My interests include fieldwork, typology, morphology, communicative/information structure, and American indigenous languages, particularly those of Mesoamerica and the Northwest Coast Sprachbund. I am currently working on a project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to document Upper Necaxa Totonac, a previously undescribed language spoken in the Sierra Norte of Puebla State in Mexico. At present it has only around 3,000 speakers and is being learned with less and less frequency by children. Our aim is to produce a dictionary, grammatical sketch, and text collection in an effort to document and, hopefully, revitalize this seriously threatened language. My students and I are also currently expanding the cope of the project to include Zihuateutla and Coahuitlán Totonac, and are actively exploring the phylogenetic relationships of languages in and adjacent to the Northern group of Central Totonac languages.

In January of 2014, Donna Gerdts and I took on co-editorship of the International Journal of American Linguistics and have revived the former IJAL Native American Texts Series under a new title, Texts in the Indigenous Languages of the Americas, due to launch its first issue in 2016. I am also the North American editor for the Brill Studies in Native Languages of the Americas, a series dedicated to monographs and anthologies dealing with American languages.

Publications on Totonac

Beck, David. (2015). Primary and secondary objects in Upper Necaxa Totonac. Presented at the Annual Meeting of Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas. January 9.

Beck, David. (2014). Relative clauses in Upper Necaxa Totonac. Presented by invitation at Typologie aréale et stratégies de relativisation, SEDYL/CNRS/IRD/INALCO. Paris, December 9–10.

Beck, David. (2014). Totonacan languages. Presented by invitation at Workshop on the State of the Arts in Mesoamerican Lanuages, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Leipzig, December 6–7.

Brown, Cecil, Søren Wichmann, and David Beck. (2014). Chitimacha: A Mesoamerican language in the Lower Mississippi Valley. International Journal of American Linguistics 80, 425–474.

Beck, David. (2013). Argument quantification and qualification in Upper Necaxa Totonac. In Zhenya Antić, Charles B. Chang, Clare S. Sandy, and Maziar Toosarvandani (eds.), Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society: Special Session of Languages of Mexico and Central America, 17–27. Berkeley, CA: UC Berkeley.

Levy, Paulette, and David Beck (eds). (2012) Las lenguas totonacas y tepehuas: Textos y otros materiales para su estudio. Mexico City: UNAM Press.

Beck, David. (2012). Totonaco de Río Necaxa. In Paulette Levy and David Beck (eds.), Las lenguas totonacas y tepehuas: Materias para su estudio, 185–257. Mexico City: UNAM Press.

Beck, David. (2012). Apéndice: Tablas de morfología comparativa. In Paulette Levy and David Beck (eds.), Las lenguas totonacas y tepehuas: Materias para su estudio, 587–596. Mexico City: UNAM Press. (English translation)

Brown, Cecil H., David Beck, Grzegorz Kondrak, James K. Watters, and Søren Wichmann. (2011). Totozoquean. International Journal of American Linguistics 77, 323–372. (Slideshow)

Beck, David. (2011). Upper Necaxa Totonac Dictionary. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Beck, David, and Igor A. Mel’čuk. (2011). Morphological phrasemes and Totonacan verbal morphology. Linguistics 49, 175–228.

Beck, David. (2011). Lexical, quasi-inflectional, and inflectional compounding in Upper Necaxa Totonac. In Alexandra Aikhenvald & Pieter Muysken (eds.), Multi-verb Constructions: A view from the Americas, 63–106. Leiden: Brill.

Beck, David, and Yvonne Lam. (2009). Language loss and linguistic suicide: A case study from the Sierra Norte de Puebla, Mexico. In Sarah Cummins, Brigit Janoski, and Patricia A. Shaw (eds.), All the Things You Are: A Festschrift for Jack Chambers, 5–16. Toronto: Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics.

Beck, David. (2008). Ideophones, adverbs, and predicate qualification in Upper Necaxa Totonac. International Journal of American Linguistics 74, 1–46. (Slideshow)

Beck, David. (2008). Variable ordering of affixes in Upper Necaxa Totonac. In Seok Koon Chin and Hude Fusheini (eds.), Proceedings of the 12th Workshop on Structure and Constituency in the Languages of the Americas, 29–38. Vancouver: UBC Working Papers in Linguistics.

Beck, David. (2007). Sorting out grammatical relations in multi-object constructions in Upper Necaxa Totonac. Ms, University of Alberta.

Beck, David. (2006). Control of agreement in multi-object constructions in Upper Necaxa Totonac. In Atsushi Fujimori & Maria Amelia Reis Silva (eds.), Proceedings of the 11th Workshop on Structure and Constituency in the Languages of the Americas. Vancouver: UBC Working Papers in Linguistics.

Beck, David. (2006). The emergence of ejective fricatives in Upper Necaxa Totonac. In Robert Kirchner (ed.), University of Alberta Working Papers in Linguistics 1.

Beck, David. (2004). A Grammatical Sketch of Upper Necaxa Totonac. LINCOM: Europa.

Beck, David. (2003). Person-hierarchies and the origin of asymmetries in Totonac verbal paradigms. Linguistica Atlantica 23, 1–33.

Beck, David. (2000). The syntax, semantics, and typology of adjectives in Upper Necaxa Totonac. Linguistic Typology 4, 213–250.

Beck, David. (2001). Primer vocabulario práctico del idioma totonaco del Río Necaxa. (First practical Upper Necaxa Totonac vocabulary.) Edmonton: University of Alberta. (185pp)

I am also working on two volumes of interlinearized texts and a grammar of the Salishan language Lushootseed, which I began under the guidance of the late Thom Hess, based on materials he collected. The language, which is severely endangered, is one of the better documented languages in the family and has two good dictionaries as well as several excellent collections of unparsed texts, but relatively little grammatical work has been done beyond a pair of pedagogical grammars.

Publications on Salishan languages

Beck, David and Thom Hess. (2015). Tellings from Our Elders: Lushootseed syəyəhub. Volume 2, Tales from the Skagit Valley. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Beck, David and Thom Hess. (2014). Tellings from Our Elders: Lushootseed syəyəhub. Volume 1, Snohomish texts. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Beck, David. (2013). Uni-directional flexibility and the noun–verb distinction in Lushootseed. In Jan Rijkhoff and Eva van Lier (eds.), Flexible word classes: A typological study of underspecified parts-of-speech, 185–220. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Beck, David and Thom Hess. (2015). Tellings from Our Elders: Lushootseed syəyəhub. Volume 2, Tales from the Skagit Valley. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Beck, David and Thom Hess. (2010). Two syəyəhub from Harry Moses. In David Beck (ed.), A Festschrift for Thomas M. Hess on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday, 1–56. Bellingham, WA: Whatcom Museum Publications.

Beck, David. (2010). Communicative Structure in Lushootseed syntax: Thematicity and Focalization. In José Camacho, Rodrigo Gutiérrez-Bravo, and Liliana Sánchez (eds.), Information structure in languages of the Americas, 41–65. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Beck, David. (2009). A taxonomy and typology of Lushootseed valency-increasing suffixes. International Journal of American Linguistics 75, 533–569.

Beck, David. (2009). Thematicity in Lushootseed syntax. In David Beck, Kim Gerdes, Jasmina Milićević, and Alain Polguère (eds.), Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Meaning-Text Theory, 55–64. Montreal: OLST.

Beck, David and David Bennett. (2007). Extending the Prosodic Hierarchy: Evidence from Lushootseed narrative. Northwest Journal of Linguistics 1, 1–34.

Beck, David. (2000). Nominalization as complementation in Bella Coola and Lushootseed. In Kaoru Horie (ed.), Complementation: Cognitive and functional perspectives, 121–147. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Beck, David. (2000). Unitariness of Participant and Event in the Bella Coola (Nuxalk) Middle Voice. International Journal of American Linguistics 66, 218–56.

Beck, David. (2000). Semantic agents, syntactic subjects, and discourse topics: How to locate Lushootseed sentences in space and time. Studies in Language 24:2, 277–317.

Beck, David. (1999). Words and prosodic phrasing in Lushootseed narrative. In T. Alan Hall & Ursula Kleinhenz (eds.), Studies on the Phonological Word, 23–46. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Beck, David. (1997). Rheme, Theme, and communicative structure in Lushootseed and Bella Coola. In Leo Wanner (ed.), Recent in Trends Meaning-Text Theory, 93–135. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Beck, David. (1996). Transitivity and causation in Lushootseed morphology. Canadian Journal of Linguistics 41, 109–140.

My doctoral dissertation, The typology of parts-of-speech systems: The markedness of adjectives [New York: Routledge. 2002], lays the foundations of a theory of lexical classes, which at once accounts for the cross-linguistic markedness of adjectives and shows how parts of speech are a product of the interface between semantic and syntactic structures.

Publications on lexical classes

Beck, David. (to appear). Uni-directional flexibility and the noun–verb distinction in Lushootseed. In Jan Rijkhoff and Eva van Lier (eds.), Flexible word classes: A typological study of underspecified parts-of-speech, 185–220. Oxford: Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Beck, David. (2006). Review of Aikhenvald & Dixon, Adjective classes: A cross-linguistic typology. Functions of Language 13(1), 111–118.

Beck, David. (2005). Lexicalization of morphologically complex expressions. Presented at the 9th International Cognitive Linguistics Conference. Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea. (July 17–23)

Beck, David. (2004). Prototypical conceptual types and typological variation in parts-of-speech systems. Presented to the Conference on Conceptual Structure, Discourse, and Languages, University of Alberta.

Beck, David. (2003). Conceptual autonomy and the typology of parts of speech. In G. Casad & G. Palmer (eds.), Cognitive Linguistics and Non-Indo-European Languages: Studies in Cognitive Linguistics, 135–56. Berlin: Mouton.

Beck, David. (2000). Typological variation of the adjectival class: Markedness and iconicity at the semantics/syntax interface. Ms., University of Alberta.

My other interests include language contact, grammatical diffusion, and areal typology. I am particularly interested in the dynamics of grammatical diffusion found in a Sprachbund or residual zone, an area where large numbers of languages—frequently genetically unrelated or only distantly related to one another—have co-existed for centuries without wholesale language shift or replacement of local languages by a socio-economically more powerful neighbour.

Publications on grammatical diffusion

(2009). Blurring boundaries: Phrase-level inflection and word-level syntax in the Pacific Northwest. Paper presented at a joint session of the LSA and SSILA. January 10, San Francisco.

(2002). Tsimshianic from a Central Northwest areal perspective: I. In S. Gessner & S. Oh (eds.), ICSNL XXXV: The 37th International Conference on Salish and Neighbouring Languages, 35–60. Vancouver: UBC Working Papers in Linguistics.

(2000). Bella Coola and North Wakashan: Convergence and diversity in the Northwest Coast Sprachbund. D. G. Gilbers, J. Nerbonne, & J. Schaeken (eds.), Languages in Contact. Studies in Slavic and General Linguistics, Vol. 28, 37–53. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

(2000). Grammatical convergence and the genesis of diversity in the Northwest Coast Sprachbund. Anthropological Linguistics 42(2), 1–67.

(1997). Mosan III: A problem of remote common proximity. In Papers for the 32nd International Conference on Salish and Neighbouring Languages, 22–46. Port Angeles, Washington.

In addition, I’ve put together a few pointers for students on formatting manuscripts and getting ready for conferences. These include tips on how to format interlinearized data and do things like in-text citations. Enjoy!

How-to’s

Interlinearizing examples

In-text citations

Conference abstracts

Conference handouts

Manuscripts

Presenting datasets