My training in linguistics began at University College Dublin in the departments of Early and Medieval Irish and Linguistics. The training I received there consisted in equal parts of Structural Linguistics and Generative Linguistics, along with Indo-European and Celtic philology, a mix which I took for granted at the time but have come to value a great deal since then.
I wrote a senior thesis on the phonology of Old Irish and went to the University of Texas for doctoral work, expecting to concentrate in historical phonology. Arriving in Austin, though, I got caught up in the excitement of the early years of Montague semantics (despite a serious deficiency in relevant training), working closely with Stanley Peters, with Lauri Karttunen, and with Bill Ladusaw, who was also a student there at the time. Ever since, I have had a strong interest in issues at the syntax semantics interface and in the strands of semantic research that grew out of Montague's work. That interest is very much to the fore in the NSF project on ellipsis that I am currently engaged in with Pranav Anand and Dan Hardt.
My dissertation advisor at Austin, though, was the late Lee Baker, who worked, for the most part, in pure syntax, and that is where my intellectual heart has mostly been ever since.
Following my doctoral work, I spent a crucial year as a Research Scholar in the School of Celtic Studies of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, where I was lucky enough to have had the late David Greene as my supervisor and mentor. My teaching career began in earnest in the Department of Modern Irish at University College Dublin in 1979, where (in order to teach it and to teach in it), I had the great good fortune of having to immerse myself in the scholarship of the language. In that period I also held visiting appointments at MIT and at UC San Diego. I have worked at UC Santa Cruz since the autumn of 1988, after spending a year as a fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford.
Throughout, my goals in the broadest sense have been to meld the descriptive care and attention to detail to be found in the best philological work with the intellectual daring and rigor to be found in the best generative work. My long term commitment is to work on the Irish language, trying to make the facts of Irish shed light on the general theory of language, and reciprocally, to have the theory shed light on the facts of Irish. In recent years, that commitment has brought me back, in a certain sense, to where I started, since it has led to work on syntax-phonology interactions, in collaboration with Ryan Bennett and Emily Elfner.
I also have a long-term commitment to research on non-standard varieties of English, and since I work on Irish, I am necessarily and sadly interested in issues of language-endangerment, language-extinction, and the possibility of language-revival. I have published a little on that topic.