Elaine J. Francis
Department of English and Linguistics Program

Purdue University

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Associate Professor

Department of English

Purdue University

500 Oval Drive

West Lafayette, IN 47907



I grew up in the small town of Wytheville, located in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains of southwestern Virginia.  After earning my B.A. at the College of William and Mary (1993), I completed a Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of Chicago (1999), under the direction of Salikoko S. Mufwene (chair), Amy Dahlstrom, James D. McCawley, and Jerrold M. Sadock.  My first faculty position was in the Department of English at the University of Hong Kong (1999-2002). Since 2003, I have been a faculty member in the Department of English and the Linguistics Program here at Purdue University, where I teach undergraduate and graduate courses in syntax, semantics, English grammar, and introductory linguistics. Throughout my career, my research has focused on “mismatch” between syntax and semantics—cases in which form and meaning are in some way incongruous-- with a special focus on syntactic categories and relative clauses in English and Cantonese. 

Research Interests and Goals

My areas of interest include the following: syntax, semantics, language processing, grammatical categories, Autolexical Grammar and related parallel-architecture theories, grammaticalization, grammatical weight, language typology, and form and function in linguistic theory. 

The goal of my research program is to explain why languages permit, and sometimes prefer, complex grammatical structures involving incongruity (“mismatch”) between form and meaning, while also maintaining simpler (matching) structures that seem equally capable of describing the same event.  One component of this research focuses on “category mismatch” (cases in which a noun, verb, or adjective is used to express a concept more typically expressed by a word of a different category), demonstrating the advantages of a multidimensional model of grammar which acknowledges the influence of function on form (as in functional theories) while maintaining an independent syntactic representation (as in formal theories).  A second line of research applies psycholinguistic experimentation and quantitative corpus analysis to extend this theoretical base, linking theories of language structure to theories of human cognition. This research focuses on how cognitive factors both limit the kinds of mismatches allowed in language and, conversely, promote the maintenance of certain mismatch structures. 



Francis, Elaine J., Charles Lam, Carol Chun Zheng, John Hitz, and Stephen Matthews. 2015. Resumptive pronouns, structural complexity, and the elusive distinction between grammar and performance: evidence from Cantonese. Accepted for publication in Lingua. [manuscript]


Francis, Elaine J. and Laura A. Michaelis. 2014.Why move? How weight and discourse factors combine to predict relative clause extraposition in English.  Edith Moravcsik, Andrej Malchukov, and Brian MacWhinney. Eds. Competing Motivations    in Grammar and Usage, pp. 70-87. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [manuscript]


Huber, Jessica E., Meghan Darling, and Elaine J. Francis. 2012. Impact of typical aging and Parkinson’s disease on the relationship among breath pausing, syntax, and punctuation. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology 21: 368-379.


Francis, Elaine J. 2011. Constraining mismatch in grammar and in sentence comprehension: The role of default correspondences. Pragmatics and Autolexical Grammar: In Honor of Jerry Sadock, ed. by Etsuyo Yuasa, Tista Bagchi, and Katharine Beals, John Benjamins, pp. 279-298. [manuscript]


Francis, Elaine J., Stephen Matthews, Reace Wing Yan Wong, and Stella Wing Man Kwan. 2011. Effects of weight and syntactic priming on the production of Cantonese verb-doubling. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 40: 1-28.  [abstract and full text from Springer]

Francis, Elaine J. 2010. Grammatical weight and relative clause extraposition in English. Cognitive Linguistics 21(1) 35-74. [abstract and full text from Mouton]

Francis, Elaine J. and Etsuyo Yuasa. 2008. A multi-modular approach to gradual change in grammaticalization.  Journal of Linguistics 44(1): 45-86. [abstract and full text from Cambridge]

Francis, Elaine J. 2007. The role of default constructions in the processing of mismatch: the case of possessive free relatives. Stefan Müller, ed. Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar:  Workshop on Constructions and Grammatical Theory, 345-363. Stanford: CSLI Publications. [download article] [online conference proceedings]

Francis, Elaine J. and Stephen Matthews. 2006.  Categoriality and object extraction in Cantonese serial verb constructions. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 24: 751-801. [abstract and full text from Springer]

Francis, Elaine J. and Stephen Matthews.  2005. A multi-dimensional approach to the category 'verb' in Cantonese. Journal of Linguistics 41(2): 269-305. [abstract and full text from Cambridge]

Francis, Elaine J. 2005. Syntactic mimicry as evidence for prototypes in grammar. In Salikoko S. Mufwene, Elaine J. Francis, and Rebecca S. Wheeler, eds. Polymorphous Linguistics: Jim McCawley’s Legacy, pp.161-181. Cambridge: MIT Press. [abstract]

Mufwene, Salikoko S., Elaine J. Francis, and Rebecca S. Wheeler, eds. 2005. Polymorphous Linguistics: Jim McCawley’s Legacy. Cambridge: MIT Press.

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Polymorphous Linguistics: Jim McCawley’s Legacy

Linguist List review by Sanford B. Steever, Nov. 2005


Francis, Elaine J. and Laura A. Michaelis, eds. 2003. Mismatch: Form-Function Incongruity and the Architecture of Grammar. Stanford: CSLI Publications.

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Mismatch: Form-Function Incongruity and the Architecture of Grammar


Francis, Elaine J. and Laura A. Michaelis. 2003.  Mismatch: a crucible for linguistic theory. In Elaine J. Francis and Laura A. Michaelis, eds. Mismatch: Form-Function Incongruity and the Architecture of Grammar, pp. 1-27. Stanford: CSLI Publications.

Yuasa, Etsuyo and Elaine J. Francis. 2003. Categorial mismatch in a multi-modular theory of grammar. In Elaine J. Francis and Laura A. Michaelis, eds. Mismatch: Form-Function Incongruity and the Architecture of Grammar, pp. 179-227. Stanford: CSLI Publications.

Francis, Elaine J. 2002. Form and function in syntactic theory: a reaction to Newmeyer. Language Sciences 24(1): 29-56. [abstract and full text from ScienceDirect]

Francis, Elaine J. 2000. Two perspectives on the grammar of possession. Language Sciences. 22(1): 87-107. [abstract and full text from ScienceDirect]

Francis, Elaine J. and Laura A. Michaelis. 2000. Approaches to mismatch: introduction. In Miriam Butt and Tracy Holloway King, eds. Proceedings of the BFG00 Conference Workshops. Stanford: CSLI Publications. [online conference proceedings]

Francis, Elaine J. 1999. Variation within Lexical Categories. Chicago: University of Chicago Ph.D. dissertation. [abstract]

Francis, Elaine J. 1999. A conceptual semantic analysis of thematic structure in predicate nominals.  Paper presented at Texas Linguistics Society, Austin, Texas, 1999. (submitted and accepted for publication in Texas Linguistic Forum, but the volume has not yet appeared) [abstract] [download paper]

Francis, Elaine J. 1998. Some semantic reasons why iconicity between lexical categories and their discourse functions isn't perfect. Language Sciences 20(4): 399-414. [abstract] [full text from ScienceDirect]

Francis, Elaine J. 1998. When form and meaning come apart: quantificational nouns, predicate nominals, and locative subjects in English Chicago Linguistic Society 34(1): 159-170. [abstract] [vol. 34 from CLS]

Jones, Elaine and Gail Brendel Viechnicki. 1997. Special issue on the importance of theory in discourse analysis. Language & Communication 17(2): 71-74.

Jones, Elaine and Gail Brendel Viechnicki, eds. 1997. The importance of theory in discourse analysis. Special issue of Language & Communication 17(2).

Francis, Alexander L. and Elaine Jones. 1996. Phonetics and phonological theory. Language & Communication 16(4): 381-395.

Research Grants

·         Co-investigator, ““Effects of typical age-related cognitive decline on an everyday dual task,” Purdue University Research Incentive Grant, 2008-present, Principal Investigator, Jessica Huber.

·         Co-investigator, “Parsing principles and constituent order in Cantonese” Research Grants Council of Hong Kong, Competitive Earmarked Research Grant, 2004-2006, Principal Investigator, Stephen Matthews.

·         Co-investigator, “Parsing principles and constituent order in Cantonese: a corpus-based study” University of Hong Kong CRCG, Small Project Funding, 2003-2004, Principal Investigator, Stephen Matthews.

·         Principal Investigator, “Linguistic mismatch: scope and theory” University of Hong Kong CRCG, Low Budget High Impact Grant, 2001-2002.

·         Principal Investigator, “Lexical and contextual effects on the grammar of syntactic categories” University of Hong Kong CRCG, Research Initiation Grant, 2000-2002.

Current and Past Collaborations

·         Jessica Huber, Lisa Goffman, and Jeff Haddad, Purdue University – effects of syntactic complexity and working memory limitations on language production and balance in older adults and adults with Parkinson’s disease (in progress)

·         Stephen Matthews, University of Hong Kong – syntactic categories, serial verbs, and relative clauses in Cantonese (Francis and Matthews 2005, 2006); effects of grammatical weight on sentence processing of Cantonese (in progress)

·         Laura A. Michaelis, University of Colorado at Boulder – edited book on mismatch (Francis and Michaelis 2003); discourse and other factors influencing extraposition from NP in English (in progress)

·         Salikoko S. Mufwene, University of Chicago, and Rebecca S. Wheeler, Christopher Newport University – edited book on Jim McCawley’s legacy (Mufwene, Francis, and Wheeler 2005)

·         Etsuyo Yuasa, The Ohio State University – category mismatch and grammaticalization in English, Chinese, and Japanese (Francis and Yuasa 2008; Yuasa and Francis 2003)


2014-2015 Courses

  • ENGL 328 / LING 321 English Language II: Structure and Meaning (Fall and Spring)
  • ENGL 627S / LING 629 Experimental Syntax (Fall)


Previous Courses at Purdue

  • ENGL 227 / LING 201 Elements of Linguistics (Spring)
  • ENGL 502G Practicum in Teaching College Linguistics
  • ENGL 506 / LING 500 Introduction to English and General Linguistics (Fall)
  • ENGL 511 / LING 531  Semantics I
  • ENGL 512 / LING 521 Syntax I
  • ENGL 627S / LING 522 Syntax II


Purdue Linguistics Links



·        Alex and the kids at Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Links to family members’ home pages: Alex, Theo, George, Bettina
  • Besides linguistics, I enjoy playing softball and soccer, playing the piano (with headphones so nobody else has to listen), and spending time with my husband, two sons, and two dogs.



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Last modified: August 31, 2011