About Jesus College/Our community/ People
Professor David Willis

Roles and subjects

Jesus Professor of Celtic



Professor David Willis is the Jesus Professor of Celtic at the University of Oxford and a professorial fellow at Jesus College.

Academic Background

MA Oxon, MPhil Oxon, DPhil Oxon

I did an MA in Russian and German and an MPhil. in General Linguistics at St John’s College, Oxford, before completing a doctorate here on word order in the history of Welsh (1996). I was a Junior Research Fellow at Somerville College, Oxford, and a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Jesus before lecturing first in at the University of Manchester and then at Selwyn College, Cambridge. I returned to Oxford in 2020 to take up the Jesus Chair of Celtic.

I have been an associate editor of Language, journal of the Linguistic Society of America and a member of the Council of the Philological Society. I am a member of the editorial board of Journal of LinguisticsLinguistic VariationJournal of Historical Syntax and Journal of Celtic Linguistics. I have also been honorary secretary and membership secretary of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain.

Undergraduate Teaching

Celtic languages and linguistics

Graduate Teaching

Celtic languages and linguistics; Historical syntax; Language variation and change; History of English; Slavic languages

Research Interests

I specialise in historical linguistics and theoretical and dialect syntax, working primarily on material from Celtic languages. I am interested in the mechanisms of syntactic variation and change, in syntactic reconstruction, and in the use of electronic corpora in historical linguistics. My previous research projects include the Historical Corpus of the Welsh Language, the Syntactic Atlas of Welsh Dialects, the History of Negation in the Languages of European and the Mediterranean, and Tweetolectology. I have most recently begun a project with colleagues at HU Berlin on the history of subject pronouns in the languages of northern Europe.


See also Professor Willis’s personal as well as the Linguistics Faculty and the English Faculty’s website.