School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

Staff Profile

Professor Anders Holmberg

Professor in Theoretical Linguistics


I got my PhD degree at Stockholm University in 1987. Since then I've held positions at Uppsala and Umeå in Sweden, Tromsø in Norway, and Durham in the UK. Since 2004 I'm Professor of Theoretical Linguistics at Newcastle University My early work was mainly on verb second, object shift, and various issues to do with word order and inflections in the Scandinavian languages. A bit later I took up work on Finnish. I have written about word order, topic-focus syntax, null subjects  and elliptical answers in Finnish, among other things. Being from Finland I'm bilingual in Swedish and Finnish. I have worked on various other languages, too. My main interest is comparative syntax. The overarching aim is to find out more about the nature of human language, particularly syntax, by comparing languages to study what they have in common and how they vary. Since 2002 I have collaborated closely with Ian Roberts and colleagues at the University of Cambridge, which has resulted in a number of co-authored works on syntactic cross-linguistic variation in a minimalist framework, including two books. Another recent work is a book on the syntax of answers to yes-no questions in a cross-linguistic, comparative perspective. I have supervised and co-supervised 35 students to a PhD degree. 


Research Interests

Syntactic theory; comparative syntax; Scandinavian languages; Finnish.

Other Expertise

Descriptive linguistics/linguistic fieldwork; language acquisition; language change.

Current Work

Fenno-Swedish syntax

Verb second in Estonian

Word syntax, compounds

Discourse particles

The syntax of questions and answers


Publications by Prof. JA Holmberg

Newcastle University ePrint repository for Prof. JA Holmberg.


Research Roles

Editor of Finno-Ugric Languages and Linguistics (FULL)


  • European Research Council Advanced Grant 'Rethinking Comparative Syntax' (PI Ian Roberts, U. of Cambridge) (2013-2018).
  • Leverhulme Fellowship (2011-2013). Project: On the syntax of yes and no.

  • Project funded by the AHRC, 2007-2010: 'Structure and linearization in disharmonic word orders'. Joint project with Cambridge, with Ian Roberts as co-investigator, Theresa Biberauer and Michelle Sheehan as Researchers. 

  • Leverhulme Visiting Professorship for Abdelkader Fassi Fehri to spend 10 months in Newcastle in 2007-2008.

  • Project funded by the AHRC, 2002-2007: 'Null subjects and the structure of parametric theory.' Joint project with Newcastle and Cambridge.