McGinnis-Archibald, Martha

Associate Professor


Phone number: (250) 721-7429
Department: Linguistics

Research description:

- Morphology and syntax
- Investigating similarities and systematic variations in the sentence structure (syntax) of different languages, and how these relate to word structure (morphology) and meaning (semantics)
- Constructed languages, such as Tolkien's Elvish languages and Klingon

Expertise Profile
What's in a word?

Linguistics professor Dr. Martha McGinnis-Archibald studies morphology and syntax, analyzing the structure of words - their roots, parts and pronunciations - and how they combine to form grammatical sentences.

Dr. McGinnis-Archibald also teaches language acquisition, which looks at how children develop language use, how languages change as we age, or how people can adapt their communication systems when deaf or cognitively impaired.

She also teaches a class on constructed languages, such as Star Trek's Klingon and Avatar's Na'vi. Dr. McGinnis-Archibald compares these artistic creations with natural human languages, opening discussions on what properties make a language uniquely human.

Her research on a wide variety of languages - from French to Japanese to Georgian - supports the central finding of her field that while different human languages have their variations and unique properties, they also share universal, human properties.

This knowledge has implications for how we learn and teach languages, how we identify and classify language disorders, and how we might design technological devices to mimic human interactions.

Other discoveries in her field have been important in debunking the myth that children are better off being raised as monolingual. Parents deciding whether to pass on their heritage language, or send their children to immersion schools, will benefit from the knowledge that learning a second language actually leads to cognitive advantages, provided their children are supported in their language learning.

In her teaching, Dr. McGinnis-Archibald develops creative projects such as taping child speech to identify patterns of language development, so that students can directly experience doing research and making their own discoveries.

Countries lived or worked in:

Dr. McGinnis-Archibald has worked in Japan for three months in the summer of 1992. Additionally, she did her doctoral and postdoctoral studies in the United States, from September 1993-June 1999.



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