John R. Costello

Professor of Linguistics
Ph.D., 1968, NYU, (German Linguistics); M.A., 1966, NYU, (Germanic Linguistics); B.A., 1964, Wagner, (German Literature).

Office Address:

Department of Linguistics
New York University
10 Washington Place, #313
New York, NY 10003

Phone: 212-998-7948
Fax: 212-995-4707

Areas of Research/Interest
Historical linguistics; diachronic syntax; first and second language acquisition; languages in contact.

Academic activity and research interest

I am a historical Linguist; my major areas of interest are (a) the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European syntax; (b) thereconstruction of Proto-Indo-European phonology; and (c) linguistic change in Pennsylvania German.

My approach to the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European syntax is based upon the application of the ComparativeMethod to syntax (presented in Syntactic Change and Syntactic Reconstruction); the goal is to reconstruct the syntacticconstructions and their constituents, for a proto-language. This approach is in stark contrast to that presented in Lehmann'sProto-Indo-European Syntax, and similar publications, which aim at reconstructing the word-order typology ofProto-Indo-European. Among the constructions that I have investigated are absolutes, relative clauses, and periphrasic verbphrases (modal and passive).

My current work in the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European Phonology has focused on the problematic nature of theglottalic theory; in recent papers presented at conferences of the International Linguistic Association I have discussed thephonological development of glottalics, and the use of the glottalic theory to account for Grassmann's Law.

My interest in Pennsylvania German concentrates on the changes thatcan be identified as having occured during the timethat native speakers were acquiring that language and their secondlanguage, English. Many of these changes do not fit intothe rigid categories of change commonly identified in linguisticstudies. In particular, I investigate syntactic change and lexicalchange which has brought about syntactic change. While this research isprimarily diachronic, it naturally touches on theareas of linguistic variation as well as first and second languageacquisition. Much of what can be observed in this type oflanguage change has implications for the reconstruction ofproto-languages.

In addition to carrying out the above research, I edit WORD (journal of the International Linguistic Association) whichpublishes articles on hte structure, function, and historical development of natural languages, and on theoretical questionsrelated to these areas.

Curriculum Vitae

Selected Publications

(1996) "Remarks on Linguistic Convergence, Lexical Syncretism, and Cognition: The Merger of 'bitte' and 'fraage' in the Pennsylvania German of Anabaptists in Lancaster County." Language and Lives. Essays in Honor if Werner Enninger, ed. by James R. Dow and Michele Wolff. New York: Peter Lang.

(1995) "Theory and Data in Phonological Reconstruction: Whence and Whither?" WORD, Vol. 46, 9-12.

(1993a) "Modal Auxiliaries in Proto-Indo-European," Comparative-Historical Linguistics, Indo-European and Finno-Ugric, Papers in Honor of Oswald Szemerenyi III, ed. by Bela Brogyanyi and Rainer Lipp. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Pp. 73-90.

(1993b) "The Periphrastic 'duh-Construction in Anabaptist and Nonsectarian Pennsylvania German: Syncronic and Diachronic Perspectives." Diachronic studies on the Language of the Anabaptists, ed. by Kate Burridge and Werner Enniger. Bochum:Universitaetsverlag Dr. N. Brockmeyer. Pp. 242-263.

(1989) "Innovations Increasing Syntactic Complexity in the Native Language of Bilingual Children from 5 to 10: The Case for Pennslyvania German." Studies on the Languages and Verbal Behavior of the Pennsylvania Germans II, ed. by Werner Enninger et al. Stuttgart:Franz Steiner Verlag. Pp 3-16.

(1986a) Relative Clauses in Proto-Indo-European: A Syntagmemic Reconstruction." Language in Global Perspective: Papers in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Summer Institute of Linguistics. Pp. 233-249.

(1986b) "Diglossia at Twilight: German and Pennsylvania 'Dutch' in the Mid-Nineteenth Century." Studies on the Language and Verbal Behavior of the Pennsylvania Germans I, ed. by Werner Enninger. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag. Pp. 1-24.

(1984) "The Periphrastic Passive Construction in Proto-Indo-European." WORD, Vol. 35, 125-161.

Syntactic Change and Syntactic Reconstruction. Dallas:Summer Institute of Linguistics and University of Texas at Arlington.

(1982) "The Absolute Construction in Indo-European: A Syntagmemic Reconstruction." The Journal of Indo-European Studies, Vol. 10, 235-252.

Supervised dissertations in Progress

Daher, Jamil. "Diglossia: The Case of Arabic in Syria"
Fioretta, Josef. "Noun Modifier Inflection in Germanic: A Morphological System in Flux."


President of Beta of New York Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa;
Editor of WORD, Journal of the International Linguistic Association.


International Linguistic Association;
Linguistics Society of America;
Society for Germanic Philology.

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Updated on 11/25/2015
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