Dr. Jason Merchant's primary research area is syntax and its interfaces with morphology and with semantics. Much of his work has concentrated on elliptical phenomena, and in exploring the kinds of ontological questions that ellipsis requires answers to: how there can be meaning without form, whether there are phonologically inactive words and phrases, what the representation of variables can be, and where in our theory of human grammars such elements must be posited. These issues speak to the organization of the mental lexicon, but also to questions of how varieties of meaning are represented, semantically, pragmatically, and philosophically. His primary languages of investigation are the Germanic languages and Greek, with excursions into Slavic and Romance (including fieldwork on Vlach) and others, including work with bilingual children and adults. Jointly with other colleagues, he has worked on the psycholinguistics of ellipsis, and on corpus linguistics applied to historical semantics and legal interpretation.
He has served as associate editor for Language and Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, and serves on the editorial boards of several journals and book series. He earned his B.A. in linguistics summa cum laude from Yale in 1991 and his Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1999; he has been a Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst fellow at the University of Tübingen, a Fulbright fellow at Utrecht University, and an Onassis fellow at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He held postdoctoral fellowships at Northwestern University and the University of Groningen before joining the faculty of the University in 2001, and has taught as well at the École Normale Supérieure, Leiden University, University College London, and Konkuk University, Seoul. He has studied nineteen languages.