Chair no. 6 - Tomas Riad

Tomas Riad was born in Uppsala in 1959 but until the age of five, lived periodically in Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt, his father’s homeland, before the family returned to Uppsala. In 1978 he was admitted to the Royal College of Music in London to study violin, and remained a year. His interest in music was again reflected a few years later when he was accepted into the renowned Uppsala men’s choir, Orphei Drängar. After national military service and basic studies at Uppsala University, higher studies at Stockholm University followed. Andin 1992, he presented his thesis, Structures i in Germanic Prosody – A diachronic study with special reference to the Nordic languages. This investigated how the Germanic languages could develop and change their sound system so similarly without continuous contact with each other. In extension: could the languages be seen to be ‘predestined’ to develop in a certain general direction and in which case how could that be explained?
Among Tomas Riad’s research interests are phonology, prosody, poetic metre, language history and morphology. Subsequent to his dissertation, he spent a period on the faculty of Stanford University in the USA. There, he began a lasting collaboration with a colleague, Chris Golston. Together and separately they have authored a large number of scientific articles on the relationship between prosody and poetic metre in a number of languages, among them Classical Greek, Classical Arabic, Old and Middle English, Swedish and the Berber tongue. Riad has also been a guest researcher at Vilnius University and at Université Paris 8, Saint-Denis.

Tomas Riad is considered one of the world’s leading authorities in his research field. In his book The Phonology of Swedish (2014) he describes the phonological structure of Swedish, examining everything from segmental structure (vowels and consonants) to quantity, accentuation and intonation. Among his most important and groundbreaking research findings are insights into how the accentuation system largely regulates the morphology (the formation and inflection of words) in Swedish and therefore presumably in the other Germanic languages. The typical pitch accents in Swedish provide clues to the way the language combines different kinds of morphemes. These findings are collected in his study Prosodin i svenskans morfologi (2015) (“The Prosody in Swedish Morphology”). Recently, his hypotheses regarding the accentuation system have been tested in studies of how the brain’s processes linguistic structure, with promising results.

Tomas Riad is strongly involved in issues concerning pedagogy and language learning and has been an instigator for an educational project, Intensivutbildning i svenska för nyanlända skolelever (“Intensive education in Swedish for new arrivals”). Read more about this here: (Swedish).