George Walkden

03/09/2019: This page could use an update. Talk to me on Twitter or by email if you'd like to find out more about my current research!

My main research interests are in historical linguistics and language change, especially morphosyntactic change. I work mainly on the well-studied yet continually fascinating Germanic language (sub-)family, including English.

Part of my research involves the syntax of Old Saxon. I have parsed a version of the Heliand, the main text available in this language, according to the Penn Historical Corpora standard: you can download the HeliPad and view its documentation here. (An earlier, now superseded, resource was the HeliCoPTER.) In future I plan to add the remaining Old Saxon texts to the corpus.

I have also built a small corpus of Early Modern English, the Emerging Voices corpus.

My first book, a revised version of my PhD thesis published by Oxford University Press, investigated whether it is possible or profitable to reconstruct the syntax of unattested stages of linguistic family trees. A related, though not coextensive, question is whether the methodology used in the reconstruction of phonology can be straightforwardly applied to syntax. My answer to this second question is 'partially'; my answer to the first question, in all its guises, is an unalloyed 'yes'. The book is in two parts: first, a discussion of the methodological and epistemological issues surrounding reconstruction in syntax and in general; second, a series of case studies from Germanic in support of the approach developed.

Other topics that I've come to work on are:

  • The position of the verb and the left periphery in the Germanic languages
  • Exclamatives and wh-questions
  • Null subjects and objects
  • Object position and Heavy NP Shift
  • VP preposing
  • The construction and use of syntactically annotated corpora
  • The philosophy of historical linguistics (questions of epistemology and causation)
  • The Constant Rate Hypothesis and computational modelling of change

In addition, I have continued simmering interests in:

  • Middle Low German
  • Syntax, information structure and discourse-configurationality
  • Syntactic variation and typology
  • Sociolinguistic typology (and its structural correlates)
  • The history of linguistic thought

You may also be interested in papers I've written or talks I've given.

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