Research

I am presently a doctoral candidate in Linguistics at Newcastle University, funded by the Economic & Social Research Council to write a thesis on the biological evolution of language.

While my undergraduate BA at the University of Oxford was awarded for work on medieval English literature with a smattering of archaeology and linguistic theory, a few terms into my studies I began to feel that special pain of the 18-year-old who realises they’ve taken the wrong course, the only option being penitent perseverance until finals three years later.

I have since settled at an intersection of linguistics and evolutionary biology, now probing the question of how Homo sapiens acquired an ability for language some time in the past six million years, setting us apart from all other species on the planet more drastically than anything else.

My work is firmly based in the Chomskyan view of the ‘faculty of language’, which considers it a logical necessity for children to be born with innate, language-specific knowledge, though, departing from more recent Chomskyan provocations, I aim to establish (i) that this faculty arose gradually in our lineage and (ii) that it consists of multiple expressive systems working in parallel, rather than one monolithic recursive syntax.