Linguistics Department
Reed College
3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
Portland, OR 97202

Office: Vollum 313
Email: pearsonm@reed.edu

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)
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I am a professor of Linguistics at Reed College, where I teach subjects related to formal linguistic theory and analysis, especially syntax, typology, morphology, semantics, and field methods. I have served as chair of the interdisciplinary Linguistics program (2001-04, 2005-06) and the Linguistics Department (2006-08, 2009-2011, 2012-2015, 2020-2022); as well as chair of the Division of Philosophy, Religion, Psychology, and Linguistics (2007-08, 2011-2012, 2015-2016, 2019-2020).

My specialization is formal (generative) syntactic theory, language variation, and language description and fieldwork. My research focuses on the languages of the Austronesian family, particularly Malagasy (the language of Madagascar) and its close relatives. Specific in­ter­ests of mine include:

  • Derivational approaches to cross-linguistic word order variation;
  • Argument structure and its connection to event structure;
  • Philippine-type voice systems, and constraints on A-bar movement;
  • The syntax of verb-initial languages;
  • Tense and aspect;
  • Discourse configurationality (topic/focus constructions), and the structure of the left periphery.


University of California, Los Angeles — Ph.D. in Linguistics, 2001
Dissertation: The clause structure of Malagasy: A minimalist approach
Co-advisors: Edward L. Keenan, Timothy Stowell

University of California, Los Angeles — M.A. in Linguistics, 1996
Thesis: Raising and restructuring in Malagasy existentials
Advisor: Anoop Mahajan

Reed College — B.A. in Linguistics, 1992
Thesis: On the peculiar behaviour of the Swedish s-passive: Relation-changing operations and
the analysis of multifunctional surface markers

Courses Taught

Papers and Presentations

  • "A unified account of Malagasy stress and reduplication". [in preparation]
  • "Predicate raising and perception verb complements in Malagasy". Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 36(3): 781-849. [pre-publication version]
  • "Predicate fronting and constituent order in Malagasy". [unpublished manuscript]
  • "Aspect and voice selection in Malagasy: Initial observations". Theories of Everything: In Honor of Ed Keenan, ed. T. Graf, D. Paperno, A. Szabolsci, and J. Tellings, pp. 337-347. UCLA Working Papers in Linguistics 17, UCLA Department of Linguistics. 2012.
  • "Another look at no: Pseudo-clefts and temporal clauses in Malagasy". Proceedings of the Sixteenth Meeting of the Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association (AFLA), ed. S. Chung, D. Finer, I. Paul, and E. Potsdam, pp. 165-179. 2009.
  • "Tense-marked obliques in Malagasy". Studies in Philippine Languages and Cultures, vol 18: 10-ICAL Austronesian Papers, ed. S. McQuay. SIL Philippines. 2008.
  • Review of Di Sciullo (2005) “Asymmetry in Morphology”. Journal of Linguistics 43(2): 434-440. 2007.
  • "Tense (mis)matches between verbs and obliques in Malagasy". Proceedings of AFLA 12, ed. J. Heinz and D. Ntelitheos. UCLA Working Papers in Linguistics, UCLA Department of Linguistics. 2005.
  • "The Malagasy subject/topic as an A’-element." Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 23(2): 381-457. 2005.
  • "Voice morphology, case, and argument structure in Malagasy". Proceedings of AFLA 11, ed. P. Law, pp. 229-243. Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, Berlin. 2005.
  • "Evidence for clausal pied-piping in Malagasy long distance extraction". MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 44, ed. A. Rackowski and N. Richards, pp. 241-256. MIT. 2002.
  • "T-marking on Malagasy obliques: Tense, aspect, and the position of PPs". UCLA Working Papers in African Languages, ed. H. Torrance, pp. 14-39. UCLA Department of Linguistics. 2001.
  • "Two types of VO languages". The Derivation of VO and OV, ed. P. Svenonius. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 2000.
  • "‘Tense’ marking on Malagasy obliques and the syntax of telic events". Proceedings of AFLA VI, ed. C. Smallwood & C. Kitto, pp. 279-296. Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics. University of Toronto. 2000.
  • "Feature inheritance and remnant movement: Deriving SOV order under the LCA". Syntax at Sunset 2 [UCLA Working Papers in Linguistics 3], ed. G. Storto, pp. 133-173. UCLA Department of Linguistics. 1999.
  • "Predicate raising and ‘VOS’ order in Malagasy". The structure of Malagasy, vol. II [UCLA Occasional Papers in Linguistics 20], ed. I. Paul, pp. 94-110. UCLA Department of Linguistics. 1998.
  • "Rightward object shift and the syntax of adverbs". The structure of Malagasy, vol. II [UCLA Occasional Papers in Linguistics 20], ed. I. Paul, pp. 34-49. UCLA Occasional Papers in Linguistics 20, UCLA Department of Linguistics. 1998.
  • "Pied-piping into the left periphery". Proceedings of NELS 27, ed. K. Kusumoto, pp. 321-335. GLSA, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 1997.
  • Pearson, M. 1996. "Domain phrases and topic arguments in Malagasy existentials". The structure of Malagasy, vol. I., UCLA Occasional Papers in Linguistics 17, ed. M. Pearson and I. Paul, pp. 113-141. UCLA Department of Linguistics. 1996.

PhD Thesis

Front matter
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4


The Linguistics Society of America
The Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association