About

BACKGROUND

My name is Marc Olivier-Loiseau, but professionally I go by Marc Olivier. This choice is primarily due to the fact that none of the letters in l'oiseau (meaning "the bird" in French) are pronounced as one would expect, and using just Olivier saves time. I frequently come across my name written as Mark, and sometimes, I even spell it that way myself.

I grew up in the Loire Valley, France. I graduated with a BA in English studies, and I then completed a MSc in Linguistics and a PhD in Historical Syntax. I have always been interested in languages and Language (I asked for an etymology dictionary and a dictionary of synonyms for Christmas when I was 10, which did not really make sense at the time but it does now). Early on, I was exposed to English (at school) and German (first with my mother, then at school), and in the early 2000s French radios were playing a lot of Italian songs, so I picked some of that up too. Later on I studied Modern Greek by accident. Since I'm in Oxford, I attend Romanian classes. I studied English at uni because I wanted to become an English teacher, which I sort of was for a while, until I backtracked because I realised two things: (i) I loved languages, (ii) I loved teaching, but crucially not (i) and (ii) together. After this, I went to China where I had an epiphany (which, if you know me, is also known as 'the shower episode') that my true destiny was to become a linguist. I flew back to France,  and then me and my cats moved to the UK (pre-Brexit times were awesome). I became a linguist because I worked for it, but also because I was surrounded by supportive mentors, supervisors and friends.

My research specialisation is in syntax, specifically the study of word order. This research lies at the intersection of historical syntax (why word order changes over time) and comparative syntax (why languages have different word orders).

The phenomena that interest me include clitics, cliticisation, restructuring, the morphology of infinitives, and the structural composition of infinitival clauses. I usually work with corpora, and recent innovations in the Digital Humanities provide my research with a computationally-engaged methodology that enables me to analyse dead/old languages from a different perspective.

Old French and Old Occitan are the two languages I research, but I also examine what happens in other Romance languages (and if my curiosity is not satisfied, I turn to other language families). If you are working on the syntax of Old Romance too, I would love to connect!

I have experience in teaching a wide range of topics, from theoretical linguistics (generative syntax, formal semantics, phonetics & phonology) to applied linguistics (sociolinguistics) and historical linguistics. I also taught practical language classes (translation, interpreting, grammar, essay writing in a foreign language), and more general academic skills (critical thinking, presentation skills). I am regularly contacted to provide training on how to use LaTeX for doctoral students.

I have two cats, Hercules & Isidorine.

The Belfast skyline behind me.