Skip to main content
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)


School of English, Communication and Philosophy

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


I am a Reader in the Centre for Language and Communication Research. I lecture mainly on functional grammar, word meaning, corpus linguistics, and introductory psycholinguistics. My research interests include functional grammar theory and the syntax-semantic interface, especially concentrating on lexical perspectives. I am actively involved in two Cardiff-based 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.

In 2017, I established,together with Prof Stella Neumann and Prof Miriam Taverniers, the Nominality and Meaning Directness (NaMeD) project. The aim of NaMeD is to develop a contrastive, quantitative and theoretical approach to the study of meaning in text. This research challenges certain fundamental assumptions concerning what are seen as nominal expressions 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. We want 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. We are currently working on a journal aritcle entitled 'Operationalizing grammatical metaphor'.

Following a visiting professorship at the CNRS in France, I have been collaborating with Dr Laure Sarda. We have been working on the nominal-verbal semantic continuum in English and French. We have two papers in preparation: The noun-verb continuum: a closer look at congruence and construal in English and French and The constructional and compositional nature of ARRIVE/ARRIVAL in English and French. 

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-editor the following volumes:  The Oxford Companion to the English Language, 2nd ed. (OUP, 2018); 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, 2018), The Cambridge Handbook of Systemic Functional Linguistics (CUP, 2019) and Approaches to Systemic Functional Grammar: Convergence and Divergence (Equinox, 2020).

If you are interested in visiting Cardiff as a researcher, 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.

You can also find me on Mastodon


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. 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.

Honours and awards

Invited to speak at an honourary symposium on Functional Linguistics for the Centenary Celebrations at Xiamen University (2021).

Visiting Professorship at the École Normale Supérieure ENS, Paris France (2018).

Travel Award, University of Wales Press (2017).

Professional memberships

  • European Literacy Network (ELN), COST Action IS1401. Working Group 3, Improving Literacy Technologies
  • ATINER, Athens Institute for Education & Research, Languages & Linguistics Unit
  • BAAL, The British Association of Applied Linguistics.
  • ESFLA, The European Systemic Functional Linguistics Association.
  • ILA International Linguistics Association.
  • ISFLA, The International Systemic Functional Linguistics Association.
  • LACUS, The Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States.
  • LAGB, The Linguistics Association of Great Britain.
  • SLE, Societas Linguistica Europaea (Linguistics Society of Europe).

Speaking engagements

The notion of lexical semantic potential: one possible future direction. Invited speaker at the Xiamen University Centenary International Scholars Forum on Functional Linguistics, April 3, 2021.

Writing processes and undergraduate student writers in the UK context. Invited Featured Speaker at the ‘Writing processes: Strategies from idea to text’ Symposium at AILA2020, the International World Congress of Applied Linguistics, University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands, August 9-14, 2021.

A Discourse Semantic Account of Referential Metonymy. Invited speaker in the Functional Linguistics Forum series, The School of Foreign Languages and Literature, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China, September 2019.

The ragged middle: a closer look at lexis and grammar. Invited talk. Beijing Foreign Studies University, Beijing, China, September 2019.

How language works in context: insights from functional grammar. Invited Speaker. ECISMLIE 2019, Educational Collaborative for International Schools (ECIS) and Multilingualism in International Education (MLIE) Conference. London, 1-3 March 2019. (Theme: Unity through Multilingualism: Growing Home, Host, and Instructional Languages)

Beyond the Ham Sandwich: A Textual Perspective on Referential Metonymy. Plenary Speaker. XIV ALSFAL Congreso de la Asociación de Lingüística Sistémico-Funcional de América Latina. Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Puebla, Mexico. 8-12 October, 2018. (Theme: Exploring Text and Context from a Systemic Functional Perspective).

The Place of Subject in Welsh, English and French. Labex TransferS, ENS (École normale supérieure), Paris, France, 17th May, 2018.

The status of nominal expressions. Labex TransferS, ENS (École normale supérieure), Paris, France, 24th May 2018.

Meeting in the middle: a functional approach to lexis. Labex TransferS, ENS (École normale supérieure), Paris, France, 31ST May 2018.

Onion tears: The role of inference in nominalizations and grammatical metaphor. Labex TransferS, ENS (École normale supérieure), Paris, France, 1st June 2018.

Lexical representation in systemic functional linguistics. Keynote speaker. Symposium on Functional Linguistics and Discourse Analysis. National Research Centre for Foreign Language Education. Beijing Foreign Studies University. November 1-2 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 4-5 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.

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

The Noun, Grammar and Context. Keynote speaker. 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.

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

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

Committees and reviewing

Editing Roles

  • Associate Editor, 2017-2020, Lingua, Elsevier.
  • Book Series editor for Routledge Advances in Functional Linguistics.
  • Editorial Board, 2018 - ongoing, Linguistics and the Human Sciences, Equinox.
  • Editorial Board, 2016 - 2022, Functions of Language, John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  • Editorial Board, 2019 - ongoing, Language, Context and Text: The Social Semiotics Forum, John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  • Editorial Board, 2018 – ongoing, Facta Universitatis: Linguistics and Literature, University of Nis, Serbia
  • Academic advisory panel, 2015 – ongoing, Asp, la revue du GERAS, Groupe d’étude et de recherche en anglais de spécialité [the English for Specific Purposes (ESP) Academic Society].

Grant reviewer for the FWO (Flanders Research Foundation) grant applications and the ESRC.




















While my teaching responsibilites can change from year to year, I regularly teach modules in the subject areas of functional grammar, words and meaning(s), corpus linguistics and introductory psycholinguistic. 

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 (CUP)  

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). Increasingly, we are relying on the approach developed by Prof Patrick Hanks, see Lexical Analysis: Norms and Exploitations (MIT Press).

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).

SET038, Systemic Functional Grammar (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 functional linguistic theory and with the syntax-semantics interface, lexical analysis and language description. 

Current projects

Nominality and Meaning Directness (NaMeD).  This project stems from collaboration 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.

Related to the NaMeD project, I am currently working with Dr Laure Sarda on the nominal-verbal semantic continuum in French and English, including a CNRS-funded project entitled Nominalisations: Influences croisées entre langue et création littéraire (Nominalisations: the interplay between language and literary creation).

Referring expressions. A main interest of mine involves the study of referring expressions and the concepts and issues related to nominal expressions more broadly. I am writing a book with my colleague Katy Jones and David Schönthal for Cambridge University Press entitled Referring in Language, an integrated approach. It should be in print in 2020. 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.

Keystroke logging and digital writing processes. 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.  Most recently we collaborated with Professor Enlli Thomas (PI) on an ESRC-funded project: Addressing the literacy needs of bilinguals learning to read and write in languages with transparent orthographies

Previous collaborations

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.


I am interested in supervising PhD students in the areas of 

  • Functional Grammar (theory and application)
  • Lexicogrammar
  • Lexical Analysis
  • Nominal meaning in text
  • Writing Processes

Current supervision

Kateryna Krykoniuk

Research student

Lucy Chrispin

Research student

Nasser Alqahtani

Research student

Alexander Carr

Research student


Ellen Bristow

Research student

Wael Alqahtani

Research student

Nagla Alqaedi

Research student

Past projects

  • Supervisor (60%) for Kimi Klassen - Vocabulary load of proper nouns and marginal words in L2 reading texts (awarded in 2018)
  • Supervisor (100%) for Neil Bowen, ESRC funded - Modelling the dynamics of choice in digital text construction: organised complexity in the development of L1 and L2 academic writing (awarded 2016)
  • Supervisor (100%) for David Schönthal - The influence of the contextual environment on the structure of English binominal noun phrases (awarded 2016)
  • Supervisor (100%) for Katy Jones, AHRC funded - The use of indefinite expressions for definite reference in English discourse (awarded 2014)