About Me

Inch Island, County Donegal

I was born and raised in Derry City in Northern Ireland and was educated at St. Columb's College in Derry and in Coláiste Bhríde, Rann na Feirste in County Donegal.

My training in linguistics began at University College Dublin in the departments of Early and Medieval Irish and Linguistics. I wrote a thesis on the phonology of Old Irish and went to the University of Texas for doctoral work, expecting to concentrate in historical phonology. Arriving in Austin, though, I got caught up in the excitement of the early years of Montague semantics, working with Stanley Peters, with the late Lauri Karttunen, and with Bill Ladusaw, who was also a student there at the time. My dissertation advisor at Austin, though, was the late Lee Baker, who was first and foremost a syntactician, and syntax is where my heart has mostly been ever since, though I continue to be interested in semantic problems and intrigued by work in formal semantics.

Following my dissertation work, I spent a crucial postdoctoral year in the School of Celtic Studies of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, where I was fortunate enough to have had David Greene as my advisor.

My teaching career began in the Department of Modern Irish at University College Dublin in 1979. Since the autumn of 1988, though, I have worked in the Department of Linguistics at UC Santa Cruz (after spending a year as a fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford). I retired from teaching in June of 2018.

My fundamental commitment is to research on contemporary Irish, but I have also worked on local and non-standard varieties of English and on a range of theoretical issues. Since I work on Irish, I must also be interested in language endangerment and extinction, along with possibilities of revival and renewal.