James Crippen

Postdoctoral Fellow

Research Interests

Syntax, morphology, Tlingit, Na-Dene languages, lexicography


  • PhD, 2019, University of British Columbia, Linguistics
  • MA, 2010, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Linguistics
  • BA, 2009, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Interdisciplinary studies


I am Tlingit (Lingít [ɬìn.ˈkít]) and have the name Dzéiwsh [tséːwʃ]. I am a member of the Kaḵáakʼw [kʰà.ˈqʰáːkʼʷ] House of the Deisheetaan [tèː.ʃìː.ˈtʰàːn] clan in the Raven moiety, and a child of the Sʼiknax̱.ádi [sʼìk.nàχ.ˈʔá.tì] clan. I come from the Shtaxʼhéen Ḵwáan [ʃtàxʼ.ˈhíːn qʰʷáːn] (or Shxʼát Ḵwáan [ʃxʼát qʰʷáːn]) of the area around Wrangell, Alaska (Ḵaachx̱an.áakʼw [qʰàːtʃ.χàn.ˈʔáːkʼʷ]) at the mouth of the Sitkine River (Shtaxʼhéen [ʃtàxʼ.ˈhíːn]).

I work primarily on the Tlingit language as well as on related languages in the Na-Dene family such as Kaska, Navajo, and Eyak. I have research interests in other indigenous languages of the Pacific Northwest such as Haida and Chinook Jargon. My dissertation developed a formal generative model of syntax in the Tlingit verb complex, arguing that Tlingit verbs have essentially the same theoretical structure as whole sentences in languages like English, Mandarin, and Hindustani. I continue to work on Tlingit syntax in this framework, exploring the mechanics of noun phrases, the formation and elaboration of clauses, and information structure and its influence on the organization of discourse (e.g. focus, topic, and givenness).

Alongside morphology and syntax I do research on the Tlingit lexicon, focusing on phonological, syntactic, and semantic properties of roots. This intersects with a practical interest in issues for the lexicography of Na-Dene languages and other languages with complex verb structures. Other areas of my research include historical reconstruction of Pre-Tlingit and Proto-Na-Dene, corpus development for understudied languages, the articulation and typology of ejective fricatives, and language contact phenomena in northwestern North America.