I retired in 2011 from the Department of Linguistics after working since 1970 in the Seminarium van Algemene Taalwetenschap, as it was then called.
I still do linguistic research. For this see my research page.
Backgound and Languages
I come from Scotland. At present Scotland could be described as a trilingual country, in terms of native (autochthonous) languages. These languages are as follows, ordered according to the numbers of spreakers:
1) Scottish (Standard) English
2) Scots (a.k.a. Broad Scots, Lallans)
3) (Scottish) Gaelic
There are also a number of extinct languages, two Celtic and one Germanic, which also interest me – Cumbric (which could be described as a dialect of Welsh), Pictish, and Norn (a form of Norse).
I am interested in questions of segmental and syllabic structure. The theoretical model I use is Dependency Phonology, within an Optimality Theory Framework. Relevant concerns are the representation of Vowel Harmony, questions of Lenition, and the relationship between syllable and foot structure.
2) Creole Studies
I also do research on creole languages, mixed languages, mixed creoles and secret languages. This research falls under the ACLC research group Talking about Learners, and has two major themes:
a) Atlantic English Creoles: This theme concerns principally the formation of the Atlantic creoles. I claim that this happened very rapidl. All the Atlantic creoles are related, and shared a common starting point. This starting point was probably on Barbados, and reflects the history of English (later British) colonization.
b) Bargoens, Jenisch and Rotwelsch: This theme concerns a type of secret language, formerly common among various groups of so-called Travellers and members of other subcultures in the Low Countries and the German-speaking areas of Europe. In such languages common words are replaced, resulting in non-comprehension by outsiders.
3) Revitalizing older linguistic documentation (ROLD)
I participate in the ROLD research group. This involves two research major sub-projects:
a) YokDoc: The reconstitution in particular of data collected in the 18th and 19th centuries by amateur linguists, anthropologists and missionaries on the Yokuts languages spoken in the Southern Central Valley of California.
b) ScotPlace: Another aspect of my ROLD research concerns the evidence to be found in reconstituted forms of Scottish place-names. This is an interdisciplinary project concerning the early forms of place-names, which have been shown to have relevance for the Early Medieval period of Scottish history. This has provided much evidence for the history of a period that used to be referred to as the Dark Ages.