Williams, Lowri

Williams, Lowri
Start date:
October 2023
Research Topic:
A functional description of the Verb-Noun in Welsh
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Dr Andreas Buerki, Dr David Schonthal and Dr Iwan Rees
Supervising school:
School of English, Communication & Philosophy,
Primary funding source:

This project will build on preliminary work by Fontaine and Williams (2021) to develop a description of the Welsh language through the Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) framework.

I intend to focus my research primarily on the verb-noun (Welsh: berfenw): a word class which does not exist in most other Indo-European languages. The verb-noun has been an enduring interest for scholars owing to its perceived ambiguous nature as neither fully verbal nor nominal, although the dearth of analysis conducted to date has largely been through generative frameworks devoid of ‘real’ data, e.g. Willis (1988) and Borseley et al. (2007).

In contrast with these formal approaches, proponents of SFL view language as a meaning-making resource, placing function and context front-and-centre in their analysis. Language and context are therefore interdependent: a language simultaneously constructs – and is constructued by – the community or culture in which it’s used (Thompson 2014). There is, however, no expectation that all languages (or indeed cultures) will be constructued in the same way: for a theory to be considered robust and flexible, it must contain as many varieties as possible (Fontaine 2006). The need for a functional description of Welsh is therefore evident, not only to expand our understanding of Welsh and the wider Celtic language family, but also to enhance the SFL framework itself.

It will draw on methods developed in the field of corpus linguistics to conduct a study in which the relevant Welsh language data are systematically identified, collected, and analysed, thus responding to calls from Gibson and Fedorenko (2013) and Lindquist (2009) for the use of empirical research methods in the production of language descriptions.