Alina Mclellan




Previous Education

2019 – MA Linguistics, The University of Manchester

2018 – BA French and Business Management, The University of Manchester


Thesis Title

Relativisation and focus in Reunion Creole



Professor Delia Bentley

Professor Eva Schultz-Berdnt


Research Summary

My PhD investigates the syntax and focus structure of Reunion Creole. Reunion Creole is a creole language spoken on Reunion Island, a French overseas department in the Indian Ocean. Creole languages have been the subject of wide debate in linguistics, from theories of their genesis, to whether they should constitute a typological class of languages.

Relative clauses are a type of subordinate clause which modifies a noun, forming a complex sentence (a sentence with two clauses). For example, in the sentence The man [whom you met yesterday] is a teacher, the relative clause is in brackets. I am interested in studying how a complex grammatical structure as such develops in a language which is relatively new (compared to English or French, for example), and whether the strategies used to form relative clauses change over time.

Clefts are constructions which exhibit a non-canonical syntactic structure. The purpose of this is thought to be to place focus on an element which would otherwise not be focal. They are related to relative clauses because they contain a clause which superficially resembles a relative clause (though there are several differences). An example of a cleft construction in English is: It was John [that we saw]. The relative-like clause is in brackets and the clefted element is in boldface. There are various types of cleft, which are used at different levels of frequency and have developed different discourse-pragmatic functions across different languages. French is a language in which clefts are found frequently. I am interesting in comparing whether Reunion Creole (a French-based creole), exhibits similar patterns to its lexifier with respect to this aspect of its grammar.

In summary, with my PhD research, I hope to investigate the interaction between syntax and focus structure, and contribute to the debate on whether creole languages constitute a typological class. In comparing Reunion Creole with spoken French, I hope to assess the extent to which the two grammars are distinct in the speech of bilingual speakers.


Research Interests

Syntax, Typology, Creole languages, Romance linguistics, Focus structure

Student profiles

See all profiles