Linguistics Research Group
Linguistics at the University of Ulster spans a wide range of areas in the discipline. Particular strengths are in the areas of syntax, phonology, language acquisition, bilingualism, language processing, historical linguistics, discourse analysis, pragmatics, sociolinguistics and language planning. The various members of the unit have several on-going collaborations with colleagues in various institutions and centres of excellence in linguistic research in the UK, Europe and US.
The linguistics group organises international conferences on a regular basis, for example the 2009 Syntax Conference on Language Change. and the 2007 and 2010 conference On Linguistics Interfaces
http://www.socsci.ulster.ac.uk./comms/onli2010/index.html, and the 2011 International Conference of the Irish Network in Formal Linguistics.
The group also organises a series of Research Seminars in Language and Linguistics which takes place on Friday every fortnight. These are very informal meetings which give the opportunity to staff, students and guests to discuss their ongoing research. Additionally the group hosts and takes part in regular meetings of linguists throughout Ireland, as part of the Irish Research Network in Formal Linguistics which was funded thanks to funding by the AHRC and the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences. For information visit
Students and staff work on a wide range of languages, and many take advantage of the opportunity to work on local language varieties including Belfast English, Irish English in general, Ulster Scots and Irish.
The group is also committed to the dissemination of their research to the general public. This agenda has driven the group to establish UCoM, the Ulster Centre on Multilingualism which aims to educate and inform the public on the benefits and advantages of bringing up children multilingual. You can visit UCoM at http://www.socsci.ulster.ac.uk/ucom/
Here are brief research profiles for current staff:
Dr Raffaella Folli’s research investigates the nature of the relationship between components of the language faculty, in particular, the interface between syntax and the lexicon and syntax and semantics. In relation to this, many of her papers look at the behavior of verb alternations in a number of different languages (Italian, English, Scottish Gaelic, Persian). More recently she has begun to study the variation between Italian and Greek in nominal syntax in collaboration with Dora Alexopoulou (University of Cambridge). Her theoretical work has also informed more recent applied research: in recent years she has collaborated with Tom Bever (University of Arizona) and his lab to develop experiments testing the relevance of aspectual information on sentence comprehension. She also studies the effect of multilingualism on the development of syntactic systems.
Prof Heidi Harley’s research centers on the relationship between meaning and grammatical structure, especially the connection between a verb's meaning and the syntactic frames it may be contained in. She is also fascinated by the often-opaque connection between meaning and form in inflectional morphology. She has explored these questions in studies of a number of linguistic phenomena, including case, pronominal structure, verbal argument and event structure, causatives, idioms, agreement, possession, head-movement, roots, syncretism and word order, among others. She has worked with data from English, Italian, Hiaki (Yaqui), Irish, Japanese, Georgian, and Icelandic. Her theoretical work is usually couched within the framework of Distributed Morphology. She has also done extensive work on the documentation of Hiaki, an endangered Uto-Aztecan language spoken in southern Arizona and in the state of Sonora in Mexico.
Prof Alison Henry works on syntax in the Minimalist framework and iin particular on Microvariation, particularly in relation to Belfast English and other Northern Irish English dialects; recent areas of investigation within Microvariation have included quantifier float off wh-elements, object shift and transitive expletives, all aspects of syntax which are found in Northern Irish Englishes but not in standard English. She is also interested in language acquisition, including the acquistion of aspects of microvariation in syntax, and, as part of UCoM, in multilingual language acquisition.
Jacopo Romoli was born in Rome, Italy and studied Psychology and Linguistics as an undergraduate at the University of Bicocca (Milan, Italy). In 2007, he moved to Cambridge, USA, to continue his studies at Harvard University, where he obtained his PhD in Linguistics in 2012. His dissertationinvestigates a variety of phenomena at the intersection of Scalar Implicatures and Presuppositions, with particular focus on their interaction. In August 2012, he moved to Sydney, Australia, to become postdoctoral fellow at the ARC Centre of excellence for the study of Cognition and its Disorders (CCD) at Macquarie University. In November 2012, he has become Associate Investigator of the CCD. Since September 2013, he is also a lecturer in Linguistics and the University of Ulster, in the School of Communication.
Dr Philip McDermott’s research has been in the area of language policy and planning for (and by) migrant communities. His particular focus is on the perception of migrant languages in public places and the ways that government and communities deal with such linguistic diversity. Philip is also interested in the dilemmas that some migrants feel in relation to host language acquisition versus language loss – especially in relation to the impact that this has on their children. He is also active in the community and non-governmental sectors, having previously been involved in research projects funded by the Centre for Global Education, Monreagh Ulster-Scots Heritage Centre, Fermanagh District Council, the Department for Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL) and the Community Relations Council (CRC). In addition, Philip is a committee member of Active Citizens Engaged (ACE) in the North-West which supports individuals, including members of ethnic and linguistic minorities, to participate in social activities as a means of overcoming social, cultural and linguistic barriers.
Dr Christina Sevdali’s research focuses on the area of historical syntax, and in particular on the properties of infinitival clauses and their subjects, especially in Ancient Greek. In joint work with Elena Anagnostopoulou, from the University of Crete, and Artemis Alexiadou, from the University of Stuttgart, she has worked on patterns of dative – nominative alternations in passives, and the nature of datives case cross-linguistically. Her most recent research focuses on the phenomenon of case transmission in obligatory control, raising, and non-obligatory control contexts in Ancient Greek. Finally, her research with colleagues at the University of Ulster (Raffaella Folli, Alison Henry and Megan Devlin) looks into patterns of trilingual acquisition, especially in relation to clitics, order of constituents in the DP but also more general issues on areas of cross-linguistic influence in trilingual contexts.
Dr Karyn Stapleton’s research interests are in the field of discourse, interpersonal communication and identity construction. Key research areas are: (a) Discourse and Identity, particularly as applied to Northern Ireland culture, politics and communities; and (b) Interpersonal Pragmatics and Sociolinguistics, with specific research applications in the areas of (public) apology, impression management, and swearing. Her recent research study on bankers’ apologies (with O. Hargie and D. Tourish) attracted world-wide interest (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/8013998/Bank-bosses-refused-to-say-sorry-during-financial-crisis-academics-find.html). Karyn regularly presents her work at international conferences. In 2006, she was an Invited Co-participant in an international panel on the History of Language and Social Interaction Research at the 56th International Communication Association International Conference (Dresden, Germany). In 2010, she was Co-Convener of a Thematic Panel on Swearing and (Inter)cultural Communication at the Sociolinguistics Symposium 2010 (Southampton).
Dr Catrin Rhys employs conversation analysis and membership categorisation analysis to examine social interaction in mundane, clinical and multilingual contexts. In particular, she is interested in the interactional management of the tension between progressivity and intersubjectivity in the context of language impairment. In mundane settings, she is interested in how the sequential and categorisational aspects of social interaction inform each other. With a background in formal linguistics, she is also interested in the interface between the interactional properties of language in use and the formal properties of language structure.