Jim Donaldson

PhD Linguistics & English Language

  • Linguistics and English Language
  • School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

Contact details



2.01 Dugald Stewart Building

3 Charles Street, Edinburgh
Post code



My MSc dissertation in 2013 was on the interpretation of elliptical why questions ("Why do that?", "Why him?").  It received the 2013 award for Best PPLS Dissertation.

My PhD dissertation has been underway since then and is expected in 2019.  It is on the control of zero anaphora in English, particularly with respect to free adjuncts.  I provide evidence against an independent syntax module, and show how listeners must draw inferences based on event types, available referents and other information.  I also show how these results fall out of a dynamic approach to sentence comprehension.

I was a research assistant for PLAEME (A Parsed Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English).  My job was to correct the parsing for approximately 200,000 words of Early Middle English spread across 40 texts.

I am also the coordinator for the PPLS Writing Centre.


I teach several courses at the Centre for Open Learning: Linguistics (2 sections), History of English, Psycholinguistics, Sociolinguistics and Introduction to English Grammar.  I am also a tutor in Introduction to Cognitive Science.

I received EUSA Teaching Award nominations for "Best overall teacher" in 2016 and "Innovative assessment" for Linguistics: the Science of Language in 2017.


I've been working on animated linguistics videos with a number of professors (Caroline Heycock and Geoff Pullum, with more on the way).  These videos were created with the help of the Teaching and Learning Initiative Fund and have been posted to the PPLS LEL YouTube channel

I'm also the video manager for the UK Linguistics Olympiad.  With the help of the Innovative Initiative Grant, I am currently collaborating with Graeme Trousdale on a series of videos designed to help students prepare for the competition.

Research summary

constraint-based grammar formalisms (particularly HPSG), ellipsis, anaphora, pragmatics, control