Paul O'Neill


Ext: 24401
Room: 2.34

Paul completed his undergraduate degree in Classics and Spanish at the University of Oxford (Brasenose College). He then moved to Madrid to carry out the Spanish equivalent of a MPhil in Lingüística Teórica y sus Aplicaciones at the Instituto Universitario de Investigación Ortega y Gasset affiliated to the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. He wrote his MPhil thesis on the phonetics of the Andalusian variety of Spanish.

He returned to Oxford (Linacre College) and completed a DPhil on 'The Ibero-Romance Verb: allomorphy and the notion of the morphome' in relation with a Research Project entitled "Autonomous Morphology in Diachrony: comparative evidence from Romance Languages".

Before working for the University of Sheffield, Paul was a University Teacher in Hispanic Linguistics at the University of Liverpool

Paul's research focuses on variation and change in the Ibero-Romance Languages (Spanish, Catalan Portuguese, Galician, Asturian, Aragonese) and specifically on the varieties of Portuguese and Spanish spoken around the world. He is interested in detailing and explaining historical and current changes in these languages and using his data to address the big questions in linguistic theory – namely, how language is mentally represented and the interplay between storage and computation. He maintains that language should not be studied as a self-contained system without reference to its usage, history and structure and studied in isolation to other human cognitive and developmental skills. He views grammar as emergent and shaped by both internal and external linguistic factors. He is particularly interested in Word-and-Pattern models of Morphology and how such models can help in explaining linguistic change 

Paul is currently writing two books which are under contract with Oxford University Press. The Oxford History of Spanish Morphology, and, The Oxford History of Portuguese and Galician Morphology.

Paul is keen to explore ways in which his research can have a tangible impact upon policies, individuals and societies. He is currently developing the following project on language, language teaching, education and linguistic prejudice. 

Variation and Change in Language: Combatting linguistic prejudice and discrimination through knowledge and understanding and providing valuable data for linguistic research and language learning.

He who thus considers things in their first growth and origin ... will obtain the clearest view of them. (Aristotle)

Linguistics is the scientific study of human language which aims not only to unveil the complex structures which underpin language and how these are mentally represented but also to understand how language plays a role in shaping how we view others and how other people view us. Language variation and change is interesting in this context since it can provide linguists with essential information on the cognitive representation of language since changes can reveal the implicit patterns and covert principles which govern language structure and can increase our understanding of the history of the language in a particular country and the people who brought that language to the country. However, in society, deviations from the established linguistic norm are often perceived in a negative way. This is particularly the case in the countries of the former Portuguese and Spanish Empires.

Depending on the country, the form of the standard language can be radically different from that spoken by the great majority of the population, who can be considered as speaking incorrectly and, at times, in a polluted, debased and denigrated way. Such attitudes can have negative effects on well-being, self-esteem and perceptions of self-worth, not only for individual or groups but entire nations: We can’t even manage to speak Portuguese/Spanish correctly!

In some countries, there can exist a correlation between language variety, social success and wealth, and, for some, this correlation is an inherent and deterministic one: the rich are socially and economically more successful and have more opportunities due to their enhanced mental abilities and rationality. Their way of speaking reflects these aspects and is contrasted with the irrational, spontaneous, illogical, albeit creative underclass and their speech. The result is linguistic prejudice and discrimination.

It is not surprising, therefore, that some sections of the population do not fully engage with the establishment and the education system. Language can be an intrinsic and important marker of individual and group identity. Linguistic prejudice can place speakers in situations in which they feel inherently inferior and incompetent, or whereby acquiring education can imply renouncing their way of speaking and the concomitant affiliations with their social group. Contrastively not acquiring the standard can make speakers feel condemned to a life of poverty and disenfranchised from society. Knowledge to write and speak formally is vital for social and economic advancement; the education system should therefore teach this skill but at the same time not discriminate against non-standard varieties, or other native languages, and be aware of the linguistic reality of the country and its inhabitants.

The blindingly obvious solution is to make society aware that the standard is only one of many varieties of the language; it is no better, more elegant or necessarily more linguistically complex than any other variety but merely the variety which for socio-political and historical reasons is the standard. This point has been made by linguists and even by some political parties, but linguistic prejudices are so ingrained that the scientifically sound facts of linguistics are interpreted as opinions from the far-left.

One must educate through knowledge and understanding and not pure statement. The project therefore aims to carry out recordings on poorly documented varieties of Portuguese and Spanish in Europe, America and Africa and to use this knowledge bank to:

  • (a) explain in scientific but accessible terms, exactly why the varieties are different, and help speakers to understand that non-standard varieties are not bad or incorrect forms of communication.
  • (b) inform research on linguistic theory
  • (c) provide resources for language teaching.

In this way, linguists are provided with valuable data, students with useful resources and speakers with necessary information and explanations. It is hoped that speakers will realise that the standard is only one of many varieties and one which has changed in similar and different ways to their own variety. Furthermore, an understanding of how and why varieties are different should help to eradicate the perceived causal relationship between physical, mental and social attributes with particular varieties of language


Chapters in Books

O’Neill, P (in press) Near Synonymy in Morphological Structures: Why Catalans can abolish constitutions but Portuguese and Spanish speakers can’t. In Enghels, R & M. Bouzouita (eds.), Lenguas iberorrománicas en contraste. [Language in Contrast series]. Amsterdam: Benjamins

O´Neill, P. (in press). Velar Allomorphy in Ibero-Romance: roots, endings and clashes of morphomes. In M. Bouzouita, I. Sitaridou & E. Pato, (eds.), Studies in Historical Ibero-Romance Morphosyntax. [Issues in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics series]. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

O’Neill, P. (2016). Lexicalism, the Principle of Morphology-free Syntax and the Principle of Syntax-free Morphology. In A. Hippisley & G. Stump (eds), The Cambridge Handbook of Morphology (pp 237-272). Cambridge: CUP.

O'Neill, P. (2014). Similar and differing patterns of allomorphy in the Spanish and Portuguese verbs. In P. Amaral & A. M. Carvalho, (eds), Portuguese/Spanish interfaces (pp. 175-202). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

O'Neill, P. (2013). Morphomes and morphosyntactic/semantic features. In S. Cruschina, M. Maiden, & J.-C. Smith, Boundaries of Pure Morphology: Diachronic and Synchronic Perspectives (pp 221-247). Oxford: OUP.

O'Neill, P. (2011). The notion of the Morphome. In M. Goldbach, M. Maiden, & J.-C. Smith, Morphological Autonomy: Perspectives from Romance Inflectional Morphology. Oxford: OUP.

O'Neill, P. (2011). El morfoma en el asturiano: diacronía y sincronía . In Homenaxe a Xosé Lluís García Arías (Vol. 1. 319-348). Oviedo: Academia de la Llingua Asturiana.

Maiden, M., & O'Neill, P. (2010). Morphomic Defectiveness. In M. Baerman, G. Corbett, & D. Brown, Defective Paradigms: Missing Forms and What They Tell Us (pp. 103-124). London: OUP/British Academy.

Maiden, M., Swearingen, A., & O'Neill, P. (2010). Imperative Morphology in Diachrony. In M. Dufresne, F. Dupuis, & E. Vocaj, Historical Linguistics 2007 (pp 99-108). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

O'Neill, P. (2008). La fonación murmurada y la preaspiración en andaluz. In A. Pamies, & E. Melguizo, New Trends in Experimental Phonetics. Special Issue (1) of Language Design (pp. 193-200). Granda: Método.

Pamies, A., Amorós, M. C., & O'Neill, P. (2008). Esquemas entonativos de frase declarativa en el habla de Jaén. In A. Pamies, & M. &. Amorós, Experimental Prosody. Special Issue (2) of Language Design (pp. 191-202). Granada: Método.

Pamies, A., Amorós, M. C., & O'Neill, P. (2007). Esquemas entonativos declarativos en el habla de Almería. In J. Dorta, La prosodía en el ámbito lingüístico románico (pp. 299-311). Santa Cruz de Tenerife: La página ediciones.


O´Neill, P (2015). The Origin and Spread of Velar Allomorphy in the Spanish Verb. Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 92(5):489-518 

O'Neill, P (2014). The morphome in constructive and abstractive models of morphology. Morphology 24: 25-70.

Pato, E & O'Neill, P (2013). Los gerundios analógicos en la Historia del español (e iberorromance). Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica 61(1): 1-27

O´Neill, P. (2011). Alternancias vocálicas en el presente de los verbos en -ir. Un análisis desde la Morfología Autónoma. Revista de la Historia de la Lengua Española 6:87-129

O´Neill, P. (2011). New perspectives on the effects of yod in Ibero-Romance. Bulletin of Spanish Studies 89:5, 665-697.

O'Neill, P. (2011). The Evolution of 'el pretérito y tiempos afines' in Ibero-Romance. Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 88:851-878.

O'Neill, P. (2010). Una explicación teórica de la defectividad verbal en la lengua española. Boletín de la Real Academia Española, 302:265-289.

O'Neill, P. (2010). Variación y cambio en las consonantes oclusivas del español de Andalucía. Estudios de Fonética Experimental, 19:11-41.

O'Neill, P. (2009). Los verbos defectivos en la lengua española: estudio sincrónico y diacrónico descriptivo basado en datos de corpus. Boletín de la Real Academia Española, 300:255-287.

O'Neill, P. (2009). El pretérito y tiempos averaos nel Dominiu Llingüísticu Ástur: formes diferentes pero non dixebraes. Lletres Asturianes, 100:27-41.

O'Neill, P. (2005). Final /s/ in Western Andalusian Spanish: the phonetic neutralization of a phonological contrast. Language Design, 7:151-166.

Working Papers

O'Neill, P. (2009b). The effect of s-aspiration on occlusives in Andalusian Spanish. In `. O´. Parker Jones, & E. Payne, Oxford University Working Papers in Linguistics, Philology & Phonetics (Vol. 12, pp. 73-86).

Conference Proceedings

Goldbach, M., Hinzelin, M.-O., Maiden, M., O´Neill, P., Smith, J. C., & Swearingen, A. (2007b) À la recherche de l´arbitraire dans la morphologie diachronique et comparative du verbe roman: syncrétisme et supplétisme verbaux. In M. Iliescu, H. Siller-Runggaldier, & P. Danler (Ed.), XXVe Congrès International de Linguistique et Philologie Romanes (Innsbruck, 3-8 septembre 2007). Tübingen: Niemeyer.

O'Neill, P. (2006). La resolución del elemento sibilante en el andaluz. V Congreso Andaluz de Lingüística General. Homenaje al Molina Redondo. 1, pp. 513-523. Granda: Granada Lingvistica.

Edited Volumes

Fabregas, A., Gil, I. & O´Neill P. (2005) Cuadernos de Lingüística XII, Madrid. Instituto Universitario Ortega y Gasset.

Talks and Presentations

*July 2017 ‘La hipótesis de la integridad léxica, la interfaz morfología-sintaxis y lo puramente morfológico’. Presented at a workshop on the relationship between Morphology and Syntax entitled ‘Variación en la interfaz morfología-sintaxis’ at the Universitat de Girona, Spain.

July 2017 ‘Perspectivas novas para a história do verbo português’. Presented at IV Congresso Internacional de Linguística Histórica, Universidade de Lisboa.

April 2017 ‘El cambio fonético en el español: el caso de la aspiración’. Presented at the VI Joranadas Internacionales de Lingüística Hispánica. Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal.

*March 2017 ‘Perspectivas novas para a historia da morfologia galega-portuguesa’. Presented at the Grupo de Morfologia Histórica do Português, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil.

*March 2017 ‘O preconceito lingüístico e a lingüística histórica’. Presented at the Departamento de Letras Estrangeiras Modernas, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

*March 2017 ‘La representación mental del léxico y el cambio lingüístico’. Presented at the Department of Spanish Phililogy at the Universidad de Concepción, Chile.

*March 2017 ‘Los cambio fonéticos en el español: pasado, presente y futuro’. Presented at the Department of Spanish Philology at the Universidad de Concepción, Chile.

*March 2017 ‘¿Existen los morfemas y los fonemas?’. Presented at the Department of Linguistics and Spanish Philology at the Universidad Católica de Chile.

April 2016 ‘Elementos similares da morfologia entre a morfologia do portugues e do espanhol’. Presented at the V Jornadas de Lingüística Hispánica. Centros y periferias, Universidade de Lisboa.

April 2016 ‘Teaching Medieval and Early-Modern Spanish: the problem of the texts’. Presented at the Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland, University of Northumbria.

Jan. 2016 ‘Aspiration: the new YOD!’. Presented at the Romance Linguistics Seminar, University of Cambridge, UK.

Dec. 2015 ‘Defectivity in Ibero-Romance: why Catalans can abolish constitutions but Spanish and Portuguese speakers can’. Presented at Iberocon 2015, University of Ghent, Belgium.

*May. 2015 ‘Lecciones de la morfología histórica para la teoría morfológica’. Presented at the University of Girona.

April 2015 ‘Spanish Linguistics and Teaching Spanish Pronunciation’. Presented at the Annual Conference of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland, University of Exeter, UK.

*March 2015 ‘Diachronic contributions to synchronic theories of morphology: evidence from Romance verb morphology.’ Presented at the Romance Linguistics Seminar, University of Oxford, UK.

*Feb. 2015. ‘Sound change in Andalusian Spanish’. Presented to the Departement of Spanish and Portuguese, University of California, Berkeley. USA.

Feb. 2013 'Defective Verbs in Russian, Spanish and Portuguese.' Presented at the School of Languages and Cultures Research Seminar Series (University of Sheffield).

Sept 2012 'Nuevas perspectivas sobre los efectos de la yod desinencial en el verbo español'.  Presented at the IX Congreso Internacional de la Historia de la Lengua Española, Cádiz, Spain.

Sept. 2012 'Quisiendo por queriendo: Condicionamiento fonológico y cambio morfológico en los gerundios "analógicos"del español' Presented with Enrique Pato (Université de Montréal) at the IX Congreso Internacional de la Historia de la Lengua Española, Cádiz, Spain. 

April 2012 'Yod or no Yod: Metaphony and Allomorphy in the Ibero-Romance Verb.' Presented at The 2nd Cambridge Colloquium on the Histories of the Ibero-Romance Languages. Queen's College, Cambridge, UK.

April 2012 'History repeating itself: changes in Southern Peninsular Spanish pronunciation.' Presented at the annual conference of the Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland, Sterling, Scotland.

Jan. 2012 'Morphological complexity and the morphome.'Presented at the International Conference on Morphological Complexity, British Academy, London (organised by the Surrey Morphology Group)

July 2011 'The effect of yod on the verb in Ibero-Romance and autonomous morphological structures.' Presented at the 20th International Conference on Historical Linguistics, Osaka, Japan.

July 2011 'Differences between morphemic and morphomic structure.' Presented at the 20th International Conference on Historical Linguistics, Osaka, Japan.

Oct. 2010 `The morphome and morphosyntactic features´ Presented at the Second Oxford Workshop on Romance Verb Morphology Oxford, U.K.

Jan. 2010 `New aspirated occlusive phonemes in Andalusian Spanish.´ Presented at the XXXVIII Romance Linguistic Seminar, Cambridge, U.K.

March. 2009`What do they speak in the South of Spain? Spanish? Andalusian Spanish? Just Andaluz´. Presented at the SOCLAS Romance Linguistics Seminar, University of Liverpool, U.K.

Feb. 2009 `Mind the Gap: defectivity in the verbal paradigm. A corpus based account´. Presented at the Language Research Seminar, University of Liverpool, U.K.

Nov. 2008.`Los verbos defectivos en el Ibero-Romance´. Presented at the XIII Forum of Iberian Studies, Oxford, U.K.

Aug. 2008 `Morphomes, Morphemes and Morphological Segmentation: Evidence from Ibero-Romance´. Presented at the First Oxford Workshop on Romance Verb Morphology Oxford, U.K.

May. 2008 `The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the Morphome in Ibero-Romance´ Presented at the Oxford Romance Linguistic Seminar, Oxford, U.K.

April 2008 `On Morphomic Defectiveness´. Presented with Martin Maiden at the Defective Paradigms Workshop at the British Academy, London, U.K.

April 2008`El origen y propagación del diptongo [je] en el pretérito y tiempos afines´. Presented at the VIII Congreso Nacional del AJHILE, Barcelona, Spain.

Feb. 2008 `La fonética de la /s/ implosiva andaluza en el interior de palabra´. Presented at the IV Conferencia de Fonética Experimental, Granada, Spain.

Feb. 2008 `Esquemas entonativos de frase declarativa en el habla de Jaén´. Presented with Antonio Pamiés and Mari Cruz Amorós at the IV Conferencia de Fonética Experimental, Granda, Spain

Jan. 2008 `The Development of the Castilian Desinences for `el pretérito y tiempos afines´ a Comparative View from Ibero-Romance.´ Presented at the XXXVI Romance Linguistic Seminar, Cambridge, U.K.

Aug. 2007 `Imperative Morphology in Diachrony: evidence from the Romance Languages´. Presented with Martin Maiden and Andrew Swearingen at the XVIII International Conference on Historical Linguistics, Montreal, Canada.

Dec. 2006 `La diptongación como proceso morfológico´. Presented at the 36 Simposio de la Sociedad Española de Lingüística. Madrid, Spain.

Dec. 2004 `La resolución del elemento sibilante en el andaluz´. Presented at the V Congreso Andaluz de Lingüística General. Homenaje a Molina Redondo. Granada, Spain