School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

Callum Hackett

Callum Hackett

PhD in Linguistics


Supervisors: Maggie Tallerman and Anders Holmberg

Research Project

Syntax Without Words

It has been standard since the 1960s to model linguistic expressions as being produced by generative rules that create a definite relation between sentence structures and compositional meanings. I argue that we need a generative theory of language but that it is impossible for the relation of form and meaning to be definite, so the standard model needs revision. I show that generative rules must instead create compositional meanings that are entirely independent of language, while sentence structures must be incomplete, non-compositional representations of those structured meanings. This not only accords better with empirical evidence and certain philosophical problems, it has significant ramifications for the question of language origins.

Research Interests

Minimalism, syntax-semantics interface, philosophy of language, language evolution, relevance theory

Research Activities

2017. 'Justifications for a discontinuity theory of language evolution'. Biolinguistics 11.

Oct 2017. 'Universals of INFL: Challenges from Maybrat'. Greenwich Tenselessness Workshop.

Jul 2017. 'The evolution of linguistics and the evolution of language'. Durham Castle Conference 2017.

May 2017. 'Variational models of language acquisition, or: Principles and parameters in the 21st century'. Edinburgh LEL Postgraduate Conference 2017.

Mar 2017. 'A variational model of root infinitives during language acquisition'. 12th Newcastle upon Tyne Graduate Conference in Linguistics.

Academic Background

University of Oxford (Balliol College): M.Phil., Linguistics

University of Oxford (Merton College): B.A., English Language and Literature


Callum Hackett