Jessica Coon

Jessica Coon is a professor of linguistics at McGill University and Canada Research Chair in syntax and indigenous languages.[1] She was the linguistics expert consultant for the 2016 film Arrival.[2][3]

Jessica Coon
Alma mater
Scientific career
FieldsSyntax, indigenous languages
ThesisComplementation in Chol (Mayan): A Theory of Split Ergativity (2010)

Coon works on ergativity, split ergativity, case and agreement, nominalization, field methodology, and collaborative language work in Ch'ol and Chuj (Mayan) and Mi'gmaq (Algonquian).[4]

Early life and educationEdit

Coon received her PhD from MIT in 2010 with a dissertation on ergativity in the Ch'ol language.[5]

Coon received her BA in linguistics-anthropology from Reed College in May 2004.[6]


Coon teaches linguistics to both graduate and undergraduate students at McGill University.[7]

In 2011, she began collaborating with language teachers in the Mi’gmaq Listuguj community, in order to document, research, and develop teaching materials for Mi’gmaq, a First Nations language of Quebec.[8]

Coon was consulted during the finalization of the script for Denis Villeneuve's Arrival for her linguistics expertise.[9] She wrote a piece for the Museum of the Moving Image on fieldwork and alien grammars, following her work on Arrival.[10]

Since 2018, Coon has led a National Geographic project "to record, transcribe, and translate narratives across different dialects of Ch'ol."[11]

Key publicationsEdit

  • Coon, Jessica (2017). Ch’ol. The Mayan Languages, eds. Judith Aissen, Nora England, and Roberto Zavala. London: Routledge.[12]
  • Coon, Jessica (2013). Aspects of Split Ergativity. New York: Oxford University Press.[13]


  1. ^ "25 Canada Research Chairs for McGill : McGill Reporter". Retrieved 2016-11-26.
  2. ^ "CTV National News: The McGill prof who taught filmmakers to speak alien". CTVNews. Retrieved 2016-11-26.
  3. ^ "The Scientist Who Helped Amy Adams Talk to Aliens in "Arrival" - Facts So Romantic - Nautilus". Nautilus. 2016-11-11. Retrieved 2016-11-26.
  4. ^ "Jessica Coon". Retrieved 2016-11-26.
  5. ^ (MITWPL), MIT Working Papers in Linguistics. "Complementation in Chol (Mayan): A Theory of Split Ergativity | MITWPL". Retrieved 2016-11-26.
  6. ^ "CV | Jessica Coon". Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  7. ^ "Jessica Coon". Linguistics. Retrieved 2019-04-03.
  8. ^ "Mi'gmaq Language Resources". Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  9. ^ Abley, Mark (November 4, 2016). "Watchwords: Denis Villeneuve's new film, Arrival, gets to the heart of language". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  10. ^ "Sloan Science & Film". Retrieved 2019-04-03.
  11. ^ "Ch'ol | Documentation Project". Ch'ol. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  12. ^ "Ch'ol. Jessica Coon, McGill University" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  13. ^ Coon, Jessica (2013). Aspects of Split Ergativity. Oxford Studies in Comparative Syntax. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199858743.

External linksEdit