Who’s Visiting

Each year the Department of Linguistics welcomes visiting researchers to Georgetown University. To see who is visiting our Department now, and who has been with us in the past, please visit the links below.


Shinae Kang, Ph.D. 

I am interested in how information-theoretic approaches can account for listeners’ perception and production.
A preliminary study (Kang & Cohen, in press) comparing written and spoken languages in English found that there is a strong pressure for speakers to use language that would keep ambiguity caused from acoustic similarities at minimal, in order to ensure communicative success. 

My current project (With Clara Cohen, PSU) develops the finding in three different ways:

(1) Uniqueness point
The preliminary study focused only on the initial phoneme as the point of reference that carries the greatest risk of misperception. However, communicative failure also occurs when one misperceives any phoneme before the point at which no other possible word exists in the lexicon (the uniqueness point). One potential extension is to test whether the pattern disappears after the uniqueness point.
(2) Cross-linguistic comparison
Another extension is to investigate if the general pressure for the speakers to avoid confusable words in the spoken language is also found in other languages. For this purpose, I am comparing spoken (transcribed) corpus with written corpus in Korean and Hong Kong Cantonese. 
(3) Language change 
Finally, my project investigates how the interaction between auditory similarity and functional load is reflected in language use over time. Using the corpora from past decades, I study if the people’s preference in minimizing ambiguity in their language use has a long-term effect and whether it can explain subtle changes (as opposed to visible changes such as sound change) in language over time. 

Jingyun Wang, Ph.D. student, Institute of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, Peking University

Research topic: Death and Dying: Narratives and Identities in a Medical Setting

Managing the topic of death and dying is a common but significant task for the hospital physicians who care for most seriously ill patients, especially cancer patients. Based on a narrative research of hospitalists’ working experience, this study aims to examine hospitalists’ discursive construction and transmission of death and dying and their professional identity construction in a medical setting. The present study will explore the narratives of hospitalists’ coping with death and dying incidents, informing the patients’ family members (patients, rarely) death or dying, as well as the interpretation of their profession and meanwhile investigate their identity construction during the narrative. The data is collected from interviews with hospitalists from the department of cancerology at hospitals in Beijing triangulated with the researcher’s ethnographic observation in the department.

As a particular group who are more close to patients who are facing death, hospital physicians’ attitude and understanding of death have their unique features. While acknowledging the truth of the illness and the possibility of dying is a key process, it always happens between the hospital physicians and the patients’ families, because in Chinese hospitals, hospitalists never, or rarely, talk to the patients directly about the illness. The process of telling the truth, which is challenging for the hospitalists, is another thing to be probed. The third question is about the hospitalists’ interpretation of their job. During the process of investigating the three issues, the study also explores the hospitalists’ identity construction, which is multiple, fluid, and changeable. This study, aiming to exploring the hospitalist’ construction and transmission of the meaning of death in a medical setting, is expected to provide some implications to the practice of health communication in China.


Mohamed Lahrouchi, Ph.D., Researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Paris 8 University

Recent work has revived interest in the traditional debate on roots and their role in word formation. Standard theories claim that words in Afroasiatic languages such as Semitic and Berber are decomposed into consonantal roots combined with other morphological units. Alternative theories, couched for the most part within the Optimality Theoretic framework, reject the consonantal root, and instead, suggest that words are derived from other whole words.

The proposed project aims to provide supporting evidence for the root as an abstract unit of morphological analysis. It further explores the place and the role of this unit in syntactic structure. Within a syntactic approach to word formation, the root will be argued to head its own projection, lower in the structure than the standard noun and verb phrases. It will also be argued to form the domain of application of various phonological processes in Berber and Arabic, including epenthesis, spreading and consonant harmony (pharyngealisation, sibilant harmony).

Weilei Zhang Ph.D., Associate Professor, School of Languages , Shanghai University of International Business and Economics

A Comparative Study on Foreign Language Education Policy between China and America

I.                    Introduction and Theoretical Framework

This study will focus on language policy. A comparative study on foreign language education policy between China and American will be done. Nowadays, America has put more emphasis on language policy. Language policy has played an important role in the national security. Worldwide English language education can maintain American status in politics, economics and culture. So it is very necessary to make a detail research to American language policy.

The theoretical framework will include “language & culture”, “language planning”, “language communication”.

II.                  Statement of the Problem

The main content of my research includes:

A:   Theoretical study on language strategy, including language planning, language policy, language education, language communication, language and culture. This part of research can make a sound foundation to the next step.

B:   By doing policy text analysis, a synchronic study and a diachronic study to the American policies will be made. It will include an analysis of language policy history, a comparative analysis between American and China, an analysis of the influential factors. The emphasis will be put on the language policy in the last 20 years, the authentic situation of language education and the status and function of American language policy in the worldwide strategy.

C:   On the base of the first two part, the third part of the study will focus on the communication of Chinese in America and Confucius institute in America. A detail study on the features and pattern of the culture and language communication will be made to explore the model of Chinese communication.

III.                Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to make a research to American language policy and make comparison to Chinese language policy, especially foreign language education policy.

The central concepts include language policy, language communication, language planning, language & culture. The relative literature and policy texts will be taken as the main materials to be studied.


David Juhasz, PhD student in Language Pedagogy (AppLing/TESOL), Eötvös Loránd University

Research topic: Teacher development and the need for reflection, self-reliance and quality feedback (ongoing project)
A short-scale interview study project that focused on how EFL teacher trainers view themselves, their courses and trainee teachers entering the MA TESOL course yielded interesting results not so much as in what the most frequent answers were, but rather due to the fact that there were three questions none of the trainers (despite their vast experience) could answer sufficiently and/or convincingly:

  •  How do I, as a teacher (of a foreign language) know that my lesson was “a success”?
  •  How do teachers know what milestones they have passed in their teaching career and where they are currently in their professions?
  •  What can teachers compare themselves and their classes to in terms of quality, development and future goals?

The answers to these questions revolved around the topics of feedback, quality assurance, learner and teacher trainee outcomes, but none of these complex theoretical notions provided practical suggestions. To answer these questions, I am currently investigating possible forms of recording classes, tracking teacher development and the use of technology in teacher development as face-to-face feedback is often an impossibility in long-term teacher development, especially in countries where quality teacher training is lacking.
Keywords: Teacher education, teacher development, continuous development, personal learning network

Shinhye Kim, Department of English Education, Keimyung University, Korea

Research Topic: Second language learner motivation and identity construction, sociocultural theories, and qualitative research methods. 

Taking the view that language learning is a fundamentally social and cultural activity rather than just an individual, decontextualized, cognitive activity (Block, 2007; Norton, 2000); Wegner, 1998), this study attempts to describe the process of identity construction and L2 learning motivational change in both Korean early study abroad students in U.S. universities. Considering the scarcity of studies with Korean long-term study abroad students and the growing interest in sociocultural theory, the present study addresses the following questions: 

  • What are the imagined identities and imagined communities of study abroad Korean students in U.S. universities?
  • How are the early study abroad Korean students’ imagined identities and imagined communities related to their English learning motivation?

What are the sociocultural factors influencing the early study abroad Korean students’ identity formation and motivational change?

For the purpose of the study, Korean students who are enrolled in U.S. universities will be recruited.  Semi-structured interviews, classroom observations, and journal writing will be conducted to collect data.  The findings of the study will show trajectories of second language learners’ identity formation and reiterate the fact that cultural and societal contexts and learner agency are inextricably related in second language learning process.


Dr. Kaoru Amino, Faculty of Media and Humanities, Dalarna University, Sweden

Research Topic: Medical Discourse Analysis in Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease/Dementia

Blaming their own dementia; the functional and interactional analysis of patience-career negotiation in self-blaming


   In observing the conversations by senile seniors, the self-blaming for their own dementia is frequently witnessed, in both of the media discourse and the ordinary family conversation.  Witnessing this moment is pitiful expression, because they still has the recognition about their situation, as well as the ability to feel guilty or insecurity about it.

In this research, I would like to argue how such self-blaming on patient side is performed and what kind of linguistic feature realize this speech-act.  The combination of methods in discourse analysis is to be used to clarify it.  For example, the linguistic representation will be analyzed by the lexical elements, the modality shown by the sentence-ending expression or the connectives in subordinate clause can be considered as a tool to analyze participants’ emotional state.  On the other hands, the interactional aspect can be analyzed from the perspective of the linguistic strategies or the framework of interactional positivity and negativity.  Furthermore, the narratives performed by both sides, appeared in the follow-up interview are observed by the concept of “membership categorization device” and the rhetoric approach, in order to clarify the participants’ separation, estrangement, unification and sympathy.  At last, some point of comparative linguistic can be introduced for analyzing the concept of “self-blaming”, referring the socio-cultural aspect of apology, guilty of shame in Japanese context.

Dr. Shuang Liang, Southwest University, School of Foreign Languages, Chongqing, China

How to Do Things With Others’ Words: Intertextuality and Recursion across Family Interactions


   Reminiscent of Becker’s wisdom in claiming “My competence is in reshaping” (1994: 165), we pride ourselves in reshaping family discourse.  This research conducts a qualitative case-study of 2-3 English-speaking families and examines a sort of intertextuality occurring when people repeat, report, or reshape prior speech acts across interactions. It finds out that this category of intertextuality, which received much less treatment than intertextual repetition of words, phrases or topics, amounts to be recursive in that prior speech acts serve as a premise for and an embedded part of performing ongoing speech acts.  Their transformational and performative linkage enables current speaker to do things with others’ words, on the one hand, by virtue of strengthened illocutionary and/or perlocutionary force, and on the other, laminated participation frameworks.  Therefore, a pragmatic account of recursive acts focuses on how meaning-making in family fundamentally depends on meaning-remaking across interactions through qualitative or quantitative transformation especially in terms of felicity conditions.  Whereas, an interactional sociolinguistic perspective explores how recursive repetition negotiates and reconstructs parent-child identities in a lucrative way of “juggling” multiple roles of present participation framework vis-à-vis prior participation framework.  Altogether, the research has two primary aims: 1) to contribute to the study of intertextuality by delineating a special subcategory- recursive repetition, specifically, pertaining to how such recursion emerges and creates meaning; and 2) to demonstrate how recursive repetition serves as a two-way productive resource for children to be socialized by parents and for children to socialize parents, while create specific family culture or “familyness”.  The proposed logo phrase for recursive repetition is: by saying or implying that somebody said something in the past, one is doing something at present.

Dr. Marlene Falck, Department of Language Studies, Umea University, Sweden

Research topic:  Applying Cognitive Linguistics to Second Language Teaching of English prepositions.  Specific topic of study: English prepositions; cognitive linguistics.   


       The proposed project is a cognitive linguistic study of the English prepositions in, on and at.  As shown by (Kohlmyr 2003:147-163), these prepositions are particularly problematic for Swedish learners of English, Students often substitute one of these preposition for another (e.g. *be sad for something (instead of about), they add a preposition that is not needed “*walk around in the streets” (instead of “walk around the streets”), or they omit a necessary preposition (e.g. *I think that she is very kind private (instead of “in private” (Kohlmyr (2003:251-254).  Typically, the mistakes go back to interference/transfer from Swedish (see e.g. Jonsson 2006).

    As observed by Field (2008:5), prepositions, like other function words, are problematic for learners of a second language (L2 learners) because they are short (often mono-syllabic), unstressed and perceptually weaker than content words.  This makes them unlikely to receive our focus of attention when we are reading or listening, and it makes them harder to decode than content words.  Another problem is related to their high frequency, as a result of which they have developed a multitude of semantically related senses.  Learners may find it hard to navigate between these (see Morimoto & Loewen 2007, Tyler & Evans 2004).

The proposed study has a twofold aim.  On a specific level, the aim is to a) find the systematic ways in which seemingly arbitrary uses of these prepositions are related. B) investigate what the usage patterns of Swedish and English prepositions reveal about the different ways in which speakers of English and Swedish conceptually organise and structure the relationships that the prepositions refer to. and c) use the findings of the linguistic study to work out models for teaching which are holistic rather than fragmentary, and in line with how speakers of different languages think and structure their experiences of the world around them.

    On a more general level, the project aims at showing that insights gained from cognitive linguistics are essential for the development of new holistic and logical models for foreign language teaching.  The study is thus important both because it gives important insights into an area of language teaching/acquisition which is very problematic, and because it shows how research in the area of cognitive science can be used to develop foreign language didactics in a fruitful way.  While the relevance of cognitive linguistics for foreign language dialects has not yet been fully recognised in Sweden, a growing body of research abroad (see eg. Kovecses, Z. & Szabo (1996), Putz et al. (2001), Boers (2000), (20001), Achard, M. & Niemeier S. (2004), combines theoretical insights within cognitive linguistics and issues pertaining to second language acquisition and second language teaching in a very fruitful way. It is essential that this field of research receives more attention in Sweden too.


Najma Al Zidjaly
Associate Professor of Linguistics, Department of English, Sultan Qaboos University, Oman

1. I am editing a book entitled Social Media, Cultural Practices & the Arab Spring. The edited book is built upon the premise that social (and non-social) media are cultural tools used by social actors to create action; as all cultural tools, they have not just affordances but also limitations. Thus, this book, in contrast to other books on social media and Arab identity, is not a celebration of social media or the mainstream mono-view that portrays a simplistic and isolated view of “The Arab Spring.” Instead, its collective chapters examine how intricately people in various Arab countries use or have used social media, flyers and banners, other artifacts, discourse and language to promote and/or pacify protests, and to negotiate their identities, current, past and future. The volume’s purpose is to highlight the agency of the social actors involved in the current events sweeping across Arab countries, and to offer unique and nuanced perspectives that do not take for granted ungrounded claims propagated by the news media. It rather questions through analyzing discursive and non-discursive data these mainstream views, highlighting human agency and what people actually did/do in negotiating the current changes, while simultaneously contextualizing the various experiences and linking them to their broader societal local and global discourses and ideologies.

2. I am writing a book entitled Disability, Discourse & Technology: A Multimodal Analysis of Inclusion. This work combines several key topics, all of which are the focus of intense current interest: disability studies, discourse analysis, and the effects of emerging technology. Specifically, the book provides the first systematic, academic examination of how inclusion, a major concern in the lives of those with disabilities, takes place through discourse, narrative and technology. It also provides the first qualitative case study of how one person with a disability combats social exclusion verbally and technologically, thereby highlighting the agency of persons with disability. In so doing, it offers the first multimodal account of the interrelationship between technology and disability across cultural, religious, and social contexts. The project builds on and extends a case-study analysis of one quadriplegic man’s everyday uses of technology, especially his computer-related practices, to combat the marginalization and isolation afforded to him by the cultural ideologies towards disability in the country in which he resides, Oman. This book thus brings together three important strands of research: disability studies, technology studies, and the Middle East in a way that has never been done before.

Wencheng Gao
Professor, English Department, Shanghai Ocean University, China

Cognitive Linguistic Perspective: A Contrastive Study of Constructions in English and Chinese

—— Based on the Corpora of ANC and CCL
Born out of long-term interest and accumulative research experience, a contrastive study of four fundamental constructions in English and Chinese will be conducted within the theoretical framework of cognitive linguistics. The following four constructions: (1) the temporal and spatial constructions, (2) the dinominal endocentric constructions, (3) the ditransitive constructions, (4) the existential constructions, will be investigated in detail based on corpus data and then presenting cognitive interpretations.

The central tenet of Cognitive Linguistics (Lakoff 1987,1999; Langacker 1987,1991; Taylor 2002 )- the inseparability of syntax and semantics – came at a time when the lingusitic community widely accepted the status of syntax as an autonomous formal system. Of course, the leading theoretical framework of Transformational-Generative Grammar is very powerful in explaining the inner language competence of human beings. Each school of linguistic theories has its own strengths and weaknesses. Instead, Cognitive Linguistics set forth the following three closely related claims:

(1) Semantic structure is not universal; it is primarily language-specific, based on conventional imagery and dependent on knowledge structures;

(2) Grammar does not constitute an antonomous formal level of representation. Instead, it is symbolic in nature, and consists of conventional symbolization of semantic structure;

(3) There is no meaningful distinction between grammar and lexicon. Lexicon, morphology, and syntax form a continuum of symbolic structures, which differ along various parameters but can be divided into separate components,

A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods will be employed. The English Language data for each construction will be collected from the American National Corpus (alternatively the British National Corpus). The Chinese language data will be gathered from the Center for Chinese Linguistics corpus (CCL, Peking University). Following the collection of language data, relevant linguistic information will be verified, and non-homogeneous pieces will be discarded. Then the facts will be collated, subcategorized and processed using a descriptive statistics technique. A qualitative method will then be adopted to interpret the constructions seeking universals from an angle of typology. It is also hoped that some natural and revealing accounts hiding behind the differences of the constructions will be discovered from a perspective of cognitive linguistics. For instance, the temporal and spatial constructions in English and Chinese differ in the order of representation because the speakers construe the same situation by adopting different cognitive paths. Chinese usually prefer the construal in the way of “from periphery to center”, while English native speakers are inclined to construe the image by moving “from center to periphery”.

The insights of this kind are significant in understanding the nature of human language, and also practically helpful in teaching English and Chinese as a foreign language.

Wukyung Ko

English conditionals, involving use of subjunctive mood, have been thought of as one of the most difficult grammatical features to acquire by L2 learners as well as L1 speakers. Though some studies focused on the acquisition of this difficult structure, the findings of previous studies are not consistent, in need of clarification. First of all, it is not still clear as to why certain types of English conditionals are more difficult to acquire than others, and, as a result, acquired later than others. Second, the difficulty order of different types of English If-conditionals in production and comprehension was different across different studies. Finally, participants in these studies are either those with various L1 backgrounds or those with the same L1. It is believed that studies comparing the data from the speakers of a controlled number of languages are in need so as to shed light on the issues of language transfer more clearly.

The objective of the study is to explore whether and how three factors including input frequencies, grammatical complexities and L1 influence the acquisition of conditionals by Korean-speaking and Spanish-speaking learners of English through collecting comprehension and production data. For this purpose, an experiment with two subparts, each focusing on comprehension and production respectively, will be performed. In the first part, an inference task will be employed in order to assess the participants’ comprehension of the various types of conditional sentences. In the second part, a controlled composition task will be employed to assess their production of the conditionals.

Through examining and comparing influences of the various factors in one study, the study is believed to provide us with valuable clues as to how these factors influence the acquisition processes of If-conditionals differently. Especially, by employing learners with two different L1 backgrounds, the study is expected to show clearly how the learners’ L1 influences the acquisition order of If-conditionals. In addition, the study is expected to produce pedagogically fruitful results that can be useful for class instruction of English conditionals.

Michal Marmorstein

My dissertation studies the syntactical distribution and function of the verbal forms in Classical Arabic prose. The starting point of my research is the ‘aorist’ form yafʿalu; rather than trying to ‘expose’ the form’s invariant – aspectual or temporal – meaning, as was repeatedly done in the past, I aim at identifying its typical uses and systemic interrelations with other verbal forms. In my work I try to confront the general question of context definition and demarcate the pertinent and consistent features which operate in a specific instance of communication, that can be further generalized to a set of such communications. To reach this end I apply a multi-leveled analysis to my data, considering the referential (or deictic), textual, macro-syntactic (inter-clausal), micro-syntactic (clausal) and lexical levels. Studying a literary language, my research also extends to the analysis of genre, style and register, and their interaction with the syntactic structure exhibited in Classical Arabic prose. My research now is at its final stage: while I am at Georgetown I intend to integrate my findings into a systemic description of the verbal system of Classical Arabic, which will be preceded by an outline of my theoretical premises and the linguistic framework of my analysis.

Other research projects in which I participate: In the course of the last two years, I was a research member in the Swedish Academy funded research project: “Circumstantial Clause Combining in Semitic: A Comparative Study”. The work of the group was concluded by a conference in August 2012 in Kivik, Sweden, and will be followed by a publication of the results of the study.

Another research project in which I am involved is the writing of a handbook of Egyptian Arabic, based mainly on written texts (together with Prof. Gabriel Rosenbaum, The Hebrew University). I intend to follow and complete this project by another one, this time based on the analysis of spoken texts that were recorded from Egyptian women during the years 2009-2011, while I was living in Cairo. In this research I wish to deepen and refine my understanding of the structure of conversational narratives in spoken Arabic and, in a later stage, compare it with the structures observed in narratives in literary Arabic.

Kyong-Sook Song

During her visiting research at Georgetown, which is supported by the Professors Overseas Research Grant of the National Research Foundation of Korea, Dr. Song investigates English face-to-face conversations and computer-mediated communication (CMC). CMC has emerged as an important new communication modality, and the significance has been demonstrated through its continued growth (Herring 1996, etc). The present-day world status of English as a global language is primarily the result of two factors: the expansion of the British colonial power, which peaked towards the end of the 19th century, and the emergence of the U.S. as the leading economic power of the 20th century (Crystal 2003, etc.). English is no longer the language of the English native speakers; English belongs to the world. There are pressing needs for understanding and accepting various types of English, World Englishes, which are emerging for various communicative needs in many countries and speech communities. Dr. Song plans to investigate cross-cultural/linguistic differences among/between American university students and Korean university students in the U.S in face-to-face conversations and computer-mediated communication on World Englishes.

Shoko Yohena
Professor, Department of English Literature, Ferris University, Yokohama, Japan

The overall theme of my research interest is “identity and positioning changes observed in Japanese narratives,” including such aspects as gender differences, influence of media on communication and education. Recent research on narratives came to employ a wider range of narrative data including “small stories” (Bamberg 2004, Georgakopoulou 2007) of naturally occurring discourse, imaginative stories, narratives on CMC etc., rather than the traditional narrative “cannon” of life-stories obtained through interviews. I have been working on narratives of imaginary stories by Japanese children, gender differences observed in narratives of married couples’ conversations, and written testimonies found on church websites by Japanese Christians. My most recent interests include narratives found in coaching and counseling sessions. Even though the scope of the research may seem wide, the underlying point of view in analysis is consistent; identity and positioning changes in Japanese narratives. During my visit at Georgetown University, under Dr. Hamilton’s guidance, I intend to continue to explore how positioning and identity change in narratives. I also would like to explore the interactive nature of narratives and its influence on shaping of narratives taking more interactionally sensitive approaches to narrative identity (De Fina and Georgakopoulou 2012).

The findings should shed some light to understanding the relationships between language and identity, and how Japanese use narratives to create, challenge, and sustain relative identities among participants in various contexts.


Toshiko Hamaguchi
Department of English Language and Literature, University of the Sacred Heart, Tokyo, Japan

Hiroyuki Tahara
Associate Professor, Sapporo University, Japan


Wukyung Ko

Svetlana Nedelcheva


Marissa Patulli Trythall 


Najma Al Zidjaly, Ph.D.

Ataliba Castilho, Ph.D.

Mean-Young Song, Ph.D. 


Worawanna Petchjik 


Woonil Baik, Ph.D.

Maria Iakovou, Ph.D. 
Assistant Professor of Linguistics, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

Junichi Kasajima, Ph.D. 
Professor, Applied Linguistics, Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan

Kyong-Sook Song, Ph.D. 

Monthira Tamuang, Ph.D.
Lecturer of Linguistics, Department of Linguistics, Naresuan University,Thailand


Woonil Baik, Ph.D.

Kyong-Sook Song, Ph.D.  


Woonil Baik, Ph.D. 

Elena Ciprianova, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of English and American Studies, University of Constantine the Philosopher, Nitra, Slovakia

Nada Šabec, Ph.D.
Professor and Department Head, Department of English and American Studies, University of Maribor, Slovenia.

Choong Whan Woo, Ph.D. 
Associate Professor, English Department, Korea Naval Academy 


Gemma Bel Enguix
Lecturer, Research Group in Mathematical Linguistics, Tarragona, Spain

Jantima Eamanondh 
Doctoral Student, Department of Linguistics, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

Laura Sgarioto