Prof. David Willis


I specialise in historical linguistics and in theoretical and dialect syntax, working primarily on material from Celtic languages. I am interested in the mechanisms of syntactic variation and change, in syntactic reconstruction, and in the use of electronic corpora in historical linguistics. My previous research projects include the Historical Corpus of the Welsh Language, the Syntactic Atlas of Welsh Dialects, the History of Negation in the Languages of European and the Mediterranean, and I am currently working on projects to map dialect variation using social-media data and to examine the history of pronominal subjects in the Celtic, Germanic and Slavonic languages of northern Europe.



Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics


Undergraduate Teaching

Celtic languages and linguistics, History of the English language, syntax

Graduate Teaching

Celtic languages and linguistics

 I am currently a member of the Council of the Philological Society and have recently stepped down as an associate editor of Language, journal of the Linguistic Society of America. I have been a member of the editorial board of Journal of Linguistics, Linguistic Variation, Journal of Historical Syntax and Journal of Celtic Linguistics. I have also been honorary secretary and membership secretary of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain.


 Academic Background

MA Oxford (Russian and German) (1991)

MPhil. Oxford (General Linguistics) (1993)

DPhil. Oxford on word order in the history of Welsh (1996)

Mary Somerville Junior Research Fellow (Somerville College, Oxford) (1994–97)

British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Jesus College, Oxford) (1997–98)

Lecturer at the University of Manchester (1998–2000)

Lecturer, senior lecturer and reader at the University of Cambridge and fellow of Selwyn College (2000–2020)