Research Seminars

Research seminars

Syllables, segments and speech tempo perception

Leendert Plug (University of Leeds)

Speech tempo is a fundamental parameter in speech analysis. Tempo fluctuations are of interest to researchers studying speech production, speech perception and verbal interaction. Inter-speaker variation in habitual tempo is relevant for forensic speaker profiling, and speech recognition and synthesis systems require tempo models to process input variation and produce natural-sounding output. Speech tempo also informs fluency measures and language learner assessments, and various speech, language and other disorders are associated with atypical tempo patterns. The research I will report on in this talk is motivated by our limited grasp on this fundamental parameter -- in particular, our limited understanding of how speech tempo is perceived by ordinary listeners, and how commonly used methods of measuring tempo reflect this perception. I will present results of initial experiments probing the impact of phonological complexity on speech tempo perception -- complexity which results in tempo measurements in syllables per second diverging from measurements in segments per second. I will describe ongoing experiments into the relationship between rhythm and tempo perception, and outline plans for investigation the extent to which segment deletions are taken into account in tempo estimation: in essence, when listeners hear [sport] meaning 'support', do they estimate its tempo on the observation that the speaker is articulating a one-syllable form, or on the understanding that the speaker is communicating a two-syllable one?


“It’s definitely not Urdu”: why we need a (phonological) description of the Mirpur Pahari language

Sam Hellmuth (University of York)

Mirpur Pahari (or ‘Mirpuri’) is a dialect of the Pahari/Pothwari language, spoken in north-west Pakistan and in the UK. It is an Indo-Aryan language in the Western Punjabi branch and has no written form (Stow, Pert, & Khattab, 2012).

There are an estimated half a million Mirpuri speakers living in the UK, who have migrated from the Mirpur district of Azad Kashmir, starting in the 1960s but continuing to the present day. By some estimates, up to half of the total population of Mirpuri speakers live in the UK (Lothers & Lothers, 2012). There are a number of related Pahari dialects, but limited research on the phonology of any of them, and Pahari is under-represented in research on UK minority languages (Hussain, 2015).

This talk presents preliminary results from two studies carried out with English-Mirpuri bilinguals in the UK. First, we show how a study of the pronunciation of English words borrowed into Mirpuri can be used to confirm details of our working description of the phonology of Mirpuri, including its phoneme inventory, syllable structure and stress patterns (Shafi & Hellmuth, 2017). Secondly, we highlight the need for re-calibration of standardised English tests for use with bilingual speakers, in a pilot study exploring language transfer effects on scores obtained by English-Mirpuri bilinguals in a clinical test of expressive prosody (Fawcett & Hellmuth, 2017). Overall, the aim is to demonstrate the potential benefits to be gained from further study of the multilingual competencies of Mirpuri speakers in the UK, and the need for description and documentation of the Mirpuri language itself. 


Fawcett, S. & Hellmuth, S. (2017). Distinguishing diversity from disorder in English-Mirpuri bilinguals' PEPS-C scores. Ms., University of York.

Hussain, S. (2015). Missing from the 'minority mainstream': Pahari-speaking diaspora in Britain. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 36, 483-497.

Lothers, M. & Lothers, L. (2012). Mirpuri immigrants in England: A sociolinguistic survey. SIL Electronic Survey Report, 12.

Shafi, S. & Hellmuth, S. (2017). Variable adaptation of stress placement in English loanwords in Mirpur Pahari. Ms., University of York.

Stow, C., Pert, S., & Khattab, G. (2012). Translation to practice: Sociolinguistic and cultural considerations when working with the Pakistani heritage community in England, UK. Multilingual Aspects of Speech Sound Disorders in Children, 6, 24.

Language revitalisation: Linguistic creativity and innovation in Scottish Gaelic

Claire Nance (Lancaster University)

This paper will examine the social and linguistic outcome of the programme to revitalise Gaelic in Scotland. Several decades of concerted effort have led to a context where Gaelic is recognised as equal to English in Scottish legislation, but the language is still subject to intense negative feeling by a vocal minority of the population and suffers declining speaker numbers. Young people in Scotland can now complete their entire education from pre-school to degree level through the medium of Gaelic, yet Gaelic is now rarely used as a social language among younger generations.

I will discuss the impact of these social developments on Gaelic, concentrating on new communities of speakers in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Traditionally, Gaelic has only been spoken in urban central Scotland by migrants from the Highlands and Islands, but recent initiatives associated with revitalisation have created significant numbers of both adult second language speakers and young people acquiring Gaelic in immersion education. I will examine the linguistic behaviour of such individuals focussing on phonetics and phonology. Specifically, I demonstrate that distinct, lowland varieties of Gaelic are emerging through analysis of laterals, intonation, vowels and rhotic consonants.

In the discussion, I examine whether we can consider these developments for Gaelic as ‘new dialects’ of a minority revitalised language. I also offer some implications of the research for future policy and language planning.

Research Seminars 2017-2018 - Term 1 Schedule

The Linguistics Research Seminar Series offers you the chance to hear about the latest research developments in Linguistics and Modern Languages. Seminars last around an hour and are open to anyone interested.

For more information about the seminars, please contact Hazel Price



Dr Claire Nance (Lancaster University)

Dr Sam Hellmuth (University of York)


Dr Leendert Plug (University of Leeds)


Dr Aleksei Nazarov (University of Huddersfield)


Dr Lauren Ackerman (Newcastle University)


Prof. Elena Semino (Lancaster University)


Prof. Jack Grieve (University of Birmingham)




John Vice (Editor of Debates of House of Lords)


Dr Emma Moore (University of Sheffield)



Dr Robyn Orfitelli University of Sheffield)

The beginning of ‘the Age of Austerity’: A critical stylistics analysis of Cameron’s 2009 spring conference speech.


Austerity has strong connections with 1940s and 1950s Britain, when the consumption of food and clothing and other goods was regulated and reduced via rationing and controls on pricing. Seventy years on from the end of war, the sense that everyone was suffering together and that it was for a ‘greater good’ (i.e. winning the war against Hitler, and then rebuilding Britain) remains strong in the cultural memory of UK citizens over 50. Cameron attempted to evoke those days of national unity by using, and reusing, the word austerity during the build-up to the 2009 general election.

Significant power can be wielded in political discourse by word-forms, which may connote a whole complex of meaning subtly different from the everyday usage of the same word and work as a kind of shorthand for a whole ideological stance. Cameron’s use of austerity as a vague evocation of 1940s/50s Britain with everyone pulling together meant that those trying to discredit public spending cuts as a solution to the financial crisis found they had to argue against an essentially unclear idea of what it is that is being discredited (i.e. austerity).

This paper presents a critical stylistic analysis the first of Cameron’s speeches to mention austerity, given April 26, 2009 at the Conservative Party spring conference, and discusses Cameron’s presentation of the UK economic landscape and his proposal for ‘balancing the books’, which in fact meant the permanent shrinking of public services. The paper will outline the methodology for the systematic analysis of this fairly large text, report on linguistic patterns in the data, and finish by drawing conclusions about the status of austerity as a socio-political keyword.

Problems and Solutions: the inadequate female body in cosmetics advertising

Helen Ringrow (University of Portsmouth)

Many contemporary (cosmetics) advertisements display a discursive structure commonly known as the Problem-Solution pattern (Hoey 1983; 2001). In female-targeted media discourse, this pattern takes as its basic ideological starting point that the female body is inadequate and products can provide solutions to these shortcomings. This ‘self-improvement’ often involves an attempt to disguise or delay the visual signifiers of ageing, which are conceptualised as fundamentally negative. This paper will consider how language is used to create this idea of ‘self-improvement’ through analysis of a corpus of recent English and French beauty advertisements. The paper offers an adaptation of Hoey’s (1983; 2001) Problem-Solution model for specific application to cosmetics advertising discourse (from Ringrow 2016). The Problem-Solution pattern is used in beauty advertising to equate femininity with the continual pursuit of the young, ideal body.



Hoey, M. (1983) On the Surface of Discourse. London: Allen and Unwin.

Hoey, M. (2001) Textual Interaction: an introduction to written discourse analysis.

London: Routledge.

Ringrow, H. (2016) The Language of Cosmetics Advertising. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Structuring response: Greek etsi in pursuing a response.

Angeliki Balantani (University of Essex)

This conversation-analytic study examines one of the practices that Greek interlocutors use in mobilizing a response from their interlocutors. Stivers & Rossano (2012) have examined the various resources that English interlocutors have to mobilize a response, such as interrogative morphosyntax, interrogative intonation, epistemic expertise on the topic and speaker gaze. Using a corpus of video- and audio-recordings of naturally occurring talk, I address the use of the Greek token etsi as a mobilizing strategy in interaction.

I shall investigate the Greek token etsi in two contexts: in the form ‘assertion + etsi den ine’ as a tag question in the course of developing a line of argument, and in the form etsi with interrogative prosody at TRPs, showing how they are differentially implicated in courses of action.

The analysis presented here, reporting on a part of a larger study on information receipts in Greek everyday interactions, aims to extend the cross-linguistic scope of studies on response-mobilizing features of turn-design and to contribute to the still developing body of literature on pursuit tokens.


Schegloff, E. A. (1980). Preliminaries to Preliminaries: “Can I Ask You a Question?”. Sociological Inquiry, 50(3-4), 104-152.

Stivers, T. & Rossano, F. (2012). Mobilizing Response in Interaction: A Compositional View of Questions. In J.-P. Ruiter (Ed.) Questions: Formal, Functional and Interactional Perspectives (pp. 58-80). Cambridge: CUP.



‘I know it is wright but I still don't like it’: Exploring children’s writing with the APU Corpus (1979-1988)

Victorina González-Díaz (University of Liverpool)

In educational linguistics, corpus-based research on children’s writing has been spearheaded by Biber and associates in America since the early 1990s (Reppen 1994, 2004; Biber et al. 2002). In the UK, however, the availability of corpora for such investigations is still very limited (cf. The Lancaster Corpus of Children’s Writing; The Oxford Children’s Corpus of Reading and Writing; see also Sealey and Thompson 2004, 2006).

The focus of this paper is twofold. Firstly, it will introduce the contents and the structure of the APU Writing and Reading Corpus 1979-1988; the first historical corpus of schoolchildren’s materials Secondly, it will showcase the potential of the corpus for genre-based teaching and research. The case-study will focus on argumentative writing across children’s levels of attainment.


Biber, Douglas, Randi Reppen & Susan Conrad. 2002. Developing linguistic literacy: perspectives from corpus linguistics and multi-dimensional analysis. Journal of Child Language 29(2): 458-62.

Reppen, Randi. 1994. Variation in elementary student language: A multidimensional perspective. PhD dissertation, Northern Arizona University. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.

Reppen, Randi. 2004. Academic language: an exploration of university classroom and textbook language. In Ulla Connor & Thomas A. Upton (eds.), Discourse in the professions, 65-86. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Sealey, Alison & Paul Thompson. 2004. 'What do you call the dull words?' Primary school children using corpus based approaches to learn about language. English in Education 38(1), 80-91.

Sealey, Alison & Paul Thompson. 2006. 'Nice things get said': Corpus evidence and the National Literacy Strategy. Literacy 40(1), 22-8.


The representation of ADHD in psychiatric institutional discourse and the social construction of sufferers' identity: DSM-V as a case study.

Sarah Vilar Lluch (University of East Anglia) 

This research analyses how psychiatric institutional discourse shapes Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) in order to understand how this discourse (1) has an active role in modelling a canonical representation of the illness, and (2) contributes to the social formation of an identity for the diagnosed individuals. Attention is paid to any evidence of stigmatization in the data. The investigation is performed through a qualitative data-driven critical discourse analysis (CDA) of the ADHD chapter of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-V) (APA:2013). The data analysed sums a total of 2622 words. DSM-V was selected as source of data for its international authority and application (Horwitz, 2011; Horwitz & Wakefield, 2006). Halliday and Matthiessen (2004) Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) is adopted as methodological framework, complemented by Jeffries (2010) text-based analytical toolkit, grounded in SFL. The analysis is mainly focused in the study of the analytical metafunction and is developed in three analytical axes or complementary studies, each one articulated around one of the major participants in the diagnostic process: (A) ADHD, (B) the patient, (C) the clinician. ADHD is taken into consideration as object of discourse, the study does not intend to question the ontology of ADHD nor to undervalue the psychiatric discourse. Discourse is understood in the Foucauldian terms, as the socially constructed representation of reality, legitimized and spread through the institutions, that defines what can be known and the different possible positions subjects can occupy (Foucault, 1969:73), adopted in CDA tradition by Fairclough (1989). The results show that the prototypical ADHD target is identified with a querulous elementary school-aged white boy. ADHD is defined by its symptoms and established as perilous in virtue of its associated consequences. Insufficient attention and excessive movement or talk are graded according to standards ultimately founded on social desirability. DSM-V not only provides the orthodox description of all categorized mental disorders, it also establishes the standards all individuals have to meet to be sane.


American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition Arlington, VA, American Psychiatric Association.

Halliday, M. A. K., & Matthiessen, Christian M. I. M. (2004). An introduction to functional grammar (3rd ed.). London: Arnold.

Horwitz, A. V. (2011). Naming the problem that has no name: creating targets for standardized drugs. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences42(4), 427-433.

Horwitz, A. V., & Wakefield, J. C. (2006). The epidemic in mental illness: clinical fact or survey artifact?. Contexts5(1), 19-23.

Jeffries, L. (2010). Critical stylistics: The power of english. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Foucault, M. (1969). L’archéologie du savoir. Paris: Gallimard. 

Fairclough, N. (1989). Language and power. London: Longman.

A ‘half-remembered quality’: Experiencing narratorial disorientation in The Goldfinch.



This paper applies cognitive linguistic approaches, and in particular Cognitive Grammar, for literary linguistic analysis. It analyses how The Goldfinch complicates the experience of ‘narrative urgency’ (Simpson 2013) in a pivotal scene in the novel, and accounts for how readers nevertheless become ‘gripped’ by this particular passage. The analysis observes that ‘spatial immersion’ (Ryan 2001) plays a key role in the sense of disorientation created by the scene, but that the text simultaneously, contradictorily, displays style features that heighten the pace of the narration. Finally, this study argues that the stylistic profile of this scene creates a cinematic experience for readers that renders this passage particularly memorable and immersive. 

Using smartphones to collect big data on English dialects

Wednesday 15th February 2017

 Adrian Leemann (Lancaster University)

What do you call an animal that carries its house on its back – hoddy-doddy, dod-man, or snail? Do you think these terms have changed over the past decades? We set out to collect data to analyze how English dialects have evolved using 21st century methods. We developed the app English Dialects (, a free iOS and Android app that asks users to self-report usage of a number of linguistic variables – such as the example above – and then tells them where they are from based on their dialects. The app further allows users to record their speech by reading out loud ‘The boy who cried wolf’ passage. This new approach is currently producing a large volume of dialect data (more than 40,000 people have participated) and thus a more comprehensive atlas of English dialects than any since the ‘Survey of English Dialects’. In this talk I will present first results on language change and discuss broader implications for language variation and change as well for forensic phonetics.

'Riots Engulfed the City': An experimental approach to the legitimating functions of fire metaphors in discourses of disorder


Christopher Hart (Lancaster University) 

Much has been made of the ideological and legitimating functions of metaphor in critical discourse analysis.  Recently, however, the extent to which metaphors in discourse genuinely activate a different (source-) frame and, therefore, the extent to which metaphors in discourse achieve framing effects, has been called into question.  In this paper, starting from a qualitative analysis of observed discourse data, I report a recent experiment testing the legitimating effects of FIRE metaphors in discourses of disorder.   Specifically, due to associations with WATER in the FIRE frame, I tested whether this metaphor affected legitimacy ratings for police use of water canon in response to public disorder.  Results suggest a significant effect.  The presence of fire in literal images of protest and metaphorically invoked mental imagery have similar effects in facilitating support for police use of water canon. These results lend weight to claims made in critical metaphor analysis as well as to simulation theories of metaphor more generally.

Weasels & Chameleons: A New Normal

Wednesday 1st February 2017

toby lyons (sheffield hallam UNIVERSITY)

The scene: the streets and bus shelters of an overspill town in the north of England. Newspaper hoardings, advertising posters and brand pay-off lines conspire in an urban ‘poetry’ familiar to many. The cheap typefaces ‘worn’ by these words – ‘DRUGS/HORROR/LOTTO/SEX/DEATH’ contrast starkly with those urging us to buy branded products ‘because you're worth it’. We are by turns fascinated, flattered and horrified by the rich verbal and visual diet printed and posted up on our way to work, home and other places.

The texts and data in this study consist of a corpus of 201 newspaper bills together with photographic records of street advertising from urban and suburban settings in Stockport, England, collected between 2010-15. These texts are analysed semantically, by occurrence and by co-combinations of keywords. These short worded statements, constructed as headlines, compare closely with the brevity of advertising and branding propositions displayed elsewhere within the same, shared, urban space. The vocabulary of news reporting – ‘true events’ happening ‘right here, right now’ – is weighed against the vocabulary of aspiration and desire seen in advertising and brand promotion within intimate urban spaces.

Integral to these comparative vocabularies are the supportive visual signifiers of the typefaces used: typefaces that suggest on the one hand truth and urgency, and on the other fantasy and desire. This study will consider how particular typefaces and typographic styles are applied to these messages and, through their associated visual connotations, confer deeper semiotic readings.

In conclusion, the study will attempt to frame a conjoined semantic and semiotic reading of the notions of Authenticity/Inauthenticity with reference to these texts.

Key references

Baudrillard, Jean (1983) Simulations, USA, Semiotext[e];

Clarke, Michael (2007) Verbalising the Visual, Switzerland, AVA Publishing;

Crow, David (2003) Visible Signs, Switzerland, AVA Publishing;

Fletcher, Alan (2001) The Art of Looking Sideways, London, Phaidon Press.


Wednesday 25th January 2016

Language, Offence and Social Control

Jim O'Driscoll (UNIVERSITY OF Huddersfield)

This talk has a technical aspect and a social aspect. The former is about how we talk about language which is commonly regarded as unacceptable in ‘polite’ society (known as ‘bad language’, ‘swearing’, ‘taboo words’ etc etc). How do we circumscribe it? What part of language is it that is regarded this way in particular instances? The latter aspect, on which this talk concentrates, is about ‘language incidents’ – cases of language use which have got their producers into varying kinds of substantive hot water. Such incidents in public and working life are increasing these days, so there is a need to find some principled way of distinguishing what is merely embarrassing from what is reprehensible from what is censurable from what – maybe – should be criminal from what is better shuddered off as just plain nasty. It is reasonable to suppose that linguistics should have a substantial contribution to make in this effort. The aim here is basically the same as with the technical aspect: to investigate just what it is about these instances of language use that provoke institutions to apply sanctions against their producers and to assess whether these reactions are justifiable. Towards this end, a small number of cases will be examined with the help of speech act theory (Searle 1969), the notion of participation framework (Goffman 1981) and impoliteness theory (e.g. Culpeper 2011).The two aspects of this talk could be treated entirely separately. But an argument will be made that there is a link and that it is important this link is established.    

Wednesday 14th December 2016

"Americans don't do irony": Cross-cultural perspectives on the Pragmatics of Irony"

Paul Simpson (University of Liverpool)

This presentation approaches irony as a discursive practice and makes specific reference to the way in which ironic situations are processed and interpreted in different cultural contexts. The study argues that irony is at the forefront of much social interaction, including, humour, sarcasm, banter, teasing, politeness, satire and parody; it also contends that more emphasis should be given in pragmatic accounts of irony to the role of individual language users in both the generation and the classification of irony. In pursuit of these related aims, an online experiment is generated which gathers reactions to six different scenarios from about 300 informants world-wide. The data elicited offers insights into cultural practices and helps challenge myths such as the one posited in the title of this talk; that is, the common perception of many in the UK and Ireland that people from North America ‘don't do’ irony. The talk therefore places ordinary users of language centre stage, allowing them, not academicians, to decide on the ironic status of different kinds of discourse. More broadly, the paper foregrounds the communicative, cultural and legal consequences of irony in social life. 

Wednesday 7th December 2016

The Accent Van: Methods in Community Language and Identity Research

Erin Carrie (Manchester Metropolitan University)

The Manchester Voices project investigates the accents, dialects and people of Greater Manchester. It seeks to understand how the ways in which we speak help to make us who we are. Our qualitative methodological approach consisted of a team of four researchers visiting all ten boroughs of Greater Manchester in ‘the accent van’, a mobile interview booth which was fitted with a digital interview guide asking local people questions about their use of language and their local and regional identities. Some of the key benefits of this methodological approach include increased access to representative speakers from across the region of interest, the ability to gather large volumes of data in a relatively short period of time, and the reduction of interviewer bias. The data collection, which took place over six days, resulted in 108 audio- and video-recorded interviews with our talking laptop, Chester, as well as countless additional conversations with passers-by captured using audio-recording equipment. The interview data are currently being transcribed in Elan and are soon to be coded and analysed using qualitative data analysis software (NVivo) in preparation for an interactive Manchester Voices exhibition which will be launched at Manchester’s Central Library in June 2017. In this talk, I will discuss some preliminary findings but will focus largely on the highs and lows, as well as lessons learnt, during this type of community language and identity research.

Wednesday 30th November 2016

Irony and semantic prosody revisited

Dan McIntyre (University of Huddersfield)

This talk explore Louw’s (1993) claim that deviation from conventionalised semantic prosodies can be indicative of irony. Taking account of criticisms of the concept of semantic prosody, I analyse a short extract from a sketch from the 1960 satirical revue Beyond the Fringe. I argue that the satire in the sketch derives in part from the projected irony and that semantic prosody can be a useful tool in uncovering this, but not in the sense that Louw explains the concept. I argue that to fully reveal the source of the ironic effects, it is necessary to utilise a more nuanced approach to semantic prosody, as well as to consider how semantic prosodies clash with each other, and how concepts such as semantic preference and Gricean implicature act as further triggers of irony.

Wednesday 9th November 2016

Specialization in language change and acquisition.

Joel C. Wallenberg (Newcastle University Linguistics and Centre for Behaviour and Evolution) 

This talk describes a new acquisition-based model for situations when the diachronic replacement of one linguistic form by another is halted, or slowed, by forms specializing for different functions, linguistic environments, or extralinguistic contexts. Kroch (1994) discussed how “grammar competition” between syntactic structures or morphological doublets, like dived, dove, can be neutralized by forms specializing for different contexts of use. But to date, no articulated theory of how this specialization actually happens has been proposed and tested. A general pressure towards specialization in acquisition, the “Principle of Contrast”, has been discovered, and argued to account for patterns of word-learning (Clark 1987, 1990), but this has not been connected to a formal theory of language change, or extended beyond the lexicon. This paper hopes to rectify that, and show how the Principle of Contrast can be incorporated into a general and precise theory of specialization in language change. In doing so, I build on proposals in Fruehwald and Wallenberg (in prep); Wallenberg (2013), and combine them with the variational learning model of Yang (2000, 2002) to suggest a general, cross-modular theory of specialization in acquisition that makes clear predictions for language change.

                While this is primarily a study in the theory of language change, the theoretical proposals are based on a set of empirical cases illustrating the effect of different dimensions of specialization on the diachronic pattern. The first case comes from previous work in Bailey et al. (2012) on embedded polar questions in the history of English, and shows that categorical syntactic variation can resolve by specialization for two syntactic contexts. Secondly, I discuss the case study of extremely slow syntactic change from Wallenberg (to appear), in which binary variation in relative clause extraposition specializes along a continuous dimension, prosodic weight, leading to near stable variation. This kind of specialization is necessarily imperfect, leading to the diachronic loss of extraposition in a number of languages. This case may also involve considerable intraspeaker variation in relative clause structure, building on Sauerland (2003).

                Finally, I present a new morpho-lexical case study, the specialization of the doublet melted, molten along a binary dimension, which ultimately leads to the survival of both variants. This study allowed me to use the 1 billion word Penn York Computer-annotated Corpus of a Large amount of English (PYCCLE-TCP; Ecay 2015), which is a highly rich data source for certain kinds of linguistic variables. Through this resource, we can view diachronic specialization at such a high level of resolution that it becomes possible to distinguish important hypotheses for the speed of specialization, both in acquisition and in the speech community. This case study also helps us to reconcile experimental evidence on specialization in acquisition, which suggests specialization happens quickly, with data from language change, which suggests specialization happens slowly. In the end, I show how we can begin to test precise, quantitative predictions about the diachronic “race” between competition and specialization, and seechange as a natural outcome of the acquisition of the grammar.


Bailey, Laura, Joel C. Wallenberg, and Wim van der Wurff. 2012. Embedded yes/no questions: reanalysis and replacement. Paper presented at Presented at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB), University of Salford.2

Clark, Eve V. 1987. The Principle of Contrast: A constraint on language acquisition. In Mechanisms of language acquisition, ed. Brian MacWhinney, The 20th Annual Carnegie Symposium on Cognition. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Clark, Eve V. 1990. On the pragmatics of contrast. Journal of Child Language 17:417–431.

Ecay, Aaron. 2015. The Penn-York Computer-annotated Corpus of a Large amount of English based on the TCP (PYCCLE-TCP). Public release 1.

Fruehwald, Josef, and Joel C. Wallenberg. in prep. Optionality is Stable Variation is Competing Grammars.

Kroch, Anthony S. 1994. Morphosyntactic variation. In Papers from the 30th Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society: Parasession on Variation and Linguistic Theory, ed. K. Bealset al.

Sauerland, Uli. 2003. Unpronounced heads in relative clauses. In The Interfaces: deriving and interpreting omitted structures, ed. Kerstin Schwabe and Susanne Winkler, volume 61 of Linguistik Aktuell, 205–226. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Wallenberg, Joel C. 2013. A unified theory of stable variation, syntactic optionality, and syntactic change. In Presented at the 15th meeting of the Diachronic Generative Syntax (DIGS)Conference. University of Ottawa.

Wallenberg, Joel C. to appear. Extraposition is disappearing. To Appear in Language Historical Syntax Online Section. Draft available upon request.

Yang, Charles. 2000. Internal and external forces in language change. Language Variation and Change 12:231–250.

Yang, Charles D. 2002. Knowledge and Learning in Natural Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.