Graduated from University of Kentucky and then received an MPhil in Linguistics as a Marshall Scholar from the University of Oxford. He received Ph.D in linguistics at Yale University in 1984 under the supervision of the late Warren Cowgill. He taught Classics at Bard College from 1983 to 1985, and since 1985 he has been on the Faculty in Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has been a full professor since 1996. He is the author of numerous articles and books, chiefly on historical Indo-European linguistics, especially Greek, Tocharian and Germanic languages.
- On the Chronology of Sound Changes in Tocharian. Volume 1: From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Tocharian (American Oriental Society, 1996)
- A History of English, Volume I: From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic (Oxford University Press, 2006)
- With Ann Taylor: The Development of Old English - A Linguistic History of English, vol. II, 632p. ISBN 978-0199207848. Oxford 2014.
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