Prof Delia Bentley

Professor of Romance Linguistics

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Research interests

My research addresses key questions in the study of the interface of linguistic meaning with word and sentence structure. Over the years I have studied modality, aspect, tense, verbal semantics and its correlates in morphology and syntax, voice, valence-changing operations, existential and locative constructions and result state adjectives. My research has a strong empirical basis: I investigate the micro-variation attested in the grammar of a family of lesser-known languages, the Romance dialects of Italy (in particular, the dialects of the extreme South, Sardinian, and Gallo-Italian). A distinctive feature of my approach is that I investigate large numbers of these dialects. This has allowed me to uncover patterns in Romance morpho-syntax that had previously gone unnoticed. Another distinctive feature of my research is that while I seek to investigate how meaning is encoded in word and sentence structure, I keep these levels of analysis separate. In other words, I adopt a parallel-architecture theory of language, which investigates the interaction of the various levels of linguistic analysis without conflating them.

The Romance dialects of Italy are receding under pressure from the national language (Italian), and thus the documentation of these dialects is also a primary objective of my work, as is the enhancement of knowledge and understanding in the field of Romance linguistics.

Although I fully engage with research of any theoretical persuasion, the framework which I usually adopt in my own work is that of Role and Reference Grammar ( This is ideally suited to the investigation of the discourse-semantics-syntax interface and to the study of syntactic typology.


My principal research specialisms are Italian and Romance linguistics, Italo-Romance dialectology, morphosyntax (and its interfaces with discourse and semantics) and syntactic typology.

My recent awards are:

Research Support Fund award of the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures (£1.8K) to conduct research on Gallo-Italian dialects (November 2014-June 2015).

 AHRC Research Grant, Standard Scheme (AH/H032509/1, £535,927): Existential constructions: An investigation into the Italo-Romance dialects (November 2010-June 2014):

 AHRC Research Grant, Research Leave Scheme (AH/E506011/1, £23,268): Existential constructions: discourse, semantics, syntax (Semester 2: Academic year 2008/2009).


Research and projects

No current projects are available for public display