Linguistics and English Language

Research highlights

A selection of current and recent projects in Linguistics and English Language

Charting the impact of bilingualism on development in children with and without autism spectrum disorders

Antonella Sorace (Co-Investigator), ESRC c. £415k, 2018 - 2021

How does hearing two languages affect the development of children with an autism spectrum disorder? As well as the obvious advantage of knowing two languages, bilingualism has been associated with better insight into the thoughts and feelings of others. This project will provide a unique insight into how bilingual exposure affects both children with autism and their non-autistic peers.

Charting the impact of bilingualism on development in children with and without autism spectrum disorders

A Corpus of Historical Mapudungun

Ben Molineux (Principal Investigator), Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship c. £90k, 2018 - 2021

Documenting the words and sounds of an indigenous American language: this project investigates the earliest writings in Mapudungun, spanning 1606 to 1930. Limited knowledge of the histories of minority, non-standard languages restricts our understanding of language change as a whole. This project proposes the first digitally-based account of change in the endangered language Mapudungun.

Corpus of Historical Mapungun 

The emergence and evolution of linguistic tone

James Kirby (Principal Investigator), ERC Starting Grant c. €1.4mn, 2018 - 2023

Studying the origins, acquisition and evolution of linguistic tone: this project investigates the use of pitch to distinguish between the meaning of words. The aim of the project is to establish, for the first time, an empirically grounded set of principles of tonal evolution. It uses innovative experimental methods and large-scale computational analysis to study the emergence of tone in Himalayan and Southeast Asian minority languages.

The emergence and evolution of linguistics tone

The evolution of linguistic complexity

Kenny Smith (Principal Investigator), ERC Consolidator Grant c. €2mn, 2016 - 2021

Why is language complex? Real human languages are enormously complex, both in the expressive power they afford and the rich and complex set of structural devices they provide for conveying meaning. This project seeks to advance our understanding of the cultural evolution of language by exploring how learning, expressive pressures on language use, and social complexity drive the evolution of linguistic complexity.

The evolution of linguistic complexity

From natural to conventional word order: iconicity, simplicity and the mechanisms of linguistic evolution

Simon Kirby (Principal Investigator), ESRC Standard Grant c. £512k, 2019 - 2022

Where does linguistic structure come from? This project explores the role of individual and cultural processes in the evolution of language and studies how these processes interact. The project uses data from natural sign languages (British Sign Language, German Sign language) and artificial sign languages, to examine how improvised word order changes as people interact and learn.

The Scots Syntax Atlas

Caroline Heycock (Co-Investigator), AHRC c. £415k, 2015 - 2019

Creating an interactive online resource to visually represent syntactic variation across Scots dialects: this project maps the sentence structures of Scots past and present in order to address questions about the nature of syntactic variation and the theory of grammar. It also functions as an archival resource for Scots language heritage more generally.

Scots Syntax Atlas

Syntax shaped by cognition: transforming theories of syntactic systems through laboratory experiments

Jennifer Culbertson (Principal Investigator),  ERC Starting Grant c. €1.4mn, 2018 - 2023

How does cognition shape core aspects of the world's languages? This project will undertake the first large scale experimental investigation studying the connection between common features of language systems and the process of thinking. Using laboratory language learning experiments, this project aims to develop computational models on the cognitive constraints underlying syntax. 

Syntax shaped by cognition: transforming theories of syntactic systems through laboratory experiments