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, Russian, Spanish and Swedish. 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 modality and formality in discourse in Dutch (Vismans) and 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 (Bermel, Horner, Baumgarten) 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 (Horner, Baumgarten). 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, Woodin, Hamaidia) examines issues in intercultural communication and tandem learning (Woodin), in meaning-making in screen translation (Hamaidia, Baumgarten), 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, from morphological paradigms (Bermel, O'Neill) to syntactic structures and their discourse-pragmatic functions (Vismans).

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 (Vismans, Bermel) and other tasks.

Current postgraduate research supervised in the School includes:

  • Variation and token frequency in Croatian morphology (Lecic)
  • Modality in authentic vs translated legal texts in Polish (Szymor)
  • The Polish middle voice (Jozefowski)
  • History and semantics of the Russian suffix -к(а) (Shalal)
  • Social aspects of acquisition of Tatar amongst Russian residents of Tatarstan (Wigglesworth-Baker)
  • Corpus linguistics as a contributor to standardization practices for Nahuatl (Escobar-Farfan) 
  • Discourse about ‘citizens’ in the EU (Holdsworth)
  • Language, identity and citizenship in Luxembourg (Kremer)

Recent graduates:

  • 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 Milne, 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)

Our research

The School of Languages and Cultures boasts a thriving research community of academic staff, postdoctoral research fellows and postgraduate students. 

Research in the School