My training in linguistics began at University College Dublin in the departments of Early and Medieval Irish and Linguistics. I wrote a senior 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 Lauri Karttunen, and with Bill Ladusaw, who was also a student there at the time. Since then, I have had an interest in issues at the syntax semantics interface and in the strands of research that grew out of Montague's work.
My dissertation advisor at Austin, though, was the late Lee Baker, who was primarily a syntactician, and syntax is where my heart has mostly been.
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 lucky enough to have the late David Greene as my supervisor and mentor. My teaching career began in earnest in the Department of Modern Irish at University College Dublin in 1979, where I was able to (and had to) immerse myself in the tradition of philological work on Irish. In that period I also held a series of visiting appointments at MIT and at UC San Diego. I have worked at UC Santa Cruz since the autumn of 1988, after spending a year as a fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford.
Throughout, my goals have been to meld the descriptive care characteristic of the best philological work with the intellectual daring and rigor to be found in the best generative work. My long term commitment is to work on the Irish language, trying to make the facts of Irish shed light on the general theory of language, and reciprocally, to have the theory shed light on the facts of Irish.
I also have a long-term commitment to research on non-standard varieties of English, and since I work on Irish, I am necessarily and sadly interested in issues of language-endangerment, language-extinction, and the possibility of language-revival.