Linguistics Research


Language and Brain

The Language and Brain Laboratory was established in 2008 as part of the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics. It is an active research laboratory covering all aspects of linguistics, including phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics. Research members in this laboratory are engaged in theoretical as well as experimental research covering psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic methodology.

See the Language & Brain Lab website for more information.

Middle Dutch

Our knowledge of the linguistic systems of early Germanic comes from manuscripts. For Middle Dutch quite a few literary manuscripts have been handed down and most of them were made available in excellent diplomatic editions, especially in the series Middeleeuwse verzamelhandschriften uit de Nederlanden. One major manuscript that has never been edited diplomatically is Ms.Marshall 29 located in the Bodleian Library in Oxford and dates back to around 1375. Based on a careful study of these texts, we plan to provide a comprehensive segmental and prosodic phonological analysis of 14th century Dutch.

See the project website for more information.


The WORDS project started in October 2011 and is generously funded by the ERC. This five year project aims to combine approaches from historical linguistics, psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics, phonology and computational modelling to examine the abstract representation of words.

In the most general terms, the novel objective of this project is to investigate the abstract nature of the mental phonological representations of words which is claimed to govern the (i) time-course of on-line word-recognition and (ii) the temporal dimension of historical development.

The project will pursue four research questions, where the answers to each call for a dialogue between a variety of disciplines:

  • WHAT is the nature and phonological structure of mental representations of WORDS and HOW are they constrained?
  • HOW are these representations processed and accessed in the course of everyday communication?
  • HOW and WHY do representations change, while sometimes tenaciously remaining constant over time?
  • CAN the hypotheses and predictions about mental representations be computationally modelled?

The PI complements her strong linguistics research profile with her forte in psycholinguistics and neuro-linguistics. The hypothesis we will test is that the abstract representation of words in the adult brain, which handles asymmetric phonological variation in speech and is measurable by reaction time and brain-imaging techniques, is also reflected in the development of words as indicated by historical data from manuscripts.

The WORDS project is supported by the EC within the 7th framework programme under grant agreement no. FP7-IST-269670 (Advanced Investigator’s Grant, PI Lahiri).

Psycholinguistics and Neurolinguistics

Professor Aditi Lahiri has an ESRC project with Dr. Linda Wheeldon on the phonological encoding in language production, one of the issues being the relationship between the time it takes to begin an utterance and the nature of the initial consituent which the speaker plans to articulate. Research on language comprehension addresses the nature of the phonological representation in the mental lexicon. Behavioral reaction time experiments as well as EEG studies are conducted to address a variety of research issues.

Language and Brain

The Language and Brain Laboratory was established in 2008 as part of the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics. It is an active research laboratory covering all aspects of linguistics, including phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics. Research members in this laboratory are engaged in theoretical as well as experimental research covering psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic methodology.

See the Language & Brain Lab website for more information.

BabyLab (Department of Experimental Psychology)

See the project website for more information.

Romance Linguistics

Autonomous Morphology in Diachrony: comparative evidence from Romance languages

See the project website for more information.

The Romance noun. A comparative-historical study of plural formation

See the project website for more information.


Glue Semantics and LFG

Together with Dr John Lamping of Google and Dr Vijay Saraswat of IBM TJ Watson Research Lab, Prof Dalrymple is one of the architects of Glue Semantics, a theory of the syntax-semantics interface. It is compatible with various syntactic frameworks, though most work within the glue framework has been conducted within Lexical Functional Grammar. Prof. Dalrymple was the editor of Semantics and syntax in Lexical Functional Grammar (MIT Press, 1999), an early collection of papers on glue. Her 2001 book Lexical Functional Grammar (Academic Press, 2001) also provides glue analyses for many of the constructions that are discussed. Glue Semantics is also a research focus for Dr. Asudeh, who has published various articles in the framework and also has a book published in 2012, The Logic of Pronominal Resumption (OUP), that adopts Glue Semantics and Lexical Functional Grammar as its formal frameworks.

Resource-sensitive semantic composition

Certain logical approaches to semantic composition, such as Categorial Grammar and Glue Semantics, highlight elements of semantic composition as resources that must be used exactly once in a successful semantic derivation. This ‘logical resource sensitivity’ forms the basis for ‘linguistic resource sensitivity’, which adds linguistically motivated constraints to resource-logical proofs. Linguistic resource sensitivity in turn leads to 1) issues of apparent ‘resource deficit’, where there is a single resource that apparently has multiple consumers, e.g. as in coordination, non-finite control, and parasitic gaps; 2) issues of apparent ‘resource surplus’, where there is a resource that apparently has no consumer, e.g. as in finite control and raising, resumptive pronouns, and copy raising. Dr. Asudeh has pursued this research program in various articles and in his 2012 book, The Logic of Pronominal Resumption (OUP). It continues to be a focus area in Dr. Asudeh’s research.

Semantics and grammatical architecture

The syntax-semantics interface has been an important area of enquiry in theoretical linguistics, but the role of semantics in grammatical architecture more broadly should also be investigated. This raises a number of interesting questions, such as: 1) Are there direct interfaces between semantics and other parts of grammar? 2) Are there constraints on semantic composition that are not derived from constraints on syntactic well-formedness? In other words, does semantic composition have a distinct syntax of its own? 3) Is there empirical evidence for the nature of the syntax-semantics interface and semantic composition in light of the distinction between interpretive composition theories, such as LF approaches, and parallel composition theories, such as categorial approaches and Glue Semantics? Dr. Asudeh is investigating these and related questions.

Language and Music

The intriguing similarities between language and music have of late attracted the attention of researchers from a number of different disciplines, prompted not least by new techniques for examining what is happening in the human brain when we listen to music and speech. Current research is looking at how far linguistics pragmatics can be extended to account for the way humans ‘find meaning’ in music, drawing in particular on Relevance Theory.

Harmony and Controversy in 17th-century Scientific Thought

This is a three-year AHRC-funded project to investigate questions concerning the non-mathematic work of John Wallis (1616-703). The research outputs will include three volumes comprising critical editions of Wallis’s tracts on grammar, logical and music theory. The project is an interdisciplinary one, involving an international network of scholars who work in Oxford either full-time or on research visits.
See the project website for more information.

The Universal Language Internet Portal (TULIP)

In the mid seventeenth century, the idea of constructing a universal language attracted wide-spread and sometimes frenzied interest. But unlike tulip mania, the quest for a universal language was not simply a fashionable vogue but was firmly grounded in mainstream philosophy and science. This website aims to give a hands-on introduction to one of the more elegant of these schemes, and to provide the background needed to understand why leading scholars of the day thought the project was so important.


Lexical Functional Grammar

Prof Dalrymple and many of her students work within Lexical Functional Grammar, a constraint-based linguistic theory which represents different aspects of the structure of an utterance as separate but related grammatical modules. Prof Dalrymple is the author of Lexical Functional Grammar (Academic Press, 2001), a standard reference work for the theory.   Dr. Asudeh’s work in syntax and the syntax-semantics interface is also conducted within the LFG framework.

Agreement, coordination, and plurality

Prof Dalrymple has worked on various aspects of the syntax and semantics of coordination, particularly focusing on agreement phenomena, in collaboration with Prof Louisa Sadler of the University of Essex, Prof Irina Nikolaeva of SOAS, Dr Tracy King of Powerset, and Dr. Ron Kaplan of Nuance Communications.  From 2004-2006 she collaborated with Prof. Sadler on a research project on “Noun phrase agreement and coordination”.

Related to this is Prof Dalrymple’s work on the syntax and semantics of plurality, including her 2012 paper “Plural semantics, reduplication, and numeral modification in Indonesian”, coauthored with Dr. Suriel Mofu.  She is currently investigating the syntax and semantics of number in languages with dual and paucal number categories, with a particular focus on Austronesian and Papuan languages.

Differential object marking

Prof Dalrymple has recently been investigating differential object marking and its interaction with information structure, together with Prof Irina Nikolaeva of SOAS. Their book Objects and Information Structure was published in 2011 by Cambridge University  Press.

Large-scale grammar development

Prof Dalrymple has been involved in large-scale grammar development projects since the late 1990’s, when she managed the Pargram project, a consortium of academic and industrial research organisations producing large-scale, broad-coverage grammars for a number of languages within the framework of Lexical Functional Grammar. Most recently, she has been involved with the Indonesian Pargram effort, as a partner in the Australian project “Understanding Indonesian: developing a machine-usable grammar, dictionary and corpus”. She was previously involved in the Malagasy grammar  development project, a part of the “Verb-initial grammars: A multilingual/parallel perspective” project  in collaboration with Prof Louisa Sadler of the University of Essex.

Language Documentation

Prof Dalrymple’s recent work on language documentation began as a subpart of the Indonesian grammar development project, in collaboration with Dr Suriel Mofu,  to create on-line grammatical resources for Indonesian. In 2009 Prof Dalrymple and Dr Mofu secured an ESRC grant to create language resources for the Austronesian language Biak, in collaboration with two universities in Papua, Universitas Cenderawasih and Universitas Negeri Papua.  In 2010, they were funded by the Leverhulme Trust to document the Austronesian language Dusner, a language with only three fluent speakers.

The Syntax-Phonology interface

Straddling the traditional boundaries of linguistic enquiry, work on interface phenomena provides important perspectives on specific empirical as well as broader theoretical issues, including the general organization of grammar.

Research into the interface between syntax and phonology aims to identify the properties of these two components of the grammar and to determine how they are related to each other.

Faculty members are involved in investigating many different aspects of the relationship between syntax, meaning and prosody (the melody and rhythm of speech), including intonation (variation in pitch). A key issue is which acoustic features correlate with perceived emphasis and how this focusing interacts with syntactic structure and interpretation.

Professor Aditi Lahiri is working on the phenomena of trochaic phrasing in Germanic languages. In particular, she is interested in the domain of phonological cliticisation, the interaction of focus and phrasing, and the structure of compounds. This work has a theoretical as well as experimental focus (see Psycholinguistics).

Other Research

Applied linguistics (Department of Education)

See the Department website for further information.

Computational linguistics (Computing Laboratory)

See the Computing Laboratory website for further information.

Japanese linguistics (Faculty of Oriental Studies)

See the Faculty website for further information.

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