My office hour for LING 80D (Winter '24) is Thursday at 9am.

Hello! I'm a sixth-year Ph.D. student in Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. I am also a graduate of Boston University's program in Applied Linguistics. My research is in formal and laboratory phonology, which means that I focus on the patterning of sounds in human language, addressed through both theory and experiment-based approaches. In particular, my work has been concerned with processes in language sound structure that are influenced by stress (rhythmic phonotactics), and the interface between abstract phonological knowledge and phonetics in speech perception.

My current work deals with the systematic misperception of certain sequences of speech sounds in English, and crosslinguistic comparison to languages with different phonotactic restrictions. Some of my prior work investigates a process of rhythmic vowel deletion in Southern Pomo (iso: peq), a dormant Pomoan language of Northern California. I have previously worked on revitalization and documentation in the related Northern Pomo language (iso: pej).

I am a part of the graduate student working group for Equity in Linguistics, as well as Nido de Lenguas, a language outreach partnership between UCSC and Santa Cruz-based non-profit Senderos. In the past, I have served as the organizer of PhLunch, UCSC's weekly phonology reading group, and the Language, Identity, and Perception (LIP) speech perception reading group.

Support Indigenous communities.

UC Santa Cruz stands on the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.

Not in Santa Cruz and don't know where to start? Find out whose land you are on and get involved.


Phonotactic processing

Research questions
  • Listeners tend to mishear certain non-native sequences of sounds, such that they report hearing sequences that conform to native phonotactics.
  • Is there a stage of this "phonotactic repair" process where listeners build phonetically accurate, pre-phonological representations of phonotactically-illicit input strings?
  • What is the timecourse of these repairs, and how does this relate to suprasegmental phonological structure?
  • What determines the patterning of misperceived sounds? What factors are predictive of which sequences will be misheard, and the form of the mishearing?

Research dating back at least as far as Polivanov (1931) and Trubetzkoy (1939), has established that native-language experience exerts a substantial influence on the perception of non-native speech sounds, such that listeners report hearing strings that conform to the phonological rules of their native language. The question is then how and when language-specific phonological knowledge appears in on-line speech processing. Are multiple representations constructed, such that there is an abstract, phonetically accurate "pre-phonological" level of representation, or do phonotactic rules operate as a filter on perception? When English-speaking listeners hear illicit /tl/ onsets, for example, these sequences are typically mapped to licit - but phonetically inaccurate - /kl/ representations, without rising to the level of conscious awareness for the listener. But prior work in a gating paradigm has suggested that this repair may not emerge until after the introduction of a following vowel (Hallé, et al., 1998). This work investigates how listener expectations modulate phonotactic repair, and what the timecourse of repair can reveal about the relationship between early abstract segmental representations and phonological structure.

  • Kaplan, Max J. August 2023. Is phonotactic repair of onset clusters modulated by listener expectations?. Poster presented at the 29th Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processessing, Donastia-San Sebastián, ES.
  • Kaplan, Max J., & Amanda Rysling. January 2023. Is phonotactic repair of onset clusters modulated by listener expectations?. Paper presented at the 5th California Meeting on Psycholinguistics (CAMP5), Los Angeles, CA.

Metrical opacity and restructuring

Research questions
  • Can the phonological component generate metrically opaque or metrically incoherent systems?
  • What (constraint-based) phonological architecture(s) is/are able to generate these patterns?
  • Are metrically incoherent systems learnable, and if so, under what conditions?

Southern Pomo (Pomo, N. California) displays a pattern of syncope - rhythmic vowel deletion - which is metrically opaque, meaning that the process occurs in locations that are not predictable from the stress in surface forms. This pattern can only be derived through the ordered layering of conflicting metrical structures in a multi-level framework like Stratal Optimality Theory. Stratal accounts of this type have been criticized for predicting a variety of typologically strange phenomena (i.e. strata overgenerate), and prior work has suggested that opaque interactions of this kind are difficult to learn. There is evidence that learner difficulty in Southern Pomo may have spurred grammatical restructuring: because there is limited evidence in the input for the metrically opaque system, learners have reanalyzed the grammar. Notably, the restructured system is metrically coherent – that is, the metrical structure is consistant across the derivational stages. This work thus supports the notion that strata and overgeneration are necessary properties of the phonological component, and that the typological rarity of this patterns is a product of its limited learnability.


I am committed to creating and maintaining an equitable and collaborative learning environment that respects students' lived experience and perspectives, including those of first-generation college students, multilingual students, and students from underrepresented groups.

My classroom experience in teaching undergraduate students spans several subdisciplines in linguistics, including phonetics, phonology, syntax, and sociolinguistics.


Certificate in Teaching for Equity, Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning (CITL), Spring 2021

Instructor of Record

Summer 2023 (Session I) LING 50 Intro to Linguistics.


Winter 2024 LING 80D Language and Mind. Instructor: Rachel Walker.
Fall 2023 LING 102 Phonology 2. Instructor: Ryan Bennett.
Spring 2023 LING 100 Phonetics 1. Instructor: Rachel Walker.
Winter 2023 LING 100 Phonetics 1. Instructor: Netta Ben-Meir.
Fall 2022 LING 102 Phonology 2. Instructor: Rachel Walker.
Summer 2022 LING 133 Language OnLine (LOL): Communication In The Digital Era. Instructor: Allison Nguyen.
Spring 2022 LING 151 Phonetics 2. Instructor: Grant McGuire.
Spring 2021 LING 80C Language, Society & Culture . Instructor: Jaye Padgett.
Fall 2021 LING 100 Phonetics 1. Instructor: Grant McGuire.
Summer I 2021 LING 50 Intro to Linguistics. Instructor: Jess Law.
Spring 2021 LING 101 Phonology 1. Instructor: Grant McGuire.
Winter 2020 LING 50 Intro to Linguistics. Instructor: Jason Ostrove.
Fall 2020 LING 154 Language and Social Identity. Instructor: Grant McGuire.
Summer 2020 LING 80K Invented Languages. Instructor: Pranav Anand.
Spring 2020 LING 101 Phonology 1. Instructor: Jenny Bellik.
Winter 2020 LING 111 Syntactic Structures. Instructor: Matt Wagers.
Fall 2019 LING 50 Intro to Linguistics. Instructor: Matt Wagers.


Fall 2017 LX301 Phonetics and Phonology. Instructor: Charles Bond Chang.
Spring 2017 LX329 Bilingualism. Instructor: Charles Bond Chang.


You can find my CV here. [github]