Professor of Linguistics
My research is in theoretical linguistics, more specifically in comparative syntax. My 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. My 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, I have worked on the comparative and historical syntax of many of the Germanic, Romance and Celtic languages. I currently hold an AHRC grant, jointly with a colleague at the University of Newcastle, to look at a possible constraint on word orders across languages.
To view my publications, including downloadable versions of some of my recent papers, click here.