Michael Clauss
Current research - Current teaching - About Mike


Broadly my interests as an acquisitionist are on Syntax and Semantics, and most especially their interface. In particular I have worked on Tough constructions in acquisition, Root Infinitive phenomena, and children's interpretations of Free Relative Clauses and other Wh constructions. I've also recently started work with Tom Roeper and Barbara Pearson on Recursion and Conjunction in acquisition.

Most of my work is done with the help and resources of the UMass Language Acquisition Research Center (LARC).

Sample work:
What are Root Infinitives good for? (Notes on a program of researching the Modal approach to Root Infinitives)
No Question about Free Relatives (My first Generals Paper, and a description of on-going related work)
Tough Partial Movement (Presentation at the Workshop on Acquisition of Adjectives Across Languages at Utrecht University, 11/2013)


As with acquisition, my interests within theory largely focus on the Syntax-Semantics interface. I've done and continue to do work on causativization, adjunct clauses, clefts, and the syntax of Free Relative Clauses. I am interested in cross-linguistic variation broadly, but most of my work has focused on English, Hindi-Urdu (and other languages of South Asia), and Tuvaluan (Polynesian).

Sample works:
Subject Orientation in Hindi-Urdu Adverbial Clauses (Ms, 2014)
Optional V2 and the Left Periphery in Tuvaluan (Handout from AFLA, 2013)
Case assignment Tuvaluan causatives (Ms, 2012)
The conjunctive participle in Tshangla (Ms, 2012)
This paper is based on data collected in a Field Methods class at UMass, focusing on Tshangla, a language of Bhutan

Bigger Picture Stuff

Acquisition and Theory: The question of how language may be learned, and in particular "Plato's Problem" and the Logical Problem of Language Acquisition, have served as a backdrop to the pursuit of a theory of language and grammar since the earliest days of the Generative Linguistic program. While many theorists take this backdrop to be no more than that, as an acquisitionist I believe that it should be more than that; as we are trying to describe the Language Faculty as a solution to a learning problem, the use of the faculty as evidenced by paths and performance throughout linguistic development should be taken as a key source of evidence as to the nature of that faculty.

Language Endangerment and Social Justice: The issue of language documentation and convervation is a crucial one for the modern linguist. Languages all over the world are vanishing rapidly. This may sometimes be due to generally positive forces such as the increasing importance of communication over longer distances (at regional, national, and global levels), but it is also potentially influenced by more negative forces such as climate change (especially in regions like the Pacific, a region with a great deal of linguistic diversity and many countries and cultures extremely sensitive to the likely effects of Climate Change) and cultural and economic domination of minority communities by colonial powers (particularly in the Americas, but in many other places as well). It is incumbent upon linguists to take an interest in the state of these languages, and to support, where possible and appropriate, movements by speakers to revitalize or even revive language, not just for our own selfish interest in typology, but in the name of self-determination.

Multilingualism and Social Justice: Similarly, linguists should take an interest in preserving the vitality of multi-lingualism in places like the US among immigrant and indigenous communities, again not just because of theoretical interest in the consequences of bilingualism (important though these may be), but also in the name of social justice and autonomy for these communities and resistance to majority domination.

Email me: mclauss+AT+linguist.umass.edu
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