Maria del Mar Bassa Vanrell

Lecturer in Spanish

My research and teaching interests focus primarily on semantics, pragmatics, syntax-semantics interfaces, Romance linguistics, dialectal and typological variation, and sociolinguistics.

In my current projects I explore how we talk about time and space. More in particular, I focus on how languages express temporal or spatial delimitation as in John studied until 2 pm or John walked up to the store. From my initial examinations it appears that there is quite significant cross-(and intra-) linguistic variation in how words with otherwise similar meanings behave. I hence take a cross-linguistic and interdisciplinary approach at the interfaces to discover which factors are universal and which are subject to parametric variation and how constrained this variation is. Methodologically, I use a combination of traditional theoretical and empirical formal linguistics, cutting across theoretical boundaries, with more quantitative (e.g. corpus) data.

In previous research I have contributed to work on the cross-linguistic encoding of goals of manner of motion events by conducting an extensive corpus study on Spanish data. Furthermore, I have collaborated on work on the phenomenon of Differential Object Marking in Spanish, Standard Catalan, and Majorcan Catalan accounting for dialectal variation on the basis of both interviews and more traditional judgment tasks. Additionally, from also both a quantitative and qualitative perspective, I have contributed to work on indexicality and referentiality to help identify which pragmatic factors may trigger a pronominal shift in a specific dialect of Dominican Spanish.

Such an interdisciplinary and cross-theoretical approach also reflects on my teaching. Here at Wellesley College I’m very excited to be teaching a wide array of courses including ‘Introduction to Linguistics’, ‘Sociolinguistics’, and ‘Language: form and meaning.’ In my classes I provide my students with a solid basis in both theoretical and applied linguistic methods while helping them develop their critical thinking skills. I also guide them to find attractive connections with different aspects of related disciplines such as cognitive sciences, psychology, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and language acquisition, among others.

Outside of linguistics, I particularly enjoy playing the piano, photography and filming, dancing, walking my cat, and going on adventures.

I’m thrilled to be joining the Wellesley Community and to embark on this fascinating endless learning journey together!

For an updated version of my CV please visit my personal website:


  • B.A., University of the Balearic Islands, Spain
  • M.A., University of Texas at Austin
  • Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin