I work primarily on theoretical syntax and typology, with a focus on polar interrogatives. My PhD (2013, Newcastle University) is a cross-linguistic study of the syntax of polar question particles in the light of certain observations about the way the languages of the world are constrained. 

Polar question particles are those elements of the sentence whose function is to mark an utterance as a polar (yes/no) question:

(1)       czy     Marta    lubi           coty?            [Polish]
            Q       Marta    like.3SG   cat.ACC
            ‘Does Martha like cats?’

This AHRC-funded project investigated the syntax of these relatively poorly-understood elements, with special attention paid to final question particles. Final particles are generally assumed to be high in the clause, specifically in the CP domain, in order to take scope over the whole clause. However, this is incompatible with a constraint proposed to be universal, the Final-Over-Final Constraint (Holmberg 2000). This states that a head-initial phrase cannot be immediately dominated by a head-final phrase, but this is precisely the configuration that must occur if final question particles co-occur with verb-object word order. My thesis discusses the syntax of questions, the nature of particles, the Final-Over-Final Constraint and the problem it poses to the analysis of final question particles. I argue that the FOFC-violating particles are fundamentally different from other particles.

My thesis touched on the semantics of polar questions, the syntax of disjunction and the relation between the two, and these topics are driving my current research interests. I am also working on two collaborative projects, the first investigating the role of intonation in marking questions. We argue that in some languages, intonation is a formal marker of question force. In other languages it may mark open polarity, and in yet others (e.g. English) it has no formal syntactic status as a question marker.  The second collaboration explores the historical development of 'if' and 'whether' in English and Icelandic. This relates to a claim I made in my thesis: I suggested that final polar question particles undergo reanalysis from disjunctive elements over the history of a language. 

As well as cross-linguistic theoretical syntax, I have an interest in Latin: I conducted research into the EPP in Latin for my Master’s dissertation, analysing a sample corpus of Caesar’s ‘Civil war’ and ‘Gallic War’, Suetonius’ biography of Nero and the Vindolanda tablets. I analysed three major approaches to the satisfaction of the EPP and their suitability for application to Latin. As an undergraduate, I was selected to undertake a ten-week funded research project on the use of the vocative in Latin, using the speeches of Cicero as a corpus. This project ultimately contributed to the understanding of Latin word order.