Research

Here is an overview of some of my research interests and projects:

Syntactic optionality in North and West Germanic: insights from the history of Icelandic and Low German

This is my Postdoctoral Research project funded by the FWO (Research foundation – Flanders) at Ghent University (2021-2024), promoted by Prof. Anne Breitbarth.

Word order optionality in the postfinite domain in North and Continental West Germanic has attracted much attention in generative syntax in the past three decades, in particular the phenomena known as ‘Object Shift’ and ‘Scrambling’. However, the precise factors conditioning this word order optionality remain unclear, and there is to date no account which can explain the full cross-Germanic variation on display. This project will shed new light on this area via novel data from Middle Low German (1200-1650) and historical Icelandic (1150-2008), which are well placed to fill gaps in the literature on the topic and are accessible for this type of study via parsed corpora (Corpus of Historical Low German; Icelandic Parsed Historical Corpus). In order to achieve this, a new annotation scheme which encodes the relevant information-structural and semantic properties will be developed as a generally applicable enhancement for historical Penn-style treebanks and will be employed for the two corpora in use. Additionally, the project will develop a novel way to model gradience in word order flexibility within the architecture of Lexical-Functional Grammar in order to facilitate comparison between the Low German and Icelandic data and with further Germanic varieties.

Clause structure, expletives and information structure in the history of Icelandic

In my PhD thesis (2018, University of Manchester), I presented a diachronic account for the emergence of expletives in Icelandic from the earliest texts to the present day. This development was set against the backdrop of Icelandic clause structure, with particular attention to verb-second, information structure and the left periphery. See also here and here.

As I showed, the development of expletives is intimately connected with other changes and my work has fed into a wider collaboration with Christin Schätzle (University of Konstanz). Together, we have developed a theoretical analysis using LFG for how the syntactic encoding of information structure changed over time in Icelandic, prompting a series of changes with respect to e.g. verb position, subject position, dative subjects and expletives. See e.g. herehere and here.

Visual and quantitative methods for investigating syntactic change

I am interested in state-of-the-art methodologies for investigating syntactic change. As a guest researcher at Konstanz on project D02 of SFB-TRR 161 Evaluation Metrics for Visual Analytics in Linguistics, I explored with colleagues how visualisation methodologies can make the workflow of the historical linguist more efficient and yield deeper insights of the data. See a recent paper here, as well as this blog post. We are now exploring how visual analytics can be useful in the annotation of problems such as ambiguity and uncertainty in historical linguistic data, see e.g. here.

I also have experience in corpus development: as a Postdoctoral Research Associate on the Corpus of Historical Low German (CHLG), I annotated Middle Low German texts to be included in a Penn-style treebank designed to facilitate future corpus-based syntactic studies of this underexplored language stage. You can read more on the background for the corpus in this paper here.

Linguistic approaches to orality and narrative devices in the medieval Icelandic sagas

I am also interested in applying insights from linguistics and corpus methodologies to broader problems in medieval Scandinavian studies. I am currently examining syntactic devices for the management of discourse participants in the sagas from the perspective of information structure.

Constraints on syntactic variation: noun phrases in early Germanic languages

I was also involved with this project which focuses on variation in noun phrase word order across early Germanic (funded by the Norwegian Research Council, 2017-20).