Marianne Mithun


Office Hours

Tuesdays 11:00 - 12:00 PM
Thursdays 2:00-3:00pm
and by appointment
Winter 2020

Office Location

South Hall 3512


Morphology, syntax, discourse, prosody, and their interrelations; language contact and language change; typology and universals; language documentation; American Indian linguistics; Austronesian linguistics


1974 Ph.D., Yale University, Linguistics
Dissertation: A Grammar of Tuscarora
Advisor: Floyd Lounsbury
1972 M.Phil, Yale University, Linguistics
1972 M.A., Yale University, Linguistics
1970: Linguistic Institute, Ohio State University
1969 B.A., Pomona College, Phi Beta Kappa, French
1967 spring: Swarthmore College exchange
1968 summer: U.S.S.R. summer term
1968 fall: University of Vienna


I am fascinated by how much there is to learn about what languages are like and what makes them that way. Especially exciting discoveries can come through working with speakers and their communities to document their languages, particularly as they are used spontaneously in a variety of contexts. Greater understanding can also come from considering interrelationships among different areas of structure, and the diachronic and areal factors that shape the development of these structures. My own work has focused especially on Mohawk, Cayuga, and Tuscarora (Iroquoian family); Central Pomo (Pomoan); Barbareño Chumash (Chumashan); Central Alaskan Yup'ik (Eskimo-Aleut); Navajo (Athabaskan); and Kapampangan and Hiligaynon (Austronesian); as well as some work with Cree (Algonquian), Dakota/Lakhota and Tutelo (Siouan), Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, and Huron (Irouqoian), and Selayarese and Waray (Austronesian).

Current Projects

  • Relations among prosody, syntax, and discourse 
  • The effects of language contact on the development of grammar 
  • Mohawk grammar and dictionary 
  • Tuscarora grammar and dictionary 
  • Central Pomo grammar, dictionary, and texts


2008 The extension of dependency beyond the sentence. Language 83.69-119.

2008 Borrowed rhetorical constructions as starting points for grammaticalization. Constructions and Language Change. Trends in Linguistics. Alexander Bergs and Gabriele Diewald, eds. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 195-230.

2007 Grammar, contact, and time. Journal of Language Contact. (e-journal) THEMA 1:133-155. 

2007 Linguistics in the face of language endangerment. Language Endangerment and Endangered Languages. W. Leo Wetzels, ed. Publications of the Research School of Asian, African, and Amerindian Studies (CNWS). Leiden University, The Netherlands. 15-35. 

2007 What is a language? Documentation for diverse and evolving audiences. STUF: Sprachtypologie und Universalienforschung (Language Typology and Universals) 60.1:42-55.


  • Linguistics 108/208: Morphology 
  • Linguistics 115/215: Historical and Comparative Linguistics 
  • Linguistics 121: Field Methods 
  • Linguistics 134: North American Indian Languages 
  • Linguistics 216: Grammar Writing 
  • Linguistics 223: Languages in Contact 
  • Linguistics 234: Graduate Syntax 
  • Linguistics 236: Advanced Language Change 
  • Linguistics 221A-B-C: Field Methods 
  • Linguistics 244A-B: Topics in Linguistic Areas
    - Recent seminar topics: Typology across the Americas; Athabaskan Linguistics 
  • Linguistics 252A-B: Seminar in Morphology and Syntax
    - Recent seminar topics: Tense/Aspect/Modality; Case and Grammatical Relations