OSU Department of Linguistics

OSU Department of Slavic
Languages and Literatures


Brian D. Joseph


Distinguished University Professor of Linguistics


Kenneth E. Naylor Professor
South Slavic Linguistics

Research Areas

My main areas of interest can be categorized as follows: historical linguistics, Greek linguistics, Balkan linguistics, and morphological theory, with secondary areas of interest being language and ethnicity, Sanskrit linguistics, and Indo-European linguistics in general.

My central scholarly focus throughout my career has been the study of how languages change through time. I have been guided, moreover, by the belief that the study of language change is crucial to understanding the nature of human language in general, since languages are not static, unchanging entities, but rather are continually in flux. Whatever insights have emerged from my work have come largely through the examination of how one language, Greek, has developed from prehistoric times (c. 2000 BC) up through the present, thus covering a span of some 4000 years. At the same time, working on the premise that to be a good historical linguist, one must be a good linguist, I have tried to contribute to the analysis of the Greek language at various periods in its development, but especially the Modern Greek stage.

In doing this, inasmuch as a detailed understanding of the workings of a single language is a good basis from which to understand human language more generally, I have worked toward the development of a general theory of human linguistic competence that focuses on how speakers strike a balance between generalizing over limited sets of language data and learning highly particularized information about individual lexical items, grammatical suffixes and prefixes, and constructions. Finally, working on the historical development of Greek, a language which has been in close contact with numerous other languages throughout its history, has led me into the study of what happens under conditions of intense contact between speakers of different languages, and specifically the special circumstances that have led to convergences among the languages of the Balkans in the past millennium.

For all my interest in matters of grammar and change, in recent years, in a sense as an outgrowth of my interest in language contact, I have come to be more and more interested in the social side of language use by members of a speech community. And that, in turn, has led me to consider issues of language sustainability -- what makes a language "work" for its speakers and how the general "ecology" of the language contributes to matters of usage and guides speaker choices and language development in the individual and in the community. Some of my current projects reflect these interests.

Current Projects

My current projects are as follows:

1. a book surveying the Balkan languages and the Balkan sprachbund, co-authored
with Victor Friedman (this will be published by Cambridge University Press and should appear in 2019).

2. a book-length study of the development of the weak pronouns of Modern Greek,
and especially a highly restricted weak nominative pronoun, a development which
has interesting consequences for grammaticalization theory (this has been in the
works for a long time but I hope to have it finished by the end of 2020; it will be
published by Oxford University Press).

3. serving as Co-Editor of JOURNAL OF GREEK LINGUISTICS.

4. serving as director of the newly created (as of August 2018) Laboratory for Greek Dialectology (Εργαστήριο για την Ελληνική Διαλεκτολογία), within the Dept of Linguistics; visit https://u.osu.edu/greekdialectology/ for an overview of the work going on in the lab.

5. three inter-related projects having to do with language sustainability:

--a study of the Greek of southern Albania, with particular attention to its
dialectological status within Greek on the one hand, and to the factors, on the other hand,
that have allowed the language to thrive in the past couple of hundred years
(this work is being done jointly with Dr. Christopher Brown of the OSU Dept of Classics, Dr. Aristotelis Spirou of Athens, Greece, Dr. Andrey Sobolev of St. Petersburg, Russia, and Dr. Alexander Novik of St. Petersburg, Russia)

--a study of the effects of urbanization on Lithuanian, particularly with regard to
the lexicon; this is being investigated via psycholinguistic experiments in the field in Lithuania and is part of a broader study of the effects of urbanization on Lithuanian eco-systems, with this notion to be understood in a broad sense (this work is being done jointly with Dr. Mazeika Sullivan of the OSU School of Environment and Natural Resources)

--the Herodotos Project, a project aimed at developing a web-based portal for
information about the ethnohistory of the ancient Classical world; we are now in a computational phase in which, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, we are developing Named Entity Recognition software for Latin and Greek to automatically find group names and other proper nouns in classical texts (visit https://u.osu.edu/herodotos/ for an overview of the project and information of our results). This work is being done jointly with Dr. Christopher Brown of the OSU Dept of Classics, Dr. Micha Elsner of the OSU Dept of Linguistics, and Dr. Marie-Catherine de Marneffe of the OSU Dept of Linguistics, with considerable help from Alex Erdmann, a Ph.D. candidate in computational linguistics at OSU.

Viewable Materials from my Classes

Click here for materials from my Introduction to Sanskrit class (Sanskrit 621 (now = Sanskrit 5902))

Click here for materials from my Introduction to Historical Linguistics class (Linguistics 611 (now = Linguistics 5901))

Recent Conferences Organized

2nd International Conference on Modern Greek Dialects and Linguistic Theory (2004)

Annual OSU Martin Luther King Day Linguistics Symposia

6th International Conference on Modern Greek Dialects and Linguistic Theory (2014), University of Patras (September 25-27)

Handouts from Recent Conference Presentations and Invited Lectures

Click here for handouts from presentations on ANALOGY

Click here for handouts from presentations on RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN BIOLOGY AND LINGUISTICS

Work Address

Department of Linguistics
The Ohio State University
222 Oxley Hall
Columbus, Ohio 43210-1298
(614) 292-4052 / FAX: 614-292-8833


[current as of November 2018]

[ => List of Downloadable Publications]



Brian D Joseph