Language and communication

Researching the form, function and effect of human communication and language.

Our researchers use linguistic theory and a wide range of methods to explore how language works as a system, and how it is used to express identity and to reflect and mould attitudes.

We have a long tradition of examining discourse practices for interventional purposes, and are distinctive in our theoretical modelling of grammatical and lexical choices within interactional behaviours.

We favour ‘real world’ challenges and concerns, creating a natural link between research and impact in fields as diverse as:

  • language learning
  • communication between people with dementia and their carers
  • HIV and Ebola prevention through comics drawing
  • police-public communication
  • grammar teaching in schools
  • communication in those at risk of social exclusion
  • predicting dementia risk through language performance
  • a corpus of contemporary Welsh language

Thematic trends within our research include:

How language and visual culture express identity and mould attitudes, with reference to speech, writing, and old and new public media.

The interface of cognitive processing, intonation, lexis and grammar, with interests in language learning and learning loss supported by interdisciplinary collaborations.

Sociolinguistic, discourse and narrative theory to examine the achievement of personal and social goals through language, with a particular focus on legal and healthcare settings.

Current funded research projects

Projects currently under development include:

  • Translation and Translanguaging (AHRC)
  • National Corpus of Contemporary Welsh (Corpws Cenedlaethol Cymraeg Cyfoes)  (ESRC and AHRC)
  • Linguistic markers of risk for future Alzheimer’s Disease (BRACE Alzheimer’s)

Research centres and networks

Staff in this theme

StaffResearch interests'Research bites'

Dr Michelle Aldridge-Waddon, Senior Lecturer

Child language acquisition and adult and child communication disorders."Children can be reliable witnesses, adults may not be reliable questioners."

Dr Tom Bartlett, Senior Lecturer

Critical approaches to Discourse Analysis; text and social context; Systemic Functional Linguistics; functional descriptions of Scottish Gaelic grammar."Collaborative change is possible when different voices are legitimated."

Dr Andreas Buerki, Lecturer

Formulaic language and constructionist approaches to grammar; corpus linguistic and quantitative approaches to linguistic research, including computational methods; historical linguistics, particularly recent and ongoing change and motivation in linguistic change; language, culture and society, particularly social and cultural aspects of linguistic structure."Common turns of phrase make language understandable, learnable, mentally processable, identity-revealing and fun to study."

Dr Janet Cotterill, Reader

Authorship analysis; terrorism risk assessment and murder, suicide, threat and blackmail documentation. 

Dr Mercedes Durham, Senior Lecturer

Language variation and change; sociolinguistics; native and non-native acquisition of variation; dialect shift; native and non-native varieties of English."By the age of three, Scottish children have learnt when to say 'hoose' and when to say 'house'."

Dr Lisa El Refaie, Senior Lecturer

Visual and multimodal communication, with a particular focus on autobiographical comics (or 'graphic memoirs'), newspaper cartoons, and the use of visual storytelling in health campaigns."Visual meaning is just as complex as verbal meaning, but in different ways"

Professor Tess Fitzpatrick, Professor

Lexical processing, second language acquisition, word association studies, vocabulary measurement tools."A person's word association responses can be used to estimate their vocabulary size."

Dr Lise Fontaine, Senior Lecturer

Systemic functional linguistics (theoretical and applied), complex referring expressions, grammatical structure, and computer-mediated communication."Referring expression shed light on how the frequencies of grammatical features are sensitive to grammatical function."

Michael Handford, Professor

Discourse analysis, corpus linguistics, professional discourse, spoken interactions, inter-cultural communication, English for specific purposes.'In order to understand the wider context we need to examine patterns in the co-text.'

Dr Chris Heffer, Senior Lecturer

Forensic linguistics, legal-lay communication, narrative, persuasion, rhetoric, lying and deception, discourse analysis, language and culture, corpus linguistics, linguistic ideologies.

"At the root of the legal process are acts of linguistic persuasion rather than legal regulation."

Dr Katy Jones, Lecturer

Study of language (in particular referring expressions) from a multi-disciplinary perspective, dementia communication, literacy development and the analysis of public and professional discourse, second language acquisition and teaching. 

Dr Dawn Knight, Senior Lecturer

Corpus linguistics, discourse analysis, lexico-grammar, digital interaction, non-verbal communication and the socio-linguistic contexts of communication."Multimodal corpora help to reinstate partial elements of the reality of discourse, giving each speaker and each conversational episode a specific distinguishable identity."

Dr Gerard O'Grady, Senior Lecturer

Communicative functions of intonation."Written transcripts do not capture the information structure of spoken discourse."

Sara Pons-Sanz, Lecturer

English historical linguistics; medieval English; Old Norse; language contact; historical sociolinguistics; historical stylistics; Proto-Germanic linguistics“We cannot fully understand the language we use today without knowing about its history.”

Dr Amanda Potts, Lecturer

Corpus linguistics, critical discourse analysis, language and identity, (social) media discourse, language of the law, online discourse communities"The language we use to refer to people both reveals and reinforces ‘norms’ in society…or can be used to disrupt this status quo."

Dr Frances Rock, Reader

Police language, forensic linguistics, workplace language, ecolinguistics and language and the environment, information design, document design."Training in language and communication can influence police officers' interactions with the public and public perceptions of policing."

Dr Tereza Spilioti, Lecturer

Media discourse; language and digital communication; language ideologies; digital ethnography; vernacular literacies; social interaction and sociolinguistics."Digital media open up a space for ideological play and subversion through mixed language practices."

Dr Michael Willett, Teacher

Phonaesthesia, sound-symbolism and [non] arbitrariness; poetics; folk linguistics; onomastics; spoken discourse analysis; education theory and pedagogy."In any given speech community, it is possible for certain phonetic forms to acquire connotations by virtue of recurring in a range of words with shared meaning components."

Professor Alison Wray, Professor

Formulaic language; language profiling; evolution of language; psycholinguistic theory; communication by and with people with dementia."Language is partly responsible for the loss of compassion by dementia carers."

Dr Virpi Ylänne, Senior Lecturer

Discourse and social interaction and discursive representations of age(ing) and lifespan identities."Media portrayals of older people are changing but mostly still display ageist ideologies of ageing and the lifespan."