I’m an Assistant Professor of Linguistics in the Department of Language Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga. I am also a member of the graduate faculty in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Toronto.
When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the family tree of the Indo-European languages printed inside the back cover of my mom’s 1960s era American Heritage Dictionary. The idea that multiple languages could be related to some long gone language blew my mind and sparked a life long interest in language change. How does language change happen? Why does it happen? Who is innovating? How does anyone understand the new languages? When I started my undergrad degree at the University of Toronto, I was introduced to the field of variationist sociolinguistics, a discipline that investigates language change in action and concerns itself with asking and answering all those questions that Little Derek had while staring at that tree.
Since becoming a linguist, my research has focussed on language change and innovation. I ask questions about how language change begins and how it spreads. Answers to these questions will necessarily appeal to factors both internal and external to the language faculty and my work reflects this. I am interested not only in how the human language faculty allows for linguistic variation to arise within an individual’s grammar but also how linguistic variables come to have social meanings and how this leads to change.