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Historical Linguistics

Drs. David Fertig, Jeff Good, Karin Michelson, Wolfgang Wölck, Roger Woodard.

Several members and affiliated members of the Department are actively engaged in research on language change and comparative reconstruction.

Prof. Fertig specializes in historical Germanic linguistics, focusing especially on morphological change and grammaticalization. Along with a sociohistorical perspective that informs much of his research, he looks for insights from recent psycholinguistic work that can help us understand the cognitive mechanisms behind language change.

The historical aspects of Prof. Good’s research focus on diachronic typology and the way historical change shapes synchronic grammars. He has done comparative-historical work on Benue-Congo languages, with a particular focus on Bantoid languages, as well as on the historical development of Saramaccan creole.

Prof. Michelson has a long-standing interest in comparative Northern Iroquoian and especially in the nature of the accent system towards an understanding of the systems in terms of the distinction between stress and tone. She also is looking at fast-speech and prosodic phenomena in Oneida, and the extent to which some of these have become phonologized in Oneida and other Iroquoian languages.

Prof. Wölck is engaged in continuing work on the development of new linguistic varieties from language contact and bilingualism, in particular American urban dialects (‘ethnolects’) resulting from contact between immigrant languages and English. One current project explains the famous ‘Northern Cities Shift’ as a contact linguistic rather than a monogenetic English-internal phenomenon.

Prof. Woodard of the Department of Classics specializes in Indo-European culture and linguistics. He is at present continuing his research on the origin and evolution of Mediterranean writing systems with an analysis of a set of copper plaques inscribed with an unusual form of the Greek alphabet — possibly the earliest example of Greek alphabetic writing thus far discovered. He is also at work on Ancient Greek: A Linguistic Introduction — a volume in a new series by Cambridge University Press.