Our researchers and teaching staff draw on modern European languages as a source of data to understand the way language works and how it is practised in the wider world.

Students conducting research in the library.

Amongst the languages we work on are: Catalan, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Luxembourgish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Our work is data-driven; it is informed by usage-based linguistic theories and approaches, challenging them and developing them further.

The Structures of Language

From the very smallest units of sound to the pragmatics of discourse, we collaborate to investigate and supervise work on many aspects and levels of language, across the range of languages we offer. We carry out research into phonetic and phonemic variation in dialects, accentuation and intonation (O’Neill).

Work on morphological variation looks at competition between structures and features within a language variety, with reference to core structures such as tenses in western European languages (O’Neill) and aspect and case systems in the languages of central and eastern Europe (Bermel).

Studies of pragmatics examine amongst other things register variation and cross-cultural pragmatics (Baumgarten).

Sociolinguistics, Language and Identity

How do languages and the societies around them interact, and in particular how does language contributes to the creation and maintenance of national identity? Research in language policy and planning (Baumgarten, Bermel, Horner) looks at the ways in which language use and language varieties are officially and unofficially regulated in European societies both currently and historically, with studies of language and migration being an important extension of this.

Sociolinguistic research considers the way language practices are represented by linguistic communities (Baumgarten, Horner). Critical discourse analysis considers the relationships between language and the exercise and maintenance of power, including the study of the history of ideas and institutions (Horner).

Studies of language practice (Baumgarten, Bermel) examine individual and organisational multilingualism as well as the use of language in institutions and organisations, and with it the growing role of English as a lingua franca.

Language and its applications

Translation and cross-cultural communicative practice feature prominently in the School’s research and teaching. The School’s applied linguistics team (Baumgarten, Hamaidia, Woodin) examines issues in intercultural communication and tandem learning (Woodin), in meaning-making in screen translation (Baumgarten, Hamaidia), and in the theory-practice of translation and localisation (Baumgarten).

Other areas of research include organisational communication, language and technology, second language learning and multimodal discourse (Baumgarten).

Empirical linguistic methods

We believe the use of empirical data is central to extending our understanding of language. As part of this, an important strand of our work examines language as it is used; we do this through large-scale text databases called corpora and experiments with native speakers.

Researchers in corpus linguistics use general and specialised corpora to deduce patterns about usages and structures in language in morphological paradigms (Bermel, O’Neill).

We then test our model that is based on corpus data against the performance of native speakers. For this, we use a variety of experimental set-ups, including structured questionnaires (Bermel, O’Neill) and other tasks.

Current postgraduate research supervised in the School includes:

  • Renaissance women’s correspondence: a historical pragmatic analysis of cases from the Orange-Nassau dynasty (Joshua Bengough-Smith)
  • The politics of pedagogy in contemporary Spain: a language ideological study of Catalan and Valencian textbooks and didactic materials (Andrew Bradley)
  • Language and the construction of Ladin identity in the northern Italian autonomous province of South Tyrol (Anthony Connor)
  • Multilingual spaces in globalising times: investigating the impact of English on Luxembourg’s linguistic landscape (Cian Hurley)
  • Repertoire and lived experience of language and education policies: narratives of primary school students in Luxembourg (Sarah Muller)

PhD graduates and their current affiliations:

  • Morphological doublets in Croatian: A multi-methodological analysis (Dario Lečić, Croatian Science Foundation)
  • Translation universals: A usage-based approach (Nina Szymor, Raspberry Pi)
  • Do speakers build the categories linguists postulate? A usage-based exploration (Jarosław Jozefówski)
  • A word-based approach to Russian derivational morphology with the suffix {+k(a)} (Fadhel Shalal, Foreign Service Institute, Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Language policy and Russian-titular bilingualism in post-Soviet Tatarstan (Teresa Wigglesworth-Baker, Sheffield Hallam University)
  • Nahuatl contemporary writing: studying convergence in the absence of a written norm (Israel Escobar-Farfán, National Library of Mexico) 
  • Conceptual equivalence and the EU multilingual discourse (Susan Holdsworth)
  • Experiencing migration, language policy and citizenship 'from below': the case of Luxembourg (Joanna Kremer, École Privée Fieldgen, Luxembourg)
  • Acquisition of the Dutch vowel system by native English learners of Dutch (Daniel Williams, Univ. of Potsdam/Univ. of Worcester); 
  • Lexical changes in the Czech lands after Communism (Marie Sanders, Palacký University, Olomouc); 
  • Phonetics and phonology in second language learning of German (Robert Mayr, Univ. of Cardiff); 
  • Form and function of time-critical utterances in spontaneous spoken language (Torsten Müller, Ruhr-Universität Bochum); 
  • Analysis of directing conversations in German radio-play productions (Andrea Milde, Kings College London); 
  • Word meaning in intercultural conversations (Jane Woodin, Univ. of Sheffield); 
  • Generic uses of pronouns in spoken German (Anna Linthe, Cambridge Univ. Press)
  • Phonemic and morphological assimilation in the speech of Moravian incomers in Prague (James Wilson, Univ. of Leeds)