AMC-award-winning student Rebecka Elm takes LAGB prize


Rebecka Elm, the recipient of the AMC and LAGB prizes

The AMC is delighted to announce that Rebecka Elm (BA Hons. in Linguistics and English Language from the University of Edinburgh) has been awarded the prestigious Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB) Outstanding Undergraduate Dissertation in Linguistics prize. Rebecka was nominated for the prize after being the recipient of our own Angus McIntosh Centre prize for the best first-class Honours dissertation in Linguistics and/or English Language (shared with Nina Markl).

Her much-accoladed dissertation was supervised by Dr. Rob Truswell and bears the title: The diachronic development of substitutive ᴅᴏ in Old to Middle French and Middle English: A comparative study using parsed corpora.

During her studies, Rebecka became interested in parsed corpora as a methodology for studying language change. She tells us: “I got in touch with Rob Truswell, who pointed me to Miller (1997), the only paper to discuss the existence of substitutive ᴅᴏ in Old and Middle French. Miller observes that this construction, which is commonly used in Modern English, was found in Old French and Middle French but disappeared somewhere along the way to Modern French. I thought it would be interesting to use diachronic corpus data to compare how this feature evolved in French and English respectively.”

Rebecka’s disseration results show that a particular, typologically rare syntactic construction – substitutive ᴅᴏ – existed in both French and English in the period after the Norman invasion. Interestingly, her corpus data shows that the feature developed independently in the two languages, at different rates and with different start and end points – not as a result of contact influence.

“This poses interesting questions to be answered by future research,” she tells us “what is it about these two languages that allowed this to come about, and which factors led to the decline and subsequent disappearance of French substitutive ᴅᴏ?”

Originally from Stockholm, Rebecka is also keenly interested in French, which she took at pre-Honours level. “I especially enjoyed analysing the 12th-century Lais de Marie de France, and spending some time in France on Erasmus exchange” she says.

Rebecka hopes to work in a field that allows her to use the knowledge and skills she honed during her Linguistics and English Language at Edinburgh, and maybe eventually return to postgraduate study.

Congratulations and best wishes for a bright future, Rebecka!


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