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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages


Diachronic Syntax and Syntactic Variation

Convenor: Dr David Willis

Building on the introduction provided in the Michaelmas Term teaching in the History of English lectures and/or Diachronic Syntax directed reading, this course will extend participants' understanding of the mechanisms of morphosyntactic change. We will look at recent approaches to how and why grammars change from generation to generation. While each year's seminar will focus on a different specific topic depending on students' interests (e.g. negation, auxiliaries, change in non-standard varieties), the seminars as a whole will include discussion of the core general issues in syntactic change, such as generative and variationist models of change, grammaticalisation, internal vs. external (contact-induced) change, language acquisition and change, and syntactic reconstruction. As well as broader theoretical work, we will look at individual case studies of change in the seminar, linked to students' own developing research interests, thinking about how those studies fit into general theoretical frameworks. Participants will be expected to give critical presentations on research articles and be willing to contribute to discussion. A basic knowledge of syntactic theory (such as the material covered in the Michaelmas Syntax course) will be assumed.