Name: Melanie Green
Position: Reader in Linguistics and English Language
Institution: University of Sussex
Role in PhilSoc: Council Member
How did you become a linguist – was there a decisive event, or was it a gradual development?
Somewhere between doing my A-levels (in English, French and Latin) and applying for university, when I found the SOAS prospectus in the school cupboard. At that point I realised that studying language didn’t have to mean studying literature, and I applied to study Hausa at SOAS. In my final year, I took a course that focused on the linguistic description of Hausa (taught by Professor Philip Jaggar), and it was this course that led me upstairs to the Linguistics Department, where I then took my MA and PhD.
What was the topic of your doctoral thesis? Do you still believe in your conclusions?
My doctoral thesis was on focus and copular constructions in Hausa, and offered a minimalist analysis. I still believe in the descriptive conclusions, which relate to the grammaticalisation of non-verbal copula into focus marker, but I’m less convinced these days by formal theory. I still enjoy teaching it though, because I think it makes students think carefully (and critically) about formal similarities and differences between languages.
On what project / topic are you currently working?
Together with Gabriel Ozon at Sheffield and Miriam Ayafor at Yaounde I, I’ve just completed a BA/Leverhulme funded project to build a pilot spoken corpus of Cameroon Pidgin English. Based on this corpus, Miriam and I co-authored a descriptive grammar of the variety, which is in press.
What directions in the future do you see your research taking?
In my dreams, typologically-framed language documentation. In reality, probably more corpus linguistics, since this seems to be what attracts funding at the moment.
How did you get involved with the Philological Society?
The PhilSoc published my first book, Focus in Hausa.
Do you have a favourite language – and if so, why?
Minimalism or LFG?
Teaching or Research?
Do you have a linguistic pet peeve?
Looking to the Future
Is there something that you would like to change in academia / HE?
I would like there to be more funding for language documentation. Languages are dying faster than we can describe them.
(How) Do you manage to have a reasonable work-life balance?
I do, but that only became possible in mid-career. I achieve it with careful planning, so when I’m off work, I’m really off work.
What is your prime tip for younger colleagues?
Start publishing as early as possible.