Steven Moran

Assistant & Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter

I develop workflows and computational approaches to extract data and combine disparate linguistic datasets. I then apply quantitative methods to these resources to tackle research questions in language history and child language acquisition.

From 2014 until 2019 I am working with Prof. Sabine Stoll and colleagues on the ERC-funded ACQDIV project. For the project, I have developed a state-of-the-art database comprised of longitudinal child language acquisition corpora from ten typologically maximally diverse languages. We are now investigating what are the underlying processes that make language acquisition possible given the remarkable diversity in language structures.

Since late 2012 I have been an assistant in the Department of Comparative Linguistics at the University of Zurich. In collaboration with Prof. Balthasar Bickel, my research has focused on quantitative issues in phonological typology, including approaches to dimensionality reduction, estimating diachronic preferences in phonological systems, and measuring complexity in phonology.

From 2010 to 2014 I worked with Prof. Michael Cysouw (PI) and colleagues on the ERC-funded research unit "Quantitative Language Comparison'' in the Deutsche Sprachatlas Forschungsgruppe at the University of Marburg.

I received my PhD in 2012 from the Department of Linguistics at the University of Washington under the supervision of Professors Emily Bender (Computational Linguistics) and Richard Wright(Phonetics and Phonology). My dissertation, its ten page abstract, and research papers using the dataset that I developed, called PHOIBLE, are available online at:

I am also an active field linguist in West Africa. I cut my teeth in the UWR of Ghana in 2003, working with speakers of Western Sisaala [ssl], a language spoken by a few thousand in and around the village Lambussie near the Burkina Faso border. In my MA thesis, "A Grammatical Description of Isaalo (Western Sisaala)", I describe Isaalo's phonology and provide an overview of its morphology. Works in progress inculde a full grammar and a bilingual English-Isaalo dictionary.

Since 2005 I have worked with Jeffrey Heath (U. Michigan) on the Dogon Languages Project, which has been funded through several NEH and NSF grants (see I began by developing technological infrastructure for the pan-Dogon project, which includes several fieldworkers who live in geographically dispersed locations. In 2009 and again in 2013, I took several-month fieldwork trips working with speakers of Sangha So (Toro So [dts]) in Mali, and during rebelious times, in Burkina Faso. Works in progress include a grammar of Toro So, a trilingual Toro So-English-French dictionary, and the application of quantitative methods to distangle the genealogical relatedness of the Dogon languages.