Background and Thesis

I recently defended my dissertation "Prosodic phonology in Bamana(Bambara): Syllable complexity, metrical structure, and tone" and have completed my Ph.D. in General Linguistics in the Department of Linguistics at Indiana University, Bloomington, specializing in Phonology and African Linguistics. I am also a member of the Program in African Studies, with minors in African languages and linguistics and African studies. In January 2011, I will begin a position as a faculty research scientist at the University of Maryland's Center for Advanced Study of Language in the Less Commonly Taught Languages and Cultures unit.

My dissertation research draws upon data collected both from Bamana speakers in the U.S. and from my National Science Foundation funded fieldwork in Bamako, Mali in Summer 2010. My dissertation focuses on the prosodic phonology (specifically syllable structure, metrical structure, and tone) of an emergent non-standard variety of Bamana (also Bambara or Bamanankan) spoken by a young cohort of individuals in Bamako, Mali. This language variety, dubbed Colloquial Bamana, has developed complexities in its syllable structure that cause it to differ significantly from other more phonologically-conservative Standard or Classical forms of the language. My thesis analyzed processes contributing to this development of complexity, their domain of application, and the bounds placed on them by higher prosodic structure in the language.

My research on Colloquial Bamana has been presented at conferences across the United States, as well as in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Other Research Interests

In addition to my interest in the development of prosodic complexity in Mande languages, I also conduct research on the morpho-phonology of languages of the Luyia cluster of Bantu family. This research stems from 16 months of fieldwork on Luwanga, a language of Western Kenya, that revealed a previously undocumented case of paradigm uniformity between Luwanga noun stems and their derived diminutive and augmentative counterparts. My findings on this unusual phenomenon have been presented both domestically and internationally. In addition to Bamana and Luwanga, I also have projects underway focusing on aspects of Susu, Nzema, Oku, Najamba, and Kiswahili.

Another aspect of my research highlights my interest in developing phonological theories and emerging phonological frameworks. While working under the supervision of Dr. Daniel Dinnsen and Dr. Judith Gierut in the Learnability Project at Indiana University, I have studied both clinical and theoretical aspects of L1 acquisition of phonologically-disordered children. Our work has characterized and analyzed commonly occuring error patterns in L1 acquisition of English and the predictions and implications that their interaction (or non-interaction) has for currently conceived phonological theories.