School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

Alison Aspin

Alison Aspin

PhD student in Linguistics


Supervisors: Dr William van der Wurff and Dr Adam Mearns

Research Project

Words that stay and words that go: factors affecting word survival and obsolescence in English

While new words in English have received considerable scholarly attention, the longer-term survival or loss of words has been a neglected topic. This project addresses that topic.  It aims to identify and assess, systematically, the factors influencing lexical loss/persistence, and to investigate the role played by psycholinguistic processes. The project will contribute to the understanding of lexical change in English and – more widely – to forging a link between two currently separate fields of enquiry: historical lexical change, and the processing of words in the mind. 

Research Interests

Language change and the history of English.  Psycholinguistics and the structure of the mental lexicon. The influence on language of ideas about prestige. Ambiguity in speech. Swearing and profanity, euphemism, and offensiveness in language.


  • 2015: Recipient of the Taught MA Prize for Linguistics (Newcastle University)


  • Full AHRC Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Award

Groups and Committee Membership

  • Language and Cognition Reading Group
  • SELLL Postgraduate Tutors Committee


  • 2018-19: SEL1027 ('Introduction to the Structure of Language 1: Syntax and Phonology'): seminar leader
  • 2018-19: SEL2223 ('Speakers as Wordsmiths'): seminar leader and lecturer
  • 2017-18: SEL1027 ('Shaping Sounds and Syntax'): seminar leader
  • 2017-18: SEL1012 ('Language through Time: Introduction to the History of English'): seminar leader
  • 2016-17: SEL2223 (‘Speakers as Wordsmiths’): invited lecturer


  • 2017: Durham Castle Conference (Durham University): Evolution of the English lexicon: survival of the fittest? (Paper)
  • 2017: HaSS Conference (Newcastle University): Language as chimera: how English got its odd body parts (Paper)
  • 2017: 12th Newcastle upon Tyne Postgraduate Conference in Linguistics (Newcastle University): Disappearing words: factors affecting word obsolescence in English (Paper)

Academic Background

  • MA in Linguistics (Newcastle University, 2015)
  • BA(Hons) in Modern Languages and European Studies (University of Bath, 1991)
Alison Aspin