Dr Lise Fontaine HBa (Hons) (York University, Canada), BEd (Nipissing University, Canada), D.E.A. (Universite de Bordeaux, France), PhD (Cardiff University)

Dr Lise Fontaine

HBa (Hons) (York University, Canada), BEd (Nipissing University, Canada), D.E.A. (Universite de Bordeaux, France), PhD (Cardiff University)

Senior Lecturer

School of English, Communication and Philosophy

+44 (0)29 2087 6324
3.31, John Percival Building, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU
Media commentator

I am a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Language and Communication Research. I lecture mainly on functional grammar, word meaning, corpus linguistics, and psycholinguistics. My research interests include functional grammar theory and, more specifically, the study of referring expressions as realised in the noun phrase. I am actively involved in two research networks. The LinC research network, which provides a forum for researchers interested in Systemic Functional Linguistics and LACRE, the Language and Cognition Research Network at Cardiff University for researchers interested in using data-driven methods to test hypotheses about language processing.

Together with colleagues at Bangor, Aberystywth and UWE, I have established LLAWEN a network for academics, classroom teachers and literacy experts who are working together to improve the way teachers can be supported in developing their confidence and competence in delivering the literacy aspects of the Literacy and Numeracy Framework in Wales in both English and Cymraeg.  I also offer CPD training to teachers - see here. For example, I offered 10 hours of training in functional linguistics to teachers on the Buckinghamshire WRITE Project which was an extremely successfull and transformative project led by Lindsey Thomas. Related to this, I am actively involved in the special interest group, LKALE (Linguistics and Knowledge about Language in Education), which offers a forum for researchers applying linguistic theory to developing pedagogic meta-language (s) for teaching and learning across the curriculum in formal education contexts in the UK for L1 and L2 students, from primary to HE.

In addition to publishing 15 articles and book chapters, I am the author of Analysing English Grammar: A systemic-functional introduction, CUP (2012); co-author of Referring in Language: An integrated approach, CUP (in preparation) and co-author of The Oxford Companion to the English Language, 2nd ed. (OUP, in preparation). I have also co-edited the following four volumes Systemic Functional Linguistics: Exploring Choice (CUP, 2013); Choice in Language: applications in text analysis (Equinox, 2013); Perspectives from Systemic Functional Linguistics: An Appliable Theory of Language (Routledge, in preparation) and The Cambridge Handbook of Systemic Functional Linguistics (CUP, in preparation).

If you are interested in coming to visit me in Cardiff please see the information pages about our visiting scholar programme.  If you would like to join us as a postgraduate student, use these links to view our MA in Language and Communication Research and our PhD in Language and Communication.

I am originally from Canada and I completed my undergraduate training in Linguistics at York University in Toronto (1991). I joined the Centre for Language and Communication Research (CLCR) in 2004. Prior to moving to Cardiff, I lived in France and worked at the Université Paris-Dauphine, in Paris and the British Institute in Paris. I trained and qualified as a primary and secondary school teacher in Ontario, Canada at Nipissing University in 1994. Before this I worked as a counsellor at Marjorie House, a safe shelter for women and their children on the north shore of Lake Superior in Ontario.

Professional memberships

ISFLA - International Systemic Functional Linguistics Association

ESFLA - European Systemic Functional Linguistics Association

BAAL - British Association of Applied Linguistics

LACUS - Linguistics Association of Canada and the United States

Speaking engagements

2017. On Referring Expressions in the Cardiff Grammar. Plenary speaker. The 19th Symposium on Functional Linguistics and Discourse Analysis (Theme: Alternative Architectures for Systemic Functional Linguistics: The Cardiff Approach – In Honour of Robin Fawcett). South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, China, November, 2017.

2017. The dimensionally transcendental nature of lexis, a possible step forward in SFL theory. Keynote speaker. Transforming Contexts, 44th International Systemic Functional Linguistics Congress (ISFC), University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia, July, 2017.

2017. An SFL approach to grammar and knowledge about language. Invited speaker. Linguistics and Knowledge about Language in Education, BAAL SIG, Sheffield, England, May, 2017.

2016. Towards an SFL approach to lexicology: context and lexical representation. Keynote speaker. Studying language in context: Exploring SFL advances in theorizing and appliability, The First Halliday-Hasan International Forum on Language, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GDUFS), Guangzhou, P. R. China, December, 2016.

2016. A Systemic Functional Linguistics Perspective on additional language development. Keynote speaker. Theories of Second and Foreign Language Acquisition as a Basis for Research on the Role of Language in Teaching and Learning Curriculum Subjects, Graduate Academy of Literacy and Language Education of the Mercator Institute, University of Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany, October 2016.

2016. On Pattern and Grammar. Invited speaker. The Geoff Thompson SFL Round Table, The European Systemic Functional Linguistics Conference, Salzburg University, Salzburg, Austria, July, 2016.

2016. The Noun, Grammar and Context, Keynote speaker. Systemic Functional Linguistics Association of Tunisia (SYFLAT) study day, University of Sfax, Sfax, Tunisia. April, 2016.

2016. LLAWEN (Literacy and Language AWareness in EducatioN. Invited speaker. Linguistics and Knowledge about Language in Education, BAAL SIG, Swansea, Wales, April, 2016.

2016. Choice, Metafunction, and Meaning. Invited lecture. University of Vigo, Vigo, Spain, February, 2016.

2015. Fluid boundaries and the nature of choice in referring expressions. The International Systemic Functional Congress, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany, July, 2015.

2015. The Noun, Grammar and Context. Keynote lecture at the Symposium on The Making of Meaning: Grammar, Society and Consciousness, in honour of Professor M.A.K. Halliday and Professor Ruqaiya Hasan. Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China, April, 2015.

2014. Functional and Cognitive perspectives on the noun phrase: a multimethod approach to postgraduate research. PGR conference at the University of Sfax, Tunisia, April, 2014

2013. On the relevance of referring expressions to transitivity and discourse. Perspectives on Discourse, Grammar, and Transitivity, University of Vigo, Vigo, Spain, November 2013.

In the 2016/17 academic year I will be on research leave.  Normally I teach modules in the subject areas of functional grammar, words and meaning(s), corpus linguistics and psycholinguistic, both at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. I used to teach Computer-mediated Communication at the final year level and I developed this into a module on Digital Literacies but I have not taught these topics for a few years now.

Currently my teaching includes the following modules:

SE1340, Functions of Grammar (Year 3) presents a functional model of linguistic description: Systemic Functional Linguistics. We develop an analytical method of exploring particular lexical and grammatical choices and how speakers use language as a resource for creating meaning. The main aim of the module is to better understand both the meaning potential available to speakers and how particular choices in meaning affect the text.  We really focus on the 'how-to' aspects of analysing English grammar. The textbook we use is Analysing English Grammar, Cambridge University Press.

SE1370, Words and Meaning (Year 2) explores the world of words. What is a word? What range of meanings does a word have? How are word meanings related? How can we tell them apart? How do words ‘behave’ in texts? Where do words come from and how do they change? In this module we will explore a number of different approaches to the semantics of words. We will take an investigative look at our words from various perspectives. Part of the basis for investigating words will be through electronic corpora (e.g. what can tools like Google or other search engines tell us about words?). The emphasis will be on how speakers actually use words in texts. Students will be given the opportunity to gain some hands-on experience using electronic resources (e.g. the Sketch Engine, British National Corpus).

SE1111, Language and the Mind (Year 1) considers the ways in which researchers examine the relationship between language and the mind. How do we plan what we say and write, and how do we understand what we hear and read? How are words organised in our memory and why do we sometimes forget them? Why do we sometimes make slips of the tongue?

We also consider whether it is true that ‘everything important about language is in the head’—how does psycholinguistics relate to the other things we know about language, including context and social interaction? We will critically examine, and try out, the methodologies that psycholinguists use when they attempt to pin down features of language processing. This module will be highly relevant to any student with interests in language learning, language disorders, teaching, or generally in how language works.

This module aims to introduce students to the key ways in which psycholinguistic investigations can inform our understanding of language and the mind, and the limitations of these approaches. By considering language in its biological, cognitive and social contexts, the contribution of various methods used in psycholinguistic research can be evaluated, including how we should interpret ‘lab’-based observations and experiments in relation to findings from other areas of linguistics.

Theoretical models of language processing (e.g. speech production, reading, writing) will be examined, with particular reference to evidence of planning errors (e.g. slips of the tongue).

SET003, Language Description (postgraduate) introduces the grammar of English from a functional, rather than purely a formal, perspective. The theoretical framework for our investigation is Systemic Functional Grammar (SFG), associated primarily with the British linguist M.A.K Halliday. We also consider work done at Cardiff University, primarily through the work of Professor Robin Fawcett, Dr Gordon Tucker and Dr Paul Tench, which has made an important contribution to the development of SFG, known as the ‘Cardiff Grammar’. The aim of this module is to help students develop a functionally-oriented understanding of English grammar, which will be useful for analysing and describing the grammar of texts.

My research interests relate most directly to the theory of systemic functional linguistics and with all aspects of referring expressions and language processing.

Current projects

I am currently working on two research areas.

The first relates to referring expressions and the concepts and issues related to nominal expressions. I am writing a book with my colleague Katy Jones for Cambridge University Press entitled Referring in Language, an integrated approach. It should be in print in 2018. In this work we combine functional grammar, discourse functions and referring strategies with a particular focus on non-typical uses of referring expressions. This work relates to work I have been doing since my PhD on noun phrases and referring.  Once the book is written, I plan to give my attention to information processing in noun phrases with a concentration on the role of inference and complexity.

The second project involves the use of keystroke logging technology. My colleague Michelle Aldridge and I have been using InputLog to develop our understanding of writing processes. The biggest problem we have been working on is trying to separate out motor-related performances in writing from language/writing processes.  We have been using copy tasks in order to try to resolve this to some extent and together with Luuk van Waes (University of Antwerp), we have recently developed a bilingual copy task in Welsh and English. It should be available to the public soon and then we will be able to see if it can be used to solve our problem.

Funded projects

I am currently developing the NaMeD (Nominality and Meaning Directness) project with Professor Stella Neumann, RWTH Aachen University and Professor Miriam Taverniers, Ghent University. The NaMeD project concentrates on a contrastive, quantitative and theoretical approach to the study of meaning in text. Our research challenges certain fundamental assumptions concerning what are seen as nominal expressions (e.g. reference, noun, subject, theme) in relation to other types of meaning expressions (e.g. event, causal, temporal, conjunctive) and in terms of how such meanings can be said to be ‘direct’ or not. The aim is to determine to what extent we can talk about directness of meaning in a given language and if so whether the same relationship holds for other languages. This project is supported by the Cardiff University AHSS International Initiatives Fund 2017.

In 2015, I was awarded funding for international collaboration with Professor Elke Teich at the Information Density and Linguistic Encoding (Ideal) Collaborative Research Centre at the Universität des Saarlandes in Saarbrücken, Germany. I spent a month in the team working on information and inference, a related topic to information density.

I received funding from the Enhancing Secondary School Enhancement (ESSE), RCUK funded Cardiff University Schools Partnership (2014). The funding was used to develop a pilot project on literacy in schools with initial funding of £1500. The funding has been extended to further develop the project (£4500.00).

In 2010, I was awarded the International Collaboration Award for Early Stage Researchers, Cardiff University and this allowed me to collaborate with Dr Mick O’Donnell in Spain on research related to dynamic text using keystroke logging methods; where dynamic text refers to the production of electronic (computer-mediated) text in the sense of how the speaker/writer interacts with language to produce text. (£3,300.00)

Research Engagement and Impact

I have developed several CPD events for teachers (see details here). I took part in an exciting and transformational project supporting teachers with writing and literacy at the primary level where I delivered 10 hours of training in functional grammar on the Buckinghamshire WRITE Project.  Through LLAWEN and LKALE, I am actively involved in developing support for teachers in the areas of writing and literacy more broadly.

Areas of expertise

External profiles