Linguistics is engaged with language in general, rather than individual languages, although descriptions of individual languages are the raw material for linguistics theories. This sometimes concerns languages that are not researched by other departments of the faculty. 

Linguistic research concerns phonetics and phonology and the structure and significance of words and sentences (grammar). Research involves the analysis of sentences and small texts in individual languages, interviews with language users concerning their language, statistical surveys of large text collections, and comparisons of individual phenomena in hundreds of languages and experiments. The purpose is to respond to questions such as the following:

  • How are the individual languages structured?
  • What are the limits to linguistic variation, and why?
  • Which characteristics of the linguistic input determine the perception and understanding of linguistic expression and content?
  • What are the neural, cognitive and social preconditions for language?
  • And vice versa: what can language study tell us about the brain, cognition and communicative interaction?
  • Which general laws govern linguistic change over time, and why?
  • How is language acquired as a mother tongue or second language?

Linguistic research may also be based on a societal or individual problem that involves language. This might e.g. be improving the teaching of children with various difficulties, language testing or people's use of computers. Current research at the department concerns the language of children with autism, in order to investigate the relation between cognition and language, and to examine where a special effort can be made in teaching children with autism.

Linguistic knowledge is also useful to the development of appropriate materials for use in teaching language as a mother tongue and foreign language, and in speech technology contexts. This requires very careful analysis of human language sounds; not just the pronunciation of individual words, but also the pronunciation of words and sentence intonation in cohesive sentences. Current research at the department concerns the significance of pronunciation variations for language attitudes and language change, as well as the relation between sentence intonation and the grammatical and pragmatic characteristics of language.

Linguistic knowledge is also of vital significance to understanding aphasia (language defect as a consequence of brain damage). In cooperation with brain scientists from other faculties at the University of Copenhagen, current research at the department concerns the neural basis for grammar, in order to develop methods for the diagnosis and subsequent treatment of agrammatic aphasia (defect in the ability to produce and understand grammar).

Research groups and collective projects

See finished projects.


Boye, KasperAssociate professor +45 353-28654E-mail
Engberg-Pedersen, ElisabethProfessor +45 353-28664E-mail
Fortescue, Michael DavidProfessor emeritus  E-mail
Grønnum, NinaAssociate professor emeritus +45 353-37966E-mail
Kristensen, Line BurholtAssociate professor +45 353-28122E-mail
Pharao, NicolaiAssociate professor +45 353-28647E-mail
Søby, Katrine FalconPhD Fellow +45 353-26252E-mail
Tøndering, JohnAssociate professor, head of studies +45 353-28652E-mail