Dr Gary Thoms

  • AHRC Research Fellow: The Scots Syntax Atlas (English Language and Linguistics)

Research interests

Research interests:

My two main research interests are syntactic theory and literary linguistics. In my research on syntax, I have worked on ellipsis, the representation of scope, clause structure, the theory of syntactic dependencies, among other topics. Much of my work has been (macro- and micro-) comparative, with a focus on dialects of English and Scottish Gaelic. In my work on literary linguistics, I have worked on the syntax of poetry (the topic of my Strathclyde PhD dissertation) and generative metrics, and I continue to maintain an interest in this area as a member of the Strathclyde literary linguistics research group.


I graduated in English and Journalism at Strathclyde University (BA Hons) and then stayed there to complete my postgraduate studies (MRes, PhD) under the supervision of Prof Nigel Fabb. My postgraduate research (AHRC-funded) was in the area of literary linguistics – the application of linguistic analysis to literary texts – although in order to do this I needed to learn about linguistics, so I had a one-semester spell as a visiting student at MIT Linguistics during my PhD. My dissertation, which will soon appear as a book for Cambridge University Press, was an attempt to develop a (generative) theory of poetic language, focussing specifically on accounting for the deviant word order of many poetic texts and providing an account of why some kinds of deviation occur but others do not. Once I graduated in 2010 I then had another year at Strathclyde University, this time as a Research Assistant to Prof Fabb, before then starting a three-year post as a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, on a project to investigate the interaction of ‘movement’ (a technical term to describe the process whereby a bit of a sentence shows up in a non-canonical position, e.g. in “who will you kiss” the object “who” shows up before the verb rather than after it, where it usually is found) and ellipsis (the missing out of words in context, e.g. in “Gary isn’t tall, but James is” where the second sentence means “James is tall” even though the word “tall” is not pronounced). I then had a year as a teaching fellow at Newcastle University, teaching comparative syntax, semantics and pragmatics, before then coming to Glasgow (without ever actually having left) to take up a post as the Research Assistant in the Scots Syntactic Atlas (SCOSYA) project.


Scots Syntactic Atlas (SCOSYA), 2015-2019. I’m the named full-time RA on this project, working closely with the PI Prof Jennifer Smith, so if you’re interested in getting involved in any way do get in touch with me.



2015-2019: The Scots Syntactic Atlas (SCOSYA) project, as named RA, with Jennifer Smith (PI), David Adger and Caroline Heycock (Co-Is). Total award: £ 867,108.

2013: University of Edinburgh Pilot Project scheme funding, for a project entitled “Refining the questionnaire method of judgment data collection: a Buckie pilot study” (as Co-I with Caroline Heycock, University of Edinburgh). Total award: £1654.

2012-2013: Soillse grant for project titled “How do Gaelic-English bilinguals deal with grammatical conflict? Evidence from mixed nominal constructions” (as co-I; PI Dr M. Carmen Parafita Couto, Strathclyde University). Total award (inc match funding): £5740.

2011-2014: British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, held at University of Edinburgh (project entitled “ellipsis licensing and head movement: a comparative approach”). Tenable for three years, full economic costing. Total award: £317,765.

Additional Information



Thoms, Gary. in prep. The syntax of poetry. Cambridge University Press.

Journal articles

Messick, Troy and Gary Thoms. to appear. Ellipsis, parallelism and the (non)uniformity of traces. Linguistic Inquiry.

Thoms, Gary. to appear. Pseudogapping, parallelism and the syntax of focus. Syntax.

Thoms, Gary. 2015. Short answers in Scottish Gaelic and their theoretical implications. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory (online first: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11049-015-9304-x).

Thoms, Gary. 2015. Syntactic identity, accommodated antecedent, and parallelism. Lingua (online first: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0024384115000777).

Thoms, Gary. 2014. MaxElide and clause structure in Scottish Gaelic. Linguistic Inquiry 45:1, 158-168.

Thoms, Gary. 2011. P-stranding diagnoses A’-movement in tough constructions. Snippets 24: 20-21.

Thoms, Gary. 2010. Verb-floating VP-ellipsis: towards a movement account of ellipsis licensing. Linguistic Variation Yearbook 10: 255-300.


Elliott, Patrick and Gary Thoms. QR out of control. In Proceedings of WCCFL33.

Barros, Matthew, Patrick Elliott and Gary Thoms. to appear. More variation in island repair: the clausal/non-clausal island distinction. In Proceedings of CLS 49, Chicago Linguistics Society.

Sailor, Craig and Gary Thoms. 2014. On the non-existence of non-constituent coordination and non-constituent ellipsis. In Robert Santana LaBarge (ed.), Proceedings of the 31st West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla, p. 361-370.

Thoms, Gary. 2014. Constraints on exceptional ellipsis are only parallelism effects. In  Hsin-Lun Huang, Ethan Poole and Amanda Rysling (eds.), NELS 43: Proceedings of the 43rd Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society, Volume One. Amherst, MA: GLSA Publications, p.195-208.

Thoms, Gary. 2013. Lexical mismatches in ellipsis and the identity condition. In Stefan Keine and Shayne Sloggett (eds.), Proceedings of NELS 42, p.559-572.


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