Prof David DenisonFBA

Emeritus Professor

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Research interests

  • Recent and current change in English syntax. Following my monograph-length chapter on late ModE Syntax for the Cambridge History of the English Language (IV, 1998), I have given a number of lectures and papers on current change. Richard Hogg and I edited a new, one-volume History of the English language (2006).
  • Gradience, especially in English morphology and syntax. I have been working for some time on gradience and categories, often in collaboration. I helped edit a substantial reader on Fuzzy Grammar (2004) for OUP, and I'm writing a chapter on ambiguity and vagueness.  A recent joint British Academy/Philological Society lecture on Parts of Speech has been published (2013). I am working on a monograph for C.U.P. entitled English word classes: Categories and their limits.
  • Historical syntax and the history of English generally. My commissioned book on English Historical Syntax (1993, print-on-demand edition 2004) concentrated on verbal constructions, and my recent work has also dealt with developments in the noun phrase.
  • Possessive 's in Germanic. Kersti Börjars and I ran an AHRC-funded project (2006-9) on the history and usage of possessive -s in English, Swedish and Dutch. Follow the link for information on the project, the other researchers involved, and publications and database.

Research continued

  • Corpus work.  I ran a project to apply morphological tagging to a collection of Middle English sermons, and in connection with the CHEL research created a nineteenth-century Corpus of late Modern English Prose (1994), with Graeme Trousdale and Linda van Bergen as assistants.  A Corpus of late Eighteenth-century Prose (letters in the John Rylands University Library) was transcribed by Linda van Bergen and Joana Proud and published on the web in 2003. In a plenary lecture in 2005 I explored the rich hoard of non-standard syntax in the letters and the question of what "change from below" signifies. Two plenary papers on tagging problems have been published (2007 and 2013).  Nuria Yáñez-Bouza and I belong to the international consortium developing the third phase of ARCHER, a multi-genre historical corpus of British and American English from the 17th century to the present, giving access to it in Manchester. We are coordinating the current phase of the project, for which I won a British Academy Small Research Grant. This phase has nearly doubled ARCHER's size and made it available online; POS tagging will follow soon. We have used a seedcorn grant from the John Rylands Research Institute to work towards an online edition of the papers of Mary Hamilton, a corpus project running since 2013-14 with major undergraduate involvement called Image to Text.
  • Construction Grammar. I have experimented with Construction Grammar theories in ongoing work on sort of/kind of constructions and in a paper on taking long. An earlier attempt avant la lettre was embodied in papers on what I call the Information Present.
  • Literary networks. An explanation for the origins of the progressive passive which involves social network theory and English literary politics ca 1800 was published in a joint paper with Lynda Pratt.


Research and projects

No current projects are available for public display