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Faculty Research

Linguistics Faculty Research

The research interests of the Linguistics faculty at Wayne State are wide and varied, reflecting the scope of the field. Three faculty members do research and/or teaching in phonetics/phonology: Jean Andruski, Geoff Nathan, and Martha Ratliff. Syntax is typically covered by Ljiljana Progovac, specialist in Slavic syntax, but semantics and syntax/semantics interface are also taught/researched by Eugenia Casielles, Haiyong Liu, Margaret Winters, and Abderrahman Zouhir. Margaret Winters’ research is in the semantics of grammar, based on the notion that meaning is basic even to structure. She shares an interest in cognitive linguistics with Geoff Nathan.  Professor Eugenia Casielles specializes in Spanish linguistics, the syntax-information structure interface, and bilingualism. Haiyong Liu’s specialization is in Chinese syntax and first and second language acquisition of Chinese. Walter Edwards typically teaches/researches sociolinguistics, specializing in dialectology, African American Vernacular English, and Pidgin and Creole languages, but other faculty also do research or teach courses on various sociolinguistic issues: Felecia Lucht, specialist in German-American studies, language contact and language variation, and Abderrahman Zouhir, specialist in Arabic linguistics, syntax, and second language acquisition. Mohamed El-Sharkawi specializes in Arabic linguistics, with a focus on the history of Arabic. Discourse analysis is typically taught by Ellen Barton, whose research focuses on medical communication and medical rhetoric. Martha Ratliff typically teaches, as well as does research in, historical linguistics, with the focus on Southeast Asia. Stephen Chrisomalis regularly teaches courses in anthropological linguistics, with research interests focused on numerals. Ljiljana Progovac has recently done research and/or teaching on language evolution, focusing on the “fossils” of protosyntax. There are three psycholinguists in the Program, who take turns teaching psycholinguistics: Pat Siple, specialist in sign language, Lara Jones, specialist in semantic priming, verbal analogy and conceptual relations, and Lee Wurm, with a research interest in lexical processing, focusing on the role of emotion in lexical access. Applied linguistics, including language acquisition, is represented by Kate Paesani, specialist in foreign language instruction, Eugenia Casielles, specialist in language acquisition, and Catherine Barrette, specialist in second language acquisition and teaching. Philosophy of language is taught and researched by Michael McKinsey. The following paragraphs provide further details of individual faculty research.

Professor Jean Andruski’s research interests are in phonetics and acoustics of speech, focusing on acoustic differences between speech registers including clear speech, conversational speech and infant-directed speech; phonological and co-articulatory processes in different speech registers; and acoustic analysis of pitch and voice quality cues. Her notable publication is “Tone clarity in mixed pitch/phonation-type tones” in Journal of Phonetics. Professor Andruski is Chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

Professor Catherine Barrette specializes in language acquisition, technology and pedagogy. Her recent publications include the 2004 article “An Analysis of Foreign Language Achievement Test Drafts” in the journal Foreign Language Annals.

Professor Ellen Barton is a specialist in discourse analysis, with research focuses on medical communication and medical rhetoric. She recently received the WSU Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award, as well as the Braddock Award for the Best Article in College Composition and Communication for “Further Contributions from the Ethical Turn: Analyzing Ethics in Interaction.” She served as Chair of the WSU Behavioral Investigation Committee from 2003–2010, and now serves as Chair of the English Department.

Professor Eugenia Casielles specializes in Spanish linguistics, the syntax-information structure interface, and bilingualism. She is the author of The Syntax-Information Structure Interface: Evidence from Spanish and English, published by Routledge and has published articles in journals such as Revista Española de Lingüística, Hispania, The Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, Historiographia Linguistica, and BUCLD, among others. She is one of the co-editors of The Syntax of Nonsententials: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, published by John Benjamins, and is currently investigating bilingual language development and intra-sentential code-switching.

Professor Stephen Chrisomalis specializes in linguistic anthropology, numeral systems, and literacy.  His research focuses on the relationship between language and mathematical cognition, the social and cognitive importance of notation and writing cross-culturally, and the language-culture interface in general. His book Numerical Notation (Cambridge, 2010) is a cross-cultural history of over 100 graphic numerical notations used over the past 5000 years. For the past four years he has been doing long-term fieldwork with the Math Corps program in Detroit investigating the role of language in the acquisition of mathematical knowledge among students.  He is currently initiating a new major project on the historical sociolinguistics of the English number system.

Professor Walter Edwards is a specialist in sociolinguistics, dialectology, African American Vernacular English, and pidgin and Creole languages. His notable publication is the co-edited book Verb-Phrase Patterns in Black English and Creole. Professor Edwards is Director of the Humanities Center at Wayne State University.

Professor Mohamed El-Sharkawi’s main research interest is in the history and development of the Arabic language. He publishes on the internal linguistic and external ecological factors that influence the development, spread, and acquisition of Arabic in the Middle East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. The focus is on the structural and functional development of linguistic features and change in the communicative spheres of varieties of Arabic. In addition to many articles on the history of Arabic, Professor El-Sharkawi has recently published two books, one in 2010: The Ecology of Arabic: A Study of the Development of Arabic (Leiden: Brill), and one in 2007: Arabicization in the First Century of the Islamic Era (Cairo, Supreme Council for Culture).

Professor Lara Jones' research interests include the activation of directly and indirectly related concepts (i.e., semantic priming and mediated priming), the representation of relations and relational roles in conceptual combination and verbal analogy, and the influence of individual differences in priming and verbal analogy. Her work has been published in several prestigious journals including the Journal of Memory and LanguageJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, and The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. Professor Jones’ paper “Prospective and retrospective processing in associative mediated priming” was published in the January 2012 issue of Journal of Memory and Language.

Professor Haiyong Liu does research on Chinese syntax and first-, second-, and incomplete language acquisition of Mandarin Chinese. For example, he is interested in the derivations and connections of Chinese nominal (e.g. classifier and quantification), verbal (e.g. aspect and complex predicate), adjectival (e.g. intensification and comparative), and negation (e.g. expletive negation and scope) structures and how Chinese children, English-speaking adults, and Chinese-English bilingual heritage learners acquire these structures. His research interests also extend to the subjecthood and reflexives in Mandarin. In addition, Professor Liu has published on topics related to teaching Chinese as a foreign language, more specifically, classroom non-verbal communication and advanced writing. 

Professor Felecia Lucht is a specialist in German-American studies, language contact and language variation. Last summer, Professor Lucht was awarded a Research Grant for her book project “Life after Language Death:  Language Variation, Shift, and Change in a German-American Community.” Her work documents language use in a German-American community in Wisconsin, traces the shift from German to English, as well as examines language change within the varieties of German and English spoken in the area. She is currently coordinating the Humanities Center Reading Group: “The Social and Structural Implications of Language and Immigration.”

Professor Michael McKinsey’s research is in the  philosophy of language, and has primarily concerned the semantics of natural language, especially the meaning and reference of proper names, indexical and anaphoric pronouns, and natural kind terms, as well as the meaning and logical form of cognitive ascriptions. He is also very interested in the relevance of these topics to traditional metaphysical questions in the philosophy of mind, including the nature of cognitive properties and the mind/body problem, as well as to issues in the philosophy of logic, including the nature of logical truth and valid inference.  He is the author of over thirty articles on these and other topics. Some recent articles include: "The Semantics of Belief Ascriptions" (Nous); “On Knowing Our Own Minds” (Philosophical Quarterly), “Forms of Externalism and Privileged Access” (Philosophical Perspectives), “Thought by Description” (Philosophy and Phenomenological Research), and “Understanding Proper Names” (Linguistics and Philosophy).

Professor Geoff Nathan’s research includes phonetics, phonology and cognitive grammar. His book Phonology: A Cognitive Grammar Introduction was published in 2008 by Benjamins. Professor Nathan is also Faculty Liaison for Computing and Information Technology, where he blogs and develops security and privacy policy.

Professor Kate Paesani’s current research interests include literacy-based foreign language instruction, literature across the curriculum, and foreign language teacher development. This work has focused on questions such as: How can foreign language programs contribute to development of students' academic literacy across a four-year curriculum? What is the role of literary texts in the simultaneous development of students' language competencies and academic literacy skills? What are viable frameworks and methods for implementing long-term and coherent professional development opportunities for foreign language instructors? Taken together, this research contributes to ongoing discussions in applied linguistics research regarding the development of effective curricula and instructional practices in foreign language programs.

Professor Ljiljana Progovac, specialist in Slavic syntax and syntax/semantics interface, has published work on negative concord and negative polarity, reflexive binding, aspect, and nonsententials. She has recently developed an interest in language evolution, more specifically, evolution of syntax. This research focuses on the “living fossils” of protosyntax, that is, structures in modern languages that resemble/approximate ancient syntactic structures. Professor Progovac has given two dozen papers on the topic in seven different countries, including four keynote conference presentations. Three of her articles on the topic appeared recently in the journal Biolinguistics. She is currently Director of the Linguistics Program.

Professor Martha Ratliff does research on the Hmong-Mien language family of southern China and Southeast Asia. She is interested in the history of these languages and their possible historical connections to one or more of the other language families of the area, as attested by her recent book publication Hmong-Mien Language History (Pacific Linguistics 2010). She has also published on the phonetics, phonology, and morphophonology of tone, and on tonogenesis (the origin of tones in a tone language).  Other work addresses language contact and change (both lexical and structural borrowing), and methods in historical linguistics, such as how to subgroup languages within a family tree, and how to interpret lexically differentiated rates of change.

Professor Pat Siple specializes in basic cognitive studies of the representation and processing of concepts and words, sign language processing, and language acquisition. Her publications include two co-edited volumes Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research published by The University of Chicago Press.

Professor Margaret Winters’ research is in the semantics of grammar, based on the notion that meaning is basic even to structure. She is interested in how meaning changes over time and, in particular, how meaning change is reflected in the modification of grammatical structures or even in the development of new structures. Professor Winters is co-editor of the 2010 book: Historical Cognitive Linguistics, published by De Gruyter, Berlin. The volume explores the ways in which language change is studied within the framework of Cognitive Linguistics, a semantics-based theory of language production and perception. Professor Winters is currently Associate Provost for Academic Personnel.

Professor Lee Wurm is interested in lexical access, the process by which a sound wave makes contact with some kind of representation in the mind of a listener. In his recent work he has been looking at the role of emotion variables in this process and how this process changes as a result of normal aging. He also has interests in the morphological structure of languages, and he's involved in cross-linguistic projects with colleagues in The Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. These projects tell researchers whether the observed phenomena apply generally to the human cognitive and language systems, or are tied more specifically to the structure of a particular language.

Professor Abderrahman Zouhir’s research interests include language policy, language ideologies, linguistic hegemony and minority resistance, and language rights in Morocco. His research attempts to recognize the intricate diversity and linguistic tensions in Morocco and show how Moroccan Arabic, foreign languages and the recent recognition of Berber as an official language have shaped sociolinguistic stratification, nationalism and identity within Moroccan society.  He has recently been engaged in investigating language policy, linguistic hegemony, and identity conflict in other Arab countries and has compared them to Morocco. Professor Zouhir is also interested in Arabic syntax and second language acquisition. 



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Detroit, MI 48202
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Website: http://clasweb.clas.wayne.edu/linguistics
Email: linguistics@wayne.edu