Prof David DenisonFBA

Emeritus Professor

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Research interests

  • Unlocking the Mary Hamilton Papers. AHRC-funded project 2019-2022. Text creation, the auxiliary system around 1800. See below.
  • 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 published a chapter on ambiguity and vagueness (2017a).  A joint British Academy/Philological Society lecture on Parts of Speech has been published (2013). I have suspended work on a half-complete monograph on English word classes: Categories and their limits but will contribute a chapter to an OUP handbook on word classes.
  • 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 and textual editing 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 18c Prose (letters in the John Rylands University Library) was transcribed by Linda van Bergen and Joana Proud and recently re-published on the web. 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 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 student involvement from several universities called Image to Text: Mary Hamilton papers. A multidisciplinary team I assembled – Hannah Barker (managing the project), Sophie CoulombeauNuria Yáñez-Bouza and myself – has won an AHRC grant for Unlocking the Mary Hamilton Papers, a three-year project to complete the edition and conduct wide-ranging literary and linguistic research. We start in December 2019, joined by the postdocs Tino Oudesluijs, Christine Wallis and Cassandra Ulph.
  • 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