Slavonic Languages and Linguistics

Our Department is unusual in the UK because it employs two research-active linguists. Aside from having a soft spot for Slavonic languages, Neil Bermel and Dagmar Divjak share an interest in usage-based theories of language and advocate the use of empirical methods in Slavonic linguistics. Usage-based theories posit that knowledge of a language resides in knowledge of actual usage and generalizations made over usage events; large textual databases and experiments provide the data they need to formulate and test hypotheses.

Research focus

Much of our work looks at competition between forms such as aspectual forms, case endings and near-synonymous words or constructions in Slavonic languages such as Russian, Czech and Polish. Because we use advanced corpus analytical techniques for the analysis of Slavonic data and pair this with experimental work, our findings serve as catalysts for the further development of usage-based theory. For more detailed information, please refer to our individual staff pages.

In addition to this shared core, we have each developed specific interests and expertise. Neil Bermel has worked extensively on topics at the intersection between language structure and socio-linguistics, such as language policy and language change. Much of Dagmar Divjak’s work is specifically theoretical or methodological in nature, and focuses on issues such as the use of statistical modelling techniques to capture patterns in the data and the development of new methods (Behavioral Profiling) to describe linguistic relations more accurately. She is also interested in how speakers generalize over usage when they are exposed to not one, but two, three or more languages simultaneously.


We are involved in a range of research projects, and many of them involve colleagues abroad. Neil Bermel’s Leverhulme Trust funded project is investigating how different ways of measuring usage and acceptability to language users can assist in an accurate description of grammatical phenomena. It draws on longstanding collaborative work with colleagues in the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Czech National Corpus Institute.
Dagmar Divjak leads an international network of linguists who explore the extent to which linguistic categories are, and need to be, cognitively realistic. One project focuses on modality and explores how useful the traditional classifications of modality are for usage-based linguists. It involves PhD students in Sheffield and St Petersburg as well as and established researchers in Moscow (HSE), Zagreb (University of Zagreb) and Boston (Harvard).

Academic Staff

Research Associates

Current research students

Nina Szymor (2013-), Translating Modality: a corpus-based cognitive-linguistic approach

Fadhel Shalal (2014-), Semantic and derivational features of the suffix -ка in Russian

Dario Lečić (2012-), Competing forms in the Croatian inflectional system

Jaroslaw Jozefowski (2014-),The Middle Voice in Polish


News & Events

  • Sheffield and Oxford hosted the 2015 Slavic Cognitive Linguistics Conference [December 2015]
  • A special issue of Russian Linguistics has been published, edited by Neil Bermel, with contributions from a number of cluster staff and PGRs []
  • A Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics, co-edited by Dagmar Divjak, was published by de Gruyter Mouton [] [May 2015]
  • Dagmar Divjak was awarded a Mid Career Fellowship by the British Academy to write a monograph on the role of frequency in language
  • Dario Lečić’s article on Serbisms in Croatian was published in the journal Slavia Centralis [2014 (2)].
  • Teresa Wigglesworth-Baker has been appointed to the roster of OSCE Multilingual Education Strategy Development experts for the High Commission for National Minorities (HCNM) as well as the roster for Second Language Teaching Experts [October 2014]. She undertook her first assignment in Georgia.
  • Dagmar Divjak was awarded a Skills Acquisition Award from the British Academy to go and study with Professor Harald Baayen (Tuebingen, Germany) [March 2014]
  • Dagmar Divjak was elected President of the Slavic Cognitive Linguistic Society [February 2014]

Keynotes & invited lecture series

  • Neil Bermel gave keynotes at the fifth Grammar and Corpora conference (Warsaw), the Czech National Corpus 20th anniversary conference (Prague), and the University of Sheffield PG linguistics conference.
  • Dagmar Divjak gave a keynote at the Perceptual Linguistic Salience workshop at FRIAS in Freiburg (Germany) and taught invited lecture series on the Quantitative turn in Cognitive Linguistics in Prague (Czech Republic) and Moscow (Russian Federation).

Prospective research students

If you want to write a PhD dissertation that looks at Slavonic data yet produces results that are of value to linguistic theory and methodology in general, you have come to the right address.
When decide to you join our cluster as a PGR student in linguistics, you will be part of a larger group of talented PGRs with similar concerns who working on cognate topics (see above). Many of our students are partly or fully funded and some have won prestigious PGR scholarships.

We also offer co-supervision to students registered at other Departments or Universities who need our theoretical, methodological or language-specific expertise. For more details, please see our personal websites.

What can research students in Slavonic linguistics expect to find at Sheffield?

  • Close supervision, with regular meetings and prompt feedback
  • Guidance about venues for the presentation and publication of your research
  • Possibilities for collaborative research with your supervisor(s), resulting in joint conference presentations and publications
  • Membership of the Centre for Linguistic Research that runs its own annual PGR conference
  • Training opportunities at workshops, conferences and panels run by department and School staff
  • Access to top-up funds for fieldwork abroad, conference attendance and the development and dissemination of research impact
  • Teaching opportunities in the Department and School (as appropriate and as funding allows)

Where are our alumni?

  • Teresa Wigglesworth-Baker (PhD 2015)
  • Jane Klavan (PhD, 2012 - co-supervision with Tartu, Estonia) is Researcher at the University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia.
  • Marie Sanders (PhD, 2008) is Lecturer in Translation Studies and Interpreting at Palacký University, Olomouc, Czech Republic.
  • James Wilson (PhD, 2007) is Teaching Fellow in Russian and Languages Studies at the University of Leeds.
  • Karen Smith (PhD, 2003) is Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Greenwich