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I specialize in the study of creole languages and one of my primary areas of investigation is the examination of their morpho-syntactic properties. I combine corpus data (based on fieldwork) with the use of generative, typological and descriptive tools. 

Creole languages result from the intense contact and mixing between multiple languages that typically (but not always) occur in the context of slavery or indentured labor.  Although creoles take some of their linguistic materials from the European and African languages (among other types of substrates) that come into contact, they emerge as innovative and unique linguistic systems that are distinct from the source languages. 

The complex linguistic ecology in which they emerge, the variation continuum that characterizes them coupled with their co-existence with other languages in their environment make their documentation a daunting task for linguists. As oral languages, it is essential to document and describe their properties as accurately as possible.  Thorough descriptive endeavors achieve two objectives.  They not only help resolve some of the debates in the field of linguistics (whether or not creoles fit a given typology or what kind of developmental and grammatical processes they undergo) but they also help creoles gain written status and legitimacy in the very creolophone societies in which they evolve.  In-depth descriptions in turn facilitate the creation of grammars and dictionaries, valuable tools ensuring their survival and continuing development in wider spheres of usage. 

For all the reasons mentioned above, I deeply believe in describing as precisely as possible these oral languages using corpus, fieldwork data and native speakers’ intuitions.  I am, however, just as committed to explaining why their linguistic make-up is the way it is.  These are not mutually exclusive endeavors.  As I believe in the innateness of our language faculty, I assume that universal principles govern creole grammars just like any other natural language. As such, I use the tools generative syntax offers to gain a better understanding of how creole grammatical systems function and in so doing, also test to what extent creole languages can help advance syntactic theory. 

I am also interested in theories of language change, language creation and creole formation.  As I view the grammar of a language as part of human cognition, I have been focusing lately on the precise identification and account of the cognitive processes at work in contact situations. 

I am currently involved with a large team of linguists working on the Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Language Structures, based at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Our task is to examine the phonological, morphological, syntactic and lexical features of creole languages using a specific set of feature values for each property under study.

The applied and activist sides to my research consist in promoting the officialization and use of creoles as languages of instruction in general and of the Cape Verdean language in particular. I co-founded the Cape Verdean Creole Institute with four other Cape Verdeans in 1995 and co-organized a series of literacy/educational workshops that culminated in a co-edited issue of the Cape Verdean magazine Cimboa in 1999. Consequently, I am interested in language planning, language policies, literacy issues, orthographic choices and the representation of creole languages in Education.