Skip Content

Professor David Denison FBA

History of English, especially syntax, including current change; modelling syntactic change; word classes and word class boundaries, gradience in syntax; corpus construction and problems of tagging
David Denison profile picture

About this Fellow

Following a varied undergraduate degree - mainly Mathematics, then Anglo-Saxon and Norse - David Denison's doctorate was a philological-linguistic study of English group-verbs. For many years he was in English at Manchester, then joined a new Department of Linguistics and English Language. He was Smith Professor of English Language and Medieval Literature from 2008 and is now Professor Emeritus of English Linguistics. He has held visiting positions at Amsterdam, UBC Vancouver, Santiago de Compostela, Paris 3 and Zurich and has a continuing association with Uppsala He was a founding co-editor of the journal English Language and Linguistics and a co-editor of the Longman Linguistics Library. He was the second president of ISLE (International Society for the Linguistics of English). Early on, he worked on the development of a word processor and distributed his own computer programs. He has been involved in the construction or revision of several historical corpora of English and jointly coordinates the ARCHER corpus project and an editing project on historic letters. His research interests are in historical syntax and semantics including current change, and recent work has dealt with the boundaries between word classes, the history of minor classes, problems of tagging, and gradience in syntax.



Current post

  • Professor Emeritus of English Linguistics, The University of Manchester

Past Appointments

  • Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Professor of English Linguistics, University of Manchester, 1976 - 2008
  • Smith Professor of English Language and Medieval Literature, University of Manchester, 2008 - 2015
  • Professor Emeritus of English Linguistics, University of Manchester, 2015


Ambiguity and vagueness in historical change The changing English language: Psycholinguistic perspectives in press


Log(ist)ic and simplistic S-curves Motives for language change 2003


A history of the English language 2006


Expression of possession in English: The significance of the right edge Morphosyntactic categories and the expression of possession 2013


Syntax The Cambridge history of the English language, vol. 4 1998


English historical syntax: Verbal constructions 1993


Other Linguistics and Philology Fellows

Professor Robert Ladd

Phonology and phonetics, and the relation between them ("laboratory phonology"); intonation and prosody, including focus, emotion, pitch perception, tone languages, and links between language and music

Professor Joan Bresnan

Empirical foundations of syntax; corpus and experimental studies of variation in English grammar; cognitive architectures of grammar; the dynamics of probabilistic grammar; linguistic typology; Bantu morphosyntax; lexical-functional grammar