Staff Profile of Dr. Christopher Shank

Dr. Christopher Shank
Dr. Christopher Shank
Assistant Professor / Lecturer in Linguistics
+44 (0)1248 383590
Room 204b, 37-41 College Road

I joined the faculty at Bangor University as a Lecturer in Linguistics in 2011. Before moving to Bangor I worked as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik (IfAA) and the Universität Osnabrück in Osnabrück, Germany and a post doctoral research fellow for 3 years with Dr. Hubert Cuyckens on the Grammaticalization and Complementization (GRAMIS) project at the University of Leuven, Department of Linguistics – Functional, Cognitive and Descriptive Linguistics Unit in Leuven, Belgium.

As an undergraduate, I completed a BA at the University of Wisconsin Madison where I majored in Political Science, International Relations and History.  This was followed later by a Masters Degree in Applied Linguistics/TESOL at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, VT, a second Masters degree in Language, Literacy & Socio-Cultural Studies from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM which focused on Bilingualism and Bilingual Education and finally a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the Department of Linguistics at the University of New Mexico.

My doctorate, which I received in 2007, was a study of polysemy and metaphorical extension in the semantics of four verbs of tactile perception; touch, hold, handle, and feel.  Entitled “The Relationship Between Metaphorical Language Use and Transitivity:  A Cognitive Linguistic Case Study of the English Verbs of Tactile Perception” my dissertation explored the experiential and cognitive dimensions of figurative language and the role these play in areas such as categorization, syntactic argument structure, and semantic extension. The study looked at how the meanings of verbs of tactile perception (touch, hold, handle, and feel) varied between the physical domain of sensation and perception to the internalized conceptual domain (of the mind) represented by figurative language use.

Research interests

My current research agenda utilizes a diachronic corpus based methodology, multivariate logistic regression analysis and both spoken and written corpus data to examine the historical development (from EModE to PDE) as well as the grammaticalization patterns of 10 different English mental state predicates (MSPs)  (i.e. think, suppose, believe, imagine, expect, guess, feel, know, understand and realize and the historical variable use (or non-use) of the complementizer that in English.   The overall objectives of this  research have been to examine how changes in the matrix (i.e. the increased frequency of the zero-complementizer form relative to that) have had an impact on grammaticalization as well as providing important diachronic evidence for the grammaticalization path from matrix verbs to ‘epistemic parentheticals’ (Thompson & Mulac 1991).

My work addresses questions such as:  What (if any) structural features in the matrix and complement clauses are helping, in a statistically significant manner, to facilitate the increased frequency of the zero-complementizer? Can a multifactorial and/or correspondence type analysis can be used to reveal the hidden or obscured significance (or lack there of) of structural variables as they relate to the use of the zero-complementizer?   Can one find diachronic evidence that the blurring of the distinction between the main and complement clause, as indicated by the increase in the zero-complementizer, has paved the way (or at least strongly coincided) with the rise of epistemic phrases and epistemic parentheticals?  Finally, within the expression of epistemicity, when viewed as a complete MSP set in a correspondence analysis framework: what structural features co-occur or overlap and what features do not? What does this tell us about how these verbs function as an epistemic parenthetical?

Along with my research in cognitive linguistics, corpus linguistics and grammaticalization, I also have a considerable interest in issues related to bilingualism, bilingual identity, bilingual identity construction/reconstruction, second language acquisition,  socio-cultural aspects that affect L2 language acquisition/use/proficiency, multilingualism and language education. 

My research areas and interests include: cognitive semantics and syntax, corpus linguistics, grammaticalization, logistic regression analysis / statistical modelling, history of English, construction grammar, language change, metaphor and metonymy theory, discourse analysis, second language acquisition / TESOL, sociolinguistics and the psychology of bilingualism.

If you are interested in pursuing a PhD on these or similar topics, please e-mail me.

Selected publications

  • 2010    (accepted)  Shank, C., Plevoets, K. & Cuyckens, H.  A Diachronic Corpus based Multivariate Analysis of “I think that” versus “I think zero”  Polysemy and Synonymy. Corpus Methods and Applications in Cognitive Linguistics. Glynn, D & Robinson, J. (Eds).  John Benjamins Publishing Co. 
  • 2010    (submitted)  Shank, C., Van Bogaert, J., Plevoets, K. " A multifactorial analysis of that/zero alternation: A diachronic study of the grammaticalization of the zero complementizer construction with think, guess and understand". Working title: “CxG Beyond English and experimental approaches.  Selected papers from the 44th Societas Linguistica Europaea            Conference, Gries, S, & Yoon-J. Eds.)
  • 2009.   Cuyckens, H. & Shank, C.  Diachronic Perspective on the Grammaticalization of zero-complement clauses in English: The Case of Think, Feel, and Realize. In Slembrouck,S., Taverniers, M., Van Herreweghe, M. (Eds.), From Will to Well: Studies in Linguistics offered to Anne-Marie Simon Vandenbergen: Academia Press, Gent, Belgium.
  • 2007.  Shank, C.  What is 'whiteness'? A cognitive semantic analysis of metaphors of 'whiteness' in Critical Race Theory. In Rossatto, C., Aurolyn, L., & Garcia, H. (Eds.), Teaching for Global Community: Overcoming the “Divide and Conquer” Strategies of the Oppressor. Information Age Publishing Inc., Charlotte, NC.

Teaching at Bangor:

I currently offer courses on cognitive linguistics, grammaticalization and language change and the history of English. For details, please consult the current schedule or send me a message.
QXL1111 – Describing Language
QXL2202 – Meaning and Mind
QXL2222 – History of English
QXL33/4447 – Grammatical Systems and Change