think, the only person in my French or Spanish classes who liked seeing how the grammar worked—how all the pieces fit together to generate sentences. During my schooldays I also learned Esperanto, out of both political idealism and linguistic geekery (though learning Norwegian now seems to have pushed most of my Esperanto out of my head).

So when I went to university in Edinburgh, I knew that I wanted to do linguistics. I felt I should also do something that might have some direct applications, too, so I started off studying for a joint degree in Linguistics and Artificial Intelligence. I still think this is a great combination of the theoretical and the applied, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about linguistics, isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty with code, and wants to have a clear professional career path at the end; but for my part, it turned out that late-night coding sessions were not for me, and I wanted to dedicate all the time I could to learning more linguistics. So, after two years, I made a decision that was perhaps rather foolhardy at the time but which ultimately stood me in good stead: I switched to a degree purely in linguistics.

Even four years with great teachers at Edinburgh ultimately wasn’t enough for me, and I started on the path to academia. After a masters degree in syntax at University College London, I started on the PhD program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I graduated in 2014 with a thesis entitled Fragments and clausal ellipsis, supervised by Kyle Johnson. Dissertating always involves some long dark nights of the soul, but the linguistics, the people, and the idyllic setting of western Massachusetts made those years some of the happiest of my life.

After that, I was very lucky to first have a postdoctoral research position with Liliane Haegeman‘s group in Ghent (another idyllic location, with beer even better than in western Massachusetts), and then to get the position I currently have in Trondheim (also fairly idyllic, although with more expensive beer). I’m still endlessly mystified and fascinated by how language works, and count myself very lucky to be in a job where I am paid to explore just that.