George Walkden

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 (An earlier, now superseded, resource was the HeliCoPTER.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.

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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