Department of Linguistics and the College
Erik Zyman is a theoretical syntactician. He elucidates the rules and principles determining how words (and smaller linguistic units) can and cannot be combined to form larger syntactic units, how these rules and principles do and do not vary across languages, and what their cognitive and other underpinnings are. A major priority of his research program is identifying, as precisely as possible, the fundamental operations that build the syntactic structures of human language and determining why they have the properties they do.
The fundamental syntactic operations that Zyman investigates include merge, which takes two words or phrases and combines them to form a larger phrase; selection, by which a word imposes strict requirements on the phrases it combines with; and adjunction, which inserts optional modifiers into sentences. His work has been published in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory and in Glossa, among other venues.
Zyman earned his PhD in linguistics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his AB in linguistics at Princeton University. He was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for his PhD work. Most recently, he was a Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago.