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John Whitman

Professor, Linguistics
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My main interest is the problem of language variation: its limits (how much specific subsystems can vary across languages) and predictors (what typological features co-occur systematically). Exploration of this general problem has led me to work on historical linguistics and language acquisition in addition to my central interest in synchronic syntactic variation across typologically similar languages. I work mostly on Japanese, secondly on Korean. I have also done research on Australian languages and German. In the general area of syntax, I have been involved in the configurationality debate, an ongoing discourse which began 15 years ago with the widely held assumption that languages may vary radically in the degree of articulation of their syntactic structure. A truly remarkable result of research on this topic is that variation is much more limited than syntacticians were once willing to believe. Most recently, I have worked on the relationship between phrase structure and word order, structural universals in relative clause structure, and crosslinguistic parallels in rightward movement.

In the area of historical phonology, I have recently completed work on the development of verbal conjugations in Japanese and Korean and their relation to transitivity. I am interested in the typological implications of developments like these, as well as their factual implications for the history of these two languages.


Fall 2019

  • LING 3390 : Independent Study in Linguistics
  • LING 4411/ASIAN 4411 : History of the Japanese Language
  • LING 4493 : Honors Thesis Research
  • LING 7701 : Directed Research

Spring 2020

  • LING 3390 : Independent Study in Linguistics
  • LING 4400 : Language Typology
  • LING 6400 : Language Typology
  • LING 7702 : Directed Research