SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Historical linguistics; language variation and change caused by the patterns of language use, social factors and language contact

A particular strong aspect of our research is the study of language variation, and its underlying structural and sociolinguistic causes. Based in extensive empirical data from primary research often involving endangered languages, members of the department investigate cross-linguistic variation in different contexts and using different approaches, e.g.:

  • focussing on micro-setting with detailed case studies of language use and multilingual patterns across tight-knit communities
  • large scale parametric work using both qualitative and quantitative methods of language comparison

An interrelated strand of this cluster is historical linguistics and the study of diachronic change and language history. The departments has considerable expertise in this area, focussing specifically on the languages of Africa, Asia and the Middle East and addressing a range of topics such as

  • the historical development of negation
  • historical development, grammaticalisation and contact of TAM systems and auxiliary constructions
  • historical-comparative reconstruction
  • the role of linguistic convergence and language contact