Professor of English Linguistics
Deputy Head of Research
Director of the PhD Program in Language and Linguistics
Department of Language and Literature
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
7491 Trondheim
Professor II
LAVA group
UiT The Arctic University of Tromsø

terje.lohndal AT ntnu.no


I am a Full Professor (100%) of English linguistics in the Department of Language and Literature at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. In addition, I also serve as Deputy Head of Research at the Department and I am the director of the PhD program in language and linguistics at the Faculty of Humanities.  I am leading two research groups:  Linguistic Complexity in the Individual and Society (LCIS), which is funded by the Faculty of Humanities from 2014-2017, and Exoskeletal Approaches to Grammar (EXOGRAM) together with Tor A. Åfarli.

I also have a secondary appointment (20%) at the University of Tromsø – The Arctic University of Norway, where I am a so-called “Professor II” with the Language Acquisition, Variation, and Attrition (LAVA) group, led by Marit Westergaard. In Tromsø, I am also participating in a major project funded by the Research Council of Norway directed by Marit Westergaard: Micro-Variation in Multilingual Acquisition & Attrition Situations (MiMS) running from 2016-2019.

I am an associate member of the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM) at the University of Reading, and an affiliates of the Center for Multilingualism in Society across the Lifespan (MultiLing) at the University of Oslo, and of the Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature (CSMN), also at the University of Oslo.

Before I came to Trondheim, I did my PhD in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Maryland in the United States. And before that, I did an undergraduate degree in linguistics and Nordic languages at the University of Oslo in Norway.

My research is concerned with identifying the building blocks of human language. I do this in various ways.

One method involves careful grammatical analyses of various phenomena. Such analyses can uncover general grammatical rules and building blocks that occur in different parts of language (sentences, words, sounds, etc.) and create the basis for further psychological and neurological investigations. The hypothesis is that there are general and abstract rules, categories and principles that constitute human language, and that these interface with general cognition in specific ways. In 2014, I published a monograph with Oxford University Press, Phrase structure and argument Structure: a case study of the syntax-semantics interface, outlining one concrete proposal relying on three abstract mechanisms that were argued to generate and interpret sentences. However, his individual papers are also devoted to the search for general and possibly universal mental/ psychological aspects of language.

In order to further the investigations of these questions, I am also conducting research on child language acquisition (specifically, on how Norwegian children acquire gender on nouns). By looking at how children generalize and create patterns in their minds, it is possible to develop explanatory theories of how children reach the target state.

I also work on individuals who have multiple mental grammars. In the latter case, particular emphasis has been place on people who mix various languages and what the patterns involved in mixing can tell us about the underlying mental grammar. A very surprising result has been that the theory proposed in my monograph (and dissertation) has turned out to be ideally suited for these kind of phenomena. Me and the EXOGRAM group are currently exploring these results further.

Related to individuals with multiple grammars, I am doing research on heritage languages. So far I have especially focused on American Norwegian, which is a variety of Norwegian spoken by Americans in the US (mostly the Midwest). Together with Marit Westergaard I have investigated the distribution of gender on nouns in American Norwegian, and with Tor Åfarli and PhD candidates we are looking at language mixing in the nominal domain.

I am also interested in the history of modern grammatical theory, and how particular frameworks differ and how and why they evolved. In addition, I have a deep interest in fundamental philosophical questions as they pertain to linguistics. These include: What is the capacity for language? How does it arise in the individual? How is it put to use? I am especially interested in what (if any) operations that govern the language faculty are unique to language, or whether they are part of general cognition.

Outreach is important to me, and I often write in newspapers, magazines, or appear on the radio to popularize linguistics and the work we do in our group(s).

Besides linguistics, I am also interested in the humanities and higher education more generally. I often write about such issues in Norwegian newspapers and journals.

In 2014, I was awarded the Nils Klim Prize. A statement from the committee can be found here.