Tamarae Hildebrandt became aware of Linguistics when she took her first course on the topic at Carleton College as an undergraduate. Exploring her interest, she took a few more courses before deciding this was the academic path she wished to take and declared linguistics as one of her majors.

Tamarae’s primary research interest is syntax. While earning her undergraduate degree, she worked on Turkish questions. She has now moved toward expletive ‘there’ sentences—primarily in English. Specifically, she is researching the featural content of expletive ‘there’ and ‘where’ within the derivation expletive ‘there’ is merged.

Her interest in syntax largely stems from her first upper-level syntax course at Carleton, entitled “Syntax of an Unfamiliar Language.” In this course, she studied the Turkish language and had to construct a grammar sketch of the language in the first half of the course. “I was very interested in figuring out the puzzle of how and why certain constituents fit together,” says Tamarae.

Tamarae explains that she “chose to the U-M Linguistics largely based on a gut instinct. During recruitment weekend, I really enjoyed the atmosphere in the department of both the students and faculty.”

“Professor Sam Epstein is my advisor. I benefit from working with Sam in many ways. I can work on whatever project I choose, and he is always willing to provide additional resources or be a sounding board to talk through analyses. Sam is great about checking in on other aspects of the PhD program and life in general,” says Tamarae.

This has allowed her to expand her research interests beyond syntax. “Now in my second year of the program, I am more interested in exploring a variety of linguistic subfields and have discovered I enjoy working on Phonetics and Phonology topics.” Tamarae continues, “over the summer, I conducted Syntax research and continued working on a Phonology project that stemmed from a term paper. My phonology project was accepted as a talk for the 21st MidPhon Conference hosted at MSU in Fall 2016.”

She has received Block Grant Funding for two poster presentations in Syntax and one conference talk (MidPhon), and she is one of four Rackham Merit Fellows in the second-year graduate cohort.

After earning her PhD, Tamarae hopes to pursue a career in academia, “I would be most interested in teaching at a liberal arts institution, so I could focus more on teaching, while still maintaining my own research.”