Accessibility statement

Joel Wallenberg

Senior Lecturer



I am currently Senior Lecturer in Language Change at the University of York. Prior to that, I was a lecturer at Newcastle University, and I remain an affiliate of Newcastle's Centre for Behaviour and Evolution (CBE). Even before that, I worked for the National Science Foundation at the University of Iceland, where my collaborators and I built a syntactically parsed, diachronic corpus of Icelandic, The Icelandic Parsed Historical Corpus (IcePaHC).

My PhD is from the University of Pennsylvania, and my BA is from Stanford University. I grew up in San Francisco, California, USA.

Departmental Roles

  • Director of the UG English Language and Linguistics Programme (from Spring 2021-2022)
  • Lead for International Exchange and Recruitment




  • History of English II (LAN00001I-A)
  • Understanding English Grammar (Spring/Summer only)


  • Research Training Seminar (LAN00034M-A)



My research focuses on both empirical and theoretical work concerning language change over time, and what this can tell us about: linguistic structure, human cognition more generally, and cognition more generally. Much of my past work has focused on syntactic change in Germanic, but I also like phonology, other language families, and to look at language in the wide context of the evolution of complex animal cognition and behaviours.

My most current research focuses on the application of Information Theory to language, particularly language change in progress, and on the relationship between information spread in language and the declarative memory processes of recollection and familiarity. My ongoing research forms part of our ESRC-funded CAIL project: Constraints on the Adaptiveness of Information in Language.

Current projects

Constraints on the Adaptiveness of Information in Language (CAIL). This project investigates applications of information theory to syntactic change, the evolution of the human language faculty, and language use in the presence of noise (including memory-related interference). You can read more on the project website ( and in the project’s publications.



Selected publications

  • 2021. (With Anton Karl Ingason, Christine Cuskley, and Rachael Bailes). Smooth Signals and Syntactic Change. In Sina Bosch, Ilaria De Cesare, Ulrike Demske and Claudia Felser eds., Languages Special Issue, “New empirical approaches to grammatical variation and change”, Languages 6 (2): 60.
  • (With Christine Cuskley and Rachael Bailes). Noise resistance in communication: Quantifying uniformity and optimality. Cognition 214 (2021): 104754.
  • (With Iris Nowenstein, Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir, Charles Yang, and Anton Karl Ingason). The Meaning of Case: Morphosyntactic Bootstrapping and Icelandic Datives. In Megan M. Brown and Alexandra Kohut eds., BUCLD 44: Proceedings of the 44th annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, 402-415. Stanford: Cascadilla Press.
  • A variational theory of specialization in acquisition and diachrony. In Anne Breitbarth, Miriam Bouzouita, Lieven Danckaert and Melissa Farasyn eds., The Determinants of Diachronic Stability, John Benjamins.
  • Extraposition is Disappearing. Language 92, 4: e237-e256.
  • Antisymmetry and Heavy NP Shift Across Germanic. In George Walkden and Theresa Biberauer eds., Syntax over Time: Lexical, Morphological and Information-Structural Interactions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • (with Caroline Heycock) How variational acquisition drives syntactic change: the loss of verb movement in Scandinavian. Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics16.2-3: 127-157.
  • 2013. Scrambling, LF, and Phrase Structure Change in Yiddish. Lingua 133: 289-318.
  • (with Josef Fruehwald and Jonathan Gress-Wright). Phonological Rule Change: The Constant Rate Effect. In Seda Kan, Claire Moore-Cantwell, and Robert Staubs eds., Proceedings of the 40th Annual Meeting of the Northeast Linguistic Society (NELS).
  • Language Acquisition in German and Phrase Structure Change in Yiddish. In Charlotte Galves, Sonia Cyrino, Ruth Lopes, Filomena Sandalo, and Juanito Avelar. Parameter Theory and Linguistic Change. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • (with Eiríkur Rögnvaldsson, Einar Freyr Sigurðsson, and Anton Karl Ingason). Sögulegi íslenski trjábankinn. [The historical Icelandic treebank.] Gripla 23: 331–352.
  • 2012c. (with Eiríkur Rögnvaldsson, Einar Freyr Sigurðsson, and Anton Karl Ingason). The Icelandic Parsed Historical Corpus (IcePaHC). Proceedings of LREC2012.

Contact details

Joel Wallenberg
Senior Lecturer
Department of Language and Linguistic Science
Vanbrugh College C Block
Room : V/B/122

Tel: 01904 322662