About

cv in pictures (click for captions)

Professor of Linguistics, University of Oxford
Professor of Linguistics (part-time), University of Maryland | Affiliated Faculty, Maryland Language Science Center (Founding Director 2013-2023)
Co-editor, Annual Review of Linguistics

BA in Modern Languages, University of Oxford (1990)
PhD in Linguistics, MIT (1996)

cvpapers | google scholar |  origin story | Oxford announcement

videos: umd feature (short) | linguistic illusions talk (long) | laboratory linguistics talk (medium) | Language at Maryland: more than the sum of our parts (medium) |

I am from the flat fen country of eastern England. In 1990 I set off to the US for what was supposed to be a 9-month adventure. It lasted a little longer than that. I was based in the Washington DC area from 2000-2023. It continues to be my family’s home base. I am a dual UK-US citizen. Both countries are home, in different ways.

From January 2024 I am starting a new adventure, returning to the University of Oxford as Professor of Linguistics, and a Professorial Fellow at Somerville College. I remain part-time at Maryland, where I continue to work with wonderful students and faculty. Get in touch if you are interested in graduate study with me at either institution (Oxford: DPhil, MPhil, MSt; Maryland: PhD).

I mostly do just two closely-related things.

First, I do research on human language. I am impressed by the rich structure of human language. In particular, I am impressed by how we are able to use that rich structure in speaking and understanding, and by how children are able to learn it so effectively. My research, which has always been guided by wonderful students, sits at the intersection of linguistics, psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and computer science, and spans diverse methods and languages. Recent focus areas include linguistic illusions, linguistic prediction, and the relation between speaking and understanding.

Second, I am an advocate for Language Science. Language is hugely important to humans, but it rarely features in priority areas for universities or for science. At the University of Maryland I worked to change that. Over 20 years we built a community of language scientists that spans 17 departments and centers across the entire university. Our efforts grew into the Maryland Language Science Center, which I founded and directed from 2013-2023. These efforts were fueled by two NSF-funded interdisciplinary programs that I directed (IGERT: 2008-2015; NRT: 2015-2022), among many other initiatives.

In Oxford I am pursuing both of these themes, in a way that fits the somewhat different local context. Oxford has been a centre for linguistic study since the Middle Ages. A number of new developments are creating exciting opportunities for language-related study and research in Oxford. This is helped by the advent of the new Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities, currently under construction and due to open in 2025.

This site sketches how I pursue these two themes. You have better things to do than read my papers, and CVs are soulless. These pages aim to save you the trouble.  [how this site was built]


When I am not obsessing about community building for language science, I obsess about community building for physical health and community health. Long ago, my hugely talented adopted brother turned me into a competitive, if undistinguished runner. After falling off the proverbial wagon for a number of years, I am thrilled to remain active in my mid-50s. My main contributions have been as an organizer and community builder. In the late 1980s I created the Teddy Hall Relays in Oxford, which in the 2020s continues the original goal of making running fun and inclusive. In 2016, Andrea Zukowski and I founded the weekly College Park parkrun, which has grown into the largest event of its kind in North America. We have helped many other communities around the US to benefit as we have in College Park. Now back in Oxford, I am a regular runner and volunteer at University Parks parkrun, which in the 2020s is creating an inclusive running community on a scale that I couldn’t have dreamed of in the 1980s.

My interest in healthy communities also links to a long-standing interest in smart growth city-university relations, which I pursued in various ways as the College Park area rapidly developed during my 20+ years based there.

athlinks | college park parkrun | college park parkrun links