Dr Seth Mehl


Humanities Research Institute
34 Gell Street
S3 7QY


Seth Mehl has been in the School of English since 2015. He has worked on the AHRC-funded project Linguistic DNA, and the HEFCE QR-funded project Gender and well-being in rural sedentary South African communities. With the Linguistic DNA team, he has also contributed to the ESRC-funded project Ways of Being in a Digital Age and the Swedish Research Council-funded project Militarization 2.0.

Previously, Mehl worked as a Research Fellow on UCL’s Teaching English Grammar in Schools project and was a research assistant in the development of English pedagogoical apps at the Survey of English Usage.

He completed his PhD in English and MA in English Linguistics at University College London.

He is a member of the Keywords Project, and a council member of the Philological Society.


Mehl's primary research interests lie in corpus semantics, with a focus on methodology in relation to various kinds of linguistic meaning, from semantics (including semasiological and onomasiological perspectives), to pragmatic and discursive meaning, and grammatical meaning.

Recent publications have investigated the nature of evidence for polysemy; the range of approaches to measuring frequency in corpus linguistics; lexical semantics in Singapore English and Hong Kong English; and the semantics of English light verb constructions.

With the Linguistic DNA team, since 2015, he has been investigating semantic and conceptual content of Early English Books Online (Text Creation Partnership edition), using innovative measures of lexical co-occurrence.

The project team includes colleagues at the Universities of Glasgow and Sussex and data specialists in the Digital Humanities Institute (Sheffield), and relies on high-performance computing to process big data.

Mehl’s doctoral dissertation at University College London (UCL) investigated the International Corpus of English to describe semasiological and onomasiological variation in English verbs, looking in particular at what we can know about semantics, and variation, by looking at corpora.

His recent ODA research aims to assess elements of the linguistic landscape that are critical to processes of archiving living memory and community heritage in ODA countries. This work is multidisciplinary, alongside a team of social scientists, historians, and psychologists at the University of Sheffield and the University of Pretoria, and grassroots organisation Pala Forerunners.


Mehl is an associate fellow of the Higher Teaching Academy. At the University of Sheffield, he was awarded a Learning and Teaching Fellowship (2016-2017) to develop and convene a series of training sessions for postgraduates and academics, on corpus linguistics and text analytics.

He has contributed to undergraduate modules in the history of English, English syntax, and research methods at the University of Sheffield. Previously, he taught: undergraduate and postgraduate corpus linguistics, English grammar, and research methods at UCL; the history of the English language at the University of Winchester; and English grammar for teachers at the UCL Institute of Education.

At UCL, he was awarded funding to develop and convene annual widening participation summer schools for secondary school students from backgrounds under-represented in higher education (2012-2013), and regularly contributed teaching to other widening participation programmes. He began his teaching career teaching English as a Foreign Language in the USA, Cyprus, and the PRC.


Journal articles
  • Mehl, Seth. 2018. What we talk about when we talk about corpus frequency: The example of polysemous verbs with light and concrete senses. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory. DOI: 10.1515/cllt-2017-0039
  • Mehl, Seth. 2017. Corpus onomasiology in world Englishes and the concrete verbs make and give. World Englishes. DOI: 10.1111/weng.12297
  • Mehl, Seth. 2017. Light verb semantics in the International Corpus of English: Onomasiological variation, identity evidence, and degrees of lightness. English Language and Linguistics. DOI: 10.1017/S1360674317000302
  • Fitzmaurice, Susan, Justyna A. Robinson, Marc Alexander, Iona C. Hine, Seth Mehl, Fraser Dallachy. 2017. Linguistic DNA: Investigating conceptual change in Early Modern English discourse. Studia Neophilologica.
  • The Keywords Project [Seth Mehl as project member and co-author]. 2018. Keywords for Today. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Book chapters
  • Fitzmaurice, Susan, Justyna A. Robinson, Marc Alexander, Iona C. Hine, Seth Mehl, Fraser Dallachy. 2017. Reading into the past: Materials and methods in historical semantic research. In Tanja Saily, Minna Nevala, Arja Nurmi & Anita Auer (eds), Future paths for historical sociolinguistics: Methods, materials, theory. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Mehl, Seth, Sean Wallis and Bas Aarts. 2016. Language at your fingertips: Employing corpora in mobile teaching apps. In Karen P. Corrigan and Adam Mearns (eds), Creating and Digitizing Language Corpora. London: Palgrave.