Paul Johnston

Paul Johnston
Professor of English
(269) 387-2618
915 Sprau Tower, Mail Stop 5331
Mailing address: 
Department of English
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5331 USA
  • Ph.D., University of Edinburgh
  • Residential College, University of Michigan
Teaching interests: 
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Dialectology
  • Historical linguistics

Dr. Paul Johnston is a professor in the Department of English at Western Michigan University.

He is a dialectologist, sociolinguist and historical linguist interested in how language variation interplays with social groupings (class, gender, age and ethnicity) in different periods of the history of English and Germanic as a whole. He has done two full-scale sociolinguistic projects on the pronunciation system of the Scottish/English Border Area and the city of Edinburgh, and is working on a book-length analysis of variation in the language of the York Miracle Plays.

He is an internationally-recognized authority on Scots and Northern English dialects and the author of several seminal articles and monograph-length book chapters on sound change in English and Scots, on the geographical distribution of Scots dialects, and on Germanic vowel shifts, such as the English Great Vowel Shift and analogous processes in Dutch and German.

Recently, Johnston became interested in the question of the formation of Great Lakes English, and what groups played the largest role in this process.

Courses he teaches include:

  • ENGL 3710: Structure of Modern English
  • ENGL 3720: Development of Modern English
  • American dialects (undergraduate)
  • Language, dialects and sociolinguistics, Old English and Middle English (graduate level)  

He is researching the role of varying extents of dialect contact in the formation of several British modern urban vernaculars.

Johnston taught at the universities of Edinburgh (1980-84) and Glasgow (1984-85), the National University of Singapore (1985-87) and SUNY/Binghamton (1988-89).