Featured Linguist: Kleanthes K. Grohmann
University of Cyprus & Cyprus Acquisition Team
Born and raised in Herford, Ostwestfalen, with Greek roots, I left for university at age 21 after the usual, school (9 years of torture) and alternative civilian service (13 months back then). I found salvation in beautiful Wales where I enrolled for a BA (Hons) in Linguistics at the University of North Wales, Bangor (Bangor University nowadays). As it happened, of all courses listed in the catalogue, Linguistics was the only subject I didn’t have much of an opinion about (like, “I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do that”) — in fact, I didn’t even know what it was. Good start. Little did I know that this process of elimination would shape my future (i.e. current) life. (Well, truth be told, I had a wonderful Ancient Greek and Philosophy teacher in high school who got me started thinking about Indo-European language families and relations, but that was about it.)
After getting hooked on generative grammar (with many thanks to my excellent teachers Ian Roberts, Bob Borsley, and Anna Roussou!), I concentrated on theoretical linguistics, spent an Erasmus exchange semester at the Université de Genève (taking courses with Liliane Haegeman, Luigi Rizzi, Ur Shlonsky, Adriana Belletti, and others), and graduated in July 1996 with an Honors Thesis on scrambling and weak pronouns in German. With a BA in my pocket and a lot of hope in my heart, I enrolled for doctoral studies in the Department of Linguistics’ graduate program at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Studying with brilliant teachers such as Juan Uriagereka, David Lightfoot, Paul Pietroski, Stephen Crain, and many others — not to forget my fantastic supervisor Norbert Hornstein — I first achieved candidacy with my main generals papers on superiority and was then awarded a PhD in December 2000 for my thesis on anti-locality in grammar. In the meantime, I had my first experiences at international conferences, attended the GLOW Summer School in Thermi, Lesvos (Greece), started Punks in Science with my dear friend Jeff Parrott (a project we unfortunately had to give up a few years ago), and made contact with the great people at ZAS in Berlin. Thanks to Ewald Lang, I landed my first job there, in January 2001. That was short-lived, however, since, thanks to the efforts of my now close friend Joachim Sabel, I was offered the first postdoctoral position in syntax at the Graduiertenkolleg Satzarten in Frankfurt, then coordinated by Günther Grewendorf.
After a good year there, a semester at the Institut für Linguistik: Anglistik in Stuttgart (thanks to Artemis Alexiadou), and two semesters at the Englisches Seminar in Cologne (thanks to Jon Erickson), I was hired by the then Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of Cyprus in 2003. In my first year, I was a Visiting Lecturer in the fall and Visiting Assistant Professor in the spring semester, subsequently hired as full-time academic faculty at the rank of Assistant Professor in 2004 in the then restructured Department of English Studies. In this period, I brought to life and nourished the GACL workshop series, a student-oriented workshop where our under- and post-graduate students presented their work in a relaxed atmosphere with some famous colleagues from abroad. I also organized the by now infamous InterPhases conference (“definitely the biggest conference on Phase Theory and Interfaces ever held, which brought together some 200 linguists in Nicosia to exchange ideas on various issues regarding these topics”; see http://linguistlist.org/issues/21/21-1718.html). It featured several invited speakers (Richard Kayne, Howard Lasnik, and Gereon Müller) and Noam Chomsky for the keynote address, who also received an honorary doctorate from UCY at the occasion.
During these years, I also founded the free online journal Biolinguistics with Cedric Boeckx in 2007 (now with a new Biolinguistics Blog, set up by Bridget Samuels and other Biolinguistics Task Team members and even a Facebook group), carried out my first UCY-internally funded research project on minimalism (2007–2009), for which I compiled a glossary of key concepts and definitions with the help of my research assistant Christos Vlachos, and participated in COST Action A33 on language development in 5-year-olds coordinated by Uli Sauerland (2006–2010). Subsequently, I developed an ever-growing interest in Cypriot Greek and its development, especially first language acquisition in typically developing and language-impaired children.
With the creation of the Cyprus Acquisition Team in 2009, I ventured deeper into this world and later participated in COST Action IS0804 on bilingual SLI (2009–2013), coordinated by Sharon Armon-Lotem, for which I also served as Dissemination Officer. My next grant was another UCY-funded research project, Gen-CHILD (2010–2012). The Cyprus Research Promotion Foundation then funded two further projects of mine. One was a Young Researcher’s project on the L1 Acquisition of Pronominal Object Clitics in Cypriot Greek, for which I coordinated research by Theoni Neokleous who at the time pursued a PhD at the University of Cambridge, and a big project on SLI, on the Early Identification and Assessment of Preschool Children with Specific Language Impairment in Cyprus.
At the moment we’re working on a small research project funded by the Leventis Foundation through the University of Cyprus in which we created an adaptation to Cyprus and collect data for the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories, with the postdoctoral researcher Loukia Taxitari. Another postdoctoral researcher, Christiana Christodoulou, landed a prestigious Marie Curie Career Integration Grant under my supervision for a project investigating language abilities in Greek Cypriot children with Down Syndrome (in comparison to typically language-developing children).
Much of this work is highly collaborative and interdisciplinary, including people from theoretical and applied linguistics, psycho- and neurolinguistics, developmental and cognitive psychology, statistical research methodology, and speech–language pathology. The great thing about this kind of research is that one never runs out of collaborators — or ideas!
I was awarded tenure at UCY in November 2009 and am currently Associate Professor in the Department of English Studies, up for my final promotion as we speak. Since then, I have served, among other things, as Chair (= Head of Department), elected member of the University Senate, and (currently) Vice-Dean of the School of Humanities.
These days, my main activities revolve around research related to activities within and beyond, but always inspired by, CAT (http://www.research.biolinguistics.eu/CAT): socio-syntax of language acquisition and development, comparative bilingualism, multilingual development in typical, atypical, and impaired children — and all of that with a biolinguistic angle. Speaking of which, check out the cool journal: it’s free, it’s open access, and it’s becoming better every year! Biolinguistics can be accessed through http://www.biolinguistics.eu and doesn’t even require registration. We can also be found on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/BIOLINGUISTICS.Journal) — and very soon on Twitter with lots of additional social media activities.
Last but not least: And keep reading my daily news bulletin of the past two decades: Linguist List! 🙂