Principal Investigator:

Martina Wiltschko is Professor of Linguistics at the University of British Columbia. A syntactician by training, she is interested in how form (e.g., sound) and meaning relate to each other and in particular how this relation is mediated by the syntax.  She has recently finished a monograph exploring universals and variation in grammatical categories. She has now started to apply her findings to phenomena that are typically assumed to be pragmatic in nature. Her current SSHRC-funded project deals with so called confirmationals (like Canadian eh), which allow speakers to request confirmation from the addressee.


  • Laurel Brinton (UBC English)
  • Rose-Marie Déchaine (UBC Linguistics)
  • Lisa Matthewson (UBC Linguistics)
  • Betsy Ritter (Ben Gurion,  Department of Foreign Literatures & Linguistics)
eh-lablingsDecember, 2013
13886240_506643426199125_6637477273208356944_nJuly, 2016

Graduate Students :

  • Anne Bertrand

Anne started her PhD in linguistics at UBC in September 2015. Her research focuses on clause typing in Ktunaxa, a language isolate spoken in interior BC and parts of Montana and Idaho, and exclamative constructions in Québec French. For both Ktunaxa and Québec French, she is interested in the relation between the syntax of clause typing and speech acts, and she hopes her research contributes to the modelling of the interfaces between syntax and semantics, and syntax and pragmatics. Otherwise, Anne is passionate about contemporary dance, yoga and everything movement related. 

  • Johannes Heim


Johannes is interested in research at the syntax-pragmatics interface as well as the syntax-phonology interface. Trained in formal linguistics, he has recently developed a strong interest in combining qualitative and quantitative methods for his research. For the Syntax of Speech Acts Project, he has mainly investigated particles in Swabian and the intonational properties of confirmationals across different languages and dialects. His dissertation research investigates the contribution of intonation to the interpretation of speech acts (supervised by Dr. Martina Wiltschko). In his free time, Johannes loves exploring British Columbia with his wife and daughter. 

  • Marianne Huijsmanns


Marianne is a second-year PhD student studying ʔayʔaǰuθəm and SENĆOŦEN, both Central Salish languages. Her MA thesis focused on the syntax and prosody of SENĆOŦEN second-position clitics. Second-position clitics in ʔayʔaǰuθəm and SENĆOŦEN are a diverse class and include a variety of discourse particles. She is particularly curious about the meaning/function of these particles and hopes to begin analyzing them in more depth as she continues her investigation of the grammar of these languages.

  • Hermann Keupdjio


Hermann is a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia. His research interests are syntactic theories and African languages. His dissertation explores A-bar movement in Medumba (Grassfields Bamileke Bantu) and related phenomena such as A- bar agreement and resumption. For this project, Hermann has been investigating discourse particles in Medumba, more specifically positively and negatively biased questions and their syntactic properties. In his free time, Hermann is either cooking some African culinary delights or practicing kickboxing at the Vancouver sport kickboxing academy.

  • Zoe Wai-Man Lam


Specializing in phonetics and phonology, Zoe is interested in the interaction of discourse particles, intonation and lexical tone in tone languages. As a speaker-linguist of Cantonese (which has a large inventory of discourse particles), she is fascinated by the subtle meaning conveyed by utterance-final particles in her native language. Inspired by Dr Martina Wiltschko, she published a paper about multiple layers of FORCE in Cantonese. Currently, she attends the eh lab whenever there are discussions involving syntax-phonetics interface. Zoe also spends a lot of time thinking about how to make linguistics accessible to the general public.

  • Adriana Osa-Gómez

Adriana Osa-Gomez is interested in discourse particles and markers as windows to models of conversation. Her main obsession lately is understanding how speakers use different sources of knowledge during dialogue, and how this is can be marked by discourse markers and particles. Other linguistic interest include other non-truth conditional parts of language (esp. expressives), and tense and aspect in Bantu languages.

In her free time she spends time with her 14 year old cat, doing yoga, and binge watching TV shows (sometimes simultaneously).

  • Emily Sadlier-Brown
  • Erin Guntly

Erin is a PhD student whose dissertation focuses on what polar response particles (yeah and no) can respond to when they are not responding to propositions. She has also worked on indigenous languages, most significantly Ktunaxa, works the the UBC Working Papers to help research on endangered languages reach a wider audience.

  • Sonja Thoma

Sonja just recently defended her PhD dissertation in the Department of Linguistics. She is interested in the interface of syntax and pragmatics, and currently studies how language is used to refer to a particular discourse participant’s epistemic state or attitude. She is also interested in formal ways of modelling that use. Her dissertation on discourse particles in Bavarian German was supervised by Dr Martina Wiltschko. Sonja also enjoys her job as TA, luring students into declaring a linguistics major one at a time.

When not thinking about language and linguistics, Sonja spends time with her three children and plays roller derby for the Terminal City Rollergirls.

Undergraduate Students:

  • Yifang Yuan


Yifang is a first-year diploma student in the Department of Linguistics at UBC. She holds a BA in English Language and Literature from Hubei University of Science and Technology and a Master’s degree in English and American Studies from University of Bayreuth. Yifang’s research interests lie in the areas of corpus linguistics, contact linguistics and the application of corpus methods in the study of discourse particles. Her current research focuses on English response particles and their distributions in different contexts.

  • Tiffany Ho


Tiffany is a recent undergraduate graduate in the Department of Linguistics at UBC. She holds immense interest in the study of sociolinguistics, namely speaker and listeners’ perception and attitudes toward accent in speech. At the Eh-Lab, Tiffany works together with Dr. Wiltschko to manage the organization and layout of information on the Syntax of Speech Acts website. She is considering continuing her studies in the near future by pursuing UBC’s graduate program for linguistics.

Postdoctoral Fellows

  • Xiadong (Merlin) Yang


Past Interns (Undergrad)

    • Jessy Ceha (January – May 2014)
    • Richard Williams (May – August 2016)

Syntax of Speech Acts Project at UBC Linguistics