Linguistics at Newcastle

Language Variation & Change

Language Variation and Change/Language Evolution


This theme looks at how languages evolve over time.

Language variation and change includes:

  • variationist sociolinguistics
  • dialect syntax
  • historical/diachronic linguistics
  • grammaticalization
  • corpus analysis
  • linguistic typology

This research group works on diverse issues that broadly relate to synchronic language variation and diachronic language change. This includes sociolinguistic variation in English, where we focus in particular on Tyneside, Northumbrian and Irish varieties of English as well as British English ethnolects and standard British English.


We study these partly through corpora specially constructed for the quantitative analysis of linguistic variation and change, such as the Diachronic Electronic Corpus of Tyneside English (DECTE) compiled and housed at Newcastle. Our specialisms in this area include:

  • morphosyntactic and discourse-pragmatic variation and change
  • dialect syntax
  • language and dialect contact

We also work on variation and change in the earlier history of English and in various other languages, including the Germanic family more widely, as well as modern Welsh, Irish, Spanish and Bengali. We focus on grammatical phenomena such as word order, negation, and features of clause-linking. In this work, we take a specific interest in the mechanisms by which change is introduced into the language system and diffused through communities of speakers.

A further area in our research is cross-linguistic and typological comparison. This involves close investigation of specific grammatical phenomena in various languages, with a view to identifying the precise details of where they differ or are the same, and investigating the wider patterns of linguistic variation and language typology.

Our study of language evolution, focuses on how the human language faculty developed in the course of evolution, and what properties the initial stages of language might have had. In particular, with respect to syntax, the lexicon and morphosyntax.

Tying in with the work of the Language variation and change subgroup, members of this group also build formal evolutionary models of patterns of language change and stable sociolinguistic variation, using mathematical evolutionary theory to understand the patterns of language change.


The following members of staff work within the Language Variation and Change research theme.

Professor Karen Corrigan
Director of Research in Linguistics

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7757

Dr Carol Fehringer
Senior Lecturer

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 5635

Dr Damien Hall
Lecturer in French Linguistics, School of Modern Languages Director of the Year Abroad

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 8521

Professor Anders Holmberg
Professor in Theoretical Linguistics

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 3530

Dr Heike Pichler
Senior Lecturer in Variationist Sociolinguistics

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 3519

Dr Geoffrey Poole
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 5824

Professor Maggie Tallerman
Professor of Linguistics

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7774

Dr William van der Wurff
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 3876

Dr Joel Wallenberg
Lecturer in Language Change (Linguistics and Eng Lang)

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7366