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Dr Irina Monich

Research Fellow


Research interests

My primary specializations are phonology and morphology. I also have a keen interest in historical linguistics and micro-variation between languages.

In the recent years much of my research is centered on tonal languages. I have worked particularly extensively with Niger-Congo and Nilotic language families, where tone is used not only to make lexical distinctions but also to signal various grammatical contrasts. My Ph.D. disseration (University of Connecticut, 2015), titled “Tonology and Morphosyntax of Sotho languages” explored the relationship between tonal melody and morphosyntactic structure in Setswana (spoken in Botswana) and related languages.

Currently I am a Research Fellow at Surrey Morphology Group, working full-time on AHRC-funded project titled “Morphological Complexity in Nuer” (Principal Investigator: Matthew Baerman). Nuer language (mainly spoken in South Sudan) is an understudied and poorly documented Nilotic language with a complex phonology and a notoriously unpredictable morphology. The main goal of the project is to determine whether the morphological system is as chaotic as it appears based on previous descriptions of the language. To this purpose I collect Nuer data during weekly field sessions and work towards a comprehensive phonological and morphological analysis of the language.

At the intersection of my interests in tonal languages and historical linguistics lies my interest in the study of tonogenesis. I am particularly interested in the relationship between morphology and tone: languages becoming tonal and moving from synthetic to analytic morphology (Sino-Tibetan, Nilotic) and vice versa, losing tone and moving from analytic to synthetic morphology (Bantu, Indo-European).

My page at can be found here:

Publication highlights


2015 "Comparative Morphological Analysis of Sesotho and Isizulu Perfects," Natural Language and Linguistic Theory (NLLT), 10.1007/s11049-014-9280-6

2014 "Tonal Processes in the Setswana verb," Journal of African Languages and Linguistics (JALL), Volume 35, Issue 2, Pages 141-204