My primary interests are descriptive and documentary fieldwork, historical/functional/typological syntax, and historical/functional phonology.
I have been working in South America with languages of the Cariban family since 1988, when I began fieldwork on Panare in Venezuela. In all, I have worked with speakers of 15 Cariban languages, collecting comparative wordlists and morphosyntactic information for all 15, working (off and on) towards descriptive grammars of three (Katxuyana, Akawaio, and †Tamanaku), and serving as dissertation advisor for four students working with Cariban speech communities: Meira’s 1999 reference grammar of Tiriyó, Fox’s 2003 sociolinguistic/anthropological study of Akawaio, Tavares’ 2005 reference grammar of Wayana, and Yamada’s 2010 thesis on collaborative language documentation and revitalization in the Aretyry Kari’nja (a.k.a. Carib of Suriname). I have also served as an outside member on the dissertation committee for Souza Cruz’s 2005 reference grammar of Ingarikó (Free University of Amsterdam) and Cáceres’ 2011 grammatical description of Ye’kwana (Université Lumière, Lyon 2).
Outside the Cariban family, I have worked briefly on Rama (Chibchan), Kiché (Mayan), Lhasa Tibetan and Kurtoep (Tibeto-Burman). I have served as dissertation advisor for Guirardello's 1999 reference grammar of Trumai (isolate), Fleck’s 2003 reference grammar of Matses (Panoan), Oliveira’s 2005 grammar of Apinajé (Jê), Vallejos’ 2010 reference grammar of Kokama-Kokamilla (Tupían creole), and Valdez’ 2013 description of topics in the grammar of Urique Tarahumara (Uto-Aztecan). I am currently working with Jaeci Hall on description and revitalization of Nuwee Ya', with Shalene Eaglespeaker on description and revitalization of Kiksht, and with Allison Taylor-Adams on a typology of revitalization situations.
My historical and comparative work is primarily in the Cariban family (in collaboration with Sérgio Meira, Natalia Cáceres and Racquel Sapién), and (in collaboration with Flávia Castro Alves) northern Jê, with brief forays into the Tupí-Guaraní family. I have also collaborated with Raquel Guirardello on the internal reconstruction of main clause grammatical patterns in Trumai (Isolate, Brazil) and with Katharina Haude on the internal reconstruction of main clause grammatical patterns in Movima (isolate, Bolivia).
My current obsessions are the methodology of reconstructing grammar, serving as Series Co-Editor (with Fernando Zúñiga) for Typological Studies in Language. I continue to be fascinated by the diachronic typology of main clause alignment patterns, especially ergativity and hierarchical alignment — i.e., the origins and evolutionary pathways by which ergative and hierarchical main clause grammar is created.