Hello. I'm a Professor of Historical Phonology in the department of Linguistics and English Language at the University of Edinburgh. I teach and research a number of things, but they mainly group around these three areas:

I'm interested in all kinds of linguistic systems, but the languages and dialects that I know and worry about most are these:
I'm interested both in the idiosyncrasies of these languages and their histories, and in how a proper understanding of this kind of data can help us to figure out what's possible (and what's impossible) in language, and in language change, in general.

I've worked on topics like these: obstruent lenition, laryngeal specifications, debuccalisation, the causes of phonological change, constraints on change, diachronic phonological typology, Liverpool English, the phonological interpretation of dialect literature, representational phonological theory, the history of phonology, the interpretation of frequency effects in phonological change, the philosophy of historical linguistics, the interpretation of phonological variation, privativity in phonological theory, positional effects in phonology, opacity, diachronic phonotactics, and specific issues in the phonology of English. I admit that the connection between all of these may not be immediately obvious, but I'm also not sure that I can understand any of them without understanding them all (and I think they're all interesting, anyway...). You can click here to see a list of my publications and presentations, many of which are downloadable.

I am always happy to supervise postgraduate research on issues like these, or on any topic which touches on historical and/or theoretical phonology (for any language) and/or on the linguistics of varieties of Northern English. If you're thinking of doing a PhD or Masters in any of these areas, feel free to email me to discuss possible supervision, projects and/or funding.

I'm the main organiser of the UK's annual phonology conference, the Manchester Phonology Meeting (everyone should go the the mfm), and I'm the instigator of the biennial Edinburgh Symposium on Historical Phonology. In fact, I've organised quite a few conferences. Meeting to discuss ideas is crucial, so I think organising conferences with the right atmosphere is quite important. I was the Meetings Secretary of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain (from 2003 to 2009), and I am currently a Member of Council of the Philological Society (a role I also carried out from 2007 to 2013). I was also the representative for Edinburgh and for Linguistics on the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities doctoral funding panel (from 2015 to 2018). Here at Edinburgh, I convene the Historical Phonology Reading Group, and I co-convene our P-Workshop and English Language Research Group.

With Joe Salmons, I edited the Handbook of Historical Phonology for Oxford University Press (2015), which has been judged "an enduring resource" (Kostakis 2017), "indispensable" (Hall 2017) and "an essential resource to generations of students and scholars interested in and working on any and all aspects of historical phonology" (Meyer 2018). With Warren Maguire, I edited Dialect Writing and the North of England (2020), which aims to break new ground in understanding what dialect writing is, and focuses on varieties of English from Northern England (Wales 2022 describes it as "comprehensive", "serious" and "methodical", showing "detailed knowledge of the linguistic structures of the dialects being represented"). With Bernd Kortmann and Laurel Brinton, I edit the journal English Language and Linguistics (since 2014), and I am also lead editor for Papers in Historical Phonology (since 2016). I am co-editor, with Jacques Durand, of OUP's book series The Phonology of the World's Languages (since 2016), and, with Bettelou Los and Graeme Trousdale, of EUP's book series Edinburgh Studies in Historical Linguistics (since 2019). From 2003-2010, I was one of the editors, with Joan Beal and April McMahon, of the 'Dialects of English' book series (recordings of varieties of English are available on the series' website).

Before coming to Edinburgh, I taught at what is now Edge Hill University, and before that I was at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, where I received a BA, MA and PhD. I have also taught courses on phonology and historical linguistics at linguistics summer schools such as the New York-St Petersburg Institute, the Nordic Language Variation Network PhD Seminar and the Eastern European Generative Grammar School. I'd advise everyone to go to things like this - they're fun. The picture of me above was taken at the 'Lost in Linguistics' PhD seminar at the University of Oslo, and the one below was taken at the Third North West Centre for Linguistics Research Training Workshop, which I co-organised at Edge Hill (I'm presenting the prize for the best poster from a participant at the workshop).

There's a one-minute video about some of the things that interest me in historical phonology here, from the university's one-minute-research-videos project. And I pop up here, talking about accents from the North-West of England on the BBC. If you want to know more about me (why would you? but if you do...), you could have a look here, which I was asked to write by the Linguist List as part of their fund drive in 2019 (do give money to the Linguist List!).

I didn't always have a beard


I teach on the following courses at Edinburgh, although not all of them run every year:

  • Linguistics and English Language 1B - Introduction to Phonology
  • Linguistics and English Language 2 - Phonology, Linguistic Theory and Universals, Slavic Linguistics, Dialectology
  • Phonological Theory; Phonological Theory and English Phonology (Honours courses)
  • Historical Phonology (Honours/MSc course)
  • Current issues in Phonology (Honours/MSc course)
  • Dialects of English in Britain and Ireland (Honours/MSc course)
  • Methods in Dialectology (Honours/MSc course)

I am also the convenor of the Honours dissertation for Linguistics and English Language.

My contact details

phone: +44 (0)131 651 1838
room: 3.06 (3rd floor of Dugald Stewart Building)

Linguistics and English Language,

University of Edinburgh,
Dugald Stewart Building, 3 Charles Street,
Edinburgh, EH8 9AD
, UK.