DTAL: Mechanisms of Language Change Research Cluster

Members of the cluster

Alastair Appleton

Alastair AppletonAlastair is currently completing a PhD in the Department of Linguistics and holds a post as Teaching Fellow in German Linguistics at King's College London. His main interest is syntactic theory, with a particular focus on cross-linguistic word order and parametric variation. He has previously worked on subjects and subject positions within the clause (particularly in Icelandic) and his doctoral thesis investigates two different types of movement operation (A-movement and roll-up movement) and the interactions between them, looking specifically at German and Japanese. Alastair has also recently worked on historical word order change, where he considered whether non-contact-induced change always proceeds unidirectionally from OV to VO, and whether this change can be satisfactorily explained by appealing to markedness and parameter changes.

Wendy Ayres-Bennett

Wendy Ayres-BennettWendy Ayres-Bennett is Professor of French Philology and Linguistics. She works on the history of the French language and the history of linguistic thought, particularly in seventeenth-century France. She is especially interested in considering what effect, if any, metalinguistic texts have on language change in France and the extent to which the seventeenth-century so-called prescriptive texts reflect or shape the evolution of the language. She has also published on socio-historical linguistics and has worked extensively on possible sources of non-standard usages in seventeenth-century France. Her major publications relating to the research cluster include Vaugelas and the Development of the French Language (London, MHRA, 1987), A History of the French Language through Texts (London, Routledge, 1996), Les Remarques de l'Académie Française sur le Quinte-Curce de Vaugelas (with Philippe Caron, Paris, PENS, 1996), Sociolinguistic Variation in Seventeenth-Century France (Cambridge, CUP, 2004), and Remarques et observations sur la langue française: histoire et évolution d'un genre (with Magali Seijido, Paris, Classiques Garnier, 2011). She also directed the project which created the Corpus des remarques sur la langue française (XVIIe siècle) (Paris, Classiques Garnier Numérique, 2011).

Theresa Biberauer

Theresa BiberauerTheresa is a Senior Research Associate in the Department, currently working on the AHRC-funded project Structure and Linearization in Disharmonic Word Orders. Following the completion of this 3.5-year project in mid-2011, she will continue as the SRA and project manager on Ian Roberts's 2.5 million euro ERC Advanced Grant, Reconsidering Comparative Syntax. She also holds an honorary Senior Lectureship at her South African alma mater, Stellenbosch University. Her main research interests are in comparative morphosyntax, both synchronic and diachronic, with Germanic having been the main focus of her work so far, but languages outside of this family becoming of increasing interest. Afrikaans in all its forms (including the understudied regional varieties, "extraterritorial" varieties such as the obsolescent variety spoken in Patagonia and the various non-matrilectral, "language shift" and attrited varieties found respectively in modern-day South Africa and abroad) remains a central component of her research profile, however. She is also more generally intrigued by the effects of language contact, not just as this affects typologically very different languages (including "exported" European varieties which come into contact with entirely unrelated language systems), but also as it relates to varieties of "the same" language, including spoken varieties which exist alongside a strongly educationally (prescriptively) reinforced standard variety. Optionality, both in stable and changing systems (e.g. those in contact scenarios or in first and second language acquisition contexts), and in both its conditioned and unconditioned instantiations, is a specific topic of long-standing interest, as is the more general question of how and under what circumstances language-internal variation is successfully acquired and what this implies for learnability theory generally.

Naruadol (James) Chancharu

Naruadol (James) ChancharuJames is a PhD student at DTAL. His research interests include linguistic typology, diachronic typology, contact linguistics, grammaticalisation theory, and cognitive semantics. His PhD project is about a synchronic and diachronic typology of prohibitive constructions in languages of the world.

Richard Dance (Dept of ASNC)

Richard Dance has published on a range of aspects of early English language and literature, not all of them linguistic (including e.g. Old English poetic style). But his main research has always been etymological and lexicological: broadly speaking, he is interested in the history of words, their semantics and their contexts, especially in Old and Middle English texts. His special focus is on the effects of contact between speakers of Old English and Old Norse in Viking Age England, especially on the English lexicon; he is currently writing a book about the Norse loanwords in the Middle English poem 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight'. This work involves him with various theoretical approaches to language contact, in that he is of course interested in the cross-linguistic backgrounds for the resultant phenomena and in ways of understanding the mechanisms involved, but his main aims are more specific, viz. to elucidate the effects of contact on medieval English vocabulary.

Alison Edwards

Alison EdwardsAlison is a PhD student in the Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics. Her primary research interest is language variation, particularly the idea of exploring World Englishes using corpora. She is working on a corpus of 'Dutch English' to explore its lexicogrammatical properties in the context of changing definitions of and attitudes towards 'non-native' varieties.

Thomas Godard

Thomas GodardThomas’s research focuses on the codification of English in the eighteenth century. He is specifically interested in the use of linguistic and metalinguistic references to French by English grammarians in their attempts to limit variation and fix the standard language.

Xuhui (Freddy) Hu

Xuhui HuXuhui Hu is doing his PhD on theoretical linguistics. His current research is on the comparative study of the causatives in Chinese and English, which is taken in the broad framework of minimalism. A diachronic perspective will be taken to explore the change of Chinese causatives in the historical process, and the syntactic account to be developed in this research will exhibit the underlying mechanism that determines the path of the historical change.

Mari Jones

Mari JonesMari Jones is Reader in French Linguistics and Language Change and Fellow of Peterhouse. She has published widely on mechanisms of language change, with a particular focus on language death, dialectology and language variation (specifically, with regard to Welsh, Breton and insular and continental Norman French). Her major publications relating to the research cluster include Language Obsolescence and Revitalization (OUP, 1998); La Langue bretonne aujourd'hui à Plougastel-Daoulas (Brud Nevez, 1998); Jersey Norman French: A Linguistic Study of an Obsolescent Dialect (Blackwell, 2001); Language Change: The Interplay of Internal, External and Extra-Linguistic factors (with Edith Esch, Mouton de Gruyter, 2002); Exploring Language Change (with Ishtla Singh, Routledge, 2005); The Guernsey Norman French Translations of Thomas Martin: A Linguistic Study of an Unpublished Archive (Peeters, 2008) and Les Langues Normandes: Pluralité, Normes, Représentations (with Thierry Bulot, L'Harmattan, 2009). Her graduate teaching focuses on mechanisms of language variation and change (specifically, language death and revitalisation, and dialectology, both within the context of French and other languages). She directed an AHRC research network on mechanisms of language change in urban France and is currently running a project comparing language change in continental and insular Normandy, which is funded by the British Academy. Major research collaborations in this area of linguistics are in place with the University of Caen ('Patrimoine Linguistique en Normandie'), the University of Ottawa, 'Le français à la mesure d'un continent : un patrimoine en partage' and the University of Rennes, where she is a research associate at L'Equipe de Recherche sur la diversité Littéraire et Linguistique du monde Francophone. Mechanisms of language change within the context of linguistic obsolescence represent one of the foci of the conference series on Language Endangerment which she established in 2011.

Marius Jøhndal

Marius JohndalMarius is a PhD student working with Dr David Willis on historical syntax. His main research interests are syntactic theory and the use of Lexical Functional Grammar for diachronic research. His work focuses on the syntax of Latin and non-finite clauses that express purpose or modality. He uses comparative evidence and syntactic reconstruction to explain how such clauses in historic Latin appear to be characterised by systematic mismatches between syntax and morphology.

Petros Karatsareas

Petros KaratsareasDr Karatsareas’s research interests fall within the areas of Historical Linguistics and Morphology. He specialises in the history of Greek and its dialects and is interested in language contact–especially between typologically distant languages–, synchronic and diachronic language variation, historical sociolinguistics, morphological theory and linguistic typology. He has also recently become involved in field linguistics and the theory and practice of language documentation and description, especially in the context of endangered and lesser-known linguistic varieties. His research has mainly dealt with morphological change in the history of Greek with special emphasis on Cappadocian and the other Modern Greek dialects of Asia Minor. In his Ph.D. thesis as well as in a series of research publications, he has examined in detail a wide range of diachronic innovations in the morphosyntax of nouns in Asia Minor Greek from a historical and dialectological perspective. Adopting the principles and methodology of comparative reconstruction, he has illustrated the historical trajectory of the most pervasive innovations in gender and noun inflection in the Greek dialects of Asia Minor and sets out to show that their origins should be traced back to their common dialectal ancestor, a postulated Asia Minor Greek Koiné, and not to the effect of language contact with Turkish, a view commonly held in the literature. At present, he is undertaking research towards the documentation of the surviving varieties of the Cappadocian Greek dialect, a celebrated case of ‘heavy structural borrowing’. He is also exploring issues of morphological complexity in the Greek verb from both a synchronic and a diachronic point of view.

Adam Ledgeway

Adam LedgewayAdam Ledgeway is Senior Lecturer in Romance Philology at the University of Cambridge, where he is currently the Head of the Department of Italian. His research interests include Italian dialectology, the comparative history and morphosyntax of the Romance languages, Latin, syntactic theory and linguistic change. His research is channelled towards bringing together traditional Romance philological scholarship with the insights of recent generative syntactic theory and he has worked and published extensively on such topics as complementation, auxiliary selection, split intransitivity, grammaticalization, word order, cliticization, (non‑)configurationality, clause structure, the fine structure of the left periphery and complementiser systems, verb movement, finiteness, and the development of demonstrative systems. Currently, he is writing a book for Oxford University Press entitled From Latin to Romance. Morphosyntactic Typology and Change, and is co-editing (with M. Maiden and J.C. Smith) the two volumes of The Cambridge History of the Romance languages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), the first volume of which will be published towards the end of 2010.

Morgan Macleod

Morgan MacleodMorgan's current research is on the development of the periphrastic perfect tenses in early Germanic languages in their competition with existing grammatical categories for specific semantic domains; other research interests include Romance and Indo-European topics.

Moreno Mitrović

Moreno MitrovićMoreno Mitrović is a PhD student in the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, working with Professor Ian Roberts on theoretical and diachronic syntax. Having completed his MPhil thesis on The Syntax of Coordination in Sanskrit (2011), Moreno's doctoral work is concerned with the diachronic syntax of coordination in Indo-European, with the desideratum to reconstruct and parametrise the syntax of Indo-European coordinate complexes using minimalist, parametric and antisymmetric theory. All three key research questions (of cluster theme 1) are integral to Moreno's work. He works on distinguishing between possible and impossible pathways of syntactic change, with special regard to the Final-over-Final Constraint (Biberauer, Holmberg and Roberts 2007, et seq.), as well as the question of directional change of syntactic configurations of coordinate complexes. As Moreno's work is grounded in the generative tradition, he is approaching the question of morpho-syntactic change from a parametric perspective, hoping to find a finite set of parameters, the resetting of which would capture (both the synchronic and) the diachronic facts about Indo-European syntax of coordination. Given this, his work also regards the question, and partially confirms the feasibility, of syntactic reconstruction, at least insofar as coordination is concerned. Moreno is also assistant editor of the Journal of Historical Syntax.

Iain Mobbs

Iain MobbsIain is a PhD student in the Department of Linguistics. His research interests include third factor explanations of conservative acquisition.

Silva Nurmio

Silva NurmioSilva is a PhD student in the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic. Her main research interests are in comparative Celtic linguistics, in particular morphology, and her thesis looks at the diachronic development of plural formations and grammatical number in Old and Middle Welsh, with comparative material from the other Celtic languages. She is also interested in variation in the use of plural formations between different types of Middle Welsh texts, e.g. poetry vs. prose and native compositions vs. translations from Latin.

Elena Pala

Elena PalaElena is a PhD student in the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics. Her research focuses on issues of standardization and language management in Sardinia, in particular on whether, and to what extent, the polynomic model developed for Corsican could be implemented as a language planning device in Sardinia.

Ian Roberts

Ian RobertsIan Roberts is Professor of Linguistics in the Department of Linguistics. His research is in theoretical linguistics, more specifically in comparative syntax. His work is set against the background assumptions argued for by Noam Chomsky: that there exists a specific human cognitive capacity for language which is present at birth and requires simple environmental stimulation in order for linguistic competence in the mother tongue to develop during the early years of life. The theory of this capacity is known as Universal Grammar. Accepting this nativist approach to language raises the challenge of accounting for the existence of seemingly very diverse grammatical structures in the languages of the world. Ian's work, along with that of a very active worldwide community of linguists, is concerned with showing how these grammatical systems differ along relatively simple lines in such a way that the central distinguishing features are accessible to children acquiring language on the basis of primary linguistic data. To this end, he has worked on the comparative and historical syntax of many of the Germanic, Romance and Celtic languages. He currently holds an AHRC grant, jointly with a colleague at the University of Newcastle, which investigates the possibility that one kind of logically possible arrangement of words is in fact unattested in the languages of the world. If their hypothesis, which they are actively investigating, is correct, then they will have discovered a true language universal, one piece of Universal Grammar.

Erica Ross

Erica RossErica's PhD is on diachronic developments in the scope of phonological generalisations. Her research interests include historical and theoretical phonology, and the links between phenomena of acquisition and change.

Paul Russell (Dept of ASNC)

Paul Russell works on language contact in Roman Britain and early medieval Britain; evidence for bilingualism in the glossed MSS and teaching texts from early medieval Britain, especially those glossed in Celtic languages.

Ioanna Sitaridou

Ioanna SitaridouIoanna Sitaridou is a lecturer in Romance Philology at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow and Director of Studies at Queens' College, Cambridge (tenured) since 2004. Prior to her Cambridge appointment she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Research Centre on Multilingualism at the University of Hamburg investigating word order in Old Romance, the licensing of subjects in Old French and the loss of null subjects in the history of French due to contact with Germanic (2002-2005). She received her PhD in Romance linguistics at the University of Manchester (2002). Her doctoral dissertation is entitled "The synchrony and the diachrony of Romance infinitives with nominative subjects". She also holds an MA in Linguistics from University College London (1998) and a BA in French Philology from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (1997) part of which was spent at the University of Lisbon (1997) studying Portuguese and Romance linguistics. Her main areas of research are synchronic and diachronic syntax of the Romance languages, but also of Greek varieties such as Pontic and Cypriot Greek. The issues she investigates are the relationship between syntactic change and acquisition, language contact, and micro-variation. Recently, she has been carrying out fieldwork on the Hellenic varieties in Pontus, Turkey, (re)discovering the last Hellenic varieties which have preserved the classical Greek infinitive to this day - for which she has been awarded a Stanley J. Seeger Visiting Research Fellowship in Hellenic Studies at Princeton University (Spring 2011).

Anna Tristram

Anna TristramAnna's current research looks at variation and change in agreement with collective nouns in French, taking into account a number of linguistic and social factors, and also looking at the influence of prescriptivism on language use in a country reputed to have one of the most highly regulated languages in the world. A smaller previous project looked at the same topic in British and American English. Other interests include variation and change more generally, especially in morphosyntax, dialect levelling and dialect contact in the UK, and language and gender.

Bert Vaux

Bert VauxBert is University Reader in Phonology and Morphology and Graduate Tutor of King's College. He trained in Indo-European linguistics for six years with Eric Hamp and Calvert Watkins before moving into the interfaces of historical linguistics with theoretical, psycho-, and socio-linguistics. His publications of historical interest include The Phonology of Armenian (OUP 1998), "The Origins of Altaic Labial Attraction" (1993), "A Problem in Diachronic Armenian Verbal Morphology" (1995), "Wackernagel’s Law in Armenian" (1996), "The Phonology of Voiced Aspirates in the New Julfa Dialect of Armenian" (1997), "Theoretical Aspects of Indo-European Nominal Morphology" (1998), "Stang's Law and Szemerenyi's Law in nonlinear phonology" (2002), "Consonant harmony in Karaim" (2004), and "[atr] and [back] Harmony in the Altaic languages" (2009).

George Walkden

George WalkdenGeorge is a PhD student in the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, working with Dr David Willis. His doctoral research is in the field of historical syntax, specifically syntactic reconstruction as applied to the early Germanic languages. He is also editor of the Journal of Historical Syntax and will be moving to take up a post as Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Manchester in 2012. In addition, he is interested in the diachronic and comparative syntax of varieties of Germanic that are peripheral to, or external to, the West Germanic dialect continuum.

Olivia Walsh

Olivia WalshOlivia is a PhD student in the Department of Linguistics, working with Professor Wendy Bennett. Her research interests include French and German sociolinguistics, linguistic purism, prescriptivism, language contact and translation studies.

Sheila Watts

Sheila WattsSince my doctoral thesis on aspect in Old Saxon, which examined the use of verbal prefixes as possible grammatical markers, I have been interested in questions of the difference between inflectional and derivational morphology and their behaviour undergoing linguistic change. I have forthcoming work on the morphologization of the so-called 'separable prefixes' in Germanic, and have focused on questions of their categorical status. I look at criteria like frequency, following extensive work on this area by Bybee et al, as a marker of productivity and categoriality, with the aim of answering questions about previous stages of the language (German and Germanic in all its varieties) and its categories, mainly in the verb. A particular interest linguistically is Low German, as my thesis and other work have been on Old Saxon, and I have been pursuing funding opportunities to make possible the creation of a Middle Low German corpus so that I can add a longitudinal dimension to my work on Low German. This has been in collaboration with George Walkden and Anne Breitbarth (formerly Cambridge, now Universiteit Gent), and we have been able to start work on this major project, and present two papers on it, without unfortunately yet having the funding to go forward on a large scale. A sub-interest on which I also have forthcoming work is the development of complementizers in Germans in the early modern period. This work is also concerned mainly with grammaticalization and asks questions about reanalysis with highly polysemous words.

David Willis

David WillisDavid Willis is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Linguistics. Having completed his doctorate on the development of word order in Welsh, David has developed his interests further in historical linguistics and syntax, particularly with reference to Celtic and Slavonic languages. His work looks at recurrent pathways of change, in both reanalysis and grammaticalization. He has investigated these issues particularly with reference to negative systems (as part of an AHRC project on the development of negation in European languages in collaboration with Anne Breitbarth (Gent) and Chris Lucas (SOAS)) and with reference to degrammaticalization and obsolescent morphology. He is currently investigating syntactic variation in contemporary Welsh as part of a British Academy project to develop a syntactic atlas of Welsh dialects (in collaboration with Maggie Tallerman (Newcastle) and Bob Borsley (Essex)). This will address how syntactic innovations arise and diffuse, and how they can be modelled within a formal syntactic theory. It also touches on issues of language contact, in the context of English-Welsh bilingualism, especially whether contact-induced change is qualitatively different from internally motivated change. Finally, he is interested in the methodology and practice of syntactic reconstruction, believing that reconstruction of abstract grammatical systems of the past is possible with explicit analysis of syntactic subsystems.