William O’Grady

Department of Linguistics

University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
1890 East-West Road, Moore Hall 569
Honolulu, HI 96822

Office: Moore Hall, Room 564
E-mail: ogrady@nullhawaii.edu
Phone: (808) 956-3228

Academic Background:

B.A. University of Prince Edward Island
M.A. Université Laval
M.Ed. Harvard University
Ph.D. University of Chicago


My primary research interests fall into four areas—syntactic theory, language acquisition, Korean, and heritage languages.

My work on syntactic theory and on language acquisition focuses on emergentism—the idea that the complex systems are best understood by investigating the interaction of more basic forces and propensities. In the case of language, these forces seem to consist largely of processing pressures, which play a key role in shaping both the properties of grammatical systems and the manner in which those properties emerge in the course of development. Syntactic Carpentry (published in 2005 by Erlbaum) provides a detailed outline of this idea, illustrating how many core grammatical phenomena can be traced to the operation of an efficiency-driven processor whose primary goal is simply to reduce the burden on working memory. This idea is pursued and refined in several of the papers that can be downloaded from this site.

My research on Korean is relatively wide-ranging, beginning with Categories and Case (1989). I maintain an ongoing interest in case-related phenomena as well as processing and acquisition, and I have co-authored a bilingual ‘root dictionary’ of Korean (The Handbook of Korean Vocabulary, University of Hawai‘i Press, 1996) as well as a book on Korean phonology (The Sounds of Korean, University of Hawaii Press, 2003). I am currently completing a book on Jejueo, the language of Korea’s Jeju Island (co-authored with Changyong Yang and Sejung Yang).

Finally, I have a strong interest in the acquisition and maintenance of ‘heritage languages’—a broad category that includes both the family languages of immigrants to America (e.g., Korean) and endangered indigenous languages around the world. I am particularly devoted to the preservation and revitalization of Jejueo.

I am happy to discuss any of these matters with groups and classes via Skype.


Publications (books)

  • Handbook of Language Emergence. (co-edited with Brian MacWhinney). Boston: Wiley. 2015
  • Syntactic Carpentry: An Emergentist Approach to Syntax. Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum, 2005.
  • How Children Learn Language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • Contemporary Linguistic Analysis: An Introduction (co-edited with J. Archibald). Eighth edition. Toronto: Pearson-Longman, 2016. (The U.S. edition of this book, co-edited with J. Archibald, M. Aronoff & J. Rees-Miller and entitled Contemporary Linguistics, is published by St. Martin’s Press.)
  • The Sounds of Korean: A Pronunciation Guide (co-authored with M. Choo). Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2003.
  • Studies on Korean in Community Schools (co-edited with D.-J. Lee, S. Cho, M. Lee, & M. Song). Technical Report 22. Honolulu: Second Language Teaching & Curriculum Center, 2000. (This is a collection of reports, written in Korean by my then students, summarizing our research on ‘heritage learners’ of Korean in the United States.)
  • Syntactic Development. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.
  • Handbook of Korean Vocabulary (co-authored with M. Choo). Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1996.
  • Categories and Case: The Sentence Structure of Korean. Philadelphia & Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1991.
  •  Principles of Grammar and Learning. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

Papers available for downloading as PDF files.

If you’ve come here to find out about emergentism or emergentist approaches to language, the following papers, which were written for a general audience, may be helpful:

  • Emergentism.‘ This brief overview of emergentism appeared in 2010 in The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Language Sciences, edited by Patrick Hogan (pp. 274-76). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • The emergentist program.’ This selective survey of emergentist research on language appeared in 2008 in Lingua 118 (pp. 447-64), a special issue edited by Roger Hawkins and devoted to an examination of emergentist and UG-based work on language acquisition.
  • An emergentist approach to syntax. This paper, first written in early 2001, summarizes many of the points developed in more detail in my 2005 book, Syntactic Carpentry (Erlbaum). The paper was subsequently revised and updated for publication in 2010, appearing in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Analysis (pp. 257-83), edited by H. Narrog & B. Heine and published by Oxford University Press. It is somewhat more technical than the two preceding items, but considers a broader range of issues.
  • Does emergentism have a chance?‘ This is my plenary talk to the 32nd Boston University Conference on Language Development (November 2007) as it appeared in the Proceedings. It focuses almost entirely on the problem of first language acquisition.
  • Interview on emergentism.’ This interview, conducted by Mei Yang of South China University of Technology, appeared in Chinese in The Foreign Modern Language Quarterly, 32.4, 121-28 in 2009.

Other papers (those preceded by a double asterisk have a specifically emergentist focus):

Papers specifically on Korean: 

  •  Classifiers and learnability: The role of recasts.’ (with Sunyoung Lee) Frontiers of Korean Language Acquisition, ed. by Jae Jung Song. Saffron Books: London, 2006,127-37.
  • Rethinking structure and case.‘ This is the text of my 2004 talk to the annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of Korea; it is virtually identical to the version that appears in the conference proceedings.
  • ‘A linear computational system for Korean: Case and structure.‘This paper is also available in Perspectives on Korean Case and Case Marking, ed. by Byung-Soo Park & Jong-Bok Kim. Seoul: Thaehaksa, 2004, 3-20. [PDF Coming Soon!]
  • Words and Sounds. This invited talk to the International Association for the Promotion of Korean as an International Language (2001) discusses two books that I co-authored that are of special interest to Korean language professionals.

Some dissertations that I have supervised:

  • Fahn, Sharon. 1993. The acquisition of Mandarin Chinese BA-constructions.
  • Gibson, Robert. 1993. Palauan causatives and passives: An incorporation analysis.
  • Kao, Rong-Rong. 1993. Grammatical relations and anaphoric structures in Mandarin Chinese.
  • Choo, Miho. 1994. A unified account of null pronouns in Korean.
  • Cho, Sungdai. 1995. On verbal intransitivity in Korean: With special reference to middle constructions.
  • Clausen, Josie. 1995. The taxonomy, semantics, and syntax of Ilokano adverbial clauses.
  • Izutani, Matuzo. 1995. Against a subjacency account of movement and empty categories in Japanese.
  • Kim, Seong-Chan. 1995. The acquisition of wh questions in English and Korean.
  • Yamashita, Yoshie. 1995. The emergence of syntactic categories: Evidence from the acquisition of Japanese.
  • Yoshinaga, Naoko. 1996. Wh-questions: A comparative study of their form and acquisition in English and Japanese.
  • Lim, Kihong. 1998. A split analysis of caki-binding in Korean.
  • Wong, Cathy Sin-Ping. 1998. The acquisition of Cantonese noun phrases.
  • Cho, Sookeun. 1999. The acquisition of relative clauses: Experimental studies on Korean.
  • Suzuki, Takaaki. 1999. Two aspects of Japanese case in acquisition.
  • Lee, Miseon. 2000. On agrammatic deficits in English and Korean.
  • Chang, Jung-hsing. 2001. The syntax of event structure in Chinese.
  • Kim, Kyoungkook. 2001. Korean negation and the licensing condition on negative polarity items.
  • Nakamura, Michiko. 2003. Processing of multiple filler-gap dependencies in Japanese. (co-supervised with Amy Schafer)
  • Tsang, Chi Chung Aaron. 2003. Transitivity in Cantonese.
  • Song, Min Sun. 2003. The first and second language acquisition of negative polarity items in English and Korean.
  • Lee, Sun-Young. 2003. Argument/adjunct asymmetry in the acquisition of inversion in wh-questions by English-speaking children and Korean learners of English: Frequency account vs. structural account.
  • Lee, Mijung. 2004. Resultative constructions in Korean.
  • Timyam, Napasri. 2005. The interaction of linguistic, pragmatic and social factors: The case of datives and ditransitives in Thai. (co-supervised with Ben Bergen)
  • Kim, Jae-Yeon. 2005. L2 acquisition of transitivity alternations and of entailment relations for causatives by Korean speakers of English and English speakers of Korean.
  • Shin, Kyung Sook. 2007. Processing nominal reference in English and Korean: Data from first and second language acquisition.
  • Hwang, Hui-hua (Jessie). 2008. Serial verb constructions in Chinese.
  • Lee, Sunyoung. 2009. Interpreting scope ambiguity in first and second language processing: Universal quantifiers and negation.
  • Kwak, Hye-Young. 2010. Scope interpretation in first and second language acquisition: Numeral quantifiers and negation.
  • Hunter, Hatfield. 2010. Temporal expectancy and the experience of statistics in language processing.
  • Kim, So-Young. 2011. Focus particles at syntactic, semantic and pragmatic interfaces: The acquisition of only and even in English.
  • Kang, Sang-Gu. 2011. English attrition in Korean-English bilingual children.
  • Hattori, Ryoko. 2011. Preverbal particles in Pingelapese: A language of Micronesia.
  • Kim, Jinsook. 2012. Comprehension of elided phrases in Korean and English: VP-ellipsis, null object constructions, and one-substitution.
  • Choe, Jinsun. 2012. Children seem to know raising: Raising and intervention in child language. (co-supervised with Kamil Deen)
  • Ko, Insung. 2012. The articulation of Korean coronal obstruents: Data from heritage speakers and second language learners. (co-supervised with Ho-Min Sohn) 
  • Kim, Chae-Eun. 2013. Asymmetries in the production of relative clauses: First and second language acquisition.