Michael Putnam

Michael Putnam

Mike Putnam
Director, Linguistics Program
417 Burrowes Building


What exactly are the essential building blocks of language, how do we acquire them, and how do we put them together? Are there limitations to the ways that we can make use of this knowledge, i.e., is there a such thing as ‘impossible languages’? In my research I seek to learn more about these structural properties of language from the perspective that the materials and processes responsible for building what we commonly call ‘words’ and ‘sentences’ are the same (i.e., a ‘single engine’ approach). An important goal of my research is to create and improve upon theoretical models of what our linguistic knowledge looks like and what sorts of properties and internal structure elements such as ‘verbs’ might have. I’m particularly interested in the linguistic knowledge that bilinguals possess and how it may change across the lifespan of individuals. From an empirical perspective, most of my research homes in on structural phenomena found in Germanic languages and dialects past and present, including global and heritage varieties of German and Norwegian. My collaborators, including my students, and I use a wide array of different techniques to elicit data and responses from our participants when conducting field research ‘in the wild’.

Research Areas: Syntax, morphology, Germanic linguistics, bilingualism, heritage language development