David Adger

Professor of Linguistics


I am primarily interested in the human capacity for syntax, the cognitive system that underlies the patterns found in the grammar of human languages. The core questions are: what creates the patterns? how do they relate to meaning on the one hand, and sound, on the other? What governs the range of variation in the  patterns? Answering these questions allows us to tackle the issue of what the nature of the syntactic system is.

    My work involves developing generative theories of syntactic patterns, and investigating the consequences of these theories, both for particular languages and,  comparatively, across genetically unrelated languages.

    I’m fundamentally interested in how syntactic patterns relate to meanings: at its simplest, why does Lilly bit Anson mean something different from Anson bit Lilly? Obviously, order of words matters, but  how is the connection between order, structure and meaning negotiated?

    My other main interest is how theories of syntax can be used to handle the variable use of different syntactic patterns by a single individual, and whether these theories have anything to contribute to explaining probabilistic patterns we see in the use of different syntactic forms.

For my attempt to explain my work using just the most common 1000 words of English, see here.

My research


Department of Linguistics, SLLF

Queen Mary, University of London

Mile End Road, London E1 4NS

email: d then a dot then j then another dot then my surname followed by the at sign and qmul.ac.uk

phone: +44 (0)20 7882 8289

Office: ArtsOne 1.20

Office Hours:   variable. Email me.