Research Interests

The main themes of my research center around phonetic and phonological universals and phonetic diversity. Two central issues are establishing the patterns in basic phonological characteristics which are most frequent across the world's languages, and looking for explanatory principles that might account for their relative frequency. This work involves looking for information on a large number of languages, mostly by necessity taken from secondary sources such as grammars and journal articles. At the same time, I have done a considerable amount of first-hand field work on individual languages to examine details of their phonetics.

Following some early work on universals of tone systems, I worked on segment inventories, developing the UPSID database with input from colleagues and students at UCLA. Currently, a successor to this database with considerably wider scope, including data on tone, stress and syllabic structure is under development in a joint project with the Laboratoire Dynamique du Langage, a CNRS-funded research center at the Université Lyon-2. The new database is named LAPSyD, standing for Lyon-Albuquerque Phonological Systems Database. It can be accessed at LAPSyD Project

Work on the more strictly phonetic side was summarized in the book Sounds of the World's Languages, co-authored with Peter Ladefoged. A revision of this book is in the works.