Professor Susan M. Fitzmaurice

Vice President and Head of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Professor and Chair of English Language


Humanities Research Institute (HRI)
34 Gell Street
S3 7QY


Susan Fitzmaurice is currently Vice President and Head of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. Her home academic department is the School of English where she is Professor and Chair of English Language

Fitzmaurice has been at the University of Sheffield since 2006; she served as Head of the School of English from 2011 till 2015. She was previously Professor of English and Head of Department, and then Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at Northern Arizona University until December 2005. From 1987 to 1995, she was University Lecturer in English and Fellow of St. Catharine´s College, Cambridge, and from 1984 to 1986, she was Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Cape Town.

Fitzmaurice is co-editor with Bernd Kortmann of the Topics in English Linguistics (TiEL) series for Mouton de Gruyter and she serves on the Council of the  Philological Society.


Fitzmaurice's research centres on the history of the English language, using methodological perspectives provided by historical pragmatics, historical sociolinguistics and computational linguistics. She is particularly interested in the methods and kinds of evidence employed in historical approaches to language study. She  focusses on semantic-pragmatic change and the utility of different frameworks for explaining such changes in time and space.

Fitzmaurice leads a digital humanities research group which uses concept modelling to explore meaning by identifying lexical and semantic patterns in very large text corpora. This work emerged from the AHRC-funded project: Linguistic DNA: Modelling concepts and semantic change in English 1500-1800 (AH/M00614X/1), which used high-performance computing and data visualisation to identify lexical and semantic patterns in early modern English texts. Linguistic DNA was a collaboration between colleagues at the Universities of Glasgow and Sussex and data specialists in the Humanities Research Institute (HRI).

For more information about the team and to follow the project’s progress, see the website and blog posts.

Fitzmaurice is also interested in using humanities approaches and methods in development research. With Patricia Cowell, Seth Mehl, Meesha Warmington and Sharron Hinchliffe, she collaborates with local South African NGO, Pala Forerunners, and colleagues at the University of Pretoria on GCRF-funded projects to train researchers and build research capacity in rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa.  For more information on this work, see the UK-ZA Community Research website


Fitzmaurice supervises doctoral projects on topics including semantic change and marginal vocabulary in eighteenth-century English, pragmatics and conversation analysis, historical discourse analysis, and cross-cultural discourse analysis.

She welcomes research students who are interested in the English language and the histories of English varieties, and who wish to pursue study in historical sociolinguistics, historical corpus linguistics, historical pragmatics, historical discourse analysis, and the history of the English language.


  • Empirical and Analytical Advances in the Study of English Language Change. (Eds.) Susan Fitzmaurice & Donka Minkova. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2008.
  • Methods in Historical Pragmatics. (Eds.) Susan Fitzmaurice & Irma Taavitsainen. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 2007.
  • Business and Official Correspondence: Historical Investigations. (Eds.) Marina Dossena & Susan M. Fitzmaurice. Linguistic Insights Series. Bern: Peter Lang. 2006.
  • Variation and Varieties of Language: Corpus Approaches. (Eds.) Randi Reppen, Susan Fitzmaurice & Douglas Biber. Amsterdam: Rodopi. 2002.
  • The Familiar Letter in Early Modern English: A pragmatic approach. John Benjamins Publishers (Pragmatics & Beyond series vol. 95. 2002
Selected recent articles

Selected Recent Articles

  • Ideology, race and place in historical constructions of belonging: the case of Zimbabwe. English Language and Linguistics 19(2): 327-354. 2015
  • History, social meaning and identity in the spoken English of postcolonial white Zimbabweans. In: M. Kyto, I. Taavitsainen, J. Smith & C. Claridge (eds.) Developments in English: Expanding electronic evidence. Cambridge University Press. Pp. 200-223. 2015.
  • Aristocratic Letters. In A. Auer, Schreier, D. & Watt, D (eds.) Letter Writing and Language Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2015
  • Semantic and Pragmatic Change. In M. Kytö and P. Pahta (eds.) The Cambridge Handbook of English Historical Linguistics. 2015.
  • White Zimbabwean English. In Bernd Kortmann und Kerstin Lunkenheime (eds.) The Mouton World Atlas of Variation in English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 2013
  • (with Jeremy Smith) Evidence for the history of English. In The Oxford Handbook of the History of English (eds.) Terttu Nevalainen & Elizabeth Traugott. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2012. Pp. 19-36
  • Social factors and language change in eighteenth-century England: the case of negative concord. Neophilologische Mitteilungen. CXIII (3), 2012: 281-310
  • Sociability: Conversation and the Performance of Friendship in early eighteenth century letters. In Ulrich Busse & Axel Hübler (eds.) The Meta-communicative Lexicon of English Now and Then: A Historical Pragmatics Approach. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 2012. Pp. 21-43
  • Talking politics across transnational space: researching linguistic practices in the Zimbabwe Diaspora. Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English Volume 7: How to Deal with Data: Problems and Approaches to the Investigation of the English Language over Time and Space, October 2011
  • The sociopragmatics of a lovers spat: the case of the eighteenth-century courtship letters of Mary Pierrepont and Edward Wortley. Journal of Historical Pragmatics, 10(2) 2009: 215-237. Reprinted in Jonathan Culpeper (ed.) Historical Sociopragmatics. John Benjamins. 2011, pp. 37-59
  • Poetic collaboration and competition in the late seventeenth century: George Stepney’s letters to Jacob Tonson and Matthew Prior. In P. Pahta & A. Jucker (eds.)Communicating Early English Manuscripts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2011, pp. 118-132
  • Coalitions, networks, and discourse communities in Augustan England: The Spectator and the early eighteenth-century essay. In Raymond Hickey (ed.) Eighteenth-Century English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010, pp. 106-132
  • Changes in the meanings of politeness in eighteenth-century England: discourse analysis and historical evidence. In J. Culpeper & D. Kadar (eds.) Historical (Im)politeness. Bern: Peter Lang. 2010, pp. 87-115
  • Mr. Spectator, identity and social roles in an early eighteenth-century community of practice and the periodical discourse community. In Paivi Pahta, Minna Nevala, Arja Nurmi & Minna Palander-Collin (eds.) (eds.)Social Roles and Language Practices in Late Modern English. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2010, pp. 29-53