Dr. Conor McDonough Quinn

University of Southern Maine Dept. of Linguistics
65 Exeter St.
Portland, ME 04102-2838 USA
ph: +1-207-780-4989
e-mail: [firstname.middlenamesurname] at maine.edu

curriculum vitae

Research and Teaching

 I am a documentary and revitalization linguist with a strong set of theoretical interests that center primarily around morphosyntax.

Together with the Penobscot Nation Dept. of Cultural and Historic Preservation, the American Philosophical Society, and my co-PI, Dr. Pauleena MacDougall at the University of Maine Folklife Center, I am currently finishing a three-year DEL-funded project to finalize and publish a dictionary of Penobscot, an Eastern Algonquian language of central Maine that I have been working with since my mid-teens. In spring 2012 I completed the redigitization of the two-volume Penobscot Legends text collection (created through the collaboration of Frank T. Siebert, Jr. and over a dozen Penobscot raconteurs from the 1930s on) in a free-translation-interlinear format for use in the Penobscot community's ongoing revitalization effort. From this and other sources I am also developing a new teaching and reference grammar.

I have also worked recently with the St. Mary's First Nation on an promising new approach to Maliseet language pedagogy, one which seeks to minimize learner anxiety (through explicit and ongoing engagement with the issue) and maximize immediate communicative competence (through a series of carefully constructed, readily shareable mini-lessons).

Earlier I worked (from May 2006 to May 2008) as a full-time researcher supported by an Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship (ELDP-IPF0103) from the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project's Endangered Languages Documentation Program(me), kindly administratively hosted by the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.

Entitled Documentation of under-represented genres of Passamaquoddy-Maliseet linguistic practice, the chief goal of this work was to create an extensive annotated archive of audio and visual recordings of conversational (and other under-documented genres of) speech in Passamaquoddy-Maliseet, a severely endangered language spoken in several communities along the border of Maine, U.S.A and New Brunswick, Canada. The archive at present includes over 140 hours of audio, with approximately 17 hours of additional video---all almost exclusively of everyday conversational speech.

In summer 2012 I was a visiting scholar in the Department of Linguistics at McGill University, working as field director for the Listuguj Mi'gmaq Language Project, collaborating with local native-speaker teachers and guiding a team of students and recent graduates from McGill to design and realize an online language course for the community's ongoing language revitalization effort.

I have taught and continue to teach linguistic field methods courses for the University of Southern Maine Department of Linguistics (in spring 2013 I also taught phonology and morphology), and was an assistant professor in the Department of Foreign Languages at the University of Nizwa in Oman from fall 2009 through January 2011. Since returning to the USA, I have also taught introductory Mandarin and Arabic courses while reconnecting with the local speech communities I work with.

More than anything, teaching is my primary interest and motivator, and quite simply is where I am at my professional best. For this reason, much of my current work focuses on developing simple, low-cost, and effective techniques to expand and enrich core capacities for language teaching and learning at two key levels: institutional and community educational programs, and individual learners themselves.

Dissertation (2006)

  I completed Referential-access dependency in Penobscot in spring 2006.

Professional Interests

  • documentary linguistics: field work methodology, endangered speech communities, service learning in field work courses, community-side access to tools and resources for self-documentation
  • architectural constraints on grammar, especially triparticity as a constraint on maximal locality domains
  • event and argument structure, lexical-zone to functional-zone domain cartography, lexical semantics, verb serialization
  • ditransitives, applicatives, double object constructions, Primary and Secondary Objects, instrumentals (both the adposition/case-like elements and the N. American-area verbal elements)
  • lexical affixes, polysynthesis, incorporation
  • ergativity, antipassives, voice
  • non-canonical agreement patterns
  • path typologies and other morpholexical parameterizations
  • Algonquian Relative Roots and their non-Algonquian homologs (e.g. in Sumerian, Iroquoian, etc.); directional/spatial marking on verbs
  • Algonquian proximate-obviative contrasts and their non-Algonquian homologs
  • nominal classes and genders, shape-classification in verbal complexes (especially comparing ASL and indigenous North American shape-classifier systems and overall lexicon structure)
  • evidentiality
  • schwa/weak vowels in prosodic and phonotactic systems, prosody and phonation,
  • areal comparision of northeastern Algonquian and Iroquoian languages
  • writing systems, especially structural parallels between Chinese writing and komqwejui'kas'kl (Mi'gmaw (Mi'kmaw) hieroglyphs)
  • active-learner-centered language pedagogy


 2017  Reducing anxiety, increasing core competence: a practical minimalism for beginner adult heritage learners of Eastern Algonquian languages (With Andrea Bear Nicholas (St. Mary's Maliseet Nation/STU), Alwyn Jeddore (Membertou/Eskasoni/CBU), Gabriel Paul (Penobscot Nation Dept. of Cultural & Historic Preservation); 2016 Symposium on American Indian Languages (Rochester Institute of Technology) / 2016 Algonquian Conference / 2017 LSA / 2017 ICLDC presentation on how a minimalist approach to course content/presentation, combined with thorough engagement with learner anxiety, can help encourage, interest, and sustain beginning adult heritage learners of (Northeastern-area) Algonquian languages.
 2016  Accessibility and detechnicalization: towards a richer reciprocity between language research and revitalization Showcasing two ways in which revitalization teaching work has led to analytical/technical gains, which in turn feed back to improved revitalization pedagogy.
 2016  Language shift and linguistic insecurity LSA poster presentation with Maya Ravindranath Abtahian, discussing speech-community internal dynamics (especially inter-generational) that can lead to language anxiety/insecurity that directly furthers language shift.
 2015  Recovering the Penobscot TA Conjunct: documentary, analytical, and revitalization considerations Working draft of 47th Algonquian Conference talk, presenting the (nearly) fully-recovered Penobscot TA Conjunct paradigm, esp. in comparison to neighboring languages. Additional variant forms in Penobscot and Passamaquoddy-Maliseet are noted, and proposals are offered for "practical reconstruction" of missing forms for language revitalization, and for how these forms might be easily taught and learned.
 2015  1st person Patient diminutive verbs in Caniba and Western Abenaki Brief draft report on the existence of diminutive forms of the 1st person Patient marker in two Northeastern-area Algonquian languages, Caniba and Western Abenaki.
 2015  Productivity vs. predictability: evidence for the syntax and semantics of Animate gender in four Northeastern-area Algonquian languages. Gender, Class, and Determination presentation, University of Ottawa, 19 Sept. 2015.
 2014  Algonquian grammar without all the grammar: making Algonquian language patterns accessible to all. Working draft of 46th Algonquian Conference presentation on how to help make Algonquian language patterns more accessible for heritage learners, by rigorously detechnicalizing their presentation (= taking out all the "linguistese") and working from smaller, more quickly digestible lessons---shareable over a cup of coffee---that are grounded strictly in everyday-life language use.
 2013  Recovering natural history designata in the Northeast: interdisciplinary efforts in ecological linguistics. Rough draft of 45th Algonquian Conference presentation, co-authored with Arthur Haines, on collaboration between a linguist and a botanist/natural history specialist towards recovering the form and content of natural history terms in Penobscot and Passamaquoddy-Maliseet.
 2013  Problems and prospects in the Penobscot Dictionary. Rough draft of 45th Algonquian Conference presentation on the current (namely, initial) Penobscot Dictionary project.
 2012  Hacking language learning. My recent TEDxDirigo talk on the connection between effective language learning techniques and endangered language maintenance.
 2012  Listuguj Mi'gmaq: variation and distinctive dialectal features. An examination of variant features both distinctive to the Listuguj (southern Québec) speech community and also between speakers therein. Phonetic/phonological observations include a set of largely morphologically constrainted assimilations, recuttings, lenitions/loss, shortenings, as well as perhaps the only documented pharyngeal glide in an Algonquian language (= a noncontrastive but consistent realization of intervocalic lenis /q/). Morphosyntactic observations include the rebuilding of 3>1/2p argument-indexing morphology based on a collocation of the Inverse and Reflexive elements, rather than on the local (1st/2nd) Person patient-indexing elements seen in other dialects and more generally across the Algonquian family.
 2011  The design of a community language documentation skills workshop. Intentionally brief sketch of what such a workshop should cover. Comments and criticisms particularly invited. Next up: the same, for a community language teaching skills workshop.
 2011  Books are too high-tech...try a DVD instead: rethinking production priorities for maximal accessibility in documentation and revitalization. Presentation given at ICLDC 2 challenging the common reflexive assumption that print literacy should be a foundational part of language revitalization.
 2010  Contrastive analysis for non-Arabic-speaking teachers: the basics that you need to know to help your students. A brief talk for non-Arabic-speaking colleagues at the University of Nizwa on key features of Arabic (and especially Omani Arabic) relevant to teaching English to our L1 Arabic students. Really only scratched the surface of the tip of an iceberg with this one.
 2010  Facilitated Language Teaching. Draft document outlining a program (developed for Omani universities, but broadly applicable, particularly in endangered language revitalization) that addresses the common lack of qualified teachers for small languages in the form of an explicit manual for a co-teaching: native speakers (NSs) paired with a trained linguistic facilitator (LF). Expect to see further updates with richer details on how LFs can address each specific area of collaboration with untrained NSs, and how the LF can efficiently and effectively structure the presentation of even the most under-documented and pedagogically under-addressed grammars; along with more focused discussion of the active roles of the NS, and concrete exercises aimed at bringing LF and NS together on all these points.
 2010  A preliminary survey of the evidential and information-structural properties of some Algonquian discourse particles. Examining the still rather under-researched discourse particles of Algonquian languages, primarily through Penobscot and Passamaquoddy-Maliseet, and proposing not only a set of categories characterizing the system, but also a set of methodologies for approaching this area of inquiry.
 2010  Accessible Language Documentation. The beginnings of a set of simple but robust tools intended to help community members do their own language documentation. See also Simple long-term digital integration of Penobscot/E. Abenaki materials: digital lecture and this associated resource page below.
 2009  Simple long-term digital integration of Penobscot/E. Abenaki materials: digital lecture. A 19-minute digital video presentation of the content of the 2008-2009 "Simple long-term digital integration of Penobscot/E. Abenaki materials" lecture (handout below), with a specific emphasis on how simple but powerful and practical techniques for linguistic documentation can be made accessible to non-linguist stakeholders in endangered language work---see below for more details.
 2009  Incorporated verbal classifiers in a predictive typology of noun incorporation. Starting from the premise that syntactic structure serves as a mechanism to constrain the possible collective interpretational range of the elements it brings together, this paper proposes that lexical roots in polysynthetic stems in Algonquian languages combine together via a rankly minimal and simple syntax---a syntax whose restrictive typology of possible interpretational relations predicts the existence of precisely the three core contrastive classes of incorporant reported by Wiltschko 2009 (building on Mithun 1984 and especially on Rosen 1989, inter alia): (a) incorporated verbal classifiers/synonyms of themes, (b) inalienably-possessed body-part incorporants, and (c) incorporants interpreted as instrumentals, locatives, and other quasi-arguments of the stem-complex predication.
 2009  Medials in the Northeast (AC writeup version). A significantly revised and updated version of the 2008 presentation of the same title (see below), still based in a maximal triparticity (notion from Boeckx 2008, term from me) analysis, but now featuring a novel claim of a possible (and predicted) contrast between an intermediate-level and maximal-level light element (Marantz 1997, inter alia), applied with a narrower and clearer emphasis on a heretofore unreported parallel between Algonquian and Northern Iroquoian noun incorporation: in both language groups, a certain set of notional incorporees show evidence of accompanying nominalizing morphology (read: light nouns)---with a further parallel in that this same morphology then stacks under an additional nominalizer in the formation of freestanding nominal stems, giving rise to descriptively "doubly nominalized" nouns.
 2009  Semantic packaging and the Manner/Means constraint on Algonquian verbal stem structure. A more polished and updated version of Quinn 2007, noting a robust constraint on the semantics of lexical suffixes in Algonquian languages, one that is paralleled in the graphic-lexemic structure of Chinese characters, and that overall appears to be connected to neoconstructonist models of event structure (cf. especially Ramchand 2008).
 2008  Deriving pronominal feature structures through asymmetrical dependencies: obviation, inverse, and antihierarchy effects in Algonquian languages. A substantially updated and streamlined presentation of the last two chapters of Quinn 2006, with a new take on pronominal features and pronominal feature hierarchies that draws from Boeckx 2008's work on what I term "maximal triparticity" and introduces the observational notion of "antihierarchy" effects.
 2008  Simple long-term digital integration of Penobscot/E. Abenaki materials. The pdf-qua-Powerpoint component of my recent CELCNA and Algonquian Conference presentations proposing a radically minimalist use of tagging to meet two needs: (a) the need to promote greater access not just to the products of linguistic text annotation, but also to the means of their production----in other words, this is aimed at empowering those without extensive computer skills to quickly and easily produce their own interlinear and facing-page bilingual texts using very simple techniques---and (b) the need to create archivally-robust but immediately flexible, platform-independent linguistic data documents. This document links to a further set of materials available at this resource page, now updated with a template/base document.
 2008  Medials in the Northeast. A unitary account offered for the traditional tripartite templatic structure of Algonquian stems (Initial-Medial-Final) in terms of a notion of maximal triparticity (cf. Boeckx 2008) and a minimalist Root-plus-light-element model of the type most familiar from Distributed Morphology. The analysis also uncovers and explains a heretofore unobserved parallel between Algonquian and N. Iroquoian notional noun incorporation constructions.
 2008  Referential-access dependency in Penobscot (presentation version). A recent presentation of the last two chapters of Quinn 2006, with some streamlining and clarifying updates: useful as a preview/overview of those chapters. Demonstrates how a purely structurally-derived model of obviation (and pronominal feature hierarchies in general) allows for a unified account for both the Algonquian Independent and Conjunct morphological clause-types----and particularly the status of the inverse in both---when taken together with a treatment of the Algonquian Independent as a formal possessed nominal.
 2008  Applicative and antipassive: Algonquian transitive "stem-agreement" as differential object marking. An update on chapter two of Quinn 2006 (but not including Russian dative possessors material; see below), recently presented
 2008  A quick note to the folks at www.talk-lenape.org. Useful bit about presenting Algonquian verbal morphology (IdpIdc) for learners
 2008  Russian Dative Possessors: addendum to Quinn 2006, chapter two; inspired by Markman 2008.
 2007  The Eastern Algonquian Subordinative as event-argument dependency.
 2007  Event-semantics packaging and the Manner/Means constraint on Algonquian verbal stem structure.
 2006  Algonquian grammar without all the grammar. A script for a performance, rather than a paper or handout
 2004  A preliminary survey of animacy categories in Penobscot (2004 update).
 2004  Head parameterization at the multiclausal level.
 2003  Absentativity in Penobscot.
 2001  Suugaanta carruurta Soomaaliyeed (Somali children's literature). Very rough draft; co-edited with authors Kaltuma Abdi, Sucdi Abdi, Naima Abukar, Marian Ahmed, Subeyda Ahmed, Farhiya Ali, Istar Ali, Rahama Ali, Faiza Hassan, Ahmed Hussein, Najma Hussein, Anisa Maxmuud, Bashir Muse, Zaitun Jamal Sharif, Amina Shire, and Hurriya Shire; and with particular help from Awralla Hashi and Christine Braceras.