Kelsey Sasaki


Adler, Jeff, Steven Foley, Jed Pizarro-Guevara, Kelsey Sasaki, & Maziar Toosarvandani. The derivation of verb-initiality of Santiago Laxopa Zapotec. Presented at Society for the Study of Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA) Annual Meeting.   [handout]

Santiago Laxopa Zapotec

Santiago Laxopa Zapotec (SLZ) is an endangered Oto-Manguean language spoken in the Sierra Norte region of Oaxaca, Mexico. Since 2016, I have been conducting fieldwork on SLZ with speakers in Santa Cruz, CA and Los Angeles, CA. Currently, I am investigating incremental processing in SLZ, in collaboration with Steven Foley, Jed Pizarro-Guevara, Maziar Toosarvandani, and Matt Wagers.
I am also on the organizing team for Nido de Lenguas, a collaboration between UCSC linguists and leaders in our local Oaxacan community. Nido de Lenguas is a series of interactive language experiences in which the public can learn about the indigenous languages of Oaxaca.


Using a combination of corpus and experimental work, I am investigating the relationship between discourse coherence relations and tense/aspect in English. I focus on backshifting, an intersentential relationship in which the event or state described in one sentence is interpreted as temporally preceding that of a sentence which precedes it in linear order (e.g., Lora fell. Nora (had) pushed her.). My broad goals here are to flesh out the empirical description of backshifting strategies, and to further tease apart the roles of coherence relations and tense/aspect in the processing of written discourse.

Hawai'i Creole

In 2016 and 2017, I conducted fieldwork on Hawai'i Creole (HC), an English-lexifier creole spoken in the Hawaiian islands and parts of the U.S. mainland. My investigation focused on predicate initiality in HC, which has dominant SVO word order, but allows certain adjectival predicates to appear sentence-initially in non-focus contexts. For instance, in HC one can say either Nice, her or She nice to mean 'She's nice.' I analyzed the syntax of these constructions, and explored the semantic and pragmatic conditions that govern the phenomenon.
I have also begun exploring the interactions between the tense-aspect-mood system and discourse coherence in spoken HC, which I hope to ultimately link up with my work on English.