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Dr Phillip Wallage

Senior Lecturer

Department: Humanities

I did an undergraduate degree in English Language at the University of Edinburgh, where my interest in the history of English began. At York, I went on to specialise in the study of language change using language corpora, with interests both in syntactic theory and language variation. After gaining my PhD in 2005, I took up a postdoctoral research position at the University of Manchester. I joined Northumbria University as a lecturer in 2008.

0191 227 3486


MA Hons (Edinburgh), MA (York), PhD (York)

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

My research interests are in syntactic change in the history of English, focusing specifically on the syntax of negation in the period 800-1700. My work explores how patterns of variation in historical text corpora can be modelled statistically, and how this variation can inform models of change within recent syntactic frameworks such as Minimalism. My research has provided evidence for new models of change within these frameworks.

My current research focuses on changes to the syntax of negation in the history of English. It uses statistical techniques to analyse data from historical text corpora in order to identify grammatical changes and to argue for particular accounts of these changes within recent syntactic theories and models. My future research will use this methodology to examine variation and change in negation in more recent times (1700 to the present day), in particular the origins and grammaticalisation of the ‘negative-raising’ construction. The research seeks to identify processes of change and the factors involved in promoting change, both social and linguistic.

Professional Activity

Teaching Interests

My main interests are in the history of the English language and language change. I have taught on Old English, Middle English and Early Modern English. Currently, I run a second year module on the history of English. I also teach introductory courses on grammar (morphology and syntax) and on semantics and pragmatics.


Postgraduate Supervision

I am happy to supervise projects in historical linguistics or language variation and change.

Sponsors and Collaborators

Funding Awards

‘Negation in medieval English: parametric variation and grammatical competition’. AHRC doctoral award 2001-2004.

‘Syntactic change in Early Modern English negation (1500-1700)’. ESRC Postdoctoral award 2005-6.

Key Publications

(2008) 'Jespersen’s Cycle in Middle English: Parametric Variation and Grammatical Competition’. Lingua 118(5): 643-74.

(2012) 'Negative inversion, negative concord and sentential negation in the history of English'. English Language and Linguistics 16(1): 3-33.

(2012) 'Quantitative evidence for a feature-based account of grammaticalisation in English: Jespersen's Cycle'. In Terttu Nevalainen & Elizabeth Traugott (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of the History of English. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 721-734.

(2013) 'Functional differentiation and grammatical competition in the English Jespersen Cycle' Journal of Historical Syntax 2(1): 1-25.

with Wim van der Wurff (forthcoming, 2013) 'On saying YES in Anglo-Saxon England'. Anglo-Saxon England 42


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